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I was driving home in a heavy snowfall yesterday, and while turning onto an onramp for a highway my car skidded out and I hit the median (separating the turn lane from other lanes) almost perfectly sideways. As best as I can figure, this was an impact against the tires only (there is no body or paint damage to this side of my car).

I believe I was moving at around 20 miles per hour, although I suppose it could possibly have been as fast as 30 (but I don't think it was that fast). The impact itself was not violent, and I would loosely rate it as similar to an average bumper car impact. In my (limited) driving since, I have not noticed any obvious signs of damage to my car; the wheels don't seem misaligned, and driving seems as smooth as it's been.

I don't know much about auto bodies, so I'm concerned that there might be some damage that is not easily observable and that I don't know enough to check out. The obvious move would be to have my car checked at a body shop, but I just had a modest amount of service done and I would rather avoid the cost of another check if possible.

So, in your opinions, how likely is it that my car has suffered meaningful damage as a result of this minor collision, and (similarly) how important is it that I have the car inspected? It is a 2015 Honda Fit, if that helps, and the median was standard curb height.

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    If you want to have it looked at I'd just take it to a tire shop and have the alignment checked.
    – agentp
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:28

3 Answers 3

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We can't say how likely it is you've sustained damage as there isn't enough information, and opinion based questions are off-topic, however I can give you information to make your own assessment.

A curb hit is unlikely to have damaged your car body or frame, if it did it would be visible, not some sort of hidden damage you'd find out about years later. Check that side and if you don't see any dings then it's all probably fine.

The issue with curb impacts is usually tires, wheels and linkages. Check your tire sidewalls, look for rips and impact damage and if there's anything serious you may need a new tire. Rims can get bent to the point they don't hold the tire properly, so look at those as well. I've had a curb hit crack a wheel bearing, so if you're hearing a grumbling noise now that isn't coming from you have it looked at. If your steering acts weird or it starts pulling you may have damaged a tie rod or other component, more likely your alignment has been knocked out of place.

So if you can't see any damage anywhere after a thorough inspection and the car drives as it used to it's likely everything's fine.

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    I guess its possible that a suspension component was stressed or bent and could crack unexpectedly at a later time, but seems like that would have felt like a harder hit to the OP. If suspension or alignment feel off, then get it checked as soon as possible. Even if its not a dangerous failure, bad alignment will eat tires.
    – JPhi1618
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:31
  • It's a possibility for sure @JPhi1618, really there's no way to tell without a detailed inspection of every component, even then it wouldn't eliminate the possibility.
    – GdD
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:33
  • I've seen damaged suspension linkages from impacts that were described as lesser... Jan 12, 2018 at 20:50
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The most likely scenario is that you've bent the alignment - you'll need to take it to a tyre shop to get checked. They will also be able to check if anything else (e.g. suspension arms) show any signs of damage or being bent out of shape.

You may also have damaged the wheels, so check them carefully (including any signs of cracks if they are alloys).

I'd say it's unlikely that you'll have don any damage to the structure of the car however.

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If you do not want to pay for a shop to inspect your car and do not see any obvious physical damage visible from an external inspection of the tires, rims, bumper, and other low parts of the car, there is another thing you can do.

Park your car in a garage or other covered area that is free from snow, ice, or anything slippery. One end at a time, block your tires, jack up the other end of the car, and put the frame on jackstands. For example: block the front tires, jack up the rear, and put jackstands in the rear under a framing member near the rear wheel wells (unibody construction can make this tricky, especially in the rear - ask for help if you are unsure). Then do the same in the front. Never get underneath a motor vehicle supported only by a jack - only trust jackstands or the type of whole-vehicle lift found in an automotive shop. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using any jack or jackstand, including adhering to specified weight and height limits. If you have never done this before, ask for help from someone who knows what they are doing as getting this wrong can result in serious injury or death.

Once one end is resting on jackstands, get underneath and make a visual inspection of the suspension and steering components. Even if you are not an automotive expert, common sense should prevail when identifying bent, broken, or cracked components. Just be aware that some of the control arms and other rods may be manufactured at an angle and not perfectly straight. If you see a bend accompanied by discoloration of the metal, that may be a stress mark from metal bending (bend a paperclip a few times at the same point and you will see something similar). I would have that checked by a mechanic.

Pay close attention when driving the next few days, and keep the radio off to help listen for unusual sounds coming from your car. If you notice any pulling, loud noises from the tires not explained by the snow, or anything different from before the incident, it would be worth taking it to a shop. The most likely side effect from your incident would be, as others mentioned, wheels being out of alignment.

I actually had a very similar incident happen to me a few years ago. I was going around a curve on a hill on a snowy, unplowed street. I took it slow (like 5 mph slow), understanding the risks, but my car decided to turn into a bumper car anyway. I actually hit two different curbs and ended up facing backwards. I did the same inspection I described in my answer and had no issues. I hope the same outcome for you.

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