11 Common Toyota Land Cruiser Problems (Explained)

The Toyota Land Cruiser earned its legendary status thanks to its outstanding reliability and off-road capability. 

Over the years, it gained more creature comforts, enabling you to circumnavigate the globe and tackle the most challenging terrain without breaking a sweat.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the Land Cruiser’s common problems and their solutions.

1. Blown Radiator

It’s very common for the radiator in the 100 and 200 Series Land Cruisers to eventually crack and leak at around 80,000 to 100,000 miles.

The leak usually starts around the rectangular area where the part number is stamped on the top of the radiator.

Many owners don’t even notice any cracks or leaks at first, before the plastic portions of the radiator just suddenly let go and coolant gets sprayed everywhere.

This problem affects the 2008 to 2018 model years of the Land Cruiser the most, as well as the Lexus LX 570 which uses the same 5.7-liter V8.

Here’s how a few owners described their experience on the IH8Mud.com forum:

“I have a 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser. Noticed that I’ve been leaking radiator fluid often for a while. Been filling reserve tank, have had no over heating or any lights come on. Recently I noticed splattered radiator fluid on my bonnet and top of my radiator and elsewhere.” 

“I have a 2013 with 170k. I have the infamous crack and need to replace the radiator.” 

“Mine blew at 129,000 two days ago. I changed the spark plugs a few weeks ago and visually inspected that area of the radiator because of this thread. I didn’t see anything to indicate imminent failure.”

“Checked my ‘11 200 at 79k miles and it was fine, checked again yesterday at 82k miles and guess what?! The crack has started at the same spot. No leak yet but I am sure it will let go soon!’

To prevent the radiator from leaking prematurely, many owners patch the rectangular area with JB Weld to strengthen it a bit. This prolongs the life of the radiator for a while, but doesn’t completely prevent the rest of the plastics from getting brittle and cracking over time.

“My patch lasted years, until pretty much the entire radiator plastics succumbed to heat cycle exhaustion.”

Toyota eventually updated the radiator in 2018, so the 2019 and newer model years of the Land Cruiser should be less prone to radiator issues.

A new radiator from Toyota costs around $300 to $400. Getting it replaced at a dealer might cost around $800 in total, including labor.

In a lot of cases, the water pump will also be replaced at the same time because they’re also known to start leaking at around 100,000 miles.

2. Water Pump Leak

Leaking water pumps is a common problem on the 200 Series Land Cruiser even before they hit 100,000 miles.

When the water pump starts leaking, you’ll usually see pink coolant around the water pump and the front of the engine, as well as on the front skid plate.

The Lexus LX 570 and Toyota Tundra, which have the same 5.7-liter V8 and water pump, also suffer from similar issues. 

It’s also a fairly common problem on the older 100 Series model, but the water pump is usually changed out at the same time as the timing belt service. 

Here’s how a few 200 Series owners described their experience on IH8Mud.com:

“Water pump failure is so common (mine is starting to seep at 89K miles) that replacing one around 100k miles is just a good idea.”

“Turns out my 08 200 (95k) needs a pump, stalactites down the front of the motor. I’ll put in a new AISIN pump and red coolant.”

“My Water Pump started leaking at about 96K.. Replacement is being done by Toyota but does not look that bad really to do, just don’t have time. Total for Job is $1,100 they’re about.. parts and labor, loner car included.”

“My nearly 6-year old Cruiser’s water pump was found to be leaking at 58K miles. I had not noticed the issue at all and was surprised by it.. Paid approx $900 to have it replaced.”

A new OEM water pump costs around $150, but you’ll also have to get new belts and seals. 

An independent mechanic or Toyota Dealership might charge anywhere from $700 to $1,000 to do the job.

3. Valley Plate Coolant Leak

Coolant can leak from the valley plate in the middle of the engine which requires taking off the intake manifold and lots of other parts. 

This leak can be difficult to identify unless you can stick a boroscope in the middle of the engine to confirm that coolant is pooling in the valley plate.

A leak test can also verify if any other parts are leaking coolant, and it’s not actually coming from the valley plate seal.

