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Frame Rail: The Truck's Back Bone

The amount of horsepower that your truck possesses will not matter without the right chassis and frame rail to hold it together. The more pieces of improvements you put on your truck, the more demand you put on the truck's body, thus, the need for resistant chassis and to increase its integrity and rigidity.

Frame Rail
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The Configuration of Frame Rails

Trucks are designed to allow a couple of matching spaced-apart C-shaped cross section frame rails that extend the extent of the truck. The frame rails are cut and formed using high-strength steel to ensure that it could carry the weight of the whole vehicle. Most trucks make use of ladder-type frames with cross-members and side rails. The frames are exposed to the following types of loads:

  • Vertical
  • Side
  • Torsional or twisted

The side frame rails supports the vertical and the side loads that include the engine, fuel tanks, transmission, suspensions, battery boxes, work equipment, bodies, and cargo. The cross-members, being the boxed section of steel attached across the frame, basically provide torsional support and rigidity component for the engine, radiator and transmission. It also prevents the side frame rails from being twisted with side loads specifically the battery box and fuel tank.

The Importance of Frame Rail

A normal frame section with support at each end creates compression at its top and tension at the bottom when loaded in the middle. The part where there is a total absence of stress is the neutral axis, which is why welding and holes in this part do not have a significant effect on the strength of the frame. However, holes and welding close to the flanges can cause the frame to fail for losing its strength. This is the reason why all chassis manufacturers are careful enough with regards to the dimension and position of holes and most of them restricts welding on the frame itself. The ability of your truck to withstand force or weight and the distance with which it can travel with full support is dependent on the measurement of the front end of the frame and the front axle.

The Maximum Stress

The truck frame nomenclature includes:

  • The web on the vertical section of the frame rail.
  • The flange on the horizontal section found on the top and/or bottom of the frame rail.
  • The centroid on the cross section of the frame rail and the core of the material.
  • The shear center which is the point where the frame rail will not collapse despite taking a vertical load.

Yield strength characterizes the material, and it is also the maximum stress that the material will be able to sustain without causing any permanent distortion to the frame rail. It is otherwise referred to as the frame's ultimate strength. When the shape of the frame rail changes, it causes the yield strength to exceed and ultimately collapsing of the frame. But it is not the yield strength that causes the frame to give in. Fatigue or the mechanical term for the behavior of the frame material when subjected to regular stress is what kills the truck frames.

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