11 Most Common Toyota Tacoma Problems (Explained)

The Toyota Tacoma is very popular because it’s a reliable, capable off-roader, and can easily haul a lot of stuff.

Older Tacomas have a huge following because they are easy to maintain and are just the perfect size.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Tacoma’s common problems and their solutions.

1. Frame Rust

Older Toyota Tacomas can suffer from really bad frame rust problems.

The drivetrain might have no problem going several hundred thousand miles, but if rust eats holes through the frame, it will no longer be safe to drive.

It’s especially common if the truck is not washed off after it’s been exposed to road salt.

The first generation Tacoma, in particular, had problems

Here’s what owners on TacomaWorld.com had to say:

“Toyota frames have been rusting in half since the first pickup left the line. I suspect the 3rd gen is no different but only time will tell.”

“The first generation of Tacomas had the biggest issue with the frames rotting out from underneath. It seems that the 2005 Models had some issues with rust by the catalytic converter.” 

“2012-15 are less likely, but still very much so have major risk for rust perforation.”

“My first generation frame rusted through in 7 years (and was replaced by Toyota).”

“Brought my 2011 Tacoma in today for inspection and CRC spray. Looks like I will be in a loaner vehicle for a while. After inspection they decided I need a new frame.”

To deal with the high number of complaints about Tacoma frames rusting away, Toyota extended the warranty of the frames and replaced those that had holes in them.

The 2016 to 2017 third gen Tacoma also had a special service campaign where dealers applied anti-corrosion products on the frame to prevent excessive rust problems.

If you want to keep your frame from rotting away, you need to protect the underside of the truck with products like Fluid Film, Waxoyl or Krown.

Most Tacoma enthusiasts use rust protection on the underside of the truck at least once a year. 

“For my current (and forever) Gen 1, and for my Gen 2, it’s Fluid Film once or twice a year.”

2. Head Gasket Issues

Early years of the second generation Tacoma with the 4.0-liter V6 had lots of head gasket failures.

The 2005 to 2006 models were the first years of the 4.0 V6 and had head gaskets with design flaws that would cause them to fail at around 150,000 miles.

Common symptoms of head gasket failures in the Tacoma include:

  • Bubbling coolant
  • Overheating
  • Misfires
  • Rough running
  • Coolant mixing with oil
  • Traces of coolant leaks on the engine
  • Smoke from exhaust

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

“I have an 05 4×4 double cab long bed and recently did my head gaskets myself. I was experiencing the misfire on cylinders 4 and 6 only at startup and then it would clear up after 10 sec or so. I did some diag and also got an oil analysis to confirm coolant in the oil. Truck was at about 198k miles when I did the job.”

“I am very angry that my son only has 146k on his 2005 Toyota Tacoma and the service department is saying he may have to replace his head gasket for $3k+.”

“I’m coming to the realization that I will have to undertake this as my 05 with 145k keeps throwing the p304 (cyl 4 misfire). I also seem to have to add roughly an inch worth of coolant in the reservoir every few weeks. I have already replaced plugs and coils. The rough start is intermittent and may go days without happening but the bottom line is it keeps coming back.” 

Replacing the head gasket requires basically rebuilding the engine and can cost around $3,000 if you have to send parts to the machine shop as well.

When the head gasket fails, the car might constantly overheat and the cylinder heads could warp or crack if you keep running the engine.

You can also just drop in a used engine for much cheaper, but there’s no way to tell how long it will last.

To avoid head gasket issues, make sure the cooling system is working properly because overheating is one of the main causes of head gaskets blowing out.

Toyota also updated the head gasket design in the 2007 and newer model years to address the premature failures.

3. Transmission Issues

There were a lot of complaints with the 6-speed auto when it first came out in the third gen Tacoma in 2016 and 2017.

Common complaints included:

  • Rough 1st to 2nd gear shift
  • Won’t move after shifting to Drive
  • Delayed upshift in cruise control
  • Not in the right gear

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

“I had the transmission delay issue a couple times even if I completely stopped and felt the tranny shifted into drive. It still slips for a second. I had my tranny fluid checked and I watched the tech. My truck is not low on fluid. Now I wait about a second or 2 after it shifts and no problems. Maybe it’s just slow at shifting from R to D.”

“I have a 2016 TRD Off Road, automatic 6 cylinder. Bought it when it was 2 years old. First drives, the shifting was very terrible. Just hunting for gears like crazy.”

“I have had about 4 software updates on the Taco now. Currently, it is much better. Power not an issue, very responsive from a full stop, same if you need to get moving or pass.”

Toyota updated the third gen Tacoma’s transmission software several times over the years, which made the problems pretty much go away.

However, some owners were still not satisfied with the gearbox’s performance after getting all the updates:

“I have a 2016 that’s had all the updates and it is still a slug, and shifts constantly, especially on the interstate…as a result I hardly ever drive it, I drive a 2011 Rav 4 that drives circles around it.”

“Bought a 2016 Tacoma SR5 A/T pre-owned with only 12k miles. I love the truck, but there are a few distinct transmission issues. I’m well aware this model is “geared”/programmed for gas mileage, but there is no doubting the transmission was not properly tuned or tested correctly before selling these trucks. I believe the core issue is that there is a TERRIBLE mis-match between engine transmission.”

“I have a 2020 SR5 4×4 and the transmission drives me insane sometimes. I currently have 780 miles so far and it seems to like to upshift and downshift erratically. at highway speeds sometimes I feels like it gets stuck in 4th gear and then switches gears extremely fast.” 

If you suddenly experience transmission problems, you should check the transmission fluid first and make sure it isn’t low. 

Getting a few drain and fills can get rid of the old fluid and ensure that the transmission is working at its best. 

4. Engine Noise

Many owners have been disappointed with the unrefined and loud noises the engine makes, which is commonly called the “Taco Tick.”

Complaints about excessive engine noise started in 2005 with the second generation Tacoma’s 4.0-liter V6, known as the 1GR-FE. And they continued on into the newer generations.

Aside from the constant ticking, the engine will sometimes make a pinging or knocking noise.

The most common culprits when it comes to ticking engine noises are:

  • Injectors
  • Valvetrain
  • Timing chain
  • Excess carbon buildup

A few owners on TacomaWorld.com shared their experiences:

“My 09 has ticked since the day I bought it (with 48k miles on it). I tried the washer trick and it might have helped minimally but I’m up to 123k miles now and the sound hasn’t really changed. I was told it’s a normal taco sound so I wrote it off as such. But, with that said, any time I’m driving next to a concrete median or wall, I can definitely hear it.”

“My 09 did it and I was concerned it was a lifter or something else critical. I got my 2015 @ one year old with 20K miles and it did it. I soon discovered here that it is a normal sound.”

“Engine always sