Having poor alignment can lead to a collision, and a collision can lead to poor alignment. There are many other things that can lead to both, but it’s important to understand how to identify, correct, and maintain proper alignment of your vehicle to keep it, and its passengers, safe.
Sometimes, after a collision, your vehicle can suffer damage that doesn’t directly affect alignment, but it can affect things that will rapidly decrease your alignment.
What is alignment?
Alignment, when used in terms of a vehicle, refers to how well the wheels line up with the steering wheel. Simply, poor alignment happens when the steering wheel is straight, but the tires are aimed to one side. There are varying degrees of misalignment depending on how vast the difference in direction is.
What causes poor alignment?
Poor alignment can be caused by many things, from a collision, especially one involving the front end of the vehicle, to a repair involving the parts surrounding steering, tires, suspension, etc. Over time, alignment will vary especially if tires aren’t maintained, roads are bumpy, or the car is accustomed to rough driving.
Why is alignment important?
● With properly aligned tires, it’s easier for the vehicle to navigate any road. You’ll save on gas and repair costs by maintaining alignment.
● Because a car with aligned tires doesn’t work as hard, it uses less gas, saving the environment.
● Tires that are misaligned tend to wear unevenly (uneven tires can also cause misalignment), which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner.
● Misaligned tires make the vehicle harder to steer and control, which can lead to accidents. Alignments make your vehicle much safer to drive.
How to identify alignment issues after a collision
If you’ve recently been in a collision that involved the front end of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as you have your vehicle repaired. Look for damage to the following systems as well, because they can cause poor alignment.
● As you drive, does the car pull to one side or the other when the steering wheel is straight? Alignment and steering are directly related.
● Do you hear a squealing noise during slow turns? Your wheel well, brakes, or steering and suspension system may be affected.
● Is your steering wheel off center?
● Does the steering wheel vibrate as you drive?
How to Handle a Collision with an Uninsured Driver
Ideally, and according to the law, every driver in the United States would be insured. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads, and you have no way of knowing when you’ll come across one.
What is an underinsured driver?
An uninsured driver is one who is on the road without auto insurance. An underinsured driver, however, is one that has insurance, but the limit isn’t high enough to cover the damage caused in an accident.
Every insurance policy comes with a limit to what the insurance company will cover, and individuals can choose the limit they want for their policy. But, if a driver is in an accident with an expensive car or a collision that causes a lot of costly damage, the limit may not be high enough.
How do I handle a collision with an underinsured driver?
The basics of a collision with an underinsured driver are the same as an accident with any other driver.
● Make sure you and your passengers are okay,
● Check on the driver and passengers in the other vehicle,
● If the other driver is leaving the scene, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, including:
○ phone number,
○ insurance information, and
○ license plate number.
● Call the police and ask if they have any requests before they arrive,
● Request an ambulance,
● Take photos of the scene,
● If possible, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic,
● Wait for the police to arrive and make an accident report,
● Contact your insurance company and your collision repair technician to take care of your car and make a claim.
The main difference between an accident with an underinsured driver and an adequately insured driver is that you’ll need to see if your insurance company will cover the costs that the other driver and his or her insurance company is unable to pay.
Do I have to pay?
Whether or not your insurance company will pay for the costs associated with your accident depend on your insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so that when you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, your policy is intended to cover the costs, up to your limit.
Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance
Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.
In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.
Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.
Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.
Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.
Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.
Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.
This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.
Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.
Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.
● Winter daylight hours are shorter, weather is cloudier and precipitation is likely to impair visibility, so it’s important to make sure that you can be seen.
● Snow, ice, and other messy road conditions can make it hard for cars to stop when they do see you, so it’s important to leave extra space.
Whether you’re waiting for help after an accident or you’re just trying to make sure everyone is okay and clear the road, it’s important to keep the following in mind during a winter car accident.
No matter when you’re in an accident, it’s important to stay calm. The accident has already happened, and yelling at others isn’t going to change that, and in the winter, it’s extra important to keep safety in mind after an accident.
● It might not be safe to get out of your vehicle, so first, check your surroundings
● Turn on your hazards
● Check yourself for injuries, then check your passengers, and if possible, the passengers of other vehicles
Depending on the severity of the accident, you may be in shock and unaware of your own injuries or your surroundings. Call the authorities, even if you aren’t sure it’s necessary.
