The good wrecks

Updated Jan 26, 2015

Great upgrades after a wreck; how to make front-end collision damage work to your benefit with insurance companies helping defray the cost of performance parts

By Bruce W. Smith

Company owners and fleet mangers cringe when one of their heavy-duty diesel pickups comes into the shop on the bed of a rollback with the front bumper rolled up and fenders caved in.

Wrecks are nothing but lost revenue through vehicle downtime, paying the insurance deductible, and the potential bump in annual insurance rates.

Not good for small business or large.

But there’s a bright side to front-end collisions: It’s a great opportunity to add diesel performance upgrades because the insurance company pays for the installation labor and a healthy portion of the parts.

Front-end collisions make way for some great diesel engine performance upgrades that greatly improve towing and hauling efficiency.

Usually when a company truck is in a big accident the insurance company is Johnny on the spot, working quickly to get the estimate of repairs handled with the auto body shop.

The list of replacement parts to bring the truck back to “pre-accident condition” is usually long and includes aftermarket or “refurbished” parts equivalent to OEM.

“Wrecks like this are typical of what I see every week, “says Warren Spears, the owner of Spears Auto Repair, in Long Beach, Mississippi.

“The insurance adjuster and I go over every inch of the vehicle to see what’s damaged. Then the adjuster will write it up, print out the parts list (with prices) and labor involved to fix it up. The owner pays the deductible and the insurance company covers the rest.”

Making The Best of a Bad Situation

Here’s the twist.

Instead of staying standingly idly by while the repair shop replaces damaged parts with “factory-like” parts sourced from the local GM dealer or auto parts repair outlets, have them install a few choice aftermarket specialty parts that will make your pickup run better–especialyl when towing.

Let’s say your wrecked truck is a 2009 Chevy Silverado 3500 dually with a damaged intercooler, air intake and other items subject to breakage during a front-end collision.

Why settle for putting stock parts back on when you could easily get a BD CAC kit; BD Duramax performance exhaust manifold; and a K&N cold-air intake.

In this instance you’d probably pay less than $800 for the BD performance parts while the labor to install them is covered under the insurance.

That’s a potential savings of more than $1,800 had the upgrades been done when the truck was perfectly fine.

That’s because the insurance company is paying for all the installation labor – and more than half the cost of the high-end aftermarket parts.

Know Your Insurance Rights

According to Bill Davis, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute (, the vehicle owner has the right to select the source of parts (OEM, refurbished, salvage or aftermarket) used in the repairs as long as that’s how the insurance policy is written.

Usually vehicles that are less than a year old are repaired using OEM/factory parts. Parts for older vehicles are typically sourced from aftermarket or salvage parts suppliers because they are cheaper than OE.

The key to this whole process is you working with both the repair shop and the insurance adjuster to get the upgrade parts you want.

According to the III and several of the big insurance companies we talked to, such upgrades are allowed as long as:

BD Cool-It CAC is about 20-percent better at cooling the air charge than the OE intercooler. It also improves the air flow through the radiator, transmission cooler and a/c condenser.
  1. the insurance policy allows the use of refurbished, salvaged, or aftermarkt replacement parts;
  2. the aftermarket parts you select don’t compromise the vehicle’s safety systems or overall integrity;
  3. the vehicle owner pays for the cost difference beyond the repair estimate and the upgrade parts.

(Read the full  story in the February 2013 issue of ProPickup.)


BD Cool-It CAC

BD Diesel Performance’s Cool-It CAC, which is a direct bolt-in replacement, delivers 90 percent cooling efficiency (OE is about 70 percent) while keeping boost pressure loss at the outlet to less than .5 lb at 40psi (OE intercooler typically drops about 4-5 pounds.)

Brian Roth, BD’s founder, says those improvements can mean a temperature reduction of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit under heavy load because the turbo doesn’t have to work as hard to move the air.

Another benefit of BD’s CAC is its streamlined external air passages allow a freer flow of air to the fan.

This improves the cooling efficiency of the radiator and a/c condenser while reducing fan noise.

Of course, there’s the benefit of the Cool-It CAC having extruded internal cooling tubes and cast end tanks designed to handle boost pressures up to 100psi and inlet temps of 500 degree F, should one want to do some engine hot-rodding in the future.

Performance exhaust manifold from BD provides full exhaust flow to the turbo. Stock manifold is very restrictive.

BD Exhaust Manifold

Another item upgraded to consider while all the front sheetmetal is off is the driver’s side exhaust manifold.

The later-model Duramax manifold is cast with a big “dent” in it that restricts exhaust flow by about 20 percent compared to the passenger’s side.

BD’s replacement is straight shot, which will take the heat off the forward cylinders.

Normally the manifold is a pain to get at, but now that the engine is totally exposed, this is a great time to put on the performance exhaust manifold.

K&N Cold-Air Intake

Another item that is typically damaged in front-end collisions is the factory air cleaner.

Again, this is the perfect time to help the engine breathe easier by installing a cold-air intake such as K&N’s 57 Series Generation II kit.

K&N cold-air intake is a good upgrade to get more performance out of the Duramax.

The air intake, also referred to as an FIPK by K&N, doesn’t have the myriad of sound baffles, twists and turns of the OE intake system, allowing the air to move freely to the turbo.

It utilizes a large, washable conical air filter that has a service life of 100,000 miles between cleanings (depending on driving conditions, of course.)

K&N says their 50-state legal performance air intake, which is an easy bolt-on replacement, adds 19hp to the Duramax.

These upgrades don’t alter the look of Link’s Silverado Dually or have any impact on the HD’s handling or safety systems.

But they will improve its performance and efficiency – a benefit that wouldn’t have came about without the big fender-bender.



Pre-wreck parts/labor: $2,626                     Post-wreck parts/labor: $762

BD Cool-It Intercooler                              $1,230                      4.5 hrs                       $705                                  -0-

BD CAC Hose/Clamp Kit                         $118                          .5 hr                           $-30                                   -0-

BD Exhaust Manifold                               $308                          3 hrs                           $   5                                     -0-

K&N Cold-Air Intake                                 $340                          1 hr                             $  82                                   -0-

Sub Total                                                    $1,996                      9 hrs @$70/hr            $762                            No labor