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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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 …