Car Frame Damage

by Don Elliott on February 21, 2012

Frame damage is a dated reference to a change in the structural components of a light duty vehicle. In the simplest terms, the frame is the load-bearing platform that gives a car or truck rigidity and strength. All other parts of the vehicle, including the chassis, are hung off of the frame.

Many cars and some trucks built today don’t have the traditional ladder frame that was typical on older cars and most trucks. They have what is called a uni-body type structure. The roof, body panels, and floor are welded together to act like the shell of an egg, strong but lightweight. They are designed to transfer the force of impact around the driver and passengers, making the structure much stronger and safer than older, heavier cars.

Most recently, some cars are built with unibody on a partial frame, one more variation that makes “frame damage” an inaccurate reference.

When someone refers to “frame damage,” the definition becomes murky. The National Automobile Auction Association recently adopted a new term, structural damage, to refer to any change to a car’s structural components.  Whatever you call it, structural, uni-body, or frame damage, it is important to understand the impact the damage has caused to the integrity and safety of the vehicle.

If the structural components are bent, twisted, or cut, the original specifications of the car are changed, most likely not for the better. However, it is possible to repair structural damage.

Qualified collision auto repair shops or body shops have the technology to repair almost any type of car. Cars are mounted onto a powerful device that pulls the structural components back to their original specifications. Sophisticated welding devices are used to weld the various types of steel and aluminum. Parts can be replaced or rebuilt to repair most types of collision damage.

The important issue here is to have an understanding about the structural damage that may have occurred and to check the damage to ensure it was repaired correctly and to specification. Often sellers of cars that have been in accidents attempt to hide repairs in hopes of getting more money for the car in the sale. Member auctions from the National Auto Auction Association disclose structural damage when found during the inspection of cars as they arrive at the auto auction. A good inspection of any car, whether bought at auction, from a dealer, or from a private party is the only way to determine if a car has had structural damage and whether the damage was repaired properly.

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