Damage to Look For After a Rear End Collision


Rear-end collisions are the most common type of crash to occur in the United States. In fact, there are about 1.7 million rear-end collisions on U.S. roadways each year.

These types of collisions can range in severity, from driver and passenger injuries and totaled vehicles to minor rear-end collision damage. However, rear-end collisions can’t always be judged at first glance — even the smallest ding has the potential to cause hidden damage that can put your safety at risk in the future.

With millions of vehicles on the road today, accidents are unfortunately bound to happen. This means that the role of skilled collision repair technicians is essential. Keep reading to learn all about rear-end collision damage, including the problems that can occur (both visible and hidden) and what to do if it happens to you.

What Causes Rear-End Collision Damage?

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 87% of rear-end collisions occur due to distracted drivers.

If a driver doesn’t notice the vehicle in front of them, they don’t give themselves time to stop in order to avoid a collision. Common distractions include texting, talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, eating, looking at accidents or interacting with passengers.

In addition to distracted driving, rear-end collisions can be caused by a variety of different factors, including:

  • Mechanical issues
  • Speeding
  • Heavy traffic
  • Reckless driving habits
  • Road rage
  • Driver fatigue
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Most of the time, rear-end collision damage is caused by a square-on impact to your vehicle, but in some cases, your vehicle could be hit at an angle. The way in which your vehicle is hit will greatly affect the type and severity of damage that can occur.

Types of Hidden Damage From Being Rear-Ended

The tricky thing about rear-end collision hidden damage is that it’s often difficult to spot by the untrained eye. Even if your vehicle appears to be in perfect condition, there may be issues under the surface like rear-end frame damage that will only lead to bigger problems as time goes on.

Rear-end collision damage not only impacts the appearance, functionality and value of the car, but it can also put your safety at risk. For example, if your bumper is left damaged, it won’t be able to absorb shock and protect you in a future accident.

Now, let’s talk about the different types of damage that are likely to occur after a rear-end collision.   

Can a Rear-End Collision Cause Alignment Problems?

A common form of damage to occur after a rear-end collision is alignment problems. If your vehicle starts pulling to one side of the road while you drive, it could be a key indicator that there are issues with its alignment. Additionally, if you notice any of these signs, there is likely an alignment problem: 

  • The vehicle vibrates
  • Noisy steering
  • Rapid or uneven tire wear
  • Steering wheel is crooked
  • Squealing tires

Even if a vehicle’s alignment is only slightly off, it can put unnecessary stress on the brakes, tires, suspension and other various parts—causing them to wear out faster than they should. It can also pose serious safety threats and increases the chances of another accident occurring. For all of these reasons, it’s important to take your vehicle in for inspection as soon as possible if you suspect misalignment.

Can Getting Rear-Ended Damage the Engine?

The engines found in today’s cars are very complex and delicate. Unfortunately, rear-end damage does have the potential to compromise the engine’s performance. If you notice that the “check engine” light turns on after being in a collision, you’ll want to take your car to a technician immediately.

The impact from a rear-end collision can also damage your car’s drivetrain. The force can move the exhaust system forward, resulting in damage to the catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, muffler, engine mounts and the “Y” pipe that runs to your engine.

Additionally, rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles have transmission components near the rear of the car, which can become damaged in collisions. Signs that your transmission has been damaged include your car leaking transmission fluid or issues with acceleration and shifting.

Can a Rear-End Collision Cause Suspension Problems?

A car’s suspension system plays a critical role in keeping the vehicle in control and having a smooth ride. Essentially, the suspension system maximizes the friction between tires and the road, allowing the driver to steer and handle the vehicle. It protects the passengers and the vehicle by limiting the impact of road conditions.

Unfortunately, rear-end collisions often result in frame damage, which can put stress on the suspension system of the vehicle and cause the shocks, struts and other parts to wear out faster. Additionally, as mentioned, poor alignment can also put more pressure on suspension components.

If your vehicle’s suspension isn’t working properly, the ride will be rough and your car will be difficult to control. If the car is left in this state, it will only worsen and compromise your safety and the value of your vehicle.

