What Is A Car Chassis? What Every Driver Should Know

A collage of car chassis, What Is A Car Chassis? What Every Driver Should KnowHave you ever heard someone talking about a car’s chassis and wondered what they were talking about? You are not the only one. With close to 30,000 parts on a car, it would take years of studying to be able to recognize each part. Car chassis are one of the most important parts of a vehicle. We’ve researched a ton of information and compiled it into this article so you can learn what a car chassis is and what purpose it serves.

A chassis is the framework of a car. Its purpose is to bear the load of the vehicle by providing a solid support structure for everything. This is accomplished through the body being mounted on top of the chassis.

Keep reading below as we answer some more frequently asked questions about car chassis.

What Types Of Chassis Are There?

All cars are not built the same. In fact, not all chassis are built the same. Generally speaking, there are four different types of chassis. Here are all four types along with a short explanation about each one.

1. Ladder Chassis

You might be able to guess this one, but the reason it is called a ladder chassis is because it resembles a ladder. A ladder chassis is number one on the list because it is how all car chassis used to be made. These days, ladder chassis are primarily used in commercial vehicles and cars that are meant for going off road. As technology has advanced, this form of a chassis has become less than ideal for the everyday car.

2. Backbone Chassis

This type of chassis is one of the more simple types. As the name suggests, it is comprised of one “backbone” that connects the suspension in the front and back. The backbone is another classic type of chassis and can be found in many different classic vehicles. The most popular car to have this type of chassis is the DMC “DeLorean” seen in the film Back to the Future.

3. Space Frame Chassis

You see this type of chassis a lot in race cars and other special vehicles. This chassis is basically tube-shaped with pieces of metal welded together to form the tube. Because all the parts are connected, the entire frame is able to absorb any load felt on a certain point. This chassis is more sturdy.

4. Monocoque Chassis

The Monocoque chassis is an extremely unique chassis and looks different on every vehicle. This is because it is a mixture of the body and the chassis. The body and chassis are one big piece of metal. Another example of this is most boats. They are all one big piece of metal — which is how they stay afloat. The first car with this type of chassis was the 1962 Lotus 25.

Not all cars have a specific type of chassis from this list. Some have a combination of a few of them. Car engineers are constantly innovating and working to create new technology and see what works most efficiently.

What Is The Purpose Of A Chassis?

Pickup Car chassis bottom view

A chassis provides the foundation for a vehicle so that the rest of it is supported. But what exactly does that mean? Why does a vehicle need a chassis? Since a vehicle has a lot of parts and the only thing touching the ground is the wheels, there needs to be a sturdy base layer for everything to rest on.

This is where the chassis comes in. As we discussed previously, we saw they were built to protect everything inside the car as well. Because a lot can happen on and off the road, the chassis works as a barrier to keep everything safe and in one place.

What Is The Difference Between A Frame And A Chassis?

Assembled cars chassis in a row at car plant

Despite what it may seem like, the frame and chassis are two different parts that are fastened together to serve one purpose.

The frame primarily holds the body of the vehicle, seats, and passengers, and it distributes the weight well when the vehicle goes over unstable terrain.

The chassis, on the other hand, deals with every other part of the vehicle such as the engine, fuel tank, breaks, tires, suspension, etc. The chassis is often described as the “skeletal framework” of a car.

All in all, the frame of the car supports all of the accessories a vehicle has. The chassis supports all the essential, defining elements of a vehicle.

Do Modern Cars Have A Chassis?

Yes. Almost all vehicles today are equipped with a monocoque chassis. Generally, this is the best technology to have been invented in terms of a chassis. Making its debut in 1962, it is one of the newest types that keeps getting improved upon with every new vehicle.

It works well because as a car’s body is continuously refined and modernized, a monocoque chassis will be created around it and will therefore improve as well. There’s no need to stick to a specific template like other chassis.

Can You Replace A Car Chassis?

This question does not have a straightforward answer. In some cases, you may be able to replace a chassis, but in most cases, you probably cannot. Older vehicles that have a ladder chassis or something similar may be able to have parts of a chassis (or the entire thing) replaced. This would likely be extremely expensive because this is a large and crucial part of your vehicle, and it would be very time-intensive and laborious.

This, of course, would require almost a complete disassembly of your car. One alternative to consider before going down this road is: can the chassis be repaired and not replaced? Most of the time, if you suspect you need a new chassis it is because you got in a nasty wreck that bent and warped your vehicle beyond drivability. Take your car to a reputable mechanic or dealer and have them diagnose your problem to see if it can be replaced or repaired.

A total replacement may cost thousands of dollars, possibly well over $10,000. In many cases, you may be able to have your vehicle’s chassis repaired and reshaped, which could only cost you $600-$2,000 at most, depending on the damage.

What About On Modern Cars?

As we learned, most modern cars have a monocoque chassis, which means its body and chassis are all connected and are basically the same. If this is the case, you only have two roads you can go down.

The first is to get it repaired if possible. See if a mechanic is able to reshape your body/chassis for you at an affordable cost. The second is to just buy a new car. With a monocoque chassis, you will basically be replacing the entire car to replace the chassis since it is made up of the entire vehicle.

How Do You Check The Chassis Of A Car?

Female engineers discussing by car chassis

The chassis number on your car is almost the same thing as a VIN number. The VIN number is often referred to as the chassis number because it is sometimes stamped to the chassis of your vehicle; the nickname stuck. Specifically, the chassis number is the last 6 digits of your VIN number.

These last 6 numbers contain specific information pertaining to your vehicle. In other words, it tells you what your vehicle was fitted with and what options were built into it.

In Closing

A car’s chassis is an essential part of your vehicle. Just like a house with no foundation, your car would fall apart without a chassis. Regardless of what kind of chassis your vehicle has, each of them is uniquely engineered to serve the same purpose.

Don’t miss out on these other great automotive guides –

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