Car Chassis Damage Problems: 6 Common Issues & Solutions

Some call it a chassis, others call it a frame. The difference can be attributed to the design of your car. Many modern sedans and SUVs are a monocoque design that incorporates a body structure without a full frame under the car.

Older cars use a full frame that runs from the front of the vehicle to the back. No matter what you call it, a frame or a chassis, it can have identifiable problems that will jeopardize safety and ride quality.

We’ll cover the most common issues and their solutions to help you maintain your car forever.

#1 – Your Doors And Body Panels Don’t Align Properly

Your doors and body panels should have a consistent gap around the periphery.

If you can see a change in the spacing between the doors and fenders or the doors and rear quarter panels, your chassis or frame may have damage.

How to Fix It

Every manufacturer has specific key dimensions for fenders, doors, and the chassis. These dimensions show the relationship between every part. If the dimensions are out of tolerance, this can indicate that the chassis or frame is damaged.

Fixing the chassis and frame may be possible with basic tools, or it can require a straightening machine at a repair facility in your area.

The repair facility can also measure how far out of alignment your frame is, and make any corrections necessary to return the frame/chassis to manufacturer specifications.

From there you can adjust or replace the fenders and doors if they show more damage has occurred.

#2 – Your Car Was In An Accident

Collisions are one of the most common causes of frame or chassis damage.

A low-speed impact can cause deformation in the frame or body structure. A high-speed impact can cause significant damage that may total the entire car.

Collisions can damage more than just the frame and chassis; they can translate the impact force to suspension mounting points and other components in the general area.

How to Fix It

If you can visibly see damage to the frame or chassis, you need to have a body or frame shop investigate if the damage can be repaired. They have machines that can measure the damage, and then estimate what can be fixed.

Low-speed damage may not be visible but can still affect the safety and handling of your car. These same machines can measure damage, and there is a better chance that low-speed damage can be repaired.

#3 – Your Chassis Has Corrosion Damage

Ice and snow can be a real problem for your chassis. It can collect in the recessed areas and slowly cause corrosion to the chassis.

In areas that salt the roads, corrosion can limit the life of a car because the chassis and frame rust away and cause safety issues for the owner.

Read here for more information about the rust-belt of the USA.

How to Fix It

Corrosion is also known as oxidation, and it is a result of bare metal being exposed to air.

Most chassis and frame components have a corrosion-prevention covering such as zinc or paint. When the covering is compromised, corrosion will soon follow.

If corrosion is left alone, it can eventually degrade the metal until it is a safety hazard. The metal or component may be able to be replaced with new metal or a new component depending on where it is.

It is best to take a preventative course of action and keep your chassis clean. Simple washing at a car wash or at home to remove salt and dirt will prevent the coating from being worn off.

#4 – Your Car Handles And Steers Poorly

Your chassis and frame connect to the suspension and steering at key mounting points. These connections can be compromised by corrosion, physical wear, or damage from an impact.

If the connection points, or the frame and chassis, change relative location it can cause poor handling and terrible steering.

How to Fix It

Often you don’t realize there is a problem with a mounting location until another issue surfaces. Your car may start to handle poorly.

It may not recover from a sharp turn and slowly return to a balanced feeling. It can slightly lean fore or aft or to one side or the other. The car may feel like it twists over bumps in the road, and it can also make more noise as the chassis and frame bend and twist.

The first step in the investigation of poor handling is to give the suspension a good look over.

Are the shocks or struts leaking oil? Does anything appear loose like a fastener has lost tension?

Start looking for a simple reason rather than the chassis having a problem. If you can’t find anything loose or worn out on the suspension, then it may be the chassis causing the poor handling and steering.

If you don’t find anything loose or damaged on the chassis, then it is time to take the car to a professional shop that can measure the chassis for an out-of-alignment issue. They can verify if the chassis or frame is out of tolerance for the mounting points and they can also correct the issue.

#5 – Your Tires Wear Out Quickly

Your tire wear is an indication of how well-aligned the chassis and suspension are.

Tires have average mileage ratings when you buy them, such as 50,000-mile tire. If you’re only using them for a few thousand miles before they are worn out, you may have a chassis issue causing extreme tire wear.

How to Fix It

Tire wear can indicate there is a problem. Over-inflation will wear the centers of the tire out. Underinflation can cause the outer edges of the tire to wear out prematurely.

Poor alignment may cause one edge of the tire to wear faster than the other, and chassis damage can cause wear on the tires in multiple areas.

The first check on this issue should be the tire pressure. Verify that it is near manufacturer specification.

You can use a simple hand-held pressure gauge to check and adjust the air pressure inside the tires. If the pressure is correct for your car, then take it to an alignment shop that can further diagnose the problem.

They will check for worn components and measure the alignment settings to make any adjustments needed for proper tire wear.

#6 – Your Fuel Efficiency Goes Down

The health of your car can be correlated to the fuel mileage. Poor mileage can indicate a poor running engine or a chassis out of alignment.

You can track your mileage in every fuel tank to understand the trend of your fuel mileage and then make small changes to keep the efficiency high.

How to Fix It

Poor mileage can indicate a poorly running engine. Each component related to combustion has a limit of use before it wears out.

The spark plugs and spark plug wires should be replaced between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. The wires wear out from use and the resistance increases over time.

The spark plugs lose efficiency as the electrode wears. There are also various lubricants and filters that keep your engine running well, and each needs to be replaced at various service intervals.

The frame and chassis are one area that is often overlooked concerning fuel mileage. Wheels and tires that are out of alignment will wear the tire tread faster than normal.

An out-of-alignment condition will also cause extra resistance when the tires roll across the ground, and that small increase in resistance will require your engine to work harder. That increases fuel usage and decreases fuel mileage.

Any frame damage that causes alignment settings to change can affect fuel efficiency. A local alignment shop can check for frame damage and make suspension adjustments to reduce tire wear.

Another change that can occur from frame or chassis damage is aerodynamic reduction. Your car channels and directs air under, over, and through your chassis to reduce the aerodynamic drag as it moves.

Any change to that airflow can negatively affect aerodynamic efficiency, which in turn can negatively affect fuel usage.

An alignment shop can verify suspension settings for optimum efficiency, and a body shop can verify if any damage or changes have occurred with the chassis that would impact fuel efficiency.

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