Pick-up owners: Check your chassis!

For several years now, owners from across the world have been reporting about the chassis on their Japanese 4×4 pick-ups failing. Whether this is due to a manufacturing fault, abuse by the owner (i.e. overloading, poor driving, incorrect modifications), rust or simply old age is not for us to say … this article is simply intended as a warning to owners.

Nissan Navarra chassis14 - 480 size
It appears towing a medium-sized caravan was too much for this Navara

So when did the problems of vehicle chassis failure first surface?

This is an impossible question to answer, as the problem probably dates right the way back to when motorised transport was first invented, as early designs very often got it wrong.

 

 

 

A better question therefore would be … When did the problems associated with 4×4 pick-up chassis failure first surface?

This brings us mainly into the 21st century. Okay, The 4×4 pick-up has been around in Australia, Asia, Africa and America again since all-wheel-drive vehicle were first invented, but it was with the advent of the Japanese 4×4 pick-up has this problem hit the headlines. It appears all the main players – Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Mazda, Isuzu, etc. – have all had issues to some degree or another, but the name of one manufacturer really stands out – that brand is Nissan. The reports coming in about Nissan utes for instance (‘utes’ being the Aussie term for a pick-up) are scary!

Nissan Navarra chassis23 - 535 size
Another Navara bites the dust. Why should this happen to a relatively new vehicle?

In 2013 for instance, Nissan Australia recalled over 40,000 Spanish-built D40 Navara pick-ups* due to ‘cracks developing in chassis rails’. * Source: Nissan D40 Navara Towbar Recall

The defects according to Nissan were: –

The attachment points on the Nissan genuine accessory towbars can create excessive stress upon the chassis frame rails over time. As a result, cracks can occur at the ends of the rails. In extreme cases, sections of the chassis rails around the towbar attachment points may bend when heavy loads are applied.

Letters have been sent to owners of affected vehicles. Irrespective of whether your vehicle is fitted with one of the above towbars, you are advised to contact your Nissan dealer to arrange for an inspection and, where required, rectification of your vehicle. The inspection and necessary work will be performed free of charge where a genuine Nissan towbar is being replaced.

By the way, thanks in part to its three-tonne towing capacity, the Navara was at the time Nissan’s top-selling model in Australia, so this was a major issue when it surfaced.

As I say, scary if you tow heavy loads, but tow bars are but one problem. Even worse is the rot that causes cracks to the Navara’s chassis around the spring hangers. Although Nissan have not admitted there is a problem , the fact remains that even D40 Navaras manufactured only recently are prone to rot. 2006 versions in particular seem to suffer badly. There are cases galore of owners complaining that their pride ‘n joys are quite literally falling apart at the seams.

Nissan Navarra chassis12-o7plateD40 - 720 size
Incredibly, this was the chassis rail of a 2007 Nissan Navara.
Nissan Navarra chassis13-07plateD40 - 720 size
Clearly this goes way beyond cracks to the chassis. Rot like this in a 2007 model is scandalous!

Nissan Navarra chassis8 - 543 size - Copy  Nissan Navarra chassis17 - 720 size

Whilst researching the subject, I found this post on an Irish 4×4 enthusiasts’ forum. It is self-explanatory: –

I was taking to the guy who does my DOE’s (MOT) when I was getting the D22 done and he says he sees loads of D40’s coming in with this problem, always in the same place, passengers side, outside of the chassis leg, just behind the forward tub mounting point. Starts off as corrosion, ends in a crack, mine is just about going from the corrosion stage and will need to be plated.

They have no problem signing off a chassis like this as long as it has been properly plated along with an engineers report which they can provide.

In the UK also, the problem has become so bad, there is now a Facebook group who call themselves the Nissan Navara snapped chassis group – this in itself speaks volumes!

Nissan Navarra chassis10 - 800 siaze
An owner’s protest at the way he’s been treated by Nissan UK.

The following eight images are all of UK-based D40 Nissan Navaras, a model which – correct me if I’m wrong – wasn’t launched until 2006.