Stay Out of the Road
Pay attention to your surroundings. If and when it is safe for you to get out of your vehicle, pay attention. If possible, take photos and document the accident, and stay out of the road. If you can, move your vehicle off the road so that traffic can safely continue past you. Any obstacle in the road, even an accident, has the potential to cause accidents, especially when the roads are slippery and sight is limited.
If you can’t move your vehicle and you can’t get off the road, stay in your vehicle rather than next to it.
If you have them, put up flares, lights, reflectors, or brightly colored cloth to make yourself and your vehicle more visible. Make sure that if you’re around a curve, you place warning lights far enough back that cars can see them as they approach and not just as they hit the curve. Use your hazard lights!
If you have an emergency kit in your car, now is the time to use it. Stay warm, use your extra blankets and clothes, and stay in the vehicle if possible. If you need to run the engine, make sure your tailpipe isn’t clogged with dirt or snow – it could be after the accident.
Remember that in winter weather, safe driving and collision prevention takes a little extra extra effort. It takes the right combination of maintenance and safe driving to avoid accidents in the winter. This is our list of dos and don’ts for safe winter driving.
Don’t Multitask, Just Drive
When you’re driving in bad weather, visibility is low, and the temperatures are cold, it’s especially important to focus on driving! Don’t drive after drinking, using your phone, or looking for directions. Slick roads require drivers to focus on driving and on the other cars on the road.
Do Stay on top of Maintenance
While it’s always important to make sure your car is well maintained and functioning safely, it can be especially important in the winter. Road conditions and visibility can make winter driving a little more dangerous than at other times, and smaller car issues can cause bigger problems while you’re driving and you need to rely on your vehicle.
● Maintain your tire pressure,
● Keep fluids like oil and windshield wiper fluid filled,
● Don’t let your gas tank get below ¼ of a tank – fuel can freeze in the lines,
● Keep oil filters changed regularly,
● Make sure you’re not low on oil, and
● Check coolant – if it’s not full and the system isn’t clear, it can cause your heat to stop working.
Don’t Drive if the Weather is Bad
You have your car to get you from one place to the next. But, if the weather is bad enough, driving isn’t safe. Learn to recognize when the weather isn’t safe to drive in, and when it’s a better idea to put off your journey until it clears! Ask yourself these questions.
● Do you know what your car is capable of?
● Have you driven in winter weather before? How experienced are you?
● What time of day is it? Accidents are more common after dark and late at night.
● How tired are you?
● How well maintained is your vehicle?
● How well maintained are the roads to your destination?
● Is it possible to put off your journey?
Do Follow the Speed Limit
Speed limits are not just guidelines – they’re put in place for your safety. But, speed limits are designed for safe driving under ideal conditions. In bad winter weather, it’s not safe to drive over the speed limit, even if you think your car can handle it. It’s generally safest to drive under the speed limit and stay to the right unless you’re passing.
Don’t Ignore Your Tires
Your tires are one of the most important parts of your car – don’t neglect them! In the winter, it’s important to check tire tread and tire pressure, and consider using winter tires.
Car Insurance Coverage that Applies to Car Accidents
If you’ve been in an accident, understanding your auto insurance policy is a key part of getting through it. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand their policies, or what is covered after an accident.
Some parts of auto insurance are regulated by state laws, and can vary depending on which state your vehicle is registered in. Generally, liability insurance is required in every state, but other parts of your auto insurance coverage depend on your policy. If you aren’t sure what kind of coverage you have, read it, or ask your insurance company for a copy.
There are some common policies that might apply following car accidents in general.
Liability insurance, speaking generally, is the part of your policy that pays for damage or injuries that you cause to other people. This coverage is meant to protect you from paying for someone else’s auto repairs or medical bills.
However, there are different kinds of liability insurance that you might have listed in your policy. Look for the following specific kinds of liability insurance:
● Bodily Injury Liability – This generally covers medical bills for the injured person, and can include other things like emergency aid, loss of income, funeral expenses, and more.
● Property Damage Liability – If you have caused damage to someone else’s property, whether it’s a vehicle, a home, a building, or something else, this portion of your policy should help cover the cost.
