A system simulation approach is presented for dynamic stress analysis and life prediction of components of machines that undergo nonsteady gross motion and elastic deformation. The method employs finite element structural analysis, coupled gross motion-elastic deformation dynamics, and computer-based fatigue analysis, A computer aided engineering methodology is developed for life prediction by linking together software from dynamics, structures, and fatigue life estimation; to compliment conventional fatigue experiments. Dynamic stress analysis is carried out using either an uncoupled gross motion-elastic deformation method or a more accurate approach that takes into account the coupling between large displacements and elastic deformation. With the aid of vehicle operational scenarios, stress/strain histories at critical regions in vehicle components during a projected service life are simulated. A local strain approach is used to calculate cumulative fatigue damage at notches, which is used in assessing fatigue life of components during the design phase; i.e., prior to availability of experimental data A vehicle example is presented, using a simplified dynamic-stress analysis method. The more general and accurate fully coupled dynamic-stress analysis method will be illustrated in a subsequent paper.