After an accident, how do you know if your car's front-end is safe?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I live in India, and have a question about my father's car (he lives in Dubai). He bought a new Peugeot 307 in May. It's a lovely car, but about a month ago we had an accident. A car came up from behind and hit our car in the left rear corner. We were going around 60 mph at the time. The impact was quite hard, and our car spun around. In the spin, the right rear wheel hit the curb. Apart from a small dent and some scratching on the rim, there does not appear to be any damage. There is no noise coming from the wheel that hit the curb, no vibration, and the alignment looks fine. It's as if nothing had happened. So we decided not to take the car to the shop for repairs. My question is, Could there be any damage that has no symptoms? Should we go to the repair shop even if nothing seems wrong?

-- Aniket

TOM: It's a good question, Aniket. In a sense, you're right. If you're experiencing no symptoms at all, it's unlikely that anything major is going to fall off. But the answer to your general question is: Yes, there COULD be damage that you can't detect.

RAY: Right. I mean, look at my brother. He looks perfectly normal. Well, not really. OK, I withdraw that analogy, Aniket.

TOM: You say that the alignment looks fine. But if the alignment were off by a little bit, there's no way you'd be able to tell that with the naked eye. You wouldn't know the alignment was off until you noticed that your right rear tire was all chewed up or was wearing out irregularly in a couple thousand miles.

RAY: Right. It's possible that a control arm or trailing arm, or some other rear suspension component, got bent a little bit in the impact, and that's something you'd want to know before you ruined your tires or needed to make another emergency maneuver.

TOM: So I would take it to a mechanic, tell him what happened and ask him to have a look. You'll want him to inspect the tire itself to make sure it wasn't damaged, check the alignment on the machine and have a look under the car in the area of impact, just to be sure nothing looks out of place. And if he says everything looks fine, then you can forget all about it. Good luck, Aniket.

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