Mechanics hear the car hit a curb story from drivers often. It happens to even the best drivers. Although more common in the winter months when drivers are dealing with ice and snow the reality is it can happen anytime.
The questions will be do you have front end damage and what to do about it. This article will talk about how to evaluate the situation and determine the best course of action for your scenario.
Not all curb hits are created equal. Two things to consider would be the speed at which the vehicle was traveling when it hit the curb and the second thing is the overall height of the curb itself. As an example if you were traveling 50 mph and hit a curb that was higher than six inches chances are there is extensive front end damage.
On the other hand if you hit a 3 inch curb traveling below 5 mph then chances are you have no damage at all depending on the vehicle construction of course. As an opinionated quick rule of thumb the cheaper the automobile the more damage occurs.
Seriously consider the impact event when determining what to do next. When in doubt take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic for inspection of the vehicle. There's a few things you can do to get an idea of what the auto repair shop might find before you go.
I start by inspecting the wheel and tire that made contact with the curb, usually the right front tire in the United States. When it comes to tire construction the tread is stronger than the side wall and much thicker.
Often you will see chunks taken out of the side wall of the tire on top of any wheel damage, usually found on the edge out towards the sealing bead. This kind of damage should be repaired or at least inspected immediately. If the wheel and tire look okay or only have minor damage such as scuffs the next step would be to drive the car.
On this diagnostic road-test we can make an attempt at determining if the wheel
alignment was affected in any way by the impact event. Just because a car hit a curb does
not mean that it automatically needs a front wheel alignment. Although the guy who owns an alignment rack might tell you a different story.
In fact after the alignment is set at the Factory the adjustments are locked down and are designed to hold in place under harsh road conditions such as slamming potholes. If the car hit a curb hard enough it is possible however for the alignment to be affected. There are things that you can look for on the road test after the curb contact.
I recommend going to an empty parking lot to do so then driving the car slowly in a straight line and compare this with the position of the steering wheel. If there has been serious damage to the front end the steering wheel will probably no longer be in the same straight ahead position you remembered prior to the accident.
Another sign that may indicate a bent wheel would be a back-and-forth wobbling of the steering wheel at low speeds. At higher speeds this might turn into what feels like a vibration. If the car slams the curb real hard chances are that front end parts will be bent.
This can cause not only the steering wheel to be off-center but also a hard pulling condition towards the side of the impact. If a car hit a curb with the right front wheel and bent the control arm back this would cause a negative caster setting and the automobile will pull to the right side.
I should mention that in most cases a mechanic can put a vehicle up in the air and inspect the front end and the attaching parts to detect any damage. There are situations where the only way to detect the damage is to set the vehicle up on an alignment rack and take measurements of the alignment settings.
In some cases car insurance companies may require a print out of these readings after a car hits a curb to verify repairs are needed. When I was turning a wrench in New Jersey we saw quite a lot of these curb hit situations during the winter months.
Back in the old days when a car hit a curb we would find damage to the ball joint area and sometimes the tie rod ends (weakest link). But with modern sub-frame construction it is really more common to find bent control arms. You know the old saying, they don't make them like they use to. Bookmark or share this page with someone who's car hit a curb.
Here on the you fix cars website I have devoted an entire section on automobile steering and suspension. You can browse through those pages and learn more about the front end of your vehicle.
To get a complete rundown of what is available here on this do-it-yourself auto repair website this next link will take you back to the homepage from this article about what to look for after my car hit a curb.