Other common symptoms of a valley plate leak include: 

  • Coolant levels always low
  • Sweet smell of burnt coolant
  • Coolant on the back of the engine and transmission housing

Valley plate leaks are common on the 200 Series Land Cruiser, Lexus LX 570, and Toyota Tundra. The Lexus GX 460 and Toyota Sequoia also suffer from similar problems.

Here’s how a few owners described their experience on the 200 Series forum on IH8Mud.com:

“My truck had the coolant valley leak before I got it at 60k.”

“From what I’ve noticed, there does not seem to be trend on a mileage range of when the valley plate begins to leak. The ones I’ve done have had between 50-250k.”

“Dealer just confirmed it’s the valley plate. They ran a boroscope and couldn’t see evidence but couldn’t explain where else the leak would have been coming from, and a quart of coolant loss a month meant there had to be a leak somewhere. $1400 plus ~$100 in parts.”  

“Well, it was my turn to reseal the valley cover plate after months of disappearing coolant that eventually left a trail of pink crud all over the passenger side of the transmission bellhousing. 2008 LX with 178k miles. Never got a drop of coolant on the floor.”

Fixing the valley plate can easily cost around $1,500 to $2,000 due to the amount of work involved.

Aside from taking off a lot of parts on top of the engine, the dried up coolant has to be scraped off completely. 

In a lot of cases, the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system is also refreshed since all the parts necessary to get to it have already been removed.

If you don’t mind constantly checking and topping off your coolant, and risk overheating the engine, you can put off the repair for quite some time.

4. Heater Hose T-Fitting Failure

A common failure in a lot of older 100 Series is the eventual disintegration of the plastic T-fitting for the heater hoses in the back of the engine bay near the firewall. 

When the hose fitting eventually breaks, the truck won’t be able to hold any coolant and will leave you stranded because the engine will overheat constantly if you try to drive it — potentially causing even more catastrophic engine damage.

Most 100 Series owners don’t know about this potential failure and are still using original hose fittings that came with the truck.

Here’s how a few 100 Series owners described their experience on IH8Mud.com:

“I parked in my driveway after a quick trip to the gas station (the 100 series’ natural habitat) and smelled burning coolant. I popped the hood and started poking around looking for potential leaks as any fool would… I inspected the heater hoses for leaking coolant. I got a face full of hot coolant as the hot-side heater T disintegrated upon my touch/wiggle inspection.”

“Mine turned to powder at 309K miles. Clearly original.”

“Left my 2001 lx470 (97k miles) idling for a few minutes. Overheated and then the Heater t busted, or the heater t busted just because it’s old, not too sure. My neighbor turned the truck off, but he said there was smoke everywhere, etc. not sure what damage was done, but I replaced both T’s.”

If you see a lot of smoke coming from the heater hose T fitting, it’s best to leave the truck alone so that it can cool off. 

In a lot of cases, even moving around the hoses can cause the fittings to crumble and you risk getting sprayed with hot coolant.

100 Series owners recommend replacing the fittings every 100,000 miles. There are also aftermarket replacements made out of copper which should be more durable. 

However, most owners still choose to go with the genuine Toyota parts to avoid issues with galvanic corrosion. 

5. Oil Leaks

Although Land Cruiser engines are extremely reliable, they can still develop oil leaks as the seals and gaskets wear out over time.

With the 200 Series Land Cruiser from 2008 onwards, some of the common oil leaks include:

  • Cam tower leak
  • Camshaft seal
  • Rear main seal
  • Timing cover or front main seal
  • Oil pan
  • Valve cover gasket

Cam tower leaks are more common in the Tundra, which has the same engine, but is assembled in a different factory; unlike the Land Cruiser 200 and Lexus LX 570 which are assembled in Japan.

Similar leaks, except for the cam tower leak, can also affect the 100 Series.

With the 80 Series, the distributor O-ring and oil pump cover gasket are also known to leak oil.

Here’s what a few owners on IH8Mud.com had to say:

“My 2011 with 69,000 miles is bone dry. But, I looked at a 2008 today with about 175,000 miles that has dirty oil on the passenger side where the typical cam tower leak shows. Not a lot of oil, but it was there for sure.”

