I remember seeing my first smashed windshield, during the first week of my employment at the body shop I now work in as an estimator. The shape of a head pressing out in cracked blocks of glass, a few strands of hair, blood on a blown air bag. The plastic sheeting on the inside is applied from the factory so as to minimize damage to the driver in the event of a head on collision. Nice of them to think of us.

Still, the head on collisions I see are often head on in only one respect. Cars don't normally collide head on unless on driver is going the wrong way and neither driver has sense or reaction time to swerve. Most of the time, the car we fix was clipped by someone else running a stop sign, backing out into oncoming traffic, or rear ended and pushed into the car ahead of them.

Damage to the front end, typically, will go anywhere from the bumper, to the grille, into the radiator support, the hood, maybe into the suspension a bit and a little into the engine compartment. Batteries and windshield fluid reservoirs are often crushed, spewing pretty acid and blue fluid all over the place. Fuses get blown, as do head lamps, as do air bags, if the impact is centered and strong enough. The damage we repair is seldom more extreme than this, since any harder of a hit would result in a total loss.

Customers' main concerns are the air conditioning, suspension, frame damage (usually a moot point, but a fear instilled into them through passive ignorance of the inner structure of vehicles), and brakes, usually in that order of importance. They often will come to pick up their vehicles still under the influence of the prescription drugs they were given to endure their pain and suffering, which is kind of ironic, since they will likely just get hit again. We'll get repeat business from situations almost more amusing than these, depending on the age and dexterity of the driver, how long their license is in limbo or their insurance is cancelled, and how good they felt they and their cars were treated the last time they were there.

Front end jobs are messy and full of unanswered questions of what we will and won't check, what is and isn't related to the wreck. This is how people often get maintenance done for free, unless we can convince them with our knowledge and the repair man's opinion that there is no way an impact leaving just a dent in their fender could warrant a transmission overhaul. This is where I get most of my laughs on the job.

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