Repairing written-off vehicles

If you’re repairing a write-off, the information on this page can be used as a guide.

Before you buy a write-off, read Buying a written-off vehicle so that you understand the risks involved. 

Keep in mind that a repairable write-off is a vehicle that’s suffered so much damage that repair costs are more than the vehicle’s worth. This means that repairs can be expensive and complex. 

Before you start repairs

Manufacturer’s repair instructions

Vehicles must be repaired in accordance with the manufacturer’s repair instructions. 

Get in touch with the vehicle manufacturer, or an authorised dealer, and ask for repair instructions. In some cases, they might charge you for this. 

Sometimes, a vehicle manufacturer will refer you to an authorised repairer. In these cases, the vehicle should be repaired by the authorised repairer because specialised equipment or knowledge is required. 

Not complying with manufacturer guidelines 

If you repair a vehicle without the manufacturer’s instructions, it’s likely that the vehicle’s structural integrity and overall safety will be seriously compromised. 

Not only will it be impossible to get a VIV certificate with an improperly repaired vehicle, you greatly increase the risk of killing or seriously injuring yourself or others if the vehicle’s in an accident. 

There’s also the risk that you compromise the vehicle’s safety so much that it’s deemed a statutory write-off, and the vehicle will never be able to be registered in Australia. 

Repairing a damaged vehicle

Before and during repairs, keep a diary that details every step. Keeping detailed records means that you’ll be less likely to run into trouble at your VIV inspection

Each step of the repairs should be recorded and cross-referenced with the manufacturer’s instructions. 

It’s really important to keep detailed records of: 

  • what repairs were needed 
  • what repair techniques were needed, and how they were used 
  • progress photos 
  • any other material or notes about the nature, extent and activities of the vehicle’s repair such as taking photos of adhesives used.

Take multiple photos of every part of the repair process. Take photos when dismantling a vehicle, and when components are being fitted or repaired and re-fitted. 

Sometimes, if you’re taking a close photo, it’s hard to tell what area of the vehicle it is. In these cases, take a medium shot as well as a close up. 

Make sure the diary also includes an overview, with descriptions and photos of: 

  • before the repairs 
  • during jigging 
  • removed panels and pieces 
  • replacement panels and pieces 
  • the method used to attach replacement panels and pieces.

Seatbelts and the Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) protect the occupants of a vehicle in a crash and are made up of the following:

  • airbags and related components
  • seatbelts and buckles
  • seatbelt fitting hardware
  • seatbelt pretensioners.

Recently, the seatbelt and SRS requirements for VIV vehicles were changed as:

  • over 20 deaths worldwide have been directly linked to faulty airbags, and a recall is in place to replace faulty airbags and ensure that they aren’t used in VIV vehicles
  • faulty systems can cause severe injury or death to drivers and passengers in a crash.

To increase the safety of occupants in VIV vehicles, VicRoads has made the following changes to the VIV scheme. 

When to change seatbelts

A seatbelt and all associated hardware will need to be replaced when:

  • there’s heavy panel or structural impact damage to the front of the vehicle
  • there’s structural impact damage to the sides or rear of the vehicle
  • the pre-tensioner in that seating position has been deployed
  • the seatbelt shows signs of wear or tear/damage.

When the vehicle has been written off because of heavy panel or structural impact damage to the front of the vehicle, or structural impact damage to the sides or rear of the vehicle, the driver’s seatbelt will need to be replaced as well as other seatbelts that show signs of damage, or where an airbag or SRS equipment has been deployed.

Replacement seatbelts

The requirements for replacing seatbelts vary depending on the date that vehicles are purchased or written off.

Vehicles written off or purchased before 3 September 2018

Replacement seatbelts must be sourced locally. For new parts, the part numbers must match the Australian delivered repair parts guide for that vehicle make, model and year.

Any second-hand seat belt parts from donor cars must be checked to ensure that part numbers match the Australian repair parts guide for that make, model and year. 

The donor vehicle must not contain any of the following damage codes recorded on the Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR):

  • structural damage to the sides or rear of the vehicle
  • heavy panel or structural impact damage to the front of the vehicle
  • water immersion
  • fire damage.

Vehicles written off or purchased on or after 3 September 2018

Replacement seatbelts must either:

  • Be supplied and fitted new by the vehicle manufacturer or a dealer representative for that model vehicle. They should also provide an invoice itemising the seatbelt and the installation.
  • Have the components and installation endorsed by the vehicle manufacturer or a dealer representative for that model vehicle. They should also provide a report showing that the seatbelt components are installed correctly and are appropriate for the Australian market. 

Any second-hand donor components must be checked to ensure part numbers match the Australian repair parts guide for that make, model and year. 

The donor vehicle must not contain any of the following damage codes recorded on the WOVR:

  • structural damage to the sides or rear of the vehicle
  • heavy panel or structural impact damage to the front of the vehicle
  • water immersion
  • fire damage.