“2013 Toyota Land Cruiser 5.7L V8 93,500 miles. Serviced religiously at Toyota Dealership and every service interval and all recommended maintenance has been done for the past decade. I recently noticed the beginning of the engine oil seep (or leak) in the timing cover. Smelled oil burning on the exhaust, and a light tick noise on the drivers side of engine (with cold starts for 30 seconds or so). The Toyota Tech verified I am dealing with the infamous Cam Tower Leaks, Timing Cover Leak, Valley Plate Coolant Leak, and Chain Tensioner issue.” 

“I was quoted $3k on the timing cover and have just ignored it as it just seeps a little, not even noticeable on the dipstick after 6k miles.” 

Fixing the cam tower leak requires taking apart the front and top of the engine, and can cost around $2,000 to $3,000 if you have to do both sides of the engine.

The timing cover leak is also fairly expensive because the front of the engine has to be disassembled and takes the same amount of work as a timing chain job.

A leaky rear main seal will also require a lot of work since the transmission has to be disconnected from the engine. However, it’s easy to mistake a leaking oil pan for a rear main seal leak.

Fortunately, these issues don’t really cause a lot of oil to leak out or even drip on the ground. In a lot of cases, owners only have to top up around a quart of oil in between their regular oil changes.

You can put off the repairs for several years until they get really bad. You just need to regularly check the oil and keep a quart of oil in the truck if you’re going on a long trip. 

6. Exhaust Manifold Leak

The 100 Series Land Cruiser from 1998 to 2002 have exhaust manifolds that are notorious for cracking and leaking.

In a lot of cases, the exhaust leak creates a ticking noise when the engine is cold started. 

This ticking or tapping noise can be mistaken for a lifter tick or a timing chain rattle, but the 100 Series uses a timing belt instead of a timing chain.

2003 and newer model years have an updated exhaust manifold which aren’t as prone to cracking, but can still fail at higher mileages.

The Lexus LX 470 can also suffer from similar exhaust manifold issues.

Here’s how a few owners described their experience on IH8Mud.com:

“Ticking noise when cold can be an exhaust manifold leak sound. It’s possible that the sound goes away when the metal warms up and partially seals the crack/hole. This was very common on 100 series land cruisers.”

“In my case, what I thought was a simple cracked OEM manifold turned out to be a 1/2” x 1/2” chunk missing off the front of the manifold at the #1 cylinder. Was full tractor mode. I didn’t know how severe it was until I got the manifold out.”

Another owner on the r/LandCruisers subreddit had this to say:

“My 2001 LC has about 190K miles on it. Cracked exhaust manifold passenger side. Loud(ish) tick-tick-tick when accelerating if vehicle is stone cold, quickly subsides when things heat up and the metal expands, mostly sealing the crack.”

“Previous owner warned me about it, said it happened right after the timing belt was changed at 110K miles. He was planning to wait for something more serious to indicate before replacing it; to him it was just an annoyance. Never did replace it.”

“I bought the vehicle with 155K miles, and I’ve put on another roughly 35K. Never gets better, never gets worse – it just is what it is.”

New exhaust manifolds from Toyota aren’t too expensive at around $300 a side. 

It can still cost over $1,000 if you have the job done at a Toyota dealer. If you have to replace both sides, the total cost might even exceed $2,000.

The passenger side is much easier to replace compared to the driver’s side since you have to remove the steering as well to access the exhaust manifold.

Local mechanics and exhaust shops should be able to do the job for around $500 to $600 in labor. It can get more expensive if the bolts are damaged or if the truck has a lot of rust on it. 

Some owners were also able to get away with welding the crack shut, but in a lot of cases, the flange that bolts to the engine’s exhaust port is also damaged.  

Related: 25 Best & Worst Toyota Land Cruiser Years (Pictures & Stats)

7. Starter Problems

The starter of the 200 Series Land Cruiser and Lexus LX 570 has a tendency to fail earlier than expected.

Most failures occur at around 100,000 to 150,000 miles. The starters in older 80 Series and 100 Series Land Cruisers tended to last over 200,000 miles.

