What To Do When Your Truck Falls Off the Lift

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 06, 2012

Dear Tom and Ray:

I took my GMC ('06 K2500 Extended Cab) to the purchasing dealer for service. My truck has only 20,000 miles on it. It was up on the lube rack when something either broke or collapsed, and my truck came down, rear end first, landing on the rear tires and receiver hitch, with the front end sticking up at about 60 degrees. I looked under it (I was afraid to actually get beneath it), and saw that the underbody is damaged, especially around the doors and side rail. The steps are totally crushed (they appear to have taken the brunt of the damage). They lowered the truck by lifting up the rear end with a forklift so it could be brought down.

I know about the body damage, but what about the frame rails? Are they likely to be twisted or bent? Is the cab or bed twisted? When it was back on all four wheels, the crease line on the cab no longer lined up with the crease line on the side of the bed. The dealer says he will "take care of me," and he gave me a car as a loaner. Everyone has been friendly and courteous about this. But I worry about unseen damage -- the frame, or cab, or even the receiver hitch. That was quite a fall -- it was six feet to the concrete floor. What do you think? Will my truck be OK? Or will it be twisted or bent? It was in outstanding condition before. Please advise.

-- Sven

TOM: Yes, it's highly likely that your frame got bent.

RAY: Six feet might not sound like a lot, but when you weigh 5,000 pounds and don't have knees, it makes for a hard landing. Your truck may be done for.

TOM: If your frame is not perfectly rectangular, the truck will always ride and handle strangely, and because the wheels will never be alignable, your tires will wear out prematurely.

RAY: You certainly are within your rights to have the truck taken to an auto-body shop of your choice to get an independent opinion.

TOM: If the frame is not bent, you're all set, and they can just fix the body damage. If the frame is bent but the rest of the damage is not too extensive, it's possible that your frame can be replaced. Toyota's been doing that for owners of old Tacoma pickup trucks whose frames have rotted out. So it's possible to do. And again, if you have this done, you should have your own body shop verify that it was done well before agreeing to accept the truck back.

RAY: Their only other option is to take the truck as a trade-in. Here's the fairest way to do it: You find the blue-book, retail value of your used truck. That number will be adjusted for your low mileage so that it's fair to you.

TOM: And then the dealer takes your truck (he can fix it and resell it, or auction it, or crush it) and gives you the blue-book value in credit toward any car he sells. So you can use it to buy another used Sierra, or you can put that amount toward a new vehicle if you want to. It should be your choice, Sven.

RAY: And if the dealer complains that he doesn't buy used cars at retail price, remind him of two things: (1) He's not buying this car -- he dropped it. And (2) he'll be selling you another car at retail value, so he'll still have plenty of opportunity to take advantage of you!

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