What Is Frame Damage?

What-Is-Frame-Damage

Imagine your vehicle was involved in a heavy front end collision. You see the fenders crumpled up like accordions, the radiator support smashed up onto the engine, and there are two metal beams sticking out at you like a sore thumb. Coming out of an accident like this unharmed would be one lucky day but your car won't have that luck, there's a good chance you have just damaged the structural frame of the car and it might never drive or be as safe again.

Before embarking on the long and expensive journey of repairing a vehicle’s frame it's important to be well informed of what Frame damage is and what it means to make the smart decision.

If your car has sustained any heavy physical damage, then you may have some of these questions.

  • What is frame damage?

  • Is it safe to drive with frame damage?

  • How much does it cost to fix a car with frame damage?

  • What are my other options?

In this article, we will cover these questions and more.

Did you know?

Most unibody vehicles have what is called crumple zones. These are indented sections of the frame that make a light wavy shape. They’re typically found in the front engine bay and in the rear support of the car. They are designed to literally fold in like an accordion after a crash from to absorb the energy of an impact.

Frame Damage can cost you more to fix than what the car is worth. Before you start any repairs check the value of the car and see if the repairs are worth it.

What's My Car’s Value

What is Frame Damage?

Deep down beneath all the parts in your car, there is a structural support system AKA the frame of your car. It's designed to protect you in case of an accident and it's the foundation that your car is built on. The term “Frame Damage” is used whenever the integrity of your frame has been compromised by either an accident or 3rd party alteration.

What are the different types of frames?

Almost every car has a unique frame designed by the manufacturer but there are many different types of frame. The most common are unibody frames & ladder frames.

Unibody frame

Unibody frameOne of the most common forms of a vehicle's frame is a unibody. Meaning that the body and frame of the vehicle car are one. This type of frame can be broken down into several parts to describe their location and purpose. If the Unibody frame of a vehicle is damaged, then the car might not drive straight and it will be weaker after repairs in the area where it's been damaged.

  • Core support: Also known as the radiator support, this section of the frame can be found on the front end of your car. In some vehicles, this part is bolted on and can be removed or replaced without being considered “Frame Damage”

  • Unirail: Two symmetrical metal beams Located at the front and back of the car. These rails are one of the strongest parts of the frame and are also the foundation for other components that will get welded onto these rails lie the apron for example.

  • Strut tower: Every vehicle has four strut towers that are typically located on the four corners for the car. The strut tower is also part of the front apron and rear quarter panel. They are designed to align and hold your vehicle's suspension in place.

  • Apron: This is the front inner fender area of the vehicle with two sides. The front of the apron extends from the core support to the strut tower and the rear apron extends from the strut tower to the firewall.

  • Firewall: This is the part of the frame that separates the motor from the cockpit. The firewall alongside the apron, Strut tower, front rails and core support make up the front unibody and engine bay of a car.

  • Floor pan: Is a metal sheet that is welded to several cross members to form the floor of a vehicle. The floor pan will also have several grooves and holes to fit the vehicle's' drivetrain and electric wiring.

  • A-B-C-Pillars: These are the vertical supports of the car. They are labeled alphabetically to represent their location from front to rear. Certain vehicles like Minivans will have a 4th pillar called the D-pillar to support extra length.

  • Rocker panel: Located on both sides of the vehicle in between the wheels and under the doors. These panels support your doors and help align them when closed.

  • Quarter panel: This is the metal sheet that forms the left and right rear panels of your vehicle. They help form the wheel well and in most cars, you will find the gas cap on it. For most vehicles, the quarter panel will be made of metal but in unique vehicles like a Corvette, the quarter panels can be made from fiberglass or carbon fiber.

  • Rear support: The rear section of the frame. On common cars, the rear support is composed of two unirails, a floorboard (where your spare tire goes) and a rear bumper support.

Ladder Frame

Ladder FrameThis is one of the oldest designs of a frame. Traditionally almost all cars were made with this concept but now it's more common on trucks due to its high resistance and strength. The core foundation is made up of two symmetrical rails that are the same length as the car and are connected by several cross members. The power and drivetrain are placed onto the frame, then the body of the car is placed onto this “Ladder” to complete the vehicle assembly.

Is it safe to drive a vehicle with frame damage?

Frame damage doesn’t mean a vehicle is unsafe to drive. If the four well are well aligned and the vehicle drives in a straight line without a problem then yea sure, it is safe to drive, but will it be safe in a collision?

Is a car with frame damage safe in a collision?Is a car with frame damage safe in a collision?

Unless you have very minimal damage like a small baseball size dent on a rear quarter panel and the crumple zones are fine, the rails are intact, and the rest of frame is untouched, then your vehicle has a chance that it could still be as safe as it's original condition. Now, if the vehicle was involved in a heavy collision where the frame rail bent up, the crumple is crushed in and it's going to take all sorts of cutting, welding, and aligning then the vehicle will not be safe in a collision not even if you've had the collision repaired.

 

Think of it this way, crush a tin can and stretch it back the best you can. It might still be the same shape but you can definitely crush it much easier now. The same result will happen with your car.

How much does it cost to fix a car with frame damage?

How much does it cost to fix a car with frame damage?The severity of the damage will determine the cost to fix. Let’s say a car is backing out of a spot at the grocery store and they slowly bump into your Civic’s quarter panel leaving a basketball size dent. This is technically considered frame damage but the cost to repair the damage without paintwork could run you from $600-$1000.

Now when the vehicle sustains heavy damage like a radiator support, frame rail, even apron damage, then the vehicle will require cutting off and welding on new parts of the frame. Once you have that Frankenstein welded back together, then you have to go through industrial machines that will clamp onto the car and have it stretched back out, the cost of repair could be well over ten times a thousand dollars at this point.

Will frame damage affect the value of my vehicle?

Frame damage could have a negative effect on a vehicle's value depending on the extent of the damage but keep in mind that if the vehicle has it branded on it's VIN, then it will have a permanent effect on the car's value because it will show up with reported frame damage on all public records making it less appealing to any buyer that is looking to purchase a car. This also is important to know as one day a shady seller could try to sell you a vehicle with frame damage and not mention it.

In cases where the vehicle has sustained major frame damage, then there's a good chance it's a rebuilt title and the value of the car could be cut in half!

What are my other options?

Repairing frame damage after a collision is complicated and you will never have the peace of mind that your vehicle will up to manufacture safety standards. Sometimes the best choice is to sell your vehicle and avoid any further depreciation. If you want to turn that wrecked or junk car that has a banged up frame, then sell it to CarBrain.

We’re the smart way to sell your car. Our state-of-the-art price engine is designed to make offers on most makes and models in just 90 seconds! We’ll also deliver the payment right to you and tow the car for free after in just 24 to 48 hours!

The process is quick and simple. Click here to get started today.

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