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Under the Skin: Exploring Your Car’s Bodywork

BY: Andrew Giorgi
Auto body mechanic removing the side fender from a vehicle

The bodywork on your car is more than just a pretty exterior feature to look at. It’s a critical component of your vehicle that influences everything from safety to performance and even the longevity of your car.

In this guide, we will explore the intricacies of your car’s bodywork, covering everything from the raw materials to the construction techniques that yield your vehicle’s body.

Materials Used in Car Bodywork

Car manufacturers utilize diverse materials when constructing the bodywork for their vehicles, each with unique properties and applications. All of these items are hidden beneath the high-quality auto paint. Some traditional materials, such as steel, make up your car body and offer unparalleled strength and durability, but at the cost of increased overall curb weight.

On the other hand, more modern materials such as aluminum, carbon fiber, and various composites reduce weight drastically and improve fuel efficiency. Still, they are far more expensive to work with.

By far and wide, steel remains one of the most commonly used materials in auto construction due to the strengths it offers outlined above. Some recent advancements in steel manufacturing have led to the development of high-strength, lightweight steel alloys that improve performance without sacrificing safety.

Despite the higher cost, certain high-end vehicle manufacturers will use aluminum or carbon fiber. However, this cost gets passed to the consumer, which is why certain brands come at a higher premium. In return for an elevated price, those who purchase these are rewarded with a vehicle that is corrosion-resistant and even recyclable to a certain degree.

Carbon fiber, in particular, offers an incredible strength-to-weight ratio, which is why it is commonly used in performance vehicles and racing cars. However, the complex manufacturing process means that it won’t be used in the mainstream automotive market for many years.

Construction Techniques for Auto Bodywork

While it’s easy to see your vehicle sitting on the curb and to imagine that it just came straight off the assembly line looking how it does, various construction techniques were required to bring it to fruition. Stamping and welding are two commonly used traditional manufacturing processes often combined with more modern methods, such as bonding, to create your vehicle.

Specifically, stamping involves shaping flat sheets of metal into complex multidimensional forms using both presses and dials. Manufacturers can create intricate body panels with the most precise dimensions for aerodynamic vehicles. The welding process then occurs to piece these individual panels together, thus creating the base framework for the vehicle. Traditional welding is still the primary method used, though newer techniques such as laser welding threaten to dethrone the traditional method as king within the coming years.

In addition to the two techniques above, bonding and adhesives are commonly used to join materials without applying heat. Structural adhesives can bond metals, plastics, and more together to create a lightweight, seamless structure. In some cases, bonding or adhesives can even improve a vehicle’s corrosiveness and help to improve its longevity.

Common Designs and Aerodynamics

Design plays a major role in your vehicle’s efficacy and safety. A sleek and aerodynamic design doesn’t only look cool; it also helps to reduce drag at high speeds and improve fuel efficiency over lengthy distances. Common designs seen on vehicles that contribute to these benefits include curved surfaces, spoilers, and certain underbody panels that optimize airflow. Car designers carefully balance form with function to ensure your vehicle is as beautiful as it is efficient.

On the topic of aerodynamics, high-performance vehicles, and racing cars are where things really come into play. With vehicles routinely driving at high speeds, even minor improvements to drag reduction can make or break safety. Techniques such as wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), simulations are used by manufacturers in order to optimize and test the vehicle’s bodywork.

The Safety Features and Innovations of Today

Beyond just offering you performance and aesthetics, the bodywork on your vehicle also plays a key role in ensuring occupant safety. Modern vehicles are equipped with various safety features integrated directly into the manufactured bodywork. One of the most common examples of these safety features is crumple zones on the vehicle. These zones are areas on the vehicle’s body designed to crumple upon impact to absorb most of the force.

Generally, the front and rear frames are the zones, but this can vary depending on the vehicle. This absorption of the impact helps reduce potential injuries drivers or passengers may receive, and fixing the frames is relatively easy. Another safety feature worked into the body of a vehicle is the side-impact beam. Typically, these are located on the doors and side panels, which are the opposite of crumple zones. The side-impact beams are sturdy metal beams designed to block a blow from a side impact in a crash.

Additionally, the passenger compartments of vehicles are specifically designed to withstand the forces generated by a collision. A mixture of high-strength steel, aluminum, and other strong materials reinforces the vehicle’s roof, pillars, and floor. This creates a rigid safety zone for occupants during a crash or rollover. None of the above includes the myriad of technological safety features built into the frame, including sensors for collision avoidance or lane departure, automatic emergency braking, and much more.

The Impact of Bodywork on Vehicle Longevity

Despite popular belief, one of the quickest factors leading to the degradation of a vehicle is a failure to maintain your bodywork and automotive paint job. Exposure to environmental elements, including moisture, salt, and various debris encountered on the road, can lead to more than just dents; rather, damage, rust, and corrosion occur over time.

This can result in a compromised bodywork integrity that reduces the vehicle’s strength and safety. For perspective, rust forms when iron and steel are exposed to moisture and oxygen, causing them to oxidize over time (resulting in that iconic reddish-brown color) and weaken.

If left unchecked, rust and general corrosion can spread to other parts of the vehicle and result in expensive repair costs, not to mention the impacted effect on safety. Simple car maintenance tasks such as taking the vehicle through the car wash, waxing the paint occasionally, and merely inspecting the auto body parts for damage on a monthly basis can help extend the lifespan of your vehicle.

In a worst-case scenario, be sure to get an auto body repair task taken care of as soon as possible. Certain tasks, such as sanding or touching up car paintwork, can be handled by DIY and still look good. However, more complex tasks beyond car paint may require the assistance of a collision repair shop, auto body shop, or dealership.

Extended Warranties and Bodywork Protection: What You Should Know

Given all of the above and the obvious importance of your vehicle’s bodywork, the last thing anyone wants is for it to be damaged. However, mechanical breakdowns can happen on the road, damaging the vehicle’s body. An extended car warranty, such as those offered by Endurance, can reduce the impending headache by removing some, if not all, of the automotive repair costs.

Extended warranties, also known as a vehicle service contract (VSC), work by protecting certain components on your vehicle in the event that a manufacturer-related problem occurs, unlike what an insurance company covers. These warranties can vary in coverage levels from simple high-level stated coverage to near bumper-to-bumper protection, and they should be purchased to protect your vehicle after your factory warranty expires.

Certain warranty contracts will even often cover specific maintenance items or protection against things such as rust and corrosion to help keep your vehicle fresh. The last thing you should be doing is driving around with a damaged vehicle body, so take action by investing in an extended warranty contract that can help repair damage as soon as possible.

Use Endurance to Keep Your Vehicle Secure

As alluded to above, auto protection plans can help remove the financial burden related to repair costs resulting from manufacturer defects or issues with your vehicle. Endurance Warranty offers many coverage options, each of which is customizable to your needs, meaning there’s a contract for someone who wants all types of protection for their vehicle. Whether high-level stated coverage for only the most crucial parts, such as the engine or transmission, or more comprehensive coverage for nearly all components is what you’re seeking, there’s an Endurance contract for you.

Additionally, perks such as 24/7 roadside assistance, rental car reimbursements, and trip interruption coverage all come included with Endurance contracts, meaning you can get your life back on track while your car is being fixed. All new Endurance customers also get access to Elite Benefits for a small activation fee, which offers bonus perks such as up to $1,000 in total loss protection, reimbursements for up to four tires per year due to road hazards, and more.

To learn more about how Endurance can help protect your entire vehicle, not just the body, contact our award-winning team to request a FREE quote at (800) 253-8203. You can also conveniently shop online now to see your price instantly.

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