Can Rear-End Collisions Cause Electrical Issues?

Today’s vehicles are more technically advanced than ever before. Even the smallest tap can loosen the wires to your taillights, brake lights or battery.

Each of these parts are essential to staying safe on the road, so it’s important to ensure they’re always intact—especially after a collision. In most cases, you’ll need a technician to examine the electrical components of your vehicle.

What About Trunk Damage?

While trunk damage may not affect your ability to drive the vehicle, it should never be overlooked. Trunk issues can present safety hazards, and they also reduce the value of the car greatly.

Your trunk should open and close with ease, and securely lock. When driving down the road, a damaged trunk can pop open and block your rear view or startle the driver behind you, which is likely to lead to another rear-end accident. While it might seem low risk, it’s always wise to repair any sort of trunk damage you may have.

What to Do if You Have Rear-End Collision Damage

If your vehicle has been hit, the first thing to do is complete what’s called a “walk-around.” This involves walking around your vehicle to inspect for damage that might not be obvious at first.

Walk-Around Checklist:

  • Look at the trunk and door gaps: Take a close look at the trunk and door gaps and ensure that they are even all the way around the door and trunk—there should not be any tight spots. You will also want to look at the trunk and door opening for any distortions in these areas.
  • Look at the taillights and rear bumper: Pay close attention to the taillights and rear bumper and how they fit on your vehicle. Compare the left side to the right side to ensure they fit the same and have the same gaps.
  • Look at the vehicle quarter panels, sail panel and vehicle roof: If the impact was severe, you are likely to notice damage in these areas. Buckles are the result of the vehicle experiencing sag, mash or side sway during the rear-end collision. Students in Universal Technical Institute’s Collision Repair & Refinish Technology (CRRT) program learn the definitions of these terms and how to spot them on a vehicle.
  • Look under the rear of the vehicle: Examine the left and right rear rails and the trunk floor plan. If any of these areas are distorted or kinked, this is a sign of rear-end impact.
  • Look at the rear suspension area: If the mounting area of the rear suspension or suspension components were damaged, this could cause the vehicle to drive and handle poorly.

Inspecting your car can help to give you an idea of what type of damage you’re dealing with. However, you should always take it to a professional at a trusted auto body shop. There, a skilled collision repair technician can look over your vehicle and give you a detailed plan of action to restore it to its original condition.

Unfortunately, damage that is not repaired is likely to get worse over time. This can lead to costly repairs down the road, so it’s best to always be proactive and take your car in as soon as possible. Additionally, unless you’re a trained collision repair technician yourself, never attempt to complete the repair on your own, as this has the potential to make the damage worse.

Interested in a Career in Collision Repair?

Due to the high number of accidents that take place on the road, there is a great need for collision repair techs. There are a variety of different roles those trained in collision repair can take on, including:

  • Non-structural technician
  • Steel structural technician
  • Refinish technician
  • Estimator
  • Auto damage appraiser
  • Production manager

Collision repair technicians are trained to spot damage that the average person wouldn’t see. If this sounds like an exciting career to you, consider training at UTI. Our Collision Repair & Refinish Technology (CRRT) program was developed in conjunction with I-CAR, a leading brand in the industry, in order to equip you with the skills today’s employers look for.1

Throughout your program, students have the opportunity to train on some of the most current equipment. At UTI, we have a relationship with Chief Collision Technology to help teach students how to operate the Laser Lock Computerized Measuring System — a system that helps to ensure a vehicle is restored to the same measurements as its original condition.

As a graduate of the CRRT program, you’ll earn valuable I-CAR certifications and will be well prepared to earn additional auto body repair certifications. This can help you to distinguish yourself as a technician and give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs in the industry.2 Plus, UTI’s program can be completed in just over a year—allowing you to get going and start working in the field sooner.7

Start Your Training at UTI

UTI’s Collision Repair & Refinish Technology (CRRT) program is available at two campus locations: Long Beach, California, and Houston, Texas. To learn more, visit our CRRT program page and request information to get in touch with one of our Admissions Representatives today.

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1 ) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2 ) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
7 ) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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