Low speed accident damage

A week ago, I was driving home in the rain when a Security COmpany “Police Cruiser” ran a stop sign and we collided at very low speed in what can best be described as a “glancing blow”. The air bag didn’t go off. THe left front bumper of my car barely has a crack in it, and other than a small ding and some scratched paint, the cruiser was fine. The impact was substantial enough that the cruiser drug my car a few feet and I spun a bit on the wet pavement. The next day, I noticed a low growling sound coming from the front differential when I accelerate quickly. So… pretty sure the differential is going bad; the question is whether or not the accident could have caused this. It’s a 1998 Chevy Prism (Toyota Corolla) with only 116,000 miles. I don’t think it should be having these kinds of problems at such low mileage. I’m getting pushback from the Security Company’s insurer on the mechanical problem.

Might be a wheel bearing maybe? I suppose the accident could have caused it, has it been diagnosed by a shop yet?

It’s more likely to be a wheel bearing going bad, or possibly a tire rubbing on a spashshield or inner fender lining. The differential is part of the transmission, and such symptoms will not show up suddenly. I have never seen a transaxle differential have noise problems.

Another possibility is that you are experiencing a ‘placebo effect’ of sorts. You just had an accident, so you’re expecting something bad to happen to the car as a result of the accident. Take the car to a shop and have someone drive it and inspect the front end.

Yes, it is entirely possible to suffer a transmission or even an engine problem from an impact.
As a tech, I’ve been involved in several engine/transmissions that had major problems due to a collision and this can occur without an external visible mark being seen anywhere.

Many years ago I owned a Corvette that became a total wreck due to someone’s negligence. I kept the wreck and sold the engine to a gentleman who installed it into an older Chevy Impala.
This engine (which used about a qt. of oil every 1500-2000 miles )did not receive one scratch in the wreck and after the wreck it burnt a qt. of oil every 5 miles. (seriously)
It smoked like a prairie fire and this was due to the sheer impact jolting the rotating assembly (crankshaft, pistons, etc.) hard enough that several pistons and rings were cracked.

My daughter is going through something similar right now. Her '05 Mustang go rear-ended a week ago at a light and she was shoved clean out into the intersection. The other person’s ins. co. is saying the damage is minor and a quick look may make one think so but it’s worse than what appears. The plastic simply rebounded; the fact that the wheels on one side are 1/2" closer together than the opposite side means something is seriously bent underneath.

It’s common for ins. companies and adjusters to claim no mechanical damage but none of these people are mechanics, have no understanding of how or why, and also have a vested interest in dismissing anything that is not obvious to the naked eye.

Good advice about the shop. If it were a wheel bearing, would the noise be intermitent? It only happens when I accelerate hard. Normal acceleration = nothing. Regular driving at highway speed = nothing. Hard acceleration = growling sound and an apparent loss of power. Sounds a lot like my old manual Chevette when I used to grind the gears as a kid… It’s an automatic, though.

Take Your Car To A Body (Collision) Shop And Have A Person Who Writes Estimates And / Or A Body Repairman Take A Close Look At Your Car. You Could Just Ask For An Estimate.

Have them look particularly for “front-end sway”. Evidence usually presents itself as uneven spacing between between hood and front fenders and / or front door leading edges and front fenders. Being hit on an end of the front bumper is a good way to sway the front-end without showing major damage. The sway could cause mecanical problems. A hit to a wheel is another way to receive mechanical damage.

As OK4450 pointed out cars can have more damage (hidden damage) than what meets the eye at a casual glance. Insurance companies know this, but sometimes their adjusters don’t know what they’re doing or are trying to minimize repairs to save money for their company.

When I managed a Body Shop I had many “shoot-outs” with insurance adjusters when my proper estimate was hundreds or thousands more than their inadequate estimate.

Be advised that very much damage to this 98 will possibly (probably) “total” it. Should that be the case then let us know and we’ll tell you how to get the best settlement. It’s negotiable. Even the “total” diagnosis is negotiable. In fact, let us know what happens, one way or another.