Close-up of a rusty car frame

What Is Car Frame Damage?

If your vehicle has been involved in an accident, you’ll want to know where things stand. Does your car still drive? If so, does it drive safely? How tough will it be to fix? One of the first items you have to evaluate after an accident is the car frame damage.

You’ve Been Framed!

car frame damageThe car frame is essentially the structural bones of a vehicle. Traditionally made of hard-welded steel beams, modern manufacturers have experimented with using lighter metals and composites. But the most important thing about the frame is that it’s strong and steady, acting as the base structure for the body. It helps keep everything in its place and is designed to protect passengers during a crash. There are two main types of frames on most of today’s vehicles: unibody for most cars and body-on-frame for trucks and large SUVs.

What’s Your Damage?

Structural damage can have a number of consequences, many unforeseen. Vehicles are built with “crumple zones” meant to absorb impact in the event of a crash. If a frame is damaged (by an accident or sometimes rust), it can potentially redirect that impact, posing a threat to those inside. Damaged frames may compromise the security of large components like engines and transmissions, as the frame is what largely holds them in place.

It can also make the structure weaker overall, providing less protection in an accident and opening the door to secondary problems. For instance, a small bend in the frame beyond specification may throw off the steering and suspension system. Over time, this will prematurely wear tires and suspension components, which could, in turn, impact larger components in the steering system.

All Bent out of Shape

Structural damage can be difficult to repair, but it’s not impossible. Although frame repair kits are available to fix frames at home, this is not a task for beginners. You should really have it checked out by a professional mechanic before going down this road and compare the advantages against scrapping it for a new vehicle.

In the same vein, check for frame damage when buying a used vehicle, because it might not always be on the title. Look for signs of bodywork, including cracking and cratering, and check common crumple zones to make sure they haven’t taken any hits.

In the end, driving a vehicle with compromised structural integrity is a huge safety risk, and holding off on a repair is not the answer. It may be possible to DIY a car frame damage fix, but make sure it gets done the right way.

Check out all the frame repair kits available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on car frame damage, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

about author

Blair Lampe

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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