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Safety of Welded-On Parts

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Put It All Together and 'Clip Job' Repair Is Iffy Proposition at Best
Mention a "clip job" and most people think of a bad haircut or a crooked salesman hawking a slow computer.

But in the car business, a clip job means something very specific: welding the front or back half of a junkyard car onto your vehicle after it has sustained major damage in a crash.

Many people wonder if this is a safe procedure. The answer is maybe-or maybe not. It all depends on the knowledge of the body shop technician, the kind of clip job that is being performed and the quality of the clip that is being welded.

A rear clip is generally an easier and less risky job to perform than a front clip. The body shop attaches the entire rear half of a car, including the rear quarter-panels, the trunk lid, a section of a floor pan, the rear suspension system and possibly the entire roof.

A front clip is far more complex, because it involves the entire drive train, steering system, braking system and possibly the dashboard electronics. The job involves making critical engine, transmission, braking and fuel system linkages.

Clip jobs have such poor reputations that some insurance companies refuse to permit them, though other insurers encourage body shops to perform them as a way to hold down costs. Asking your insurance company about its policy regarding clip jobs is an easy way to gauge its commitment to safe, high-quality repairs.

With any clip job, the issue is ensuring the vehicle's structural integrity

Indeed, auto makers generally specify that vehicle unibodies must be aligned to within no more than one-sixteenth of an inch in all dimensions. Without proper jigs and tools, your shop might never get your vehicle aligned properly after a clip job, and it could end up a "dog walker"-traveling sideways a bit.

Another downside of a clip job is that you'll want to ensure that the clip is from a vehicle no older than your own damaged vehicle. Getting a 1992 rear end welded to your '96 or a high-mileage clip to your low-mileage car is problematic at the least.

Are welds strong enough to hold clips onto the car? Yes. Generally, welding on an entire section involves less uncertainty than welding on a large number of smaller pieces. But keep in mind that any collision that inflicts enough damage to require a clip is a major event and may cause long-term problems.

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