Here's What Could've Gone Wrong With This Jeep Gladiator's Bent Frame (UPDATE)
That's not gonna buff out.
If you haven't seen them by now, there's a pair of pictures floating around the car internet that makes one particular Jeep Gladiator look pretty bad. It's in a scenic setting—off-road on the Mojave Trail—with a camping trailer hooked up at the back. The problem, though, is that the Gladiator's bed is clearly off-kilter, pointing toward the sky and indicating a bent frame. How did this happen?
We've got a few ideas.
While it's all but impossible to tell from just two photos and no definite background info, it seems like something went wrong with the Jeep's modifications. One Facebook post from CORE Off Road claims that incorrect shocks were mounted to the 4x4, effectively turning them into bumpstops and putting major pressure on the shock mounts. Whether this would be enough to bend the truck's frame at normal speeds with a load is questionable, especially since the Gladiator's max towing capacity is over 4,000 pounds. It's safe to bet this trailer doesn't come close to that figure.
Then, you have to consider how the trailer was loaded with gear. Its overall weight could be far under the Gladiator's listed capacity, but if most of the heft was positioned over the tongue instead of the trailer axle, it could cause a world of problems. Combine that with a heavy right foot and gnarly terrain and things are likely to go wrong in a hurry.
That brings us to perhaps the most glaring point: this broken Gladiator looks eerily similar to a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 that suffered the same fate last year. The Chevy was loaded with a 2,100-pound trailer when its frame, too, was creased. However, it was later found that the truck had been driven at higher-than-sensical speeds—with the trailer in tow—and neither General Motors nor the owner's insurance would cover the costly snafu.
It's unfair to say that's exactly what happened here, especially since the Gladiator driver is yet to come forward and explain their side of the story. Still, if the Jeep had any combination of shoddy mods, an incorrectly loaded trailer, or a dose of high-speed abuse on rough terrain, it's clear to see where an issue could pop up.
Given the fact that the Gladiator is no longer stock, it seems wrong to point fingers at Jeep. Sure, the automaker knows its customers are going to fit aftermarket lift kits and so on to their trucks and SUVs, but it can't make the call on which mods to make and how those co-exist with the Gladiator's factory setup. Essentially, Jeep could sell the world's most capable off-roader but if someone were to fit cruddy hardware to it, the four-wheeler would only be as strong as its weakest link.
It should also be noted that the new Jeep Gladiator Mojave has a strengthened rear frame, which could help prevent this problem when bombing through the dunes. Turns out that Desert Rated badge means something after all.
UPDATE: So-Cal Teardrops, maker of the camper attached to the Gladiator, reached out to The Drive after this article was originally published. A company spokesperson explained that their products have logged hundreds of thousands of off-road miles in testing and real-world use, all without incidents such as this. Apparently, Off The Grid Rentals—the company which owns the trailer in question—has never seen a similar problem, with this unit or the seven others in its fleet.
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