Improving Your Car's Function

Do You Need to Replace Damaged Body Panels on a Unibody Car?

Modern vehicle design often blurs the line between functional and cosmetic. Unlike older vehicles and some heavy-duty trucks or SUVs, your car doesn't have a separate shell sitting on top of a structural frame. In the United States, Ford's Panther platform was the last traditional mass-production sedan to use the body-on-frame style.

This change in automotive design means that if you drive a sedan, coupe, or crossover, then your vehicle likely uses a unibody design. Unibody vehicles are lighter than their body-on-frame counterparts, which offers numerous benefits. Unibody design also has consequences for damage in accidents, however.

Frame vs. Body Panel

One of the critical distinctions between body-on-frame and unibody is a matter of stress. With body-on-frame vehicles, a strong frame absorbs most of your vehicle's day-to-day stresses along with impact force from accidents. In a unibody vehicle, the body and frame are essentially the same things. This design allows manufacturers to design the body to absorb the force of accidents more efficiently.

While your car's unibody frame is a structural element, the role of body panels can vary. Many newer vehicles integrate body panels into their overall structural design. Something as simple as a fender may serve a critical role in directing or absorbing force during an accident. In these cases, the distinction between a decorative body panel and the structural frame may not be as clear.

Evaluating and Repairing Body Panel Damage

Because your body panels may help to reinforce your car's structure, it's not always easy to know if a dent is just a dent. Damage to a panel that detaches a crucial weld point or otherwise impacts its structural integrity may compromise your car's safety in any future accidents. Severe enough damage may even impact your vehicle's handling.

Since damage to body panels may be affecting your car's underlying structural integrity and safety, it's essential always to have a qualified collision repair shop evaluate your vehicle after an accident. Trained collision technicians can determine if dents or creases in a body panel are more than skin deep and ultimately provide you with options for resolving the problem.

Knowing When to Replace

You will often be able to repair minor scratches, dents, and other body panel damage. If the panel is non-structural, then more significant repairs may be possible. However, with many cars, any impact that deforms part of the body can impact the frame's overall integrity and stability. Removing the body panel and welding a new one in place is the best option to repair this type of damage fully.

Modern cars are more complex than ever, and this sophistication extends to structural components as well as mechanical and electronic ones. Working with a collision repair shop, such as Exoticar Paintworks Inc, is usually the best way to determine if you should replace damaged panels after an accident.