LEAFless in Nashville

Deer Strike Damage - Click Photo to Enlarge

This week I am missing my LEAF. A deer hit my LEAF  the day before Thanksgiving. This week I took my vehicle in to the Auto Body shop. So I am LEAFless !!

I already miss the backup camera when parking plus the smooth, responsive and quiet ride. The repair will take 10 days or more.

After the collision, I took my vehicle to Bradshaw’s next door to Newton Nissan where I bought the vehicle. I thought being next door to the dealer would be good, if the body shop had questions regarding the new technology or needed spare parts they had experts close by. I got an estimate, however the estimator missed an optional extra I had purchased and was in no hurry to correct the estimate. I also found myself disagreeing with the estimator where the wind noise was coming from. He felt the drivers door was repairable, I felt is was buckled beyond repair. I decided to shop around.

Door sits proud even when firmly closed. Fortunately it didn't leak in the rain

Nationwide insurance by and large have been great.  Unfortunately things got off to a slow start due to the fact the collision occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday period. Nationwide require you to have your vehicle inspected by their adjuster, so scheduling that appointment took longer than normal. I was pleased and surprised that the adjuster issued a check on the spot made out to me and the body shop. Nationwide like for you to use one of their ‘Blue Ribbon’ shops, but this isn’t mandatory you can go anywhere you wish.

I was especially pleased that the adjuster correctly identified the door as being beyond economical repair and said he’d get a new one fitted. The hood was also condemned and a new hood included in the estimate. He also included the optional extra bumper protector in the estimate. I came away feeling I had been fairly treated. Nationwide certainly acted like they are ‘on my side’. The estimator was surprised at the cost of a replacement headlight, over $900!!

I discovered that the LEAF utilizes aluminum body panels and requires appropriate procedures to be applied in repairing them. My insurance agent helped me identify a body shop that has experience fixing cars that utilize aluminum body panels. The LEAF is in good company, Audi. Mercedes and BMW use aluminum in their cars. The LEAF can justifiably be called a ‘little Mercedes’ 🙂

Rental Replacement for the LEAF

Enterprise were short of vehicles when I picked up the rental and gave me a free upgrade to a Chevy Suburban. Ironic going from 106mpg equivalent all electric vehicle to a gas guzzler. Realizing the irony, Enterprise gave me a half tank of gas for free. I’ve since switched the vehicle out for a Malibu, not because of the cost of running the vehicle, but simply because it was a really tight fit in my garage!!

Photo from Accurate Autobody - Click to Enlarge

The body shop I chose is Accurate Autobody of Nashville, they are a Nationwide blue ribbon shop, and repair high end aluminum panel cars regularly. The day I took my car in I was their fifth customer that day to have a vehicle brought in with deer damage, it seems to be the season for deer strikes. When choosing the shop I asked if they had experience with aluminum panels and the estimator confirmed that and said that there isn’t much one can do with aluminum economically, it’s simply cheaper to replace the aluminum with new panels. This confirmed my decision to avoid Bradshaw’s, they proposed repairing the door and hood. I suspect they missed the fact they were aluminum.

LEAF in Pieces - Click to Enlarge

One neat feature of the Nationwide auto body shops is that the body shop is required by Nationwide to post two pictures of your vehicle to Nationwide’s website each day. I have logged in to and view progress to my vehicle.

The repairs have got off to a slow start. Initially the body shop were going to transport the car to the dealer to have the main traction battery disconnected to make the vehicle safe to work on. After talking with the dealer they have opted to do this themselves, it’s relatively easy as Nissan provide an emergency disconnect inside the vehicle for first responders to disable a vehicles battery if it is involved in an accident. The estimator at Accurate Autobody said that Nissan have been very quick to provide plenty of  information and precautions they need to take working on an electric vehicle. It’s good to see Nissan proactively supporting the body shops in repairing their vehicles.

Here it is in pieces. Click to enlarge

The news from the body shop is that there is no suspension damage and the alignment will be a trivial task. Glad to hear there is no hidden damage.

I’ll post an update when the car is closer to being fixed.

Update: 2011-12-27

Got the car back on the 23rd, it was gone for 2 1/2 weeks. Wow I missed it. Had to readjust to the quite ride, I was soon doing 25 over the posted limit without realizing it.

Here’s how I grade the companies in fixing my car.

  • Nationwide Insurance – A
  • Enterprise Car Rental – A++
  • Accurate AutoBody – B
  • Bradshaw’s Autobody – F- (AIL), didn’t use them.

Nationwide cut me a check the day the adjuster inspected the vehicle. Agent was helpful in recommending a  shop that had experience with Aluminum body panels. Apparently the LEAF joins the Audi, Mercedes and BWM as an aluminum body panel car. Their Blue Ribbon shops are required to post 2 photos each day. This was very cool feature on their website.

Enterprise were totally awesome. Because they only had a Suburban when I showed up they gave me a 1/2 tank of fuel for free, since it was the total opposite of my fuel efficient LEAF. When I got it swapped out at a few days later, they showed me their inventory and asked, which one do you want? No cost difference. Free Kuerig coffee in waiting room. I’ll use them again for sure.

Accurate Autobody were a little slow to get started on repairs, but were very communicative, respectful and quick to respond to questions and concerns. I had to knock them down to a  B when grading because there are 5-6 small flaws in the repair work. They have agreed to fix it all at my convenience, but given they had it 2 1/2 weeks it should have been close to perfect.

I wanted to use Bradshaw’s because they are next door to the dealer I purchased the vehicle. Figured the Nissan mechanics would help them with the EV differences/precautions. However the estimate was way low, they wanted to repair the panels rather than replace (not advisable with aluminum), missed some small details and I found myself disagreeing with them where the source of wind noise was coming from. If you can’t get the customer happy before the sale there won’t be a sale. F-

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7 Responses to LEAFless in Nashville

  1. Lance Pickup says:

    Sorry to hear about this. I hit a deer just BEFORE I got my LEAF, but it was the car I was trying to sell that my LEAF was taking the place of. Fortunately in my case the damage was pretty minor (it sure didn’t sound like it when I hit it) and the damage was limited to reconnecting the bumper and replacing a headlight assembly that was knocked out (but which was surprisingly still working even though I was dragging it along the ground until I had a chance to pull over!) A pair of aftermarket headlight assemblies for that car was only $68 (shipped). I was able to do the repairs myself (minus re-aiming the headlight) so I got off very easy (and the car sold a few days later).

    As for the LEAF though, it’s great that Nissan is working with the body shop. It probably isn’t the case in your case because they are replacing body panels, but if they need to do any extensive painting and need to bake the car in a booth, you need to actually REMOVE the battery pack (not just disconnect it) as the high temps may damage the battery. I think I read somewhere that for minor work they bake it at 115F which would be acceptable but any higher there may be a concern. I would double check that they have consulted with Nissan on this before proceeding if the LEAF will be in a paint booth at all.

    Good luck and I hope the LEAF is back in your hands soon!

    • jpwhitehome says:

      Hey Lance,

      Both Nissan and myself have told the body shop not to bake the car. The Nationwide adjuster said they can simply let the paint dry for longer. They typically bake cars to dry/cure the paint more quickly. So I will have to be patient with them. Not the the best time of year for paint to dry naturally 😦

      Removing the pack is something the dealer would have to do, the body shop doesn’t have the tools to do that. The extent of the damage doesn’t warrant that.

      • jpwhitehome says:

        Hey Lance,

        I got a copy of the LEAF Body Repair Manual. It states that the door sill temperature must be kept to below 140 degrees in the paint booth. If that is not possible the manual indicates removal of the battery pack.

        It is still concerning since the owners manual seemingly contradicts the Body Repair Manual, requiring not just the removal of the battery pack, but the vehicle charger and high voltage wire harness as well in all body repairs.

        I’ll be asking Nissan to explain the apparent contradiction.

  2. Pingback: Nissan LEAF – 6 Months and 6,200 Miles later | Nissan LEAF

  3. Rune says:

    “A deer hit my LEAF” ??? Must have been a monster of a deer creating so much damage (and it must have moved at quite a speed)…

  4. Mike says:

    I just came accross this doing a search for the Leaf and wanted to updated everyone who may read this. This article was written in 2011 and now Aluminum Body panels are easily repaired. any bodyshop that says otherwise must not be up to date on training the techs that work for them. i-Car.com is will give you a ton of knowledge on this. as far as the Leaf being anywhere near the class of those other aluminum vehicles…. I’d take the Leaf over them any day. I have owned multiple BMW’s and an Audi and have had nothing but problems… never heard any one complain about a Leaf. Don’t lower yourself to the German Automakers facade of making a superior automobile.

    • jpwhitehome says:

      Yes this was written back when I had the deer strike.

      For others reading now; since 2013 Nissan has used steel panels on the LEAF, only the 2011/12 LEAF models use aluminum panels.

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