Having poor alignment can lead to a collision, and a collision can lead to poor alignment. There are many other things that can lead to both, but it’s important to understand how to identify, correct, and maintain proper alignment of your vehicle to keep it, and its passengers, safe.

Sometimes, after a collision, your vehicle can suffer damage that doesn’t directly affect alignment, but it can affect things that will rapidly decrease your alignment.

What is alignment?

Alignment, when used in terms of a vehicle, refers to how well the wheels line up with the steering wheel. Simply, poor alignment happens when the steering wheel is straight, but the tires are aimed to one side. There are varying degrees of misalignment depending on how vast the difference in direction is.

What causes poor alignment?

Poor alignment can be caused by many things, from a collision, especially one involving the front end of the vehicle, to a repair involving the parts surrounding steering, tires, suspension, etc. Over time, alignment will vary especially if tires aren’t maintained, roads are bumpy, or the car is accustomed to rough driving.

Why is alignment important?

● With properly aligned tires, it’s easier for the vehicle to navigate any road. You’ll save on gas and repair costs by maintaining alignment.
● Because a car with aligned tires doesn’t work as hard, it uses less gas, saving the environment.
● Tires that are misaligned tend to wear unevenly (uneven tires can also cause misalignment), which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner.
● Misaligned tires make the vehicle harder to steer and control, which can lead to accidents. Alignments make your vehicle much safer to drive.

How to identify alignment issues after a collision

If you’ve recently been in a collision that involved the front end of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as you have your vehicle repaired. Look for damage to the following systems as well, because they can cause poor alignment.

● As you drive, does the car pull to one side or the other when the steering wheel is straight? Alignment and steering are directly related.
● Do you hear a squealing noise during slow turns? Your wheel well, brakes, or steering and suspension system may be affected.
● Is your steering wheel off center?
● Does the steering wheel vibrate as you drive?

Your vehicle’s frame is like its backbone – it provides support and holds all of the pieces of the vehicle in place. It’s designed to help your auto drive straight, and to protect any passengers from impact in a collision. The frame has sections called crumple zones. During an accident, these parts of the car do just that – crumple.
This helps to slow the vehicle and absorb the force of impact so that the passengers are protected. But, it means that parts of the frame are designed to be damaged during a crash.

Unfortunately, because it’s so large and plays such a big role in the functioning of your vehicle, it is prone to damage in an accident, and should be inspected in the case of a crash.

Is the Frame Damaged?

Just because frames are designed to be damaged in some accidents doesn’t mean that they are damaged in every accident. So, how can you tell if your frame has been damaged?

Frame Measuring is a process that does just what it sounds like – it measures the frame of your vehicle to determine whether it’s the shape it should be.

How is a Frame Repaired?

If it’s possible repair a frame, and it’s not always possible, there are several ways that a repair shop can go about it.

Straighten it out – Sometimes, with the right equipment, it’s possible to pull a frame back into its original position. Straightening frames requires a lot of strength, so only shops with the right machinery can perform these repairs. In order to get your frame back to the shape and positioning it was originally designed with, the use of laser measuring systems or ultrasound equipment may be required, so it’s a big job.

Welding it back together – When straightening a frame back to its original position isn’t an option, a frame may still be repairable with welding. This requires the repair technician to cut away the damaged portion of frame, and weld in a new part that fits the original manufacturer measurements. To ensure that the frame is as strong as it should be, especially at the points where it was welded together, it’s important to have a skilled welder and to re-measure the frame.

What if it Can’t be Repaired?

In some cases, frames cannot be repaired. If your car is totaled, it’s because it’s either too expensive to repair, or because even with a repair, it wouldn’t meet the standards it would need to.

When a vehicle is in a collision, it means that it made contact with another moving object. Sometimes, vehicles make contact with stationary objects, or stationary vehicles are hit by other moving things.

When a vehicle collides with something else, whether it’s another vehicle or another object, the moving object, or both moving objects, have force. For safety reasons, vehicles today are designed to absorb that force in such a way that the passengers inside the vehicle are protected as much as possible. However, that means that even in smaller accidents, the force is directed away from the inside of the vehicle, and its often absorbed by other parts of the vehicle, which can bend and break. Sometimes, that means the frame of the car bends to absorb the force of the collision and protect the occupants.

How Frame Size Affects a Collision Repair

While many pieces of a vehicle can be replaced, like the hood, the door panels, or the bumper, the frame isn’t usually one of them. The frame of most cars is made of steel, or a comparable metal, and it’s considered the skeleton of the vehicle. Instead of repairing the frame, it’s usually repaired, or bent back into shape.

What happens when the frame is reshaped is that it’s molded to look like it did originally, but it’s not easy to get it exactly right. Measuring the frame allows you and your collision technicians to ensure that the frame is exactly how it should be – the same as it was before the collision.

Imagine taking a brand new piece of aluminum foil, crumpling it up, and then trying to flatten it again. While you can get it pretty with your hands, it won’t have the same look that it did initially without a tool. You really can’t know for sure that it’s exactly how it was when you started unless you measure it before and after crumpling and flattening it.

Why Does Frame Measuring Matter?

There are some pieces of a vehicle that can be replaced if they’ve been damaged enough to need it. However, those pieces are produced to fit the original vehicle, and they’re designed to meet certain standards of safety, efficiency, and quality. In order to ensure that all parts fit on your vehicle correctly and meet those standards, it’s important that your collision repair shop measures the frame of your vehicle after repairing it. If you have concerns about the frame of your vehicle – don’t hesitate to ask!