Although the starter is considered a wear item, most owners don’t preemptively replace them until it shows signs of failure.

The most common sign of an imminent starter failure is when you intermittently only get a click and don’t hear the engine crank when trying to start the truck. 

The starter can also just stop working all of a sudden without any prior symptoms.

Here’s how owners on IH8Mud.com described their experience:

“I just replaced my starter. My Land Cruiser has 175K Miles. I had issues starting the car. I replaced the battery and after a couple of weeks, the starter went out. Only clicks could be heard when I attempted multiple times to start the car. I had to tow the car to my Toyota Dealer. It ended up costing me $1,200.” 

“I can report after ruling out other possibilities, starter is dead and my mechanic confirmed it… 2010 LX 128K. Since we all know this is a common failure on the 200 series between 120-150k.”

“Mine sounded a little funny and took a beat longer to start maybe 5 times, and then it died for good. 155k-ish miles.”

Although the starter is only around $200, in the 200 Series, it’s buried deep inside the engine bay under the passenger side exhaust manifold. 

You’ll have to remove the exhaust manifold and downpipe to get to the old starter, so it can take several hours to replace.

It’s not unusual for dealers and local mechanics to charge around 6 to 9 hours worth of labor for this type of job.

If you’re experiencing starting issues, you should first check the battery terminals for corrosion and also verify if the 12-volt battery is still working properly, before troubleshooting the starter.

In a lot of cases, it’s just the starter solenoid that’s malfunctioning. If you’re in the middle of nowhere and the starter goes out, you can try jumping the starter motor itself if you have the tools to access it.

In the older 100 Series and 80 Series, it’s usually just the starter contacts that fail, which can be replaced for around $15, and the starter itself isn’t too hard to get to.

8. Blown Head Gasket 

Head gasket failures are a known problem with the 80 Series Land Cruisers, which were sold from 1992 to 1997, as well as on the Lexus LX 450.

Although there are many examples of Cruisers going past 300,000 miles on the original head gasket, most failures occur at around 200,000 to 250,000 miles.

The head gasket seals up the engine block and the cylinder head. When it fails, you’ll experience symptoms like:

  • Misfires
  • Rough running
  • Coolant mixing with oil
  • Loss of coolant
  • White smoke from exhaust
  • Overheating

When the engine misfires due to head gasket issues, it’s usually due to lack of compression on cylinder number 6.

Here’s how a few owners described their experience on IH8Mud.com:

“My 1994 Land Cruiser blew the head gasket today. It didn’t overheat, and no water in the oil, but water coming out of the exhaust with some white fog.”

“My ’97 went 316K miles before the head gasket perished.”

“Just lost mine at 280K but I had the fan clutch fail and overheat the truck.”

“Mine went semi-catastrophically at 286,750 miles, almost exactly 20 years after manufacture. Typical cylinder #6 failure, bunch of coolant went down the exhaust and damaged my cats at the same time. I think the thermal shock fractured the ceramic parts inside, sounded like I had a can full of gravel under my truck after the HG repair.”

A lot of head gasket failures are caused by overheating problems. Aside from ensuring that the radiator, hoses, and water pump aren’t leaking, a faulty fan clutch, which is another common issue on the 80 Series, can also cause the engine to overheat and damage the head gasket.

Replacing the head gasket requires taking off the cylinder head completely which is a pretty big job in itself. 

In a lot of cases, the constant overheating can also warp or damage the cylinder head, so it will have to be sent off to a machine shop before it can be reused.

All of this work can easily cost $3,000 or more, and should be done by an experienced mechanic who does a lot of engine work.  

9. Transmission Issues

When the 200 Series Land Cruiser got equipped with the 8-speed automatic transmission for the 2016 model year, a lot of owners complained about rough shifting from 1st to 2nd gear, and vice versa.

The rough shifting typically only appears when driving at low speeds, such as when you’re coming to a stop or accelerating from a stop.

The shifting on both the 6 and 8-speed transmissions can also be pretty hard if you’ve floored the gas pedal.