Collision coverage should pay for costs associated damage to your own vehicle that were caused by collisions. In this context, a collision only refers to specific situations, like crashing into another vehicle or large object, or rolling the car. The specifics regarding collision coverage can vary, and it’s important to refer to your auto insurance policy for details.
Comprehensive insurance coverage is intended to help with the cost of damage due to other things, like weather, theft, fire, natural disasters, etc. While collision coverage is quite common, comprehensive coverage is less so.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Although in most states, auto insurance is a legal requirement, not every driver has it, and not every insured driver has enough insurance to pay for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, even if they cause the damage. This portion of your policy helps you to pay for things that the other driver should be paying for, but can’t, so that you’re not stuck with a loss.
Most drivers aren’t looking to get in a collision – they can be painful to your wallet, your property, and to any people who are involved. Unfortunately, the most common kinds of collisions are those when traffic is moving slowly, or not at all. These low speed, low impact accidents are called fender benders.
So, what causes fender benders, and how can we prevent them?
Rear End Collisions
Rear end collisions can happen anywhere, all they require is for one car to hit another from behind. They’re the most common kind of collision that happens in the United States, and they don’t have to happen at high speed to cause damage.
The best way to avoid a rear end collision is to pay attention! If your car is working properly, (make sure your brakes, brake lights, and headlights are working well!) avoiding a rear end collision is usually a matter of leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, and braking early enough.
Parking Lot Collisions
Parking lot collisions are similar to rear end collisions – they occur when vehicles are too close, and generally occur at low speeds. In a parking lot, one car may be parked during an accident!
Again, if your vehicle is functioning properly, the best way to avoid a collision is to pay attention. Parking lots may not have posted speeds, but generally 15 miles per hour is the fastest one should drive in a parking lot. The more vehicles, especially driving vehicles, and the more people are in a parking lot, the slower your speed should be. Make sure to go easy on the gas pedal, and pay attention to your surroundings in all directions.
Tips for Paying Attention While Driving
Paying attention is one of the first things they’ll teach you in driver’s education. To make sure you’re at your best, follow these tips.
Drive Sober – Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will likely impair your reaction time and your depth perception, meaning you’ll notice things later, react later, and misjudge their distance from you. This rule applies to both prescribed and recreational drugs!
Stay off the Phone – Cell phones are one of the main causes of accidents today! Driving slowly is not an excuse to split your attention between driving and using an electronic device, whether it’s built into your car or one you bring with you.
Use your Mirrors – Your mirrors are there to help you see what’s around you, so make sure to use them!
Choosing a collision repair center following an accident isn’t always as simple as taking your vehicle to your regular auto maintenance provider. While your regular repair shop might have a thorough understanding of how to maintain your vehicle, it’s unlikely that they spend much time dealing with cosmetic issues, or with seriously damaged vehicles.
When you’re trying to find a collision repair shop, there are a few key things that you should look for.
Auto Body Shop vs Mechanic
A mechanic is typically the first stop for drivers looking for a repair. Mechanics generally have the skills and the tools to repair or replace the inner parts of a vehicle. If a dashboard warning light is on, if a headlight is broken, or if the car is making a funny noise, a mechanic is a great place to go.
However, if there are any issues involving the vehicle’s appearance, an auto body shop is generally needed. A body shop also has the tools and experience to repair or replace the inner workings of a vehicle. In addition, they evaluate the appearance of the vehicle and make it look like new.
Before you go to any shop, ask around for recommendations. Anyone in town, from friends and family to a friendly grocer or a neighbor can have tips, especially if you know they’ve been involved in an accident. The internet is also a great resource, and it’s full of reviews from people who have worked with various collision repair shops in your area.
Visit the Shop
Visit the shop before you commit, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can get a feel for how the shop is run and how they treat their customers from a quick visit.
● Is the staff professional? A great collision repair shop should treat you with respect, be organized, and be willing and able to answer questions that you have. They may also have awards, memberships, and other certificates hanging in the lobby.
● Can you see the vehicles that are currently being repaired? Look at their age, make, and model. Are they similar to yours? Ask the customer service staff if the shop has experience working on vehicles like yours.