Nissan Navarra chassis21 - 800 size  Nissan Navarra chassis20 - 300 size Nissan Navarra chassis19 - 720 size  Nissan Navarra chassis13-06plateD40 - 800 size Nissan Navarra chassis12-06plateD40 - 417 size  Nissan Navarra chassis9 - 543 sizeNissan Navarra chassis3- 2007 model - 576 size  Nissan Navarra chassis1- 2007 model - 320 size

Nissan Navarra chassis1- 2009 D40 model - 320 size
UPDATE: This last photo is truly frightening. It was taken by an owner, again on the Nissan Navara Snapped Chassis Facebook group, only this is not an old modified vehicle – it is a 2009 Navara! No apparent rot in this instance, just a crack right through the chassis rail. For a vehicle designed to carry loads, this does not inspire confidence in the model.

But is the problem simply due to bad design from Day One, or some of Nissan’s worldwide manufacturing plants using inferior steel in its products, or could it be that owners are unwittingly adding to the corrosion problem themselves?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well it seems that when owners modify the suspension set-up, that can definitely speed up the process. Adding airbag suspension for instance can lead to warranty disputes (understandable given that the factory set-up has been altered), and weight too is a vital factor. Exceed a manufacturer’s payload, you are asking for trouble. Here follows a quote from an Aussie 4×4 enthusiast on an independent Nissan forum:-

This guy is going on about how the total weight was within the GVM (gross vehicle weight rating) limits. It is not always a question of total weight, but the weight distribution. Judging from the pictures, it looks to me as if he overloaded with too much weight behind the rear wheels. Any chassis will bend under such circumstances.

Edit: In addition, he had fitted airbags to the rear springs, which changed the chassis load to a point loading situation as opposed to distributing the load, and he had two long-range fuel tanks fitted, a 130l tank behind the rear axle and another 120 l in front. Methinks he just overloaded.

Nissan Navarra chassis2- 2007 model - 800 size

All good points. The thing is, Nissan are not likely to admit responsibility for rust attacking their chassis, even if the vehicles in question are less than 10 years old, nor are they going to refund customers who alter their products by adding aftermarket accessories. Likewise, it’s the responsibility of the owner to ensure his/her vehicle is not overloaded.

And what of camper conversions, many of which are demountable as the pick-up is ideally suited for this role? Who is liable when your overnight accommodation decides to part company with the cab – the manufacturer, the conversion company, you for overloading your vehicle?

Nissan Navarra chassis12 - 800 size  Nissan Navarra chassis11 - 800 size

Nissan Navarra chassis4 - 743 size
Thanks to the owner who penned this drawing, for it clearly shows the part of the chassis which is liable to encounter the greatest stress when a camper body is fitted.

Who knows what the answer is? All we at Europe 4×4 Mag are advising is …

CHECK THE CHASSIS ON YOUR PICK-UP!!!

After all, it may cost you some cash to have the rot or cracks/potential cracks repaired/strengthened before they occur, but it’s better than causing an accident or getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Nissan Navarra chassis3 - 480 size

Don’t forget, in the case of even a standard crew-cab Navara (or any make of pick-up), in the event of a major collision, the rear section could become totally detached, meaning that you go can one way, your rear-seat passengers – including your children – can go another!

Scaremongering? We don’t think so, prevention is a lot better than cure!

Nissan Navarra chassis-Richy Holmes2 - 800 size
If you’re in the North East of the United Kingdom, you’re in luck. The guy who started the “Nissan Navara snapped chassis group” will inspect and repair your chassis with these 5mm thick plates.
Nissan Navarra chassis-Richy Holmes1 - 480 size
The strengthening plate in situ on a D40 Navara chassis. Richy Holmes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England is the man to contact, his UK mobile number – (+44) 07946663091

And just in case you think other makes of 4×4 pick-up such as Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford are immune from this problem, think again. Here’s a selection of non-Nissans …

Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan8 - 800 size  Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan4.jpg - 370 sizeNissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan3 - 700 size  Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan7 - 800 sizeNissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan5.jpg - 604 size  Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan2 - 400 sizeNissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan6 - 800 size  Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan5Mitso.jpg - 775 sizeNissan Navarra chassis29 - 640 size  Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan1 - 640 size

Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan11 - 800 size
Proof positive that ALL 4×4 vehicles are susceptible to ‘tin worm’, but bear in mind that this old Series III Land Rover could be up to 45 years old. It has a right to be rusty, whereas Nissan Navaras under 10 years old are already rotting away. They say that Land Rover produce the strongest standard production in the world. Whether or not this is true, there is little to suggest that any of the current Japanese pick-ups will be around in 20 years time, let along 70 years like the original pick-up or Truck Cab as is was known back then!
Land Rover 109
The Land Rover Series One 109″ Truck Cab. First seen in the early 1950’s, many are still going strong to this day.
Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan12 - 800 size
Tounge-in-cheek post on a 4×4 forum. The caption read – “Don’t try this in a Navara!”
Nissan Navarra chassis-non Nissan9 - 468 size
Another case of ‘bad design’ by the conversion company we would suggest, although to be fair we have no idea what suspension set up the vehicle has. All we do know is … that’s a lot of steel sitting on the rear of what started life as a standard Land Rover, hardly surprising the inevitable occurred.
Nissan Navarra chassis27 - 640 size
Honestly, who in their right minds would think this is a good idea? It may be a Navara, but would any other 4×4 pick-up cope with such a load? Maybe yes, maybe no – either way this has to be exceeding the manufacturer’s payload. Crazy!
Nissan Navarra chassis26 - 800 size
We have a feeling this Navara is living on borrowed time!

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Tom McGuigan

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  1. smshogun@gmail.com'
    Assassin April 2, 2017 at 8:02 pm -

    Tom, the inherent problem is the design, if it is not strong enough, or marginal, it would be fine if the vehicle was used correctly, but a lot of the time the steel used is “suspect” and not always to specification and can be prone to cracking, hence any corrosion will weaken it and make it more susceptible to cracking and avoiding corrosion is a good first step if you have a chassis with reinforcing plates welded in. I would advocate that everyone has these plates welded in and then rustproof the chassis at the same time.

  2. Boothwayne@hotmail.co.uk'
    Wayne booth March 4, 2017 at 10:00 am -

    I have a Nissan navara 2007 kcab. I have brought it to do my milkround so is it a problem for me too. Are the problems that come up expensive to fix.

    • Tom McGuigan March 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Hi Wayne,

      Not usually too expensive, but of course it depends on the amount of corrosion. I would suggest contacting Richy Holmes on 07946 663091. He’s the man in the know, he will give you sound advice.

      Cheers,

      Tom McGuigan (Editor of Europe 4×4 Mag)

  3. Tom McGuigan January 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm -

    Very sorry for the belated reply James. Like I have mentioned to others already, I didn’t know comments could be placed or replied to within Europe 4×4 Mag. This online resource was only launched in 2016, and because I’m one of life’s technophobes, I am therefore still learning how to use the software!

    Thanks, I try to be objective in my articles, hopefully it comes across as such. Doubtless some owners will abuse their pick-ups by loading them to the gunwales and well beyond, but it’s clear that with this much bad press about the Spanish-built Navarras, this is a definitely a case of ‘no smoke without fire’. Personally, I really don’t understand why Nissan just doesn’t accept liability and get on with making what normally are good soild vehicles? Strange!

  4. vaniacampbell@gmail.com'
    madden 17 coins January 11, 2017 at 5:17 pm -

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to
    this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this
    website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

    • Tom McGuigan January 14, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      Hiya! No need to even think about donating. Here at Europe 4×4 Mag we are out ‘n’ out 4×4 / off-road enthusiasts, so do it for the love of it. Thanks for your comments all the same. Tom Mc (Editor)

  5. blairfencing@hotmail.co.uk'
    Mark Blair October 25, 2016 at 9:19 am -

    Hi , my navara chassis snapped clean through on both sides which left me without a motor for over a week and being selfemployed left me without an income also . I also had to explain and apoligise to my customers . I was stuck on the side of a very busy road until i got picked up 6 hours later . what should i do next .

    • Tom McGuigan January 14, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Very sorry Mark, a belated reply as I didn’t know comments could be placed or replied to within Europe 4×4 Mag … this online resource was only launched in 2016, and as I’m one of life’s technophobes, I’m therefore still learning how to use the software!

      I would suggest contacting Richy Holmes, the guy who started the “Nissan Navara snapped chassis group” on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Nissan%20Navara%20snapped%20chassis%20group

      Tom Mc (Editor, Europe 4×4 Mag)

  6. smshogun@gmail.com'
    Assassin April 24, 2016 at 4:31 am -

    Stress cracks are nothing to do with corrosion, so lets get this clear from the start, and put my engineers head back on.

    Stress cracks develop through something called “point loading” where a single point of a chassis or indeed any other object takes all the weight and this can be for several reasons and the main one is a compromise between something called “engineered camber” which in simple terms is how far something can bend and return to its original shape and how that loading is applied to that particular area as a “point loading” where a load is applied to, or through a single point, and “load spreading” where the same load is applied over a greater area.

