Fixing the frame on your vehicle sounds like an intimidating proposition. You could imagine that this type of work requires a lot of special skills and tools. Luckily, we have an answer that provides you with a comprehensive overview of frame repair and costs.
How Much Does Frame Repair Cost?
The costs for frame repair are never cut and dry. The location, nature, and extent of damage all play an important role in calculating the number of manhours required. The price can range from a few hundred dollars for minor repairs to more than ten thousand dollars for extensive frame damage.
If you want to learn more about car and truck frames and what to expect when you approach an auto body shop, we have a lot of useful information compiled below. By understanding what is involved in repairing your frame properly, you can make a more informed decision and avoid being overcharged and the prospect of inferior repairs.
Calculating the Real Costs of a Serious or Minor Frame Repair
There is a lot to understand about motor vehicles and frame repairs. In many cases, it is cheaper for most people to buy a new car than it is to fix a frame after an accident. This is why car insurance companies will often write a vehicle off as totaled after an accident.
Nowadays, they are even writing off luxury vehicles as totaled when they are involved in small fender-benders because the front-ends of a high-end Mercedes-Benz, for example, may be more difficult to fix than the vehicle is to replace.
Always be wary when you decide to invest in fixing the frame of a vehicle. While the quote may start out as affordable, you can get reeled into a bad deal. And you may still feel as though the vehicle doesn’t track straight or is amiss. It is very difficult to sell a vehicle with a damaged frame.
Vehicles have become extremely disposable. They are mass produced and can be purchased by anyone, brand-new, with just a few hundred dollars a month in payments. When you compare the ease of making low monthly payments for a warranty-backed vehicle, it is hard to consider investing in a gamble and the skills of some unknown auto body shop.
Let’s consider some of the more specific topics to help you understand frames and frame repairs before you make that big decision to invest in repairs.
If you have rust issues, this is going to make things a lot more difficult. No auto body shop will provide a warranty for a rust repair. Unless it is a very special car, they will likely recommend that you junk the vehicle if the damage is extensive.
Rust is a unique repair issue because it tends to contaminate the metal at a molecular level. And it will reseed itself and convert other molecules into rust that are near it because it reacts with them and causes oxidation.
Make sure that you take your vehicle to an ultra-clean, modern facility if you have sensitive rust issues. You don’t want just anyone carrying out a rust repair because the rust is very likely to come back.
Truck frames often rust out severely from the stones that they kick up, which tear up the undercarriage. It is a good idea to coat the undercarriage with a silicon-based sealant or another type of protection if you live in a rustbelt region.
The other major type of frame damage comes from accidents. And once a vehicle is involved in a serious accident, it is no longer safe to drive even if it still tracks straight and appears normal enough.
The damage to the frame may compromise the integrity of the vehicle and can create weaknesses that are then exploited in a deadly fashion by any subsequent impacts.
Type of Frame
There is also a stark difference between uniframe vehicles and vehicles that have a ladder frame. Typically, your full-size SUVs and trucks will have a ladder frame design. This design is generally thought of as being sturdier because the body is riveted or otherwise mounted on top of the structural frame.
A uniframe is found in smaller SUVs, often called Compact Utility Vehicles, and almost all passenger vehicles. The uniframe is one solid piece but can be supported with composite plastics that create an inner shell. In both cases, the vehicles likely have crumple zones and a safety cell.
Crumple Zones and Safety Cells
The crumple zones are segments built into the front and rear of the frame. These special areas of the frame are designed to deform under impact. They absorb the impact and convert the kinetic energy and explosive shock waves before they hit the occupants.
The occupants are further shielded in a rigid safety cell that will not deform and allow the impact to physically crush them. Crumple zones and safety cell designs have saved countless lives. When combined together with airbags and SMART deployment technology, these measures reduce the significance of injury and fatalities dramatically.
Specific Types of Body Damage
There are also many different types of body damage. You have undercarriage damage from rust, debris, and impacts with road obstacles. Then you have damage from other types of impacts that are due to accidents.
A lot of vehicles are so deformed from the crumple zone technology that they look like they were hit at 100 mph even though the collision was at 10 or 15 mph. The ladder-style frames in trucks and large SUVs don’t seem to suffer as much from a traditional fender-bender.
What Happened to Bumpers?
Many trucks still have large bumpers that absorb low-speed impacts as they were originally designed. But, if you notice, nowadays, cars, trucks, and many other styles of vehicles don’t even have a true bumper. The bumper may be a thin strip of reinforcement material hidden under the front and rear fascias.
The absence of bumpers appears to be based upon laws that forced car manufacturers to design safer vehicles so that pedestrians were less likely to be harmed by an impact. The new bumpers often have explosives in them that will counter the impact force by sending a counterforce from the mounting points of the bumper.
How Much Does Frame Repair Cost?
Now that you have a better understanding of your vehicle and the types of damage you may anticipate, you can shop for a quote. Because the frame is so critical to the safety and function of the vehicle, the quality of the repairs will make all the difference.
How much does frame repair cost? Well, nowadays, you can’t properly work on these vehicles without lots of expensive tools. Finding a modern shop that is well-invested in the latest tools of the trade will make a huge difference in the quality of the repairs and frame repair cost.
Although these shops may have more overhead because they have to pay off the equipment, the equipment pays for itself by allowing them to handle a higher volume of work. The best shops boast of laser alignment, exotic metal welders, numerous frame pulling machines, and talented auto body technicians.
If you have extensive damage and your vehicle doesn’t track straight, you need a shop that can guarantee that the repair will be perfect. If the vehicle doesn’t track straight, this can eat up transmissions, axles, and tires. It is like throwing money in the wind if you can’t receive a confident quote and certainty of repair.
The auto body shops typically have to stretch out salvageable parts of the frame and weld in replacement parts for other areas of damage. Lining everything up and ensuring that the welds are solid is the core of auto body repair.
Other times, the shop may resort to using body hammers or fiberglass filler to help smooth out the final finish of a serious accident repair. But one of the most expensive parts of any auto body repair is the paint.
Painting costs money even if there is no auto body damage. It is not uncommon for a shop to charge a minimum of $5,000 to $7,000 and up to fully paint a vehicle. While a color-matched spray on a new panel is considerably less, the prep work can still incur significant manhours and cost $1,000 or more per panel.
Painting is a labor-intensive aspect of auto body repair and a major chunk of the frame repair cost because the paint is fickle. It must be laid down with the utmost sterility and requires ideal temperatures, humidity, and layering. Even dust in the air can ruin a perfectly good paint job.
The paint also has to be sanded down, over and over again. And it must be carefully color-matched because it can look quite different after numerous layers and after being left to dry. Matching the color codes of the paint on the vehicle is not always easy because the vehicle may be faded from the sun and much duller.
For all these reasons, repairing frame damage to a vehicle is rarely a good investment. Most drivers do it because the insurance company forces them to repair the vehicle for somewhat less than the cost of full replacement.