An automotive collision can leave your car with extensive damage, from body and frame problems to broken lights and other worrying issues. If you have recently experienced a collision, your vehicle may prove difficult, dangerous, or even illegal to drive in everyday traffic. Car owners can benefit from understanding some basic points about how collision damage affects their vehicles and how they should respond to those issues. Here are four important things to realize about this kind of damage. 1. Body Crumpling Prevents Injuries While the sight of a crumpled car, truck, or SUV may cause despair in owners, that body damage may have actually played a key role in preventing injuries or even saving the lives of the vehicle's occupants. In fact, manufacturers design their products to crumple strategically on impact. A car made of completely stiff materials will come to a sudden stop if it hits an object at a significant speed, but everything (and everyone) inside the car will keep moving at full speed. As a result, occupants may slam into dashboards or windows, or their heads may jerk with enough force to cause whiplash. By contrast, the bodies of cars made to crumple on impact absorb much of the force of the collision, decelerating the speeds of the flying bodies and objects in the cabin. Cars that crumble in specific ways also redistribute the impact force in an effort to steer the worst of it away from the cabin. 2. You Must Fix a Bent Frame In addition to body crumbling, a car may also sustain a bent frame from a collision. While you might decide that you can live with some dents, dings, or even large-scale deformations, you shouldn't drive a car with a bent frame. Cars with bent frames may drive acceptably well if their suspension and alignment remain intact, but that doesn't make them safe. A bent frame that has not received repairs will offer less protection the next time you experience a collision, elevating your risk of serious injury. Get the frame fixed before you drive it again. A bent frame can also contribute to other problems if you drive the car without getting the frame fixed. For example, changes in weight distribution can lead to uneven tire wear, eventually forcing you to replace the tires or have the wheels realigned. 3. You Can Have Collision Damage Without Knowing It Don't assume that your car has escaped from a collision perfectly intact simply because you can't see any obvious damage. Some forms of collision damage can occur in ways that make them invisible to the untrained eye. Examples include frame, engine, transmission, and brake system damage. Your car may even have paint damage that you can't readily see. The impact may have rubbed away spots of paint from less-visible parts of the body. These unprotected areas of bare metal can rust. Since unibody vehicles depend partly on body components for their structural integrity, this rust may threaten your safety. 4. You May Need Repairs to Make Your Car Street Legal Some collision damage may render your car illegal to drive on public roadways. For example, damage that disables a headlight or tail light may cause a police officer to pull you over and either issue a warning or give you a ticket. (Transparent red tape may cover a damaged tail light cover, but it may not meet legal requirements.) In certain circumstances, damaged window glass may also make your car illegal to drive. If a cracked or shattered windshield interferes with your ability to see out of it well enough to drive safely, you represent a hazard to yourself and others. Driving without bumpers or with doors that can't latch correctly also poses potential hazards. Jim's Auto Body can help you understand the extent of your car's collision damage and help you return it to roadworthy condition. Visit us at any of our locations.