Whether you are looking to purchase a used car or have been in a car accident and need to assess damages, it is important to inspect the car's frame. A car's frame forms the foundation of any car and is one of the most important features to inspect when buying a used car or after your car has been in a car accident.
Sometimes frame damage is noticeable; unfortunately, this is not the case all of the time, and there are certain things to pay close attention to if the damage is not visible. If you plan on buying a used car, or you need to inspect your own car for frame damage, then continue reading to learn more about frame damage symptoms and what to do if you discover signs of frame damage.
Frame Damage Symptoms to Look for
Below is a list of frame damage symptoms. You can use this list of symptoms as a checklist to inspect your own car after an accident or to inspect a used car before purchasing it.
The best way to look for signs of frame damage is to have the car checked by a professional at a local auto body repair shop. However, you may be able to do this for your own car, but not for a car you would like to buy. Common frame damage symptoms include the following:
- Visible damage or bending (on the outside of the car and underneath it).
- Bad Alignment
- Damage to the shocks and suspension
- Uneven wear on the tires
- Unusual sounds
- Components that do not fit properly.
Let's explore some of these frame damage symptoms in further detail.
Visible Damage or Bending
The easiest frame damage symptom to look for is also a sign of the worst damage to your car's frame, i.e., visible damage or bending to the car's exterior or beneath the car.
Especially after an accident, you will be able to see if your car has been bent or damaged. Walk around your car and look for any of the following signs in the exterior or frame:
Once you have inspected the exterior, you need to climb underneath your car to get a clear look at your vehicle's frame. You will see the various components that make up the frame from below the chassis. Using a flashlight, look for any cracks or bends.
If you are purchasing a used vehicle, then you need to look for the following:
- Is the frame discolored or scratched?
- Do the various components fit flush with one another without bends or cracks?
- Are there any loose bolts?
Not everyone is honest when selling their vehicle. They may have been involved in an accident and done a quick repair to eliminate visible frame damage. The above are signs of frame repair attempts.
Even though they bent the problem areas back into shape, it does not mean that the problem has been fixed. Those areas will withstand less weight and will collapse on impact in a car accident. This means you will have less protection in the car's frame than you would in a car with no damage at all.
If the frame is bent and it is not visible to the naked eye, then a common frame damage symptom is poor alignment. You will notice this when the car will not stay aligned and keeps pulling to the side, even when the steering wheel isn't moved. You may also find that your steering wheel is hard to turn.
When a bent car frame causes misalignment, then it is often described as “crab walking.” Having your vehicle realigned will often address an alignment problem; however, if you have done an alignment and still need to correct the car to drive in a straight line, then a damaged frame may be the root cause.
Another way to check for poor alignment is to drive on a wet road. If you notice diagonal tracks instead of straight tracks, then you will know that your car has a damaged frame.
Damage to the Shocks and Suspension
A vehicle that has a frame in good working order will evenly distribute the weight throughout its suspension system. However, if the frame is damaged, then the vehicle will have issues with its balancing.
A car that has balance issues will have more weight placed on one side of the car than the other. You may notice the following indicating damage to the shock and suspension of your car caused by frame damage:
- You will start to feel vibrations on one side of your vehicle.
- Your wheels will feel less stable and will have difficulty connecting with the road.
- You may notice that the shocks are worn down on only one side of the car.
Uneven Tire Wear
If you experience problems with your car's suspension or alignment, then it could cause uneven wear on your tires. This is extremely dangerous as uneven tire wear can make it more difficult for your tires to keep a safe grip on the road, especially during bad weather conditions, such as snow and rain.
If you regularly maintain your tires and are experiencing unusual tread wear, then a damaged frame may be the problem. If you choose to repair the damaged frame, then remember to properly rotate your tires afterward.
A bent car frame can cause unusual noises from the front, rear, and side of your car. You may hear creaking and cracking sounds, which can indicate the possibility of less visible, larger damage to your car's frame. If you ignore these sounds, the problem will become worse.
Components That Don't Fit Properly
If a frame is damaged or bent, it may no longer fit your vehicle. This is easy frame damage to spot by simply looking at the car's doors. If they won't close properly and you cannot find any problems with the latches, then a damaged frame may be to blame.
A bent frame can cause unwanted gaps between the car's body panels as well as a crooked bumper. If your frame is bent, then the following may fall out of place:
These components may have too much or too little room to move, depending on the severity of the frame damage. When inspecting a used car, pay close attention to these areas for anything unusual.
Can You Repair a Car with Frame Damage?
If your car has sustained frame damage, depending on the severity, it is possible that it can be repaired.
A bent frame can be fixed by a professional auto body repair technician with hydraulic machines and precise tools. An immense amount of force is needed to push a frame back to its original shape and position. But, a repair like this with specialized machinery comes at a price, and you need to remember that it will never truly be the same again.
A simple fender repair could cost you roughly $800, excluding the paint job that often needs to follow. On average, to straighten a damaged car frame, a professional may charge $100 per hour, excluding any parts or materials they may need.
More severe frame damage will require core straightening and more expensive repairs to be done. In which case, to preserve your budget and safety, it would be best to contact a place that buys damaged vehicles, like Cash Cars Buyer, to purchase your damaged car.
Should You Buy a Car with Frame Damage?
A vehicle with frame damage has most likely been involved in a collision or a major car accident. Unless you have an unlimited budget to spend on preserving a one-of-a-kind classic or luxury car, it is generally best practice (for your safety and budget) to avoid buying a car with frame damage.
Unfortunately, buying a used car with frame damage could lead to one problem after the other, especially because you do not know how long it has been damaged or how much repair work was done to mask it. Frame damage can lead to mechanical problems, and you may not be saved by your car's frame in an accident if there are weak repair points.
Can You Sell a Car with Frame Damage?
While it is not illegal to sell a vehicle with frame damage, as long as it is disclosed in writing to the buyer, it is not best practice to sell a damaged car. And while it is not recommended to sell a car in this state, you need to remember that frame damage can significantly lower your car's value. Frame damage can cause a vehicle to lose between 30 and 70 percent of its market value.
If the repair bill is too high, or the damage is too severe, then rather sell your damaged car to a company that buys damaged and junk cars, like Cash Cars Buyer. They will pay you cash on the spot for your damaged vehicle, and you will not need to worry about any legal implications of selling a car with a damaged frame, especially if it has been mangled during a serious accident.