A car's frame, also known as its chassis, forms the foundation on which a car is built and is the main supporting structure for a vehicle. Basically, a frame is just like the car's skeleton to which all of its components are attached, much like our skeleton. The term “Frame Damage” refers to damage to any component of a car that forms part of the main supporting structure or frame of the car or any component of the vehicle that provides structural integrity. But what causes frame damage on a car?
Frame damage on a car is disheartening because it can lead to mechanical problems and compromise optimal driveability. You may be left with an expensive repair bill to cover if you have frame damage, or you may lose the use of your car altogether. This article will explore what causes frame damage on a car and the topic of frame damage in further detail.
Main Function of a Car's Frame
There are two main functions of a vehicle's frame:
- To support the mechanical components and the body of the car.
- To handle dynamic and static loads without distortion or deflection.
- The weight of the car's body, cargo, and passengers.
- The vertical twisting when driving over uneven surfaces.
- Torque from the transmission and engine of the vehicle.
- Sudden impact from a collision.
- Transverse lateral forces, such as side wind.
- Longitudinal tensile forces, such as acceleration and the compression from braking.
Types of Car Frames
Typically, a car's frame is made from carbon steel or aluminum alloys to achieve a light-weight construction that is durable and strong enough to resist frame damage.
There are several types of car frames, including the following:
- Ladder Frame
- Backbone Tube
- Perimeter Frame
- Platform Frame
- Space Frame
- Partial Frames
Up until the 1930s, nearly every car had a structural frame that was separate from its body. The ladder frame, in particular, was the go-to option for manufacturers. The construction method basically bolts on the car's body to a ladder frame on which the drivetrain, engine, and suspension are all mounted onto.
During the early days of motorcar production, a ladder frame was the best way to build a car based on the machinery and technology available back then. It is not as common in cars these days, but almost all commercial and some off-road cars, like the Suzuki Jimny, have this type of frame.
The trend changed by the 1960s, and a unibody frame became the popular choice for car manufacturers. The term “unibody” is short for “unitized body” or “unitary construction.” A unibody frame is a type of car frame in which the body, chassis, and floor plan form a single structure. This type of frame is lighter and more rigid than a vehicle with a separate body and frame.
A unibody frame is made up of the following components:
- Core Support (also known as Radiator Support)
- Floor Pan
- A-B-C Pillars
- Rocker Panels
- Quarter Panels
- Rear Support
Symptoms of Car Frame Damage
Sometimes, frame damage is not always visible to the naked eye; even if you get below your car with a flashlight, you may not see the damage. However, you will notice certain things that can be caused by car frame damage, and certain signs will alert you to the impending problems. There are seven main symptoms of car frame damage to look for:
- Visible bending or damage.
Walk around the car to look for any cracks, creases, or signs of rust. Look underneath your car for any signs of damage underneath the frame. There may be missing or bent components.
If your car is pulling to the side when driving and requires additional steering correction, then a damaged frame may be blamed if realignment doesn't fix the problem.
- Unusual noises
Listen for creaking, squeaking, and other unusual noises from the front, sides, and rear of your vehicle. A damaged car frame could be signaling your attention.
- Uneven wear on the shocks and suspension.
A damaged or bent car frame can cause uneven wear on your shocks and suspension, especially if the damage shifts more weight onto one side of your car.
- Uneven tire wear.
If you have suspension and alignment issues from a damaged car frame, then it will often go hand-in-hand with uneven wear on your tires. Uneven tire wear will make it more difficult for your tires to keep a safe grip on the road, especially during rain and snow.
- Components do not fit properly.
A damaged or bent car frame can cause bolts, doors, mounts, and windows to fall out of place. You may also notice that your doors are not closing flush with your car.
- Poor wheel tracking.
If you attempt to drive in a straight line and your car veers diagonally instead, then you may have frame damage on your car.
Types of Frame Damage and What Causes Them
There are three types of frame damage on a car:
- Sagging or Twisted Frame
- Sway Damage
- Mashed Frame
Let's explore these types in detail and what causes frame damage on a car.
Sagging or Twisted Frame
If there gaps in the body of your car, then the frame may be sagging. Sections of your car can lean towards the direction of the gaps as a result of uneven parts in the build of a car frame.
It is not a common cause of frame damage on a car, but if the manufacturer did not piece the car's parts together evenly when structuring the car frame, then even the slightest error could cause frame damage and create gaps in the body.
If these gaps are left unattended, they can cause the car's coils and tires to wear out faster and unevenly.
Twisted car frame damage can also have the same result on your car; however, this type is more difficult to find in most cars. A thorough frame inspection is required to detect the source of the damage.
If your vehicle gets hit in a corner, then it causes a type of frame damage known as sway damage. A car with sway damage will lean towards a certain direction. Fortunately, it is easier to detect sway damage compared to a sagging or twisted frame.
This frame damage cannot be ignored. Sway damage can cause the following problems:
- Your vehicle will not be able to drive in a straight line.
- You will feel obvious vibrations while driving.
- The misalignment can lead to further issues, such as uneven tire wear and serious damage to the transmission.
If you are involved in a car accident where you are hit head-on or have a rear-end collision, then you will experience mashed frame damage. This means that the collision has caused the car's frame to crumple in on itself.
You will be left with a part of the unibody frame that is shorter than the manufacturer's specifications. This type of frame damage is usually indicated by wrinkles or distortion in the hood, frame horns, fenders, or rails of the car. Unfortunately, a mashed frame can cause damage to other parts of your vehicle.
If your car has a mashed frame, you should not be driving it until it is repaired, and even then, it will never be the same again. Think of this type of damage as a crushed tin can. You can stretch and straighten it back into shape, but if you crush it again, it will be much easier than when you first crushed it.
If mashed frame damage is left unattended, it can cause serious wear and tear on other parts of your car.
What Causes Frame Damage on a Car?
Often the threats our vehicle's face are forgotten until it is too late and serious frame damage is caused on your car. You can be the best driver on the road; however, those driving around you may not be, and they could collide with your car. Your car could be parked in a parking lot in a public space, and a bad driver could crash into it, causing frame damage.
Unfortunately, frame damage is not always in our control or at the expense of our own doing, but car accidents do happen, and they are the main cause of frame damage on a car.
Below are some of the causes of frame damage on a car:
- Careless acts of others: Many accidents are due to negligence, and there are careless acts of others that can cause frame damage on a car. A runaway shopping cart or someone opening the car door into your vehicle can all cause frame damage, even if it's minor.
- Fender benders: A fender bender is considered a low-speed collision. Frame damage can occur, even at low speeds, and it can be enough to declare your car unsafe to drive.
- High-speed collision: The worst type of accident is a high-speed collision. Often this causes major frame damage and you may have a salvage or wrecked car that you can no longer drive.
Frame damage requires professional tools and mechanics to repair the damage. Many times the repair is so extensive that it is better, and often cheaper, to junk the car and replace it. Serious frame damage may leave your vehicle unfit to drive again and irreparable. If this happens, sell your frame-damaged car to Cash Cars Buyer.