When to change SRS components

SRS components will need to be replaced when:

  • they are damaged or deployed, and/or
  • an SRS report shows that they are faulty.

Replacement SRS components

The requirements for replacing SRS components vary depending on the date that vehicles are written off.

Vehicles written off or purchased before 3 September 2018

All replacement SRS components must be sourced locally. For new parts, the part numbers must match the Australian delivered repair parts guide for that vehicle make, model and year. 

Any second-hand donor components must be checked to ensure part numbers match the Australian repair parts guide for that make, model and year. 

The donor vehicle must not contain any of the following damage codes recorded on the WOVR:

  • structural damage to the sides or rear of the vehicle
  • any impact damage to the front of the vehicle
  • water immersion
  • fire damage.

Vehicles written off or purchased on or after 3 September 2018

All replacement SRS components must either:

  • Be supplied and fitted new by the vehicle manufacturer or a dealer representative for that model vehicle. They should also provide an invoice itemising the SRS components and the installation.
  • Have the SRS components and installation endorsed by the vehicle manufacturer or a dealer representative for that model vehicle They should also provide a report showing that the seatbelt components are installed correctly and are appropriate for the Australian market. 

Any second-hand donor components must be checked to ensure part numbers match the Australian repair parts guide for that make, model and year. 

The donor vehicle must not contain any of the following damage codes recorded on the WOVR:

  • structural damage to the sides or rear of the vehicle
  • any impact damage to the front of the vehicle
  • water immersion
  • fire damage.

Usually, a fire-damaged vehicle will be a statutory write-off (ie it can’t be repaired or registered, and should only be used for spare parts).
If there was only minor fire damage and the vehicle’s in repairable condition, all fire-damaged components need to be replaced. 

Remember that the heat from the incident might not be limited to the visibly affected area/s, and could have affected other parts of the vehicle (especially high strength light alloy steels in key structural components). 

If you’re using parts from a fire-damaged vehicle to fix another vehicle, don’t use any heat affected parts. Airbags, pre-tensioners and seatbelts may not be used if the vehicle has fire damage.

Photographic evidence of the donor car (in this case the fire damaged vehicle) should be supplied to verify the extent of damage to the vehicle.

If a vehicle’s immersed in fresh or salt water to the extent that water rises above the level of the inner door for any amount of time, it’ll be a statutory write-off and should not be repaired. 

Repairing a water-damaged vehicle 

If a water-damaged vehicle’s in repairable condition, you’ll need a Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) report and an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) report from an authorised dealer of the manufacturer.

The dealer who completes the reports has to be in the business of regularly servicing that type of vehicle (eg a truck dealer can’t issue a report for a standard passenger vehicle). 

In the report, the dealer needs to confirm that the airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners aren’t contaminated, and that all the integrated circuitry (eg ABS, traction control, stability control) haven’t been affected. 

Note that these reports can be time-intensive and costly, and there might be further costs if affected parts need to be replaced. 

If the ECU needs to be replaced, you can use new or second-hand components to fix it. If using a second-hand ECU, make sure you record the VIN of the vehicle it came from, and that the vehicle it came from wasn’t also damaged by water. 

If all the correct checks haven’t been performed, or the reports aren’t filled out correctly, your VIV inspector might ask you to get another report. 

Using a water-damaged vehicle for parts 

Very few parts of a water-damaged vehicle can be used to repair other vehicles, because corrosion is very likely. 

This table shows which parts of a water-damaged vehicle can be used to repair another vehicle. Where the answer is ‘yes’, the part can only be used if it’s in a good enough condition.  

Parts (all vehicle types) Salt Water Fresh Water
Guards Yes Yes
Bonnet Yes Yes
Doors No Yes
Skirt rail sections No No
Front sections No No
Rear sections No No
Roof cut sections (including centre pillar) No No
Engine cross member No Yes
Lower control arms Yes Yes
Seat belts No No
Airbags No No
Airbag modules No No
Seat belt pre-tensioners No No
Steering column No No
Suspension Yes Yes
Interior/trims Fabric and plastic only Fabric and plastic only
Seat frames / metal components No No
Wiring loom No No
Instrument clusters and dash controls No No
Computer and SRS sensors No No

Sometimes, vehicles are added to the WOVR because of damage that’s cosmetic and doesn’t compromise the vehicle’s safety or roadworthiness. 

All the damaged parts need to be repaired, restored or replaced before a vehicle can pass a VIV inspection

A fuel-contaminated vehicle needs, at minimum: 

  • a replacement catalytic converter(s) and an original receipt 
  • new oxygen sensor(s) and an original receipt (can’t be secondhand) 
  • a new carbon/charcoal canister from the vehicle manufacturer (can’t be secondhand) 
  • an original itemised receipt from an authorised dealer of the vehicle manufacturer that confirms the engine management systems still work, and that no problems were identified.