    Next we have “plane” and “torsional loading” which is where the load is applied in more than one direction which on a 4X4 is a twisting load and “abrupt weight transfer” which is where a load suddenly transfers from being a “load spreading” load where it is evenly spread across the chassis to a point load on one chassis rail using abrupt weight transfer as the weight moves to that rail which is constantly twisting to give a torsional loading and you have problems.

    We can demonstrate this by taking a piece of steel 1mm thick and holding it and continually bending it in both directions, eventually small stress cracks form on the surface and as you continue bending it these small surface cracks form longer surface cracks which connect themselves together to form larger surface cracks weakening the chassis through its thickness and eventually form one huge uneven crack which snaps the chassis.

    Look at the logic, a 4X4 chassis is constantly moving in all directions, so continually bending, the loadings all conspire to put a point loading into the chassis which will be the weakest point, then eventually something gives and this is the highest loaded point of the chassis. One problem exists and that is the design software manufacturers now use for chassis design; most now use generic software which is fine for cars as the worst they ever get is going up a rutted track for short distances, use this on a 4X4 and it is nowhere suitable for the massive point loadings which can occur on a 4X4 chassis and applied over a small area when it traverses terrain no car ever could with its wheels going down much deeper ruts, or applying massive loadings which no car could receive.
    Most of this generic software is dedicated to monocoque construction which has low structural loadings on a road car, and a huge vehicle body area to transfer it through; whereas a chassis has a much smaller area than a vehicle body to transfer much higher loadings through.

    • Tom McGuigan January 14, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      Very sorry Assassin, a belated reply as I didn’t know comments could be placed or replied to within Europe 4×4 Mag … as you know, this online resource was only launched in 2016, and as I’m one of life’s technophobes, I’m therefore still learning how to use the software!

      A quick question – you say “Stress cracks are nothing to do with corrosion”, but surely rust will weaken what in this case seems to be an already vulnerable chassis? I’m definitely no engineer like yourself, but it seems logical that corrosion can’t help the situation, it will only make it worse.

  7. 4x4eurotours@gmail.com'
    Wideformat April 4, 2016 at 11:19 pm -

    I noticed some of the Navarra’s in the pictures still have the old style alloy wheels on, my old company had two Navarra’s 2011 and 2012 vintage both had cracks appearing in the spokes on the alloys and were eventually replaced under warranty. Other problems were the electric driver seat, on locking the doors the drivers seat would move forward on its own until nearly touching the steering wheel and made it impossible to get back in the bloody thing, to reset it you had to unplug the connector under the seat then re-connect meaning getting down on all fours in muddy puddles etc not ideal. Add to that off road it was less than useless being recovered twice by my old Frontera. The newer model have gained the nickname Chromosexuals due to the large amount of chrome plastic on them.

    • Tom McGuigan January 14, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Very sorry for the belated reply Wideformat. I didn’t know comments could be placed or replied to within Europe 4×4 Mag. This online resource was only launched in 2016, and because I’m one of life’s technophobes, I am therefore still learning how to use the software!

      Interesting comments about the Navarra, a pretty damming picture is emerging. Thanks for your input.

  8. kim.liesbeth@telenet.be'
    Kim March 6, 2016 at 9:44 am -

    I’ll stick with my ’98 GMC SUBURBAN, maybe a lot heavier, but still in one piece after lots of miles towing! The fuel its using more is nothing compared to the costs being showed in this article!
    Grtz, Kim from Belgium

    • Tom McGuigan January 14, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      The same as all the rest who posted way back in 2016, very sorry for the belated reply Kim. I just didn’t know comments could be placed or replied to within Europe 4×4 Mag, now I do so will keep up to date with comments.

      The GMC Suburban is solid alright, plenty of American pig iron was used back in `98. However, as mentioned by yourself, it must use a lot of fuel. Okay on short runs, but over a long distance … ouch!

      Tom Mc (Editor, Europe 4×4 Mag)

  9. james.robertson.davis@gmail.com'
    James (Tembo) March 5, 2016 at 8:32 am -

    Good insightful article! I often wondered how many pick ups handled the weight stuck over the back axles. I guess we as the driving public are also a bit at fault, always demanding better fuel mileage and handling, pushing manufacturers to reduce weight as much as possible. I think I will stick with my old brick-on-wheels 110….