● Ask about any work or parts guarantees, warranties, or standards. Check that they accept your method of payment, and ask if they have availability.
● Before a shop can commit, they’ll likely have to see your vehicle.
Fender Benders: Minor Accidents and Common Collision Damage & Repairs
Fortunately, most of us have never been in a truly devastating car accident. Fender benders, on the other hand, happen quite often. Have you ever wondered where the term ‘fender bender’ comes from?
In an accident, no matter how minor, the fender, which is often used synonymously with bumper, is the most commonly damaged auto part. Fenders and bumpers are also specifically designed to protect the more critical parts of a car. Because of this, the term ‘fender bender’ is used to refer to minor auto accidents, whether or not they actually affect the fender or bumper.
Why the Bumper?
The front and rear bumpers are attached to the front and rear of a vehicle, respectively. The purpose of a bumper is to absorb the damage caused by a collision, especially in small or low-speed crashes.
They’re not meant to protect the passengers, but they do protect important parts of the vehicle like the engine, headlights, taillights, etc.
Bumpers are designed to be easier to replace and less critical to the functioning of the vehicle than the parts they protect. That’s why they’re generally the first point of contact in a crash, which leaves them vulnerable to the most damage.
Why the Fender?
Although they’re often used interchangeably, and they do work together, the fender and the bumper are not the same thing. A fender frames the outside of the wheel, and is often connected to the bumper, which is why the words are often used interchangeably.
Fenders serve the same purpose as bumpers: to protect the vehicle. However, while bumpers protect parts like the engine and lights, the fender protects the wheel. On modern vehicles, it’s usually more difficult to tell the difference between the fender and the bumper.
Fender Bender Repairs
Usually, both the fender and the bumper are damaged in one of four ways: they’re dented, scratched, cracked, or broken.
Minor scratches can usually be buffed out, and deeper scratches can be covered. Dents can be pushed out or pulled out with a vacuum. Cracks will need to be filled in, unless they’re particularly wide, in which case they need to be reinforced in order to maintain the protection the part needs to provide. Breaks may be able to be reinforced and repaired like a crack, but they may not be repairable. Sometimes, the part needs to be replaced.
Any bumper and fender repair will need to be repainted to match the vehicle, which can sometimes be the most challenging part of the repair!
It may not seem like it, but the windshield and windows in your vehicle do more than allow you to see out of it – they play an important role in protecting both the driver and passengers in the case of an accident. When your windows are damaged, especially the windshield, it’s important to repair them as soon as possible to ensure their structural integrity, and to ensure that if you are in an accident, your windows will protect you instead of harming you.
So, how is auto glass designed to protect passengers in the case of an accident?
The type of protection a window provides depends on the type of glass it is made with. There are two main types of safety auto-glass that are commonly used for windshields and auto windows: tempered glass, and laminated glass.
Tempered glass is up to 10 times stronger than laminated glass and much stronger than your average piece of glass, but when it breaks, it can’t be repaired, only replaced. After a piece of glass is cut to size, it is tempered through a repeated process of heating with extreme temperatures followed by rapid cooling. After this process, tempered glass is more resistant to extreme temperature changes. When a collision occurs, tempered glass breaks into small oval pieces rather than sharp pointy shards.
Laminated glass, while not as strong as tempered glass, is what windshields are made of. Laminated glass consists of two sheets of glass with a piece of plastic vinyl between them. The idea is that if a collision compromises the structure of one sheet of glass, the vinyl will protect the other. For example, if stone from the road strikes the windshield, it might crack the outer piece of glass, but the interior of the windshield will remain in tact.
Why should you fix a cracked windshield?
Generally, it’s a good idea to have your windshield repaired or replaced if you notice a defect. Why?
It might grow. – What starts as a chip or a small crack will weaken the glass, making it more vulnerable to changes in temperature, pressure, or damage in an accident.
It can affect visibility. – One of the first issues, even with a small chip, is that it can get in the driver’s way! A chip or crack low in the windshield on the passenger side is the only one that might not affect visibility.
The cost might increase if you wait. – Small chips and cracks, especially those that are only on the outside of the windshield, can probably be repaired. However, if they grow or cause another accident, the entire windshield will need to be replaced.