Sunday, July 14, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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Learning they have damage to the frame or unibody of their vehicle comes as a surprise to most people. More often the vehicle owner feels they have persistent problems with the suspension and alignment. Until now, these were problems they could not get answers for.

Most frame and unibody repair comes to us for other reasons

We often hear: 

Many folks are surprised to learn they have frame damage

When doing a Pre Purchase Inspection, we often discover frame and unibody damage. Possibly the vehicle was traded-in because of persistent problems, the previous owner was unable to solve. This does not necessarily mean the vehicle has been in a collision. We have found unibody and frame damage can occur in many ways.

  • Hitting a curb or large hole in the road.
  • Improper towing of the vehicle.
  • Running into a ditch.
  • Improper previous repair.
  • Cracks and rust damage. 
  • Running over something in the road.

No matter how the frame and unibody damage has occurred, a professional frame and unibody repair shop can normally correct it. To correct frame and unibody damage, we need specialized frame repair equipment and a highly trained frame repair technician.

The best frame straightening equipment cannot properly repair a vehicle without a skilled technician. Advanced equipment makes the job quicker, but never replaces the skill of the operator. Frame repair personnel have a thorough knowledge of metals, including HSLA, HSS and Martensitic steel. They also must understand hydraulic force, stress relief and posses welding skills.

It requires a professional to repair frame and unibody damage, but the average person can spot several telltale signs, with just a bit of knowledge. Frame and unibody damage may take several forms and any of the below problems may suggest a frame or uni body problem on a vehicle.

The Dog-Tracking Vehicle

Dog-tracking describes a vehicle that appears to move to one side of the forward motion of the vehicle. Many people have noticed vehicles that look very funny when viewed from the rear while in motion.

With dog tracking the wheels do not follow the same path

Tracking problems result when the front and rear wheels no longer track in line with each other. The driver may be unaware of the condition, though the vehicle often seems to float or lose control on bumps. Dog-tracking is normally easy to correct, but requires a shop trained in frame repair and wheel alignment. We can most easily spot the problem by driving behind the suspected vehicle. A driver and passenger in the front seat, view the tracking from two angles. This greatly increases the odds of spotting the problem.

A trained frame technician uses several devices to spot and to monitor tracking, in the repair process. When repair is complete, we test tracking with four-wheel alignment equipment.

Mis-aligned body panels

Body opening too wide or too close are a tip off to damage

Mis-alignment of the body panels indicate frame or unibody damage. Excessively wide or narrow gaps between body panels point to underlying problems.  Gaps that vary from one end to the other, (i.e., wide on one end and narrow on the other.)  Also be aware, a vehicle may have damage even with no misalignment to the body panels.

Wheel alignment problems

Camber is the position of the tire in relation to true verticle

Wheels that lean in or out at the top or bottom. Most wheels and tires should appear to stand up straight when viewed from a straight ahead position.  This applies to front as well as rear wheels.

Wheels not in the center of the opening

A wheel that is knocked back out of position

A wheel that is not in the center of the wheel opening, when looking from the side is a sign of frame or suspension damage. This is particularly true when the other three wheels appear normal.  Vehicles will often pull toward the side with the setback wheel, when driven.

Leaning vehicles 

Excessive leaning front or rear can indicate frame or unibody damage

A vehicle that leans more than ½” (13MM) from one side to the other is another sign of damage.  Any vehicle may lean a slight amount, but excessive leaning often indicates frame and unibody damage.

Persistent tire wear, pulling to left or right even after wheel alignment is another symptom. Being told the vehicle cannot be aligned is also a clear sign.  Excessive or unexplained wear to suspension parts or breaking of suspension components, suggest frame damage.  If you suspect your vehicle may have frame or unibody damage, contact the experts at AGCO.  We can diagnose and correct the problem if needed.  AGCO will set you straight.

For more information on the types of damage frames and unibodies sustain, see our Detailed Topic Frame and unibody Damage Types.

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