A few owners on IH8Mud.com shared their experience:

“I have a 2018 that I mentioned this TSB to dealer because I experienced the same thing. They told me I already had the new software version loaded… . When rolling to a stop then reaccelerating before coming to a complete stop the shift from 1-2 feels like the damn Trans is gonna fall out of the truck. That’s where it is worst for me. But the downshift from 2-1 can be a good jolt at times as well.”

“It’s the same on my 2020. Other than missing some of the latest tech (such as CarPlay) that I knew about before purchase, this is the one thing that really bugs me. IMHO, the solution of switching to ECT power mode doesn’t really help much.”

“I have a 2016 (unknown if it was reflashed) and when merging on the highway with the pedal fully depressed it shifts pretty rough. I also have experienced it at the lower gears when around town.”

“I bought a 2016 LC 7 months ago. It had 4k miles on it. It was quite a find. So I traded in my 2011 LC and drove home with basically a brand new vehicle for me. I noticed from the day I bought it that the shifting from first to second gear seemed to skip. It was VERY subtle. As the miles have ticked on, the skipping/shudder has become more noticeable, only from 1st to 2nd. I now have 13k miles on it.”

Due to the number of complaints, Toyota issued a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for the 2016 to 2017 models which recommended updating the software for the TCM (Transmission Control Module).

Many owners reported noticing an improvement with the updated software. However, there are still people with newer trucks that weren’t included in the TSB who have complained of similar issues.

To minimize the rough shifting, you can adjust your driving style and ease off the throttle a bit more when driving at lower speeds. 

Others have also mentioned that switching to different power modes using the ECT (Electronically Controlled Transmission) button is worth a try.

Some owners have even gone as far as installing aftermarket devices like a Pedal Commander to smooth out the throttle mapping and eliminate the shuddering.

In older models with the 6-speed transmission, many owners have reported that re-greasing or even replacing the driveshaft got rid of the shuddering and thumping they experienced. 

10. Steering Rack Issues

The steering rack on a lot of older 100 Series Land Cruisers have a tendency to leak and eventually fail, especially if they’re driven off-road a lot.

Over the years, there have been many cases of steering racks going out at around 100,000 to 150,000 miles. 

Of course, there are also trucks with almost 300,000 miles that are still using the original steering racks, but they could also fail anytime soon. This isn’t too surprising considering their current age.

Common symptoms of a faulty steering rack in a 100 Series include:

  • Wet tie rod boots
  • Heavy or notchy steering
  • Noise when turning the wheel
  • Play in steering wheel
  • Reservoir is always losing power steering fluid 

The tie rod boots get visibly wet when the steering rack’s output shaft starts leaking fluid. 

The leaks are often very small and don’t affect the fluid levels in the reservoir too much, but the hoses can also break down over time and cause larger leaks.

The rack’s internals and the power steering pump will also get worn out quicker if the fluid is old and dirty.  

Here’s how a few owners on IH8Mud.com described their experience:

“I noticed some sounds coming from the power steering. Sure enough the level in the reservoir was low and I found some wet spots under the driver side of the vehicle. After jacking it up and turning the wheel back and forth there is a significant amount of fluid shooting from a small tear that was previously on the inner tie rod boot. Took the rack off. The rack was leaking at the output shafts on both sides but worse on the driver’s side.”

“I have my 2000 LC in the shop right now for tie rods (inner and outer) as well as steering rack bushings. I just received a text from the shop saying they pulled the tie rods and the rack is leaking from the rack and pinion.”

A new 100 Series steering rack costs around $700 if you decide to go with the genuine Toyota part. There are also remanufactured units that cost around $300 to $400, but these don’t typically last as long.

Most dealerships will charge around $1,500 in total to replace the rack using the genuine part.

If you’re only seeing a small leak, but don’t really notice any other major symptoms, you could also just replace the fluid and add a Stop Leak like AT-205.

Many 100 Series owners were able to continue using their trucks for quite some time using this workaround, before having to completely replace the steering rack.

However, if you regularly drive your rig in the middle of nowhere, it’s best to just replace the steering rack to avoid getting stranded.

