Toyota has received about a dozen reports of frame corrosion on 4Runners from the 2003 through 2009 model years. According to these reports, after a few years of use and/or exposure to specific environmental variables, some Toyota 4Runner owners are experiencing significant rust deterioration unrelated to and different from surface rust frequently found on metallic surfaces.
“The excessive rust corrosion compromise the vehicles’ safety, stability, and crash-worthiness because important suspension components, engine mounts, transmission mounts, and body mounts anchor to the vehicles’ frames”, plaintiffs alleged in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court.
Because rust is such a common problem for car owners, automakers are now galvanizing steel in cars to reduce the particular risk of rusting. While older cars, which were built before rust-proofing materials became widely available, are more prone to rust, contemporary cars are factory-treated for rust protection. Because they were not properly treated against rust corrosion when they were manufactured, the frames for certain model year Toyota vehicles, are prone to premature rust corrosion, according to the investigation.
Corrosion can cause major safety issues to the structure of most automobiles
A car frame, which is also known as chassis, is the component of the vehicle that supports and structures practically all of its features, particularly the engine. Additionally, it provides strength and stability, particularly in the event of an accident, and has been precisely engineered to meet exacting standards. When the frame rusts, engine mounts and critical suspension components that are anchored to the frame may fail, posing a serious risk to you and your passengers.
Signs your vehicle frame is rusted:
- Soft spots
- Disconnected or corroded brackets
- Easily bendable metal
- Stress cracking
- Rotted holes
As previously mentioned, rust is a serious and invasive problem for a vehicle; once it takes hold, it can expand if left unchecked, frequently hidden from view; but what is the point at which a rusted car becomes dangerous?
Surface rust – As the name implies, surface rust affects only the top layer of your vehicle’s body panels. You may see a small patch or sequence of chips, bubbles, nicks, or scratches at this point, which could progress to ultimate corrosion.
Penetrating rust – This is the most damaging stage of rusting; it can eat away at the metal, jeopardizing the vehicle’s frame’s durability. There’s nothing that can stop rust from spreading further into a vehicle’s frame or body structure, causing damage to brakes, fuel lines, and suspension components. Frame rust that is severe enough might cause parts to snap off or crack, putting you and your passengers at high risk.
What to do if you have concerns about rust
Checking for signs of rust is critical for several reasons. First, a minor rust problem could quickly turn into a major auto body problem since rust spreads. Along with being unsightly, rust can also lead to major structural damages over time. Additionally, repairing a rusty automobile can be an expensive endeavor. Rust will also bring your car’s resale value way down if you’re planning on selling or trading it in the foreseeable future.
Without a comprehensive inspection, it’s impossible to know if you have a corroded frame that can create safety issues. If your vehicle has more than its fair share of “normal” rust, have it inspected and evaluated by a licensed mechanic or auto technician, who will:
- Visually inspect the floor pans, subframe, wheel wells, and entire undercarriage
- Check for weak parts of the frame
- Look for brackets that are loose, ripped, or rusted
- Double-check both sides of the frame
- Look for stress cracking
- Check for holes in the frame
When purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, frame inspection and assessment of corrosion damage should be mandatory. An under-vehicle inspection is best accomplished with the use of a hoist since this enables easier access to the wheels, brakes, and suspension during repairs and services.
About the Author
Jonathan Sharp is Director of Claims at Environmental Litigation Group P.C., a law firm located on Birmingham’s Southside, founded in 1990 in Birmingham, Alabama, and dedicated to delivering high-quality legal services to clients who have been wounded by a defective or dangerous product, or who have been exposed to harmful chemicals.