Auto Body Blog

How Do You Assess the Structural Damage of Your Car?

One of the worst outcomes of a car accident is structural damage. When your car is hit so hard that it damages its framework, the damage can be extensive and hard to repair.

The extent of damage and the car’s pre-crash value determine whether a mechanic can repair your vehicle or if you’ll need to start shopping for a new car. 

When the insurance estimators inspect your vehicle, they will be analyzing several factors:

  • Where was the vehicle damaged?
  • What was damaged by the impact?
  • Does the damage make the car undrivable?
  • What damage was caused by the other vehicle?
  • What damage was caused by the movement of damaged parts?
  • Is there any internal damage?
  • Was there any damage to mechanical parts?

The more damage an inspection reveals, the more likely it will be that your insurance company will declare your car as not deemed salvageable. 

Here’s what you need to know when you get in a car accident.

The Direction of Impact Matters

Your vehicle contains most of its working parts at the front. What is typically deemed the engine includes the engine block, battery, heating and cooling systems, fluid access points, filters, fans, gears, pumps, sensors, electrical components, and lots of tubing. Damage to the front of the car can damage any of these components. 

Side impacts and rear impacts don’t damage as many critical systems, but damage in these areas can be extensive. The design of the car's rear crumples easily on impact to absorb as much momentum as possible. The sides, likewise, are meant to absorb and dissipate momentum from impact, crushing around the main cabin, protecting the passengers from harm.

It is not easy to tell the extent of the damage, especially where the vehicle's frame is involved. Discovering the full extent of damage to your car takes close inspection. Improperly diagnosing the cause of damage to your vehicle can create more problems in the future.

What Can Damage to a Frame Do?

A damaged car frame wears subtly on your vehicle. In some cases, the symptoms of frame damage can go months or years unnoticed.

The frame of your vehicle keeps all the moving parts in line. An imbalanced frame makes for an imbalanced car. Wear will no longer occur evenly between shocks and tires like it would if the vehicle's frame were properly aligned. 

A misaligned frame will move affected parts of your vehicle out of place. One of your four wheels could become higher than the other three. That kind of damage will shift the weight of your car unevenly to this wheel, causing the treads and shocks to wear out faster.

If your vehicle's front or back end has sustained damage from a side impact, the resulting force might lead to poor tracking—your vehicle will no longer drive straight but will drive subtly off-center.

A crooked frame can mean ill-fitted car parts. When the frame no longer adheres to its original shape, car parts that may have fit snug before may need altering to accommodate new positioning. Parts requiring alteration can range from engine pieces to car doors. Without a properly aligned frame, repairs on other vital car parts can become difficult or impossible.

Cosmetic, Hidden, and Structural Damage

The speed of the impact and the car's design are factors for what kind of damage is most likely to have occurred. 

Cosmetic damage is easy to diagnose and easy to repair, especially if the model and color of your car are common. Either you or body repair specialists can find replacement doors, bumpers, mirrors, and grills in scrapyards and dealerships all over the most populated areas. Normally, the most challenging part is having a piece painted to match—if not painted already—and installed.

Hidden damage, true to its name, is harder to detect. Damage to a vehicle may result in some unseen problems. It is easy to overlook minor impacts on critical systems during an inspection. Electrical issues, leaking connections, and skewed moving parts can continue to create problems as time goes by.

A skilled technician can catch these issues early through close evaluation. Computer diagnostics and manual inspection can reveal where seals have become loose and fluids leak.

Structural damage is challenging to detect with an untrained eye. This type of damage applies to your vehicle's frame, depending on which type of frame your car has. Repairing or realigning a frame can be difficult, and repairs may not be enough to resolve the damage completely. In many cases, a restored frame is more susceptible to damage than before the damage occurred.

 When Is a Car Considered Totaled?

Valuing a car after an accident is usually taken care of by an insurance company.

Your insurance estimator will evaluate the damage to determine if your car is worth repairing. A final judgment of your car’s value is done first by accounting for the fair market price of the vehicle before the accident. Then your estimator will factor in the estimated cost of repairs and determine what value the car is if sold to a scrapyard.

If the fair market value with deducted salvage price and repair cost estimate still has a positive value, your insurance believes it is better to repair the car than to scrap it.

If your vehicle does not pass this benchmark, your insurance company will deem it totaled.

Vehicle Solutions with Schneider Auto Body

If you need someone to assess structural damage done to your vehicle, we have just the experts for the job! We are an independent, locally-owned auto repair company located in downtown Salt Lake City and are willing and ready to help you out. 

When you are in a car accident, the aftermath leaves you stressed and anxious. Leave the stress of getting your vehicle up and running to us! We love providing those in these unfortunate circumstances with the help they need to get their lives back on track.

If you were in an accident, contact us for an estimate on your vehicle.