Dual cab Utes are super popular, and for good reason. They are extremely versatile, and can do the job of two different cars fairly easily. However, as part of the package, you get a lot of tray or tub that sits behind the rear axle, and this can be very, very bad.
By now, you would have seen at least a couple of bent dual cab Utes. If you haven’t, jump on Google and look around.
Almost every week someone bends a dual cab Ute chassis, and although there are many different factors that contribute to it happening, you start way behind the eight ball by design on a dual cab.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the below photo of Our Dmax. Look at how much of the vehicle sits behind the rear axle. It’s common sense that you are putting a lot of leverage on the rear of the vehicle. This is pretty standard for any dual cab 4WD Ute on the market.
If you want to know more about the weight of our 4WD, check this post out – Our Dmax touring 4WD weight summary.
Now, when the manufacturer makes these vehicles, they come out with a maximum weight – your GVM. You can’t exceed this. If you take the empty weight of the vehicle away from the GVM, you get your payload – the maximum amount of weight that you can add to the 4WD before being illegal.
The only exception to this is if you get a GVM upgrade, like we did – ARB GVM Upgrade
However, the manufacturer knows you can’t take that full payload, and plonk it in the back of the tray, or you risk breaking something. How do they know that? Its simple; they give you maximum axle loads.
They say you can have the weight on the front differential at a certain weight, and the rear at a different weight. If you go and take the whole payload and throw it on the rear of the vehicle, you will exceed your rear axle rating, and you are in dangerous, chassis bending territory.
The problem with dual cab Utes is that this is exactly what happens – majority of the weight gets put in the back, and a lot of it ends up behind the rear axles. Add in some nasty 4WD tracks, or a heavy trailers tow ball weight and you have a recipe for disaster just waiting to happen.
Towing a heavy caravan or trailer with a Dual cab Ute is often very difficult to do legally, and safely. If you have a van over 2500kg, you are very likely to be in trouble with the normal Australian dual cabs. Check this out for more information – Towing capacity; a simple guide to keep you legal.
How can you avoid a bent chassis on a dual cab ute?
Put heavy gear forward and low
The best thing you can do as a dual cab owner is to move as much as possible forward, or over the rear axle. You can mount secondary batteries behind the seats, in the cab of the vehicle. Water tanks, fuel tanks, batteries and anything else that is heavy should be as far forward as possible. This is where a space cab vs dual cab has benefits, as you can put items well in front of the rear axle but still in the tray.
Get a good canopy
There are lots of options out there when it comes to fitting a canopy to your Ute. The trick is to get the right unit for your requirements. If you are considering a canopy, take a look at this; Buying a 4WD Ute Canopy; the ultimate guide.
Ditch the tub
I am not fond of well body’s, or Ute tubs. They are heavy, they waste a lot of space and they prevent you from accessing gear easily. If you are looking for good access, consider a chassis mounted gull wing canopy that is light weight.
Don’t mount heavy rear bars
Nothing looks nicer than a 4WD with a big, meaty rear bar and two swing away tyres. Put them on a dual cab Ute that’s loaded up a fair bit, or that tows a heavy trailer and you are asking for trouble.
Many rear bars with twin swing always and two tyres are upwards of 120kg, and that’s a LOT of weight to have right at the back of your 4WD.
Don’t mount spare tyres off the back of your canopy
Twin spare tyres on the back of your canopy look great, but asides from easy access, its the worst possible place you can mount them.
The weight is really far back, and high in the air, which doesn’t help your centre of gravity. Most 4WD tyres and rims weigh around 25 – 35kg, and that isn’t any good for your chassis.
Don’t mount jerry cans off the rear of your vehicles
I have seen dual cab Utes with 4 jerry cans hanging off the back, on custom mounts. You’ve got to be absolutely mad to hang heavy weight off the back of your dual cab.
Carefully consider your trailers tow ball weight
If you have a loaded 4WD, and then add another 200 – 350kg on the tow ball, you are putting a lot of strain on your chassis.
However, it goes well beyond this due to the leverage your tow ball weight applies. On many vehicles, adding weight to the tow ball actually applies 30 – 50% more weight on the rear axle. This means a 250kg tow ball weight can actually be applying 360kg of weight onto your rear axle.
It does this by shifting 110kg of weight from the front of the vehicle to the back. For more information, check out What is Tow ball weight and why does it matter?
Drive carefully, and gently
Our 80 Series was a brick. There were very few times when I felt bad about bouncing it through a nasty dip in the road, or up a gnarly track.
It was built strong as, and I had no concerns about the chassis. The Dmax though, is another kettle of fish. Although I’ve only seen one Dmax with a bent chassis, who apparently hit a spoon drain at high speed, I am aware of the design flaw of a dual cab Ute.
As a result, I drive differently – I slow down always if I see something that concerns me. I make sure the trailer doesn’t bounce all over the place. I refuse to hammer up a hill and make the front bounce around.
Get a suitable vehicle
At the end of the day, when you buy a 4WD it should be suitable for what you need from it. Some chassis are stronger than others, and the axle positions are not all the same.
The Toyota Land Cruiser has one of the strongest Ute Chassis, and the Mitsubishi Triton would be the most likely to bend, purely because they’ve kept the rear axle so much further forward than other Utes. This applies more leverage, and ultimately results in more chance of a bent chassis.
The Mitsubishi Triton is by far and away one of the most commonly bent chassis Utes (although I haven’t seen any of the new shape bent just yet, so fingers crossed).
Put roof racks on the car and not the canopy
If your Ute is well loaded up, don’t go and load a set of roof racks on the canopy up too. Mount the racks to the car, and bring the weight forward so its more evenly distributed.
Stay under the maximum rear axle weight
All of the above points can be covered by one – when you are loaded and ready to travel, you need to be under the rear axle weight. If you aren’t, your insurance can walk away from any claims and your chances of having a bad accident are greatly increased.
Weights and weight distribution are super important in a 4WD, and are covered in the 32 ways to make your 4WD illegal.
Don’t be put off, just be smart
We see a lot of bent dual cab chassis. Its not something to be put off by, but it does mean you need to think about how you set your vehicle up. You might get away with one or two of the points above, but if you do all of them the first ditch you hit (and you will eventually hit something) will result in catastrophic failure.
If your insurance company weighs the vehicle and determines it is overweight, they can walk away from your claim.
There are thousands of dual cab Utes travelling Australia at this very minute, and a very small proportion of people ever have a problem. In this day and age where people carry everything under the sun, and tow heavy trailers it is becoming more and more popular.
Don’t become a statistic; build, load and drive your dual cab Ute sensibly and you won’t have a problem.
Do you own a dual cab Ute? Are you careful with how you distribute weight?