Types of Collision Damage and Repair Techniques

Techniques Used by Auto Repair Pros to Fix Collision Damage

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) evaluates a vehicle for its Safety Ratings program, the agency conducts safety tests for three collision types: frontal, side, and rollover. This is because most motor vehicle crashes in the United States fall into these three categories. Although not covered by the Safety Ratings program, rear-end impacts are a common fourth category.

However, regardless of the type of collision, the extent of the damage a vehicle can receive in each category can vary widely. For example, while a fender-bender and a massive accident tearing apart the vehicle’s front end are both categorized as frontal crashes, they don’t cause the same damage. Consequently, they require different types of repair techniques and skills to address.

Professional auto body shops are prepared to handle auto collision repairs, from the smallest to the most extensive, regardless of the impact location. The following is a breakdown of the different types of impacts, the collision repair techniques, and the auto body repair tips needed to fix the damage.

Types of Front-End Collisions and Damage

A vehicle crashing into another object from the front end includes both full, head-on collisions and partial frontal collisions, which primarily hit the front-left or front-right corner. Front-end damage can occur in various circumstances, ranging from impacts with stationary objects to collisions with oncoming vehicles. Front corner impacts commonly occur while turning, such as impacts when changing lanes or accidents at intersections.

Depending on the impact intensity, front-end collisions can damage multiple critical components of your vehicle, including:

Type of Front-End Damage Examples
Minor and cosmetic damage
  • Scratched front-end paint
  • Damaged front bumpers
  • Dented front fenders
Moderate damage
  • Broken headlights
  • Dented or warped hood
  • Bent or broken front fenders
  • Damaged radiator
Mechanical damage
  • Damaged front suspensions
  • Damaged engine, transmission, and components, if the vehicle is front-engined
  • Damaged drivetrain and differential in front-wheel drive (FWD) cars
Severe and structural damage
  • Damage to the chassis front
  • Front axle damage
  • Compromised frame or unibody structure
  • Broken firewall separating the engine bay and the cabin, in front-engined cars

Types of Rear-End Collisions and Damage

If the rear of your car hits an object or another vehicle, a wide range of components can be damaged and compromised. Many circumstances can result in rear-end damage: impacts while reversing, another driver tailgating you, or weather conditions causing your car to drift or slide.

The consequences of rear-end crashes can vary from small collision repairs to extensive ones. They include:

Type of Rear-End Damage Examples
Minor and cosmetic damage
  • Scratched rear-end paint
  • Damaged rear bumpers
  • Dented rear fenders and rear body panels
Moderate damage
  • Broken tail lights
  • Dented or broken trunk lid
  • Deformed or broken rear fenders
Mechanical damage
  • Broken, bent, or torn-off exhaust system, such as the pipe, muffler, or catalytic converter
  • Damaged differential, driveshaft, or transfer case in rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) 
  • Engine damage in mid-engined and rear-engined cars
Severe and structural damage
  • Compromised rear chassis elements
  • Rear axle damage
  • Broken or ruptured fuel tank and fuel lines

Types of Side-Impact Collisions and Damage

Side-impact collisions include sideswipe damage and T-bone accidents. Sideswipes can occur when changing lanes, turning, or driving around other vehicles at intersections. For example, if another driver doesn’t pay attention while passing you, their vehicle may sideswipe yours. T-bone crashes most commonly occur at intersections, where the front-end of another vehicle is the most likely to impact directly into the side of another.

The extent of the damage after a side impact varies depending on the speed and size of the vehicle impacting yours. Types of side-impact damage include:

Type of Side-Impact Damage Examples
Minor and cosmetic damage
  • Scratched side and door paint
  • Dented doors and side body panels
Moderate damage
  • Damaged, broken, or knocked-off rear-view mirrors
  • Broken or shattered side windows
  • Broken or ripped side trim
  • Dented or deformed doors
Mechanical damage
  • Jammed or ripped doors
  • Broken door mechanisms, such as the power windows or door electronics
  • If the impact struck the front or rear wheel, damage to the corresponding suspensions or axles
Severe and structural damage
  • In severe accidents, such as T-bone crashes, the frame can bend or tear, compromising it
  • One or both axles bending or breaking

Types of Damage after a Rollover Accident

Rollover accidents are among the most severe. They include incidents causing the vehicle to tip on one side, complete rollovers (on the roof), and multiple rollovers (vehicle rolls more than once).

Due to their severity, rollover accident damage is typically extensive and includes all types of moderate, mechanical, and structural damage in other accident categories. It also includes a range of risks unique to rollovers, including:

  • Damage on either or both sides of the vehicle.
  • Damaged or crushed roof, especially after a complete or multiple rollover accident,
  • Crushing or separation of body panels after a hard impact or multiple rollovers.
  • If the vehicle rolls on its roof or makes multiple impacts while rolling, the windshield may end up shattered or crushed from the top.
  • Damage to exposed undercarriage components, such as the exhaust system, fuel lines, suspensions, axles, wheel hubs, and, if applicable, the driveshaft or differential.
    Interior and cabin damage.
  • Twisted or torn chassis.

Common Collision Repair Techniques

Whether your vehicle was involved in a minor or severe accident, a certified auto body shop can assess the extent of your vehicle’s damage. A team of skilled auto body mechanics can use a wide range of paint, body, and structural repair techniques to restore your vehicle to its original specifications, including:

  • Auto glass replacement. Auto body shops can replace broken headlights, taillights, side indicators, windows, and windshields using OEM auto glass parts suitable to your make and model.
  • Dent repairs. Auto body technicians can use multiple tools and techniques to repair smaller dents. Well-trained teams can work on all auto body materials using techniques such as refinishing, heat treatment, aluminum welding, and carbon fiber restoration.
  • Paintless dent repair (PDR). If your car only has minor dings and dents, auto body technicians may be able to use paintless dent repair (PDR) to fix the issue. PDR is a cost-effective dent removal service that does not remove your original paint and clear coat.
  • Paint repairs. After a collision, your vehicle may need paint repairs, such as scratch removal, touch-ups, or a fresh layer of paint and clear coat. Certified repair centers can access your auto manufacturer’s collection of OEM paint codes, ensuring 100% color matching. Professional shops will evaluate the extent of your paint’s damage and provide a quote for the necessary repairs.
  • OEM parts. A certified repair center with highly skilled mechanics can order parts and components specifically designed to fit with your vehicle. They can also repair, replace, tune up, and reconfigure damaged parts and components as needed, no matter the extent of the damage.
  • Body panel replacement. A professional auto body shop can order new ones if one or multiple body panels are too damaged for traditional repair techniques. They can order the new part, paint it using your vehicle’s original paint code, finish it, apply a clear coat, and install it.
  • Severe damage repairs. If your car was involved in a severe accident, it may require more extensive repairs. Trained and certified technicians can perform advanced tasks such as frame or unibody straightening, chassis re-strengthening, suspension repairs, and wheel and axle realignment.

Schedule Collision Repairs with Professionals

After a collision, scheduling an appointment with a certified auto body shop is the best solution to assess and repair the full extent of your vehicle’s damage. The professional technicians at certified repair shops can use various repair techniques, equipment, and solutions to repair your car or SUV and make it road-worthy again.

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