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What is a Car Chassis: Types of Chassis Frames Explained

Team AckoDec 21, 2023

Been hearing about car chassis (pronounced cha-see) and wondering what it is? You've come to the right place! A Car Chassis is the foundation of all cars and was invented in the late 1800s - automotive sources estimate this to be around 1896. Since early cars were designed on the principles of horse-drawn carriages, primitive car chassis were built of wood and constructed with materials like glue! The automotive industry has come a long way since then, and the car chassis is a lot more durable these days. 

Car Chassis.png

In this article, we'll explore what a car chassis is. You'll find out more about the different types of car chassis frames, too. Let's go! 



What Is A Car Chassis? 

The car chassis is technically the "skeleton" of the car. This skeleton is what your car's body is built on, and it bears the weight of the body and car parts. A car chassis is made of steel and includes parts such as tires, car engine, the axle system, car's transmission, steering system, the brakes, and suspension. 

The car chassis is a crucial element in a vehicle, because it is what the entire vehicle is built on. When you're buying a car, make sure to check out the chassis, especially if it's a secondhand car.

Passenger cars that were built with "body-on-frame" construction, where the car body was built onto a chassis were produced up until the mid-1900s. In the 1940s, a unibody construction was invented, where the chassis and frame were constructed as a single element for a more durable drive. Nowadays, standalone chassis and standalone frame vehicle construction is used in building SUVs, pickup trucks, and heavy vehicles.

Chassis Vs. Frame 

You might be wondering if a car chassis and car frame are the same thing because they're used to refer to similar parts of the car. 

  • The chassis is the part of the "skeleton" that takes on and supports the weight of the car. 

  • The car frame is the rest of the car that's fitted onto the chassis. You could think of it like your body's skin and muscle! 

Types of Chassis Frames  

There are a wide range of car chassis frames out there, each built with a specific purpose. Performance vehicles like race cars have tubular frames, while passenger cars (like what you might be driving) come with a unibody or monocoque frame. Familiarize yourself with the types of Chassis Frames available. 

1. Backbone

  • The backbone car chassis frame looks like a backbone and holds the entire vehicle together. It's an H-shaped frame with a tube that connects both ends of the frame together. This rigid construction gives this type of vehicle an excellent ground clearance. A vehicle with a backbone chassis is ideal for off-roading, and heavy usage like trucks. 

  • The infamous Back to the Future car - the DeLorean DMC-12, had a backbone car frame! A backbone chassis comes with a significant drawback, though. It doesn't take side impact collisions very well, which is why its bodywork should offer superior protection. 

  • A feature of the backbone frame is that it safeguards fragile components of the drive shaft with a system of thicker tubes. This makes vehicles with backbone frames excellent for rugged conditions.  

2. Unibody or Monocoque 

  • As we mentioned earlier, today's passenger vehicles use a unibody frame or monocoque frame. In this type of Chassis Frame, the body and frame of the car are constructed together to make one cohesive unit. Some of the car's bodywork may be incorporated into the unibody construction. You might find parts like panels, roof, the sides of doors, and the car floor in a unibody structure. 

  • One of the reasons that the unibody frame became popular, as compared to the body-on-frame technique, is that it is far more lightweight. Since it's lightweight and aerodynamic, it contributes to better driving, and fuel efficiency. Although unibody frames are lighter, they're durable and offer better strength during crashes. 

  • Since the body-on-frame structure was made of a chassis and frame separately, it was a lot louder and choppy while driving. The monocoque frame is quieter and gives you a seamless drive. Because the framework is compact, you'll get a lot more space to store your belongings, and fit a lot more people too. 

3. Tubular

  • It's all in the name in a car with a Tubular Frame! This frame has hollow tubes that make up the body of this lightweight frame. It's designed specifically for performance vehicles like race cars and sports cars because it's lightweight and very aerodynamic. 

  • A tubular chassis is made from lightweight aluminum or specially constructed steel. The tubular frame is lighter, but doesn't compromise on strength. Because of its construction, the tubular frame takes on impact and distributes it across the frame for a safe drive, and even durability in a crash. 

  • Vehicles built for endurance are usually customized, and tubular frames offer this level of expert customization. Racing enthusiasts and companies alike prefer to build their race cars from scratch, with a frame to match, and usually don't buy showroom cars or stock cars. Also, with an intricate level of customization comes a higher price tag. Tubular chassis are expensive and need special welding techniques to create a system of tubes that perform seamlessly on racetracks and challenging conditions.

4. Ladder Frame

  • The fun thing about chassis frames is that they're called what they look like. A ladder frame looks like a ladder! Ladder frames are one of the oldest yet most reliable car chassis frames out there. 

  • Ladder frames are constructed by fitting 2 long beams perpendicular to 2 short beams. These frames are simple to construct, but are heavy. This makes them ideal for transporting goods and many people. Vehicles that use ladder frames are buses, trucks, and semis. 

  • Ladder frames are easy to assemble. This makes it easy to replace and repair parts for vehicles with this frame. Since several components in the ladder frame are separate, it's simple to replace them, and cheaper too. 

  • A disadvantage of the ladder frame is that it's difficult to maneuver corners, which is why it isn't great for passenger cars or performance vehicles. 


A Car Chassis is integral to vehicle construction and movement. The Car Chassis is similar to a skeleton, on which the body or frame is analogous to our skin and muscle! Cars were constructed with a chassis and a frame, known as a body-on-frame construction. Nowadays, passenger vehicles or cars are fitted with unibody or monocoque frames. 

The car chassis is the skeleton of a vehicle and it supports the body built around it and also aids in smooth handling. Similarly, car insurance is responsible for a smooth drive as it safeguards you from financial losses and legal liabilities. Explore our website to learn more about motor insurance for cars.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Below are some of the frequently asked questions on Car Chassis


1. What is a Car Chassis? 

A car chassis is a structure that makes up the most important part of a car. This frame is load-bearing and takes on the weight of the entire car, and is what the body is built on. 

2. What kind of car chassis frames are there? 

There are 4 types of car chassis frames. These include the ladder frame, tubular frame, unibody or monocoque frame, and the backbone frame. 

3. What frame does a passenger car have? 

Up until the mid-1900s, all cars were made with a chassis and a body. This was known as a body-on-frame structure. After the 1930s, the unibody or monocoque frame was invented, which fused the chassis and body into one durable structure. 


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