Do Fords really have solid steel frames?
May 17, 2007 6:05 PM   Subscribe

I had an auto accident a while back in a Taurus where a huge truck got crushed against my passenger-side while I drove away with just a dent. The truck's front was completely crushed and it was towed away. I figured it was just luck that my car wasn't damaged much, but I recently read in a Ford brochure that their cars have solid steel frames which may be why my car was okay. Is the "solid steel frame" a marketing thing or really a unique feature of Fords?
posted by tasty to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Actually, most cars have some kind of steel frame. The thing here is that the front of cars are designed to crumple -- it's called the "crumple zone". The idea is that the car will absorb the energy of the impact by wrinkling up, front to back.

In principle, that prevents said energy from killing you.
posted by fake at 6:16 PM on May 17, 2007

Sorry to be tangential, but I'd suspect the front of a vehicle is designed to crumple like that, absorbing the kinetic energy which was headed toward the occupants, while the side of a vehicle doesn't have the space for that and should be made more rigid.
posted by pompomtom at 6:17 PM on May 17, 2007

Most modern vehicles are designed to crumple in the front and be rigid in the sides. It's safer that way.

I remember when a cheapo AMC econo-box hit my Ford Grand Torino in the side on the very front of the front bumper. Her car - flat tire, radiator popped, major hood damage, thousands of dollars in damage. My car - the bumper, a serious piece of steel which wrapped around the side for about six inches, well that part of the bumper was slightly pushed into the side panel, essentially no damage. When the cop showed up and saw her car, he asked "where is the other car involved in this accident," and my car was like six feet away. He laughed; she was pissed.
posted by caddis at 6:44 PM on May 17, 2007

I think pompomtom has it -- the sides of most cars are very rigid, because if they deform there, passengers die. They crumple in the front, and sometimes also in the rear, because that's where you can safely absorb energy.

Yet another reason why running into other people's vehicles is bad.

But aside from that, older Fords were pretty heavy, body-on-frame cars (as opposed to uni-bodies), and generally pretty sturdy. But I don't think that's what caused the dramatic difference in damage in your collision.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:46 PM on May 17, 2007

Until recently, trucks were not subject to the same crash standards as passenger cars. That might account for the difference in damage, Kadin2048.

In general, the object with the most mass usually wins in an accident like this. But trucks, with body-on-frame construction, have been rated poorly in front end (of the truck) crashes where the impact is not dead-on. Sounds like this was one of them.
posted by tommasz at 7:29 PM on May 17, 2007

Modern vehicles have substantial intrusion bars inside the doors (if you look at the dent, you may see signs of where the sheet metal has folded over the bars) and very soft front and rear areas to absorb energy. The damage to the truck is most likely a similar thing - there is usually very little substantial bodywork in them forward of the axle, so they look bad after a frontal impact, although the underlying damage may not be so bad.
posted by dg at 7:51 PM on May 17, 2007

The thing here is that the front of cars are designed to crumple -- it's called the "crumple zone". The idea is that the car will absorb the energy of the impact by wrinkling up, front to back.

Definitely. A while back, I totaled my car by rear-ending a dude where my frontend was crumpled into my engine. His car's tail light was cracked. Physics is a funny thing.
posted by jmd82 at 8:00 PM on May 17, 2007

Glad you're okay Cruple zonez rule
posted by longsleeves at 8:03 PM on May 17, 2007

Trust me, as someone who made a living until recently helping to market Fords--it's marketing-speak. The marketing teams spend days and days coming up with ways to make totally mundane features sound unique and exciting.

Except for the cheapest vehicles, any car that doesn't have a "solid steel" frame has probably moved on to a more advanced, safer technology. It's kind of like promoting the "security and confidence" of a key you actually have to shove into the car door lock and turn.
posted by LairBob at 8:29 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pretty much all cars are steel, but I doubt that the Taurus actually has a "frame". Most cars are unibody construction these days. Only trucks tend to have frames.
posted by electroboy at 10:11 PM on May 17, 2007

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