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January 2012 4Word - Editorial

Posted in Features on January 1, 2012
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My November 2011 editorial wasn’t kind to Jeep JK electronic and front axle woes. I need to clarify and expand on that editorial, as it sounded as if I was saying new Jeeps were garbage and every other vehicle was perfect.

Jeeps aren’t garbage and other vehicles aren’t perfect.

While all Jeep does is reflash and replace the black boxes that cause problems, at least they do reflash and replace those parts. Toyota owners have problems with dealerships that refuse to honor warranty claims. FJ Cruisers and Tacomas can experience ring-and-pinion failures that Toyota usually won’t cover under warranty until an arbitrator makes them do so. Toyota claims it doesn’t have to cover these failures because the vehicles have been used off-road. Many of these vehicles have factory “TRD Off-Road” stickers on them.

My friend, a Toyota FJ Cruiser owner, experienced front clip cracking because he uses his FJ off-road. He was told there was no warranty coverage for the cracking because of this off-road use. An arbitrator found that the cracking should be repaired under warranty, but Toyota made my friend sign an agreement before they would perform the needed repairs. The agreement stated they never had to fix the problem again. And, his FJ’s front clip has cracked again.

Toyota’s unintended acceleration issue is now famous, as is the way Toyota first tried to ignore the problem, then “fix” the issue by relocating floor mats. In the beginning, there wasn’t much worry about owner’s safety or if there was a real issue. It was disastrous for Toyota sales.

Nissan introduced its Titan pickup as a competitor to North American fullsize pickups. It was comfortable and had a powerful V-8. Then, owners used the Titan as fullsize pickup owners do. They towed heavy loads. The Titan’s rearends started failing. They weren’t strong enough for the Titan’s intended use. To their credit, Nissan fixes this issue under warranty with a minimum of whining.

I let the Chevy Colorado and Ford Raptor off in the November editorial. Not this time. The Colorado/Canyon (and Hummer H3) IFS front differential has a small 7.6-inch ring gear and an aluminum housing that can fail when used hard. The H3 Alpha’s housing was changed to cast iron, but what about the V-8 Colorado, such as the one I own? It’s still aluminum. The steering rack can also rip away from its mounts.

Ford Raptor owners find that when they hit whoop-de-dos in a certain way, the Raptor’s frame may dramatically bend. Recently, 14 Raptor owners took their trucks through the Mojave Desert on graded roads, resulting in 10 of the 14 trucks experiencing bent frames. The argument that these owners were using their Raptors in a way that was never intended is bunk. Ford’s marketing photos and videos of the Raptor show them jumping high in the air and going through the desert at 100 mph, which the 10 trucks weren’t doing when their frames bent.

Should I mention Land Rover electronics here? There’s not enough room.

Do all these problems mean these vehicles are worthless and should never be considered by serious backcountry explorers? No. It means that every vehicle has issues and not one is perfect. The secret is to find what the issues are by reading magazines and Internet forums dedicated to those vehicles, and then fix the problems before heading out. Electronic gremlins are hard to prepare for, but precautions can be taken, even if those precautions are a good pair of hiking boots and survival gear.

I have a hard time understanding why owners get angry when their vehicle’s shortcomings are pointed out. The problems are documented and will probably happen to them, if they haven’t already. Shooting the messenger doesn’t help.

I will someday own many of the vehicles mentioned here. I will investigate known issues and address them before I go into the backcountry. Then, I’ll enjoy every vehicle because they work so well. I will also own more JK Wranglers. I’ve already owned seven. Why stop there?

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