Whether you get scraped or god forbid, suffer a near-fatal accident, car collisions happen. An average driver will experience one every 17.9 years.
But what do you do when it happens? After the healing and bills, you end up with a car that's dented.
Sometimes the frame damage can be so extreme that repair costs become too much.
You're not completely out of options though. There are ways which let you repair the vehicle or salvage it for a little extra cash.
Before you lose hope, there are things you should know about car frame damage.
1. The Frame of a Car
Modern frame designs rely on different parts working in tandem. The unibody's pieces fold on impact. They absorb damage, reducing the chance of injury for the passengers. When a part is damaged, the effect differs on your car.
The Front Section
The front section of a car has the core support, strut tower, firewall, unirail, and the apron. Each part protects your engine and serves to support other parts of the frame.
When damaged, the front part crumples and stops shock from traveling. The unirail is one of the strongest pieces in the frame.
There's a high chance that major damage to this section will bend the car's alignment.
The Middle Section
Parts in the middle are sturdier than the front and back. It's where all the passengers' seats are after all.
Here you find the A and B pillars, rocker panel, and the floor pan. If the power of the impact is within the threshold, these parts can prevent serious injuries.
Significant damage here causes difficulty in evacuating the car in some cases.
The Tail Section
The last third of the car has the quarter panel, C pillar, and rear support. Like the front section, collisions here can compromise the whole vehicle.
Depending on the hit, your trunk and gas cap become inaccessible. Wheel alignment also comes into question.
2. The Different Types of Frame Damage
When it comes to unibody damage, there are subtle distinctions.
Minor damage doesn't compromise the crumple zones. They are cosmetic and won't affect major portions of the vehicle.
Repairs for such issues won't cost you an arm and a leg. Afterward, the vehicle will still be safe to drive.
But it's easy to mistake an important crack as something minor. If left alone, even a small ripple compromises the rest of the vehicle. If the strut tower folds, then any future accidents can cause it to break easier.
This is where major damage becomes a problem.
Unless you've experienced a huge accident, big issues are hard to spot. That's because alignment shift isn't obvious until a full checkup.
A Sagging or Twisted Frame
The big telltale sign of a sag are gaps in the body. Because of the unevenness, the car leans deeper into a specific section.
Over time, your tires and coils will wear out faster.
Twists can cause the same kind of damage. They're harder to spot in most vehicles though. Finding the source of the problem means inspecting the frame in a thorough manner.
Some symptoms to look out for include difficult turns and instability at high speeds.
When a car gets hit in a corner, sway damage becomes the biggest problem.
Sway car frame damage is easier to catch than the two above. It shows off as a lean to one direction.
When moving, the car won't drive in a straight line. Over time, you'll feel severe vibrations, leading to a total breakdown. Having a misaligned driveshaft causes harm to the transmission as well.
A Mashed Frame
Mash damage happens when you experience a head-on hit or get rear-ended. After a collision, the frame will crumble in on itself.
You end up with a car part shorter than before the accident.
Once mashed, the damage ripples to other portions of a vehicle. You can experience sway, sags, or even twists.
What's worse is that even low-speed impacts cause mash damage.
3. Dealing with Damage
As an owner of a damaged car, it's important to understand that damage is repairable. You can solve body issues through replacement parts.
If your vehicle is still in production, procuring replacements is easy. The manufacturers will list the parts or shops that stock them online.
Place the order and you're halfway done.
Car frame damage that makes it crooked is a different case. You need a professional with experience using a frame straightener.
In both cases, full repairs take a while to finish. Dismantling the car is a must because of cleaning and welding.
Dealing with compromised body parts is another issue. Frame realignment is important, but doing the same for a crushed C pillar is a bad idea.
When a specialized piece of metal crumples, it'll never have the same strength. Any future damage that hits your car can be fatal in these instances.
4. Are Repairs Worth the Risk?
Depending on the damage, repairs are worth a certain amount of cash.
Minor dents are reversible and some car parts are easy to replace. A crumbled door that doesn't affect the frame won't put your safety at risk.
Damage which compromises other parts of the structure is a different beast. Over time, the ripple effect puts the rest of the car in danger.
When you have to deal with straightening, service fees become high. In fact, they can cost more than the car itself.
Weigh the pros and cons of repairing and junking before making a decision.
It's crazy to pay for a repair bill that can otherwise buy you a new car. Unless the vehicle means a lot to you, don't go for this option.
Remember: 2.35 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from injuries and even disabilities every year due to road accidents. Driving faulty or damaged vehicles have led to many of these accidents.
5. Salvaging a Bad Situation
In certain situations, the feeling of hopelessness is unavoidable. Staring down big repairs is never great when you're living on a budget.
Severe unibody damage drops the resale value of your car. Even if you do shell out the money for repairs, that won't translate to a better price.
If trading it in is no longer an option, you can turn to these solutions.
Selling a Damaged Car
Selling a damaged car can give you more profit in some cases. When the repair doesn't need a full dismantling, there are fewer laws to deal with.
In this case, there's a big difference between used and salvaged titles.
Try to be honest when talking to prospective buyers. Dents and dings are all acceptable, and let you slap a used label on the car.
Reporting minor damage lessens the value. But many people overlook those issues as long as the vehicle performs well.
If they ask that a mechanic check it first, compromise on who will do the inspection. Turning to professional appraisers is best for an impartial judgment.
Reselling a Salvage Car
Let's say you went ahead and had the car rebuilt. It looks brand new and runs well. Why shouldn't you profit from your salvaged vehicle?
Well, so long as your car passes the state regulations, you're good to go.
A vehicle that suffered car frame damage needs a salvage stamp on the title. This is for the safety of any customers who show interest.
Failing to meet any requirements or hiding salvage status warrants a fine. In some cases, it can even land you in jail. As such, make sure you grab and file all the necessary paperwork before looking for a buyer.
After that, all there that's left is price negotiation and delivery.
Junking the Leftovers
Dealing with the worst-case scenario doesn't have to cripple your income. Selling your car to the junkyard is a valid option.
First, store your license plate and any relevant documents in a safe place. You'll need them in the future and replacing them is a hassle.
If any of your electronics survived, take them out before you show off the car. It's a small way to save yourself some money in the future.
Fuel removal also falls on your shoulders. If your fuel tanks become inaccessible, informing the junk buyer is crucial.
Once you've followed these steps, the next is to find a junkyard. You can shop around for offers, but don't expect the price to differ in a big way.
Talk to the yard about any rules they have about scrap part sales. Looking up any state laws on junk resale is also a must.
In this situation, cutting your losses benefits you in the long run. So, don't hesitate to make the best of a bad situation.
Being Aware of All the Options
If you've recently suffered frame damage, don't worry too much. You aren't the only one who's trying to get by with a scrap car.
Many resources are available at your fingertips. A crushed car isn't trash. What you do with the remains is what matters.
But if you still feel lost, take the time to do some research. Here you'll find a wealth of knowledge on dealing with a damaged car. Don't hesitate to learn about turning tragedy into opportunity.