Hidden frame rust lurking in used SUVs

When Ed Hood of Mt. Carmel, Ohio, needed a new car for his college bound daughter, a clean 2000 Isuzu Rodeo caught his eye.

It had low miles, no visible rust and a great engine.

But Hood says it's what lurked below the surface that could have caused a serious accident.  "The whole thing's rusted right through," Hood said.

Hood says hiding behind a layer of undercoating was major rust.  So bad that the rear suspension brace snapped off while his daughter was driving it.     

A Total Loss     
Worse, his mechanic told him the $4,000 SUV is irreparable.

"The car's a total loss," Hood said. "There is nothing left to weld to underneath there."
Hood says he called Isuzu, but was told the SUV is well out of any warranty.  "They explained there's pretty much nothing we can do for you," he said.

So we contacted Isuzu North America, where a spokesman told us the automaker had issued a voluntary recall -- now ended -- on suspension braces in 1998 - 2002 models. Since it was not government-ordered, the company was not required to offer a free repair forever.

The spokesman said, however, they would re-examine Hood's case if he contacts the company.

Not Just Rodeos
Hood is not alone. Internet postings show many older Rodeos -- and similar Isuzu Axioms and Honda Passports --with serious frame rust, if they were driven in northern states. The Passport is the same vehicle with Honda badges on it.

While it primarily involves vehicles sold north of Kentucky and Virginia, some rusted SUV's are now showing up in used car lots in southern and western states as well.

Hood wants other car shoppers to be careful buying a 1998 - 2002 Rodeo or Passport, no matter how nice it looks.

Lesson for all Car Buyers
In addition, there is a lesson here for all used car buyers: no matter how shiny the paint looks, what's underneath is more important.

Toyota (Tacoma pickup trucks) and Ford (Windstar minivan) have both had issues with serious rusting, that those companies have addressed in recent years.  Toyota bought back its trucks with rusting frames as a goodwill measure, but companies are not obligated to do that.

Remember: you can easily fix a broken door handle, or torn seat.  You may not be able to fix a rusted out frame.

As always, don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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