You may need to replace the fuel injectors, fuel pump, fuel filter/s, fuel tank, fuel lines, or the entire fuel system. 

In respect of testing catalytic converters, EPA Victoria has advised that there are two methods for testing second-hand components to confirm that the catalytic converters are functioning.

  1. Use of pyrometer (infra-red thermal measurement equipment): Measure the temperature prior to the catalyst, on the catalyst and after the catalyst.  A functioning catalytic converter will have a distinctly higher temperature on and after the converter than before.  Care must be taken to ensure the thermal measurement is taken on the skin of the pipe or converter, not on the heat shields. 
  2. Use of a carbon monoxide (CO/hydrocarbon (HC)) garage type gas analyser.  Measure the levels of CO and HC at idle.  Bring the engine speed to a high idle (eg 2500 rev/min).  After a short period, the levels of CO and HC should show near zero detected.

These tests are available from EPA Victoria (External link). In both cases, the vehicle should be at normal operating temperature. 

Test certificates can only be provided by an EPA approved vehicle emissions systems tester.

If the catalytic converter needs to be replaced or repaired, it needs to be done with: 

  • original equipment (OE) manufacturer parts OR 
  • aftermarket parts, as long as there’s certification from the manufacturer or supplier that the parts are ‘as new’ OR 
  • secondhand parts, as long as there’s a test certificate to shows the vehicle’s passed an emission test. If secondhand parts are used, details of the donor vehicle’s VIN are needed, and the parts can’t be from another fuel-contaminated vehicle. 

Motorcycles can’t be re-framed in any circumstances.

If a VASS certificate is required, contact a VASS signatory before you start any work. Before the VASS signatory does any work on a written-off car, they need approval from VicRoads.

We highly recommend that you talk to a VASS signatory and get approval before buying any parts, or doing any work on the car. 

Compliance plates and VINS must not be removed, replaced, or tampered with in any way. 

 
Damage Proposed repair technique Registration requirements
  • Body damaged
  • Chassis not damaged 
A vehicle with body damage but no chassis damage.

Damaged body replaced with a second hand body. 

A vehicle with damaged body replaced with a secondhand body.
  • Repair diary 
  • VASS certificate
  • Vass approval email from VicRoads
  • VIV certificate
  • Roadworthy certificate
  • Body not damaged
  • Chassis damaged

A vehicle with chassis damage in middle section of chassis but no body damage.

Chassis repaired (in accordance with manufacturer's guidelines)
A vehicle with the chassis repaired in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Repair diary
  • VIV certificate
  • Roadworthy certificate
  • Body not damaged
  • Chassis damaged

A vehicle with chassis damage in rear section of chassis but no body damage.

Chassis replaced with a new or second hand chassis. 
(Note: A chassis that's recorded on the WOVR as statutory write-off can't be used.)
A vehicle with the chassis replaced with a new or secondhand chassis.
  • Repair diary
  • VASS certificate
  • VASS approval email from VicRoads
  • VIV certificate
  • Roadworthy certificate
  • Body damaged
  • Chassis not  damaged

A vehicle with body damage in multiple places but no chassis damage.

Different style of body fitted to vehicle. 
A vehicle with a different style of body fitted to vehicle.
  • Repair diary
  • VASS certificate
  • VASS approval email from VicRoads
  • VIV certificate (if replacement chassis is a repairable write-off)
  • Roadworthy certificate
  • Body damaged
  • Chassis damaged

A vehicle with both chassis and body damage.

Vehicle repaired (in accordance with manufacturer's guidelines) Note: VIN must not be removed or tampered with during repair process.
A vehicle repaired in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines.

  • Repair diary
  • VIV certificate
  • Roadworthy certificate

When you buy parts for a vehicle, or you use the services of a repairer, you need a tax invoice that adheres to the Australian Tax Office’s requirements (External link).

If you use any second-hand components to repair the vehicle, the invoice needs to include the VIN of the vehicle that it was taken from.

It’s really important to keep all receipts, so that you can take them to your VIV inspection

If you bought the vehicle repaired, you still need to present all relevant receipts at a VIV inspection. Statutory declarations can’t be used in place of a receipt. 

If you’re missing some receipts, or if an invoice for second-hand parts doesn’t include the donor vehicle’s VIN, your VIV inspector will tell you to re-repair the vehicle, using parts and/or repair services that can be legitimised. 

This requirement for receipts is so that we can make sure that the services and parts used: 

  • are suitable for your vehicle’s make and model 
  • don’t come from a vehicle that’s stolen
  • don’t come from a vehicle that was damaged by fire or water, and wasn’t damaged in the area where the part comes from 
  • is suitable for the Australian market (for new imported parts)
  • second hand imported parts cannot be used.

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