One of your car's most important safety features is not the airbags or an automatic braking system, or even a shatterproof windscreen; it is a feature you cannot see and one that you may overlook as important. It is your car's frame. Your car's frame is the foundation on which your entire vehicle is built. Frame damage on a car could be dangerous to you and your passengers if it is overlooked.
Whether you are buying a used car or inspecting your own vehicle, you need to ensure the car's frame is in good condition, and there is no rebuilt title. Frame damage is not always easily recognized, and not many people understand what is considered frame damage on a car, but don't despair, continue reading to find out more about what to look for and why it is so important to inspect a vehicle's frame.
Understanding Frame Damage on a Car
Deep down, beneath all of your car's parts, there is a structural support system for your car. This is your car's frame. While it is the foundation that your car is built on, it also protects you if you are involved in a car accident.
The term “Frame Damage” is used when the integrity of your vehicle's frame has been compromised. Frame damage is damage to any component of a car that forms part of the main structure or any component specifically designed to provide structural support. Examples of what is considered frame damage on a car include damage to the:
- suspension mounting location that cannot be removed.
- upper and lower frame rails.
- In the case of a unibody frame;
- Damage to the A, B, and C pillars
- Damage to the windshield and rear window frames
- Damage to the rocker panels.
If a component has been bolted onto the frame, then it is not considered part of the car's frame.
One of the worst types of damage your car can incur is frame damage. Often frame damage can cause misalignment, which is expensive to repair and extremely unsafe.
The Different Types of Car Frames
Nearly every car has its own unique frame designed by the manufacturer. There are many different types of car frames, but the most common are ladder frames and unibody frames.
A ladder frame is one of the oldest designs for a car frame. Traditionally, nearly all vehicles were designed with a ladder frame concept. However, these days, it is more commonly found on larger vehicles like trucks due to its strength, resilience, and high weight resistance.
Two symmetrical rails that are the same length as the vehicle make up the ladder frame's core foundation. The rails are connected by several cross frames to look like a ladder. The drive and powertrain are placed onto this frame, followed by the car's body to complete the full assembly of the vehicle.
A unibody frame is one of the most common frames found on vehicles. This form combines the body and the frame of the car into one structure. It can be broken down into several components to describe their purpose and their location.
Let's explore these components in detail to understand what is considered frame damage on a car and the components that could be affected by frame damage:
- Core Support
Better known as radiator support, this is the section of the frame found at the front of your car. In some cars, the radiator support is bolted on. If it is bolted on, then the versatility of the core support will extend the life of your car's frame. This is because it can then be removed or replaced without being considered as “Frame Damage.”
Located at the front and the back of the car are two symmetrical metal beams known as the unirails. These rails are one of the strongest components of a Unibody frame and form the foundation for other components that will be welded to these rails. For instance, the apron will be welded onto the unirails.
- The Apron
The apron is the front inner fender area of your car, and it has two sides. The front of the apron extends from the radiator support to the strut tower. The rear apron extends from the strut tower over to the firewall of the car.
- The Firewall
This is the component of your car's frame that separates the cockpit from the engine. Together, the apron, core support, front unirails, strut tower, and firewall form the front unibody and the engine bay of your car.
- The Floor Pan
The component that forms the floor of your car is known as the floor pan. It is a metal sheet that is welded to several cross members. There are a series of grooves and holes in the floor pan to allow for the vehicle's drivetrain to fit into it, as well as the electric wiring
- The A-B-C Pillars
The vertical supports of a car's frame are called the A-B-C pillars. They are alphabetically named to represent their location in a car. In a sedan, the term ABC-pillar refers to the six pillars that support the roof of the sedan. Depending on the car's length, there are different car types that have D- and E-pillars.
- The A-pillar lies between the front window and first side window, and it often has a side airbag.
- The B pillar lies between the first and second side window. It hides the mechanism for your safety belt.
- The C pillar lies between the second side window and the rear window. This pillar hides the anchor point for the safety belt mechanism of the rear seat. Often, there is a small courtesy light built into it.
- The Rocker Panels
The panels that support your car's doors and help align them when they are closed are called the rocker panels. These panels lie on both sides of the vehicle, between the wheels and underneath the car's doors.
- The Quarter Panels
The metal sheets that form the left and right rear panels of your car are called the quarter panels. The quarter panels help form the wheel well, and it will have the gas cap on it in most cars. It is more commonly made from metal, but there are some unique cars where the quarter panels are made from carbon fiber or fiberglass, such as the Corvette.
- The Rear Support
The rear section of your car's frame is known as the rear support. The rear support is often made up of two unirails, rear bumper support, and a floorboard (the area where your spare tire goes).
If a unibody frame is damaged, or any of its components, it is considered frame damage on a car. A damaged unibody frame can result in a bent frame on a car. This means your car will be misaligned and will not drive straight. It will also be weaker after repairs in the damaged area.
What if Your Car has Frame Damage?
It is not safe to drive a car that has frame damage. If the four wheel wells are aligned, and your car drives in a straight line, then the damage may be unnoticeable and may not worry you at all; however, if you are in a collision, you may not survive the wreck to share your tale as those weak components in the structure will crumble.
If your car's frame is damaged, optimal driveability is reduced, and your life is at risk. Frame damage can also cause additional mechanical problems, especially if it is not attended to quickly.
Unless you have minimal car damage, such as a small dent on the rear quarter panel, and all of your crumple zones are still okay, the unirails are intact, and the rest of your car's frame is untouched, then there is a decent chance that your car is still safe.
Often, it is better to walk away from a car with a damaged frame. Especially if it was involved in a major collision and the frame was bent, and the crumple points were crushed. Even if the car can be repaired, it will never be the same again.
Think of your car like a tin can. If you take a tin can, crush it, and then stretch it back to its original shape, then it may be the same shape again, but it is much easier to crush now and has several weak points. The result is the same for a car with a damaged frame.
The solution to a car with frame damage? You could sell it to a dealer, but frame damage has a major negative effect on your car's value. If you sell your car privately, you have to disclose the damage legally, and many buyers will not opt for a car with a damaged frame. Your best option is to sell your car to Cash Cars Buyer. They will pay for your car, even if it has a damaged frame, regardless of the extent of the damage. Contact Cash Cars Buyer to sell your car to them for cash on the spot.