Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tundra Tripletech Frame Explained

Godzilla vs. Megalon
By T.J. Houghton

Prior to becoming the General Sales Manager here for Jim McNatt, I spent 14 years in the Ford business. I bled “Ford Blue” and had total faith in the product, especially the F-150, Ford Motor Company’s bread and butter. Why wouldn’t I? The F-150 has been the best selling truck for as long as anyone can remember and for many of those years the #1 selling vehicle period including cars. Ford had set the benchmark for TOUGH in the truck business.
Along comes little ole me to the world of Toyota. They think they are going to take on F-150 with the new Tundra. And, they think they are going to do it with a frame that isn’t fully boxed. Yeah right! Ford had pounded into my head that a fully boxed frame was the ONLY way to build a truck. It sounded logical to me. A boxed frame resists twisting much better than a “C” channel frame. I believed them and I believed in them.
Off I go to Toyota’s truck plant in Indiana to see what all the hubbub is about. In a tent at the proving grounds sets a Tundra chassis (You know, this new Tripletech thing they keep talking about). Alongside the chassis is a guy in lab coat and he is going to go over the finer points of the new Tripletech frame. He doesn’t know it, but I brought my bullshit flag with me all the way from Texas. Over a 14 year span, I had been to every training class that Ford had offered on the F-150. I fed my family for all those years selling Fords and this touched me on a very personal level. I am going to throw my flag all over the place. This guy better not say one thing wrong. With one hand clinched tightly to my flag, I think to myself, “They are going to have to PROVE IT to me”.
Tundra’s Tripletech frame explained.
Lab Coat guy introduces himself and begins to describe what a Tripletech frame is. The front section is fully boxed where the engine sits and where the frame goes under the cab is a “Rolled C” section and under the bed of the truck is an “Open C” channel. Then he said the magic words… Let’s talk about the F-150. Ha! He just fell right into my plan!
With a firm grip on my BS flag I listen. He said that Ford had set the benchmark for tough in the truck business. (Hey! That’s what I said.) He said that Toyota was humbled by their first two attempts at entering the full size truck market. (Go on, I’m listening.) This time Toyota decided to use a different engineering approach. If you benchmark yourself against the best selling Truck in the market, yeah, you may be able to improve on it somewhat. But don’t think that Ford is sitting around on their hands doing nothing, just basking in the glow of being #1. They are working on improving their truck too! So what we decided to do is not benchmark any of the competition. Toyota actually talked to people and benchmarked what they wanted and needed in a truck. They copied nothing. The engineers looked at every piece and used a form follows function design process.
Do I have your attention yet?
The Tripletech frame is a big piece in Toyota’s form follows function methodology. Let’s discuss this in depth.
The front part of the frame has to carry the weight of the motor. Besides needing to carry all of that weight it has to handle the twisting motion from the engine as it applies its power through the transmission to the back wheels. Not to mention that it has to absorb all of the force from the suspension. The front part has to be very strong and be able to resist all of those twisting motions just described. Toyota Tripletech design is “Fully Boxed” here.
The middle part of the frame is located under the cab where things begin to calm down a little. The cab is a large structure that is very strong. It is designed to protect the occupants in case of a collision. The frame for this portion needs to be strong but, it isn’t subjected to the twisting forces like the front, so Toyota made this part of the frame a “Rolled C”. It’s not quite fully boxed but still very strong and also saves a little in weight. (You will see why this is important a little later.)
The back part of the frame under the bed (where the real work in a truck takes place) has to be strong. It has to be able to carry the weight from the payload. Payload is vertical weight, so Toyota designed this part of the frame using an “Open C” channel.
F-150 vs. Tundra
With my BS flag clutched firmly in hand let’s see if this really holds up:
· It must be less expensive to build the Tripletech frame. NO. It actually costs more to build it this way. Toyota benchmarked the task not the competition. Not being pinned down with trying to copy the competition, Toyota engineers were free to design a totally new frame. The Tripletech frame design is actually the best way to get the job done. It is a true form follows function system. Need more proof? Toyota’s Sequoia and 4Runner use a boxed frame design. Without the demands of a pickup bed the engineers know that a boxed frame performs better in this scenario. Most manufacturers use the same frame from their truck on their SUV’s to save money. Toyota doesn’t.
· If Tundra’s Tripletech frame is lighter than F-150’s boxed frame how can it be stronger? It isn’t stronger! Huh? It has been purposely designed to be strong where it needs to be. The weight savings has been specifically engineered in to increase payload capacity. Payload is not just what is put in the bed; it is any weight that presses down on the truck. This includes you, passengers, gear, even tongue weight of the trailer you pull. Ford touted that their fully boxed design was upwards of 300 pounds heavier than their previous frame. That means 300 less pounds of precious payload you can carry.
· F-150 boxed frame is stiff at the rear where the bed is. That has to be better even if it is heavier. Not true. Yes it is torsionally stiffer and heavier. The benefit of Tripletech’s “Open C” frame here is that it is very strong and able to handle the vertical weight of payload. Just look at a Peterbilt. It is built the same way. Tundra’s frame is more flexible and by design has become an integral part of the rear suspension. Tundra has leaf springs that are stiff enough to handle your payload needs and still have a great ride. In contrast, F-150’s boxed frame is indeed stiff so the rear leaf springs had to be softened to get the ride quality back in line. Guess what? It’s heavier and has to have softer springs to get a decent ride and ALL of this comes at the expense of payload capacity. That means if you take your family to the lake and pull your boat plus your normal day at the lake stuff, your family will have to take a separate car!

