Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Rusted Frame

We were given a used Dodge entervan (handicap access)with 90,000+ miles. It had been used in Ohio. We live in southwestern Utah. We have used it for two months. Yesterday the local dodge service man told us that the frame was completely rusted and that he felt that the frame would fold if we hit a pothole. Is there any place that might replace the frame? (Salt Lake City or Las Vegas??) the upper body and interior is in good shape… although the motor for the automatic door and ramp is a bit sketchy. Is it feasible to fix/replace the frame??

You can’t reasonably replace a car’s frame. If it’s rusted through, then it’s not safe to drive. If it’ll fold up merely hitting a pothole, try to imagine if it gets broadsided or runs off the road. It’ll come apart like wet tissue paper, to say nothing of what could happen to whoever’s inside it at the time.

Sorry to say it, but a vehicle that reaches this point can’t be fixed. If you like, take it around to other mechanics and get some other opinions. I can’t imagine the first one would be lying since he can’t really make any money by doing so, but see what others say. If they all are telling you the same thing, I would not drive the vehicle again and send it to the crusher.

How old is the van? If it is really rusted through, I would agree that there is no fix. Your Western mechanic may never have seen a rusted through frame where you live, so maybe it is just rusted on the surface. I would have this double-checked!


Gee…I have lived in NW Ohio for 30+ years (Originally from Michigan) and we do use salt out on the roads in the winter. What year is the vehicle? We have owned a number of Caravans and am somewhat disappointed in the frames becoming thinner thru the years. Assuming that you have someone handicapped in the family and in need of wheelchair transport, I would be a bit hesitant to immediately trash or scrap the vehicle. Having a handicapped daughter who has passed away, I gave our wheelchair lift equipped Caravan to someone in need. Since then I have worked on a number of Dodge Caravans. I would not hesitate to spline reinforce the defect area by welding the appropiate thickness of steel. In your case, you might thake it to a small body shop or a welding shop to see if they salvage this for you.

Dodge vans have no “Frame”… They are Unibody construction and if the underneath support structure is rusted out, thats it…

Maybe you could could find a rust-free van in Utah and salvage the handicap equipment from the Ohio rust-bucket…

underneath support structure

FYI. There are left & right, front & rear frame rails that are welded onto the floor pan of unibody vehicles.

I agree that there is no fix, but I without knowing the age, I would suggest that it is likely it is not that bad. Maybe the dealer just has not seen that kind of stuff in Utah or maybe he is just interested in making a sale.

If it is 20 years old, it likely is ready for scrap or as suggested as a donor for the special equipment. But if it is like 10 or even more, it may well look bad in comparison to Utah cars, but be structurally sound. Get a second opinion from an independent (non-dealer) source.

Since this original diagnosis, I have had a vehicle springs repairman look at the 2001 van… His opinion is that while does look bad… he thinks he can weld steel plates on it and strengthen it enough so that it is safe to drive… So we’ll see what happens… it is currently the only way that my husband can enter a vehicle with his motorized wheelchair… Thanks for your suggestions

I grew up in Ohio and now live in Utah and noticed immediately how cars rust much more slowly here. Even though Utah uses salt in the winter the dry climate seems to make a huge difference. I agree that some mechanics here aren’t used to seeing the rust that is prevalent elsewhere and may overreact. I agree to get second and third opinions.

I brought a car with me from Ohio (1977 Lincoln Mark V) that I battled rust on through the years until the car finally died of high miles (274,000). By then the rust had the upper hand but other Mark V’s from Utah looked pretty good. I continue to notice many older cars here with small amounts of rust that would be basketcases back in Ohio.

No car made today should be rusting out in 7 years. Was this van ever in a accident. If a van just living 7 years in Ohio rusts out…how about all the vans in Upstate NY where the get well more then twice the snow of Ohio…and use 2-3 times the amount of snow. My Nephew has a 95 Caravan and sure it shows signs of rust…but no rust through condition.

As for a fix…since it’s unibody you can probably get away with patching the holes. But I’m still very very surprised it’s rusted that badly.

You say no car lasts 7 year with out rust well they will if you touch up every piece of bare metal including rock chips I got a 2004 I drove every winter I owned it no body rust. And I live in iowa.

The OP probably sold the vehicule.This post is 10 year old.

1 Like

Re-read the post…I said no car should RUST OUT in 7 years.