Taking your vehicle on a long drive, scheduling a regular tune up, and changing a flat tire: These are some of the things that are inevitable for a car owner.
Your car’s encounter with a stray rock also falls under that category.
Whether you drive a car with a conventional suspension or a lowered height, it is likely to run into obstructions at least once in its lifetime. But as unavoidable as that fate might be, it is not something to look forward to.
It’s because getting hit by a rock can do significant harm to a car, especially to its undercarriage. Since a car’s underbody holds important framework within it, such an impact can result in massive damage to components including but not limited to suspension, transmission, brakes, or oil pan.
So what do you do when a rock hits your car’s undercarriage on the road? It’s simple. You keep a good head on your shoulders, and follow the tried and tested advice of seasoned drivers and expert mechanics.
1. First Things First: Pull Over Your Car
As soon as you have heard the sickening sound of an impact to your car’s underbody, the first thing you need to do is to pull over and park in a safe space.
There are two major reasons for this approach.
- It stops your car from running on a damaged frame, and prevents you from putting your safety at risk.
- It stops consistent force on potentially damaged parts, and keeps the problem from getting bigger.
Once you have stopped the car, you can follow through with inspecting the damage.
2. Assess the Visual Damage
The second and most important step is to start assessing the damage. Whether you had the accident during the day or encountered it at night, it is prudent to grab a flashlight to help you take a clear look at the undercarriage.
At the surface level, checking the damage doesn’t require you to have a degree in auto engineering. You just need to have an eye for detail and to identify any potential signs of deterioration to your car’s underbody.
3. Look for Specific Signs
While you check for the potential damage, it is important to bear in mind that the rock wouldn’t hit just one targeted place on your car’s undercarriage. It could impact any part of the underbody, and could have hit multiple sections during its impact.
Keeping this in mind, you need to be thorough with your check up and make sure to look beyond the visual clues.
Here’s what you need to look for:
- Broken parts.
- Cracked parts.
- Fluid leakage.
- Oil smell.
4. Identify If It’s a Worrisome Problem
While a rock can do massive damage to your undercarriage, not every brush against it will result in costly repairs.
Sometimes, the damage by smaller rocks is so minimal that it is only contained to the surface level. This means that if you can only find minor scratches or scrapes against your car’s underbody or protective plates, you do not need to fret about it.
But if the damage has left any massive damage such as bigger dents, cracks, or larger breakage, then it’s time for you to spring into action and look towards getting repairs done.
This also holds true if you notice any issues in your driving experience after taking the car back on the road. A vibrating, noisy, or poorly controlled vehicle calls for immediate inspection and repair, even if you can’t spot the damage yourself.
5. How to Spot Damage That Needs Immediate Attention
Apart from the level of harm, a damaged component’s status and importance plays a big part in deciding whether you need immediate repair services for your car.
This means that at the time of analyzing undercarriage damage, you need to assess things separately for the most important parts.
Here’s how you can do that.
If the rock that hit your car was big enough, it would have the chops to damage your car’s suspension alignment.
You can check for this issue in a variety of ways.
- Check if your tires are being turned in a uniformed angle. In ideal suspension alignment, all of your tires should follow the others’ angle when you shift the wheel. If any of your tires is out of sync after the rock incident, it means that the accident might have damaged your car’s suspension.
- Check if your vehicle is leaning to one side. One of the main purposes of suspension alignment is to keep your car balanced at all times. If your car is leaning to one side, it means that it has sustained damage to its suspension or shocks.
- Check if your vehicle is bouncing during the drive. An out of place suspension can also cause your car to bounce through the road, especially when you are making your way up or down a slope. If this happens, your car definitely needs help to restore its former balance.
Driving with a damaged suspension can cause a world of control problems through your drive. If you notice any of the symptoms above, you need to call a mechanic and get your car’s suspension checked professionally.
Punctured Oil Pan or Housing
Sometimes, a stray rock can go straight for your car’s oil pan or housing. As a result, it can end up puncturing these fluid containers in the process.
Apart from visible damage, a punctured oil pain or damaged housing also stands out due to being a source of fluid leaks, which can be easily smelled from a safe distance.
A damaged oil pan or housing doesn’t only cause safety and performance issues, but it can also lead you to costly repairs in the long run. In order to make sure that the problem doesn’t expand into a larger issue, call professional inspection and repair services right away.
Vibrating or Noisy Car
Similar to suspension issues, this particular problem is not immediately visible at a visual inspection, but makes its presence known during the drive.
If your car starts shaking and vibrating or makes noises during your drive, it calls for a thorough inspection for an underlying problem. Damaged suspension, broken driveshaft, or loosened underbody covers can all lead to such issues.
In order to identify the problem correctly and resolve it effectively, it is important that you call for a professional checkup to your car. This makes sure that the problem is diagnosed and solved before it puts your safety in jeopardy.
6. Keep Your Insurance in Mind
Once you have assessed the level of damage in your car, the next thing on your mind will be taking care of repair costs.
Here, you have some good news even in the face of financial expense. If your car has collision insurance, you can easily claim the damage under its banner. It’s because collision insurance covers damage sustained by impact from a vehicle or object.
If you have a reliable insurance company, it wouldn’t give you any trouble at entertaining your claim. But you will still need to cover for copay costs according to your specific plan.
7. It Is Essential to Get Your Vehicle Checked By a Professional
Knowing how to assess the damage on your car’s undercarriage can tell you what to do and expect after taking your vehicle back on the road. It prepares you for things to look out for as you drive your car, and ensures that you are maintaining additional caution during your trip.
At the same time, it is absolutely essential that you have your car checked by a professional after such an incident. Even when you cannot find any visible damage or a change in driving, a mechanic can do a thorough inspection and look for things that may not be visible to you at first glance. Since a car’s undercarriage has a complicated framework, it is easy for an everyday car owner to miss out a few things, and it is just as usual for a professional auto expert to identify such issues.
This practice ensures that your car is not slowly making its way to larger repair costs and not putting your safety at risk. Since most reliable mechanics charge a reasonable inspection fee, it is an easy way to obtain peace of mind while also staying away from larger expenses.
8. An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
In order to make sure that your car doesn’t have to bear massive damage, it is better to have skid plates or underbody shields installed against your vehicle’s undercarriage. These protective shields absorb the impact from collisions and keep your car’s delicate framework safe from larger harm.
Since these skid plates or shields are widely available for a variety of automobile models, most auto mechanics and car owners recommend them as an effective and prudent safety mechanism.
Overall, spending a little time and money on these preventative measures can save you from significant costs and worry later. If you want to enjoy a safer and stress-free drive, then investing in this protective gear is highly recommended.
For info on the features, benefits and pricing of skid plates to protect the undercarriage of your car, click here, alternatively, use our interactive map to find an authorized installer near you to help you fix your damaged skid plate.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our blog for more tips by Dr. Scrape.