The new Tundra with its form follows function Tripletech frame design, more than gets the job done. In my opinion, it is the best half ton truck that money can buy. And speaking of money, have you compared prices? Toyota has done an excellent job of cost management and there is no disadvantage to the higher production price of their arguably superior frame design. And as it turns out, lab coat guy is from McKinney Texas! I knew I liked him... His name is Steve Shelley. Thanks for the great training Steve!
Strength for Strength Tundra is best.


  1. Why does the F150 have a considerably higher payload capacity than the Tundra then?

  2. I am sorry Matt. I used to bleed Ford Blue too. I feel your pain. The reason is that Payload and Towing are not regulated by any governmental agency so any manufacturer can post any payload or towing capacity they wish. Toyota is conservative in all of their postings. I actually saw a Ford with the bed loaded to capacity and you couldn't drive it at night because the back end sagged so low the lights pointed at the moon.

  3. Sorry Jim McNatt Toyota, but almost everything you have stated here is completely subjective. True, the Ford requires softer springs to get the ride quality the same, but take this into consideration: if you had that much to tow on a regular basis, wouldn't you just step up to a 3/4 ton??? Oh that's right, Toyota doesn't offer one. The half ton market is aimed more towards people who haul maybe a gym bag or some potting soil home from Lowe's. For these people, a boxed frame makes plenty of sense because they don't flex like a c- channel in the curves. Which, I hate to rub your nose in this, but most people who go out and buy a Toyota don't use them as a work truck.

    1. Lmao, people still buy a truck to work. A half ton is plenty capable for most jobs. People like you who need a truck to haul a gym bag unfortunately have small dicks. So he should be the one saying sorry to you. Just because they don't offer a full size truck doesn't mean they can't try and compete in the half ton segment. I don't see how that's related. I love ford truck but I don't have their dicks in my throat all day.

  4. Have you ever ridden in a 3/4 ton??? Totaly different animal. I took a trip with my buddy to Colorado last August. We pulled a 24' trailer full of gear, 4 motorcycles and enough supplies for a week in the mountain. Not exactly a gym bag. "but most people who go out and buy a Toyota don't use them as a work truck." Seems a little subjective to me. It's OK though I have a healthy respect for loyalty. As long as it isn't blind.

  5. The new tundra bed and rear chassis flexes so much off road that the bed eventually cracks all over from fatigue. Maybe it's good for smooth roads but there are serious issues off road.

  6. I had a 2011 Ford Raptor which unfortunately was totaled (t-boned) by a woman driving a suburban; who apparently becomes vision impaired when behind a windshield. After a month of grieving, I was unable to get back into a Raptor due to dealership markups $10k-15K at some dealerships. I looked into the Tundra. Bought a 2013 Tundra with the intent of adding a long travel suspension (Raptor Killer). Well...that "Open C" Channel which was discussed, makes the back end of the truck took like a rubber band when blazing through the desert over ruts at 70mph+. Did not have that issue in the fully boxed frame of the Raptor. Sure, the Tundra weighed almost 700lbs lighter, but at the expense of severe bed/cab damage. I ended up selling my Tundra and patiently waiting to purchase a 2014 Raptor through the Military overseas program.

    With that said, I wish the Raptor had the power train of the Tundra. The Toyota engineers did a phenomenal job with the engine/tranny. I don't even think you can add a tune to it they did such a good job. But, for my hobby and ease of daily driving a "baja" truck, I will take the Raptor.

    1. Tundras frame flex too much to the point this is by far the worse driving truck i owned.