Car Frame damage often goes unnoticed by most car owners until it causes serious consequences. However, it is easy to tell if you have a damaged frame if you pay close attention to how your car is behaving while driving.
In this article, we will share signs to look out for in a damaged frame car and how you can repair it. You should keep in mind that repairing a damaged frame requires input from a trained mechanic. But before that, let’s look at the most popular forms of frame damage.
Which are the most common types of car frame damage?
1. Sagging frame
This type of damage involves parts of your car frame leaning towards gaps in the body. Why? Because parts that make up the frame are not even. As such, they’ll often face towards the direction of gaps. It is hard to identify this damage and it, therefore, requires a thorough inspection.
These gaps can cause serious damage to the coils and tires making them wear out quickly. You should consult your mechanic in case you notice this damage. The mechanic ideally uses frame straighteners to align the car frame to its original shape.
2. Sway damage
This is yet another common type of frame damage. It occurs when your car is hit on either of its corners causing it to lean towards that side. Fortunately, it is easier to detect this type of damage. Some of its signs include the car not moving in a straight line and vibrations.
You should not ignore this type since it can cause damage to your car’s transmission. Like the sagging frame damage, you should visit your garage for body alignment.
3. Mashed frame
Most cars involved in fatal accidents or collisions suffer from this type of damage. The impact causes the frame to crumble into itself resulting in a shorter frame than its specification. It is easy to identify this type of damage as it distorts the fenders or hood.
Unlike the other types of frame damage, this type can have a serious effect on other parts of the car. If left unattended, your car is likely to breakdown due to friction between car parts. Fortunately, it is easy to repair the damage in modern cars.
What are the signs of a damaged car frame?
1. Car steers sideways
A car frame that is damaged will have your car veer in a diagonal direction. It becomes hard to drive in a straight line since parts of your car’s body are leaning towards one side. A good indication is to look at the tire tracks.
You are likely to see an abnormal or crooked tire track. Make sure to visit your mechanic once you notice these signs.
2. Rapid suspension wear
A normal car will evenly distribute its weight among all suspensions and shocks. This allows the shock and suspension on either side to wear evenly. When you have a damaged frame, the weight of the car will be placed on either of the suspensions. This will cause it to wear rapidly compared to others.
3. Visible damage
After a series of collisions, you’ll notice visible damage to the body of your car. You are likely to see dents, scratches, or bent body parts. Use a flashlight to examine parts under your car. Some parts may be loose while others are broken.
You should visit the garage to have them replaced with new ones. It is recommended that you carry out thorough inception on the body of a car if you are buying a used car. There might be signs of scuffs that indicate that the car has a weak frame that may not withstand collisions in the future.
4. Components not fitting
Another sign of car frame damage is components not fitting precisely. For example, you might notice that the doors are not closing or see gaps between parts of the car. The body panels also bulge outside or cave in when pressed on. Also, look out for protruding bumpers as they indicate a damaged frame.
4. Odd noises
While strange noises can come from other mechanical problems such as a faulty alternator, a bent frame can also cause strange noises. Body panels may grind on each other causing a squeaking sound. Usually, the sound will come from one side of the car.
5. Engine damage
An often-overlooked sign of car frame damage is engine failure. When your car is involved in a collision, it affects the alignment of the car which in turn causes damage to some engine components. The next time you experience engine failure especially after an accident, chances are your frame is bent.
6. Car misalignment
Again, an accident can cause misalignment making your car pull to one side. If this problem persists even after alignment, then have your mechanic check the frame of your car for signs of damage.
Can you fix a damaged car frame?
Well, it is not recommended that you fix your damaged car frame since it requires an expert to do it. Also, you’ll need professional tools to go about it that you might not have. However, if it’s a simple ding or dent, then you can hammer it into place.
What tools do professionals use to straighten the car frame?
- Anchor pots: these are used to secure the car to the floor of the garage via robust chains. They are also used in pulling vehicles during the repair session.
- Pulling posts: they are crucial in straightening a bent car frame. They are used to hold the vehicle in position and are attached to a winch that allows the mechanic to lower or raise the car during repair.
- Frame racks: these racks are used to repair a car that has experienced severe frame damage. They use hydraulic pressure to pull the car to its original measurement and alignment. They are safe to use and require minimal effort when repairing the car.
- Chains, clamps, and hooks: mechanics also use chains, clamps, and hooks to hold the vehicle in position. They are also crucial when moving the car from one position to another.
- Frame straighteners: they are used to address minor frame defects. They use the same hydraulic principal of the frame racks. Most mechanics use them to repair twist damage.
As you can see, car frame damage can have serious ripple effects on your car. As such, you should have your frame checked after a collision or accident – minor or major. And should you think of repairing it, then purchase the professional tools discussed in this article.
Sam is Automole’s editor-in-chief and classic car enthusiast. Sam is studying mechanical engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering, Austin. He also writes for many top automotive publications and appears on the Collecting Cars Podcast.