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How to Spot Frame Damage on a Classic Car

January 26th, 2015

The frame of a car is like the foundation of a house, any damage caused by an accident or a crash can fundamentally affect its structural integrity, ultimately weakening its ability to perform. Damaged frames on classic cars can be restored and repaired but it is important when buying any used vehicle to know what you are getting into with the vehicle’s history before you buy. Frame restoration is not an easy task and costs can add up quickly. It is important to know what you are buying so that you can negotiate appropriately with the seller.

One way to spot possible frame damage is to walk around the vehicle and look for any gaps in the lines. Pay particular attention to hood, trunk and doors. If you see gaps then this requires closer inspection to determine if the gaps are a result of frame damage.

Keep an eye out for off-set wheels or uneven bumpers as both can be a sign that the frame has been twisted in a wreck.

Another tip is to look at the reflections in the vehicle – this can help you to determine if the car has straight lines. Any uneven looking reflections are a sign that the body of the vehicle may not be straight, possibly due to frame damage.

The most important thing to do is to take a look underneath the car. Look at the frame rails to spot any ripples or bends in the metal in addition to any unusual shapes or welds. If the car has a uni-body frame, check to see if the sheet metal underneath the car is stretched or bent.

A good way to check if the frame has had any previous damage or has been repaired is to inspect the alignment for washers or shims. Typically a car without damage will have one or two, while a damaged car will often have upwards of ten or twenty to correct the damage.

If you do spot something, ask the seller for more details.

One of the best things you can do is to hire a professional, independent, pre-purchase inspection company like Road Ready Inspections, before buying a classic vehicle. A pre-purchase inspection will give you all the information you need in order to make an informed purchasing decision. Particularly if you are buying a vehicle that is located a few states away and you are unable to check it out yourself. The inspector can act as your eyes and ears, asking the questions you need answered and giving you all the information that you will need.