11. Seat Issues

Several 200 Series Land Cruiser owners have experienced seat heater malfunctions where it will turn on randomly or just not work at all.

These problems seem to be more common in the 2016 and newer models. 

The Lexus LX 570, which has both heated and ventilated seats, has also had more seat issues over the years since its debut.

A few owners on IH8Mud.com described their experience below:

“As of a couple weeks ago, the driver’s side heated seat just comes on. To high. No light. Cycling the switch on and off doesn’t help. 2018 LC.”

“My 2016 is at the dealer now and apparently the wiring harness that they thought was the problem may have not been the problem. Now looking at sensors in the seat. Same as you, comes on but won’t turn off.”

“2018 108,000 miles. Seat heater comes on full blast for 15 minutes then it will turn off for 10 minutes or so then it repeats.”

“I have a new-to-me 2011 LX 570. Driver seat works great. Passenger seat doesn’t: the switch doesn’t light up, and neither the heat nor cool (nor ventilation) functions work.”

“I have the same issue with passenger seat on my 2010 LX. Switch doesn’t light up, and none of the ventilating/heating features work. I replaced the switch itself but it didn’t help. I’m guessing the ventilation/heater ECU assembly under the seat needs replacing. Last I checked it was around $800-ish if I’m not mistaken.”

The 200 Series has more creature comforts and electronics compared to previous generations, making it more likely to suffer from typical modern car problems.

These electronics can get damaged by water if the truck is driven through water crossings and the interior gets flooded.

Water can also leak into the cabin via the sunroof or the windshield if it has been previously replaced and not installed correctly.

The wiring, switches and modules can also wear out on their own.

Check the fuses first and the wiring harnesses for any obvious defects. You can also try spraying electronics contact cleaner on the electrical connectors and modules to clean out any corrosion.

In some cases, owners have had to replace the seat ECU which costs around $600 for each seat. Switches and wiring harnesses are also rather expensive and can cost around $100 to $200 per piece.  

Toyota Land Cruiser Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding reliability
  • Heavy duty components
  • Highly capable off-roader
  • Roomy interior
  • Comfortable ride
  • Decent towing capacity
  • Good resale value

Cons

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Expensive
  • Not as luxurious or refined as rivals
  • Outdated infotainment and tech
  • Latest generation is based on light duty Prado/Lexus GX platform

What Do The Reviews Say?

“The 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser employs an old-school body-on-frame construction and a trick suspension setup to deliver exceptional off-road performance.” 

“Since so many of its competitors are comfortable, luxury-focused crossovers, the Land Cruiser’s rock-crawling abilities are virtually unmatched in its class.”

“It exhibits unrefined on-road manners, with heavy steering, touchy brakes and ponderous handling. Its technology interface also feels behind the times — Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available — and its sole engine choice is thirsty.“

“The engine and transmission work fine on the highway, but some drivers might find the accelerator too sensitive at low speeds, and the transmission can get too “shifty” on long grades.”

“But get it off-road and the Cruiser shines brightly. Its suspension allows for loads of articulation as the Multi-Terrain Select System also seeks out every bit of traction from the ground. Crawl Control keeps the Land Cruiser pushing through soft and rocky terrain. If you want a seriously off-roadable full-size SUV, then this dinosaur may fit the bill.”

“On the inside, many competitors feature seats with fancy massaging and multi-way adjustability, but the Land Cruiser’s relatively old-school seats still provide all-day comfort. It’s also quiet, which reduces your fatigue on long road trips.” 

“The Cruiser’s high 8,200-pound towing capacity puts it on par with many full-size trucks. And its split rear hatch provides a handy tailgate that acts as a cargo fence, bench or baby-changing station.”

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser | Edmunds

What’s the Resale Value of a Toyota Land Cruiser?

Here’s a quick look at used car pricing for the Land Cruiser on Edmunds at the time of writing.

YearMileagePrice
202119,855$87,884
202030,987$79,890
201951,551$75,000
201854,200$67,495
201776,035$58,601
201681,421$53,300
201581,500$49,494
2014117,241$39,995
2013121,745$35,588
2012155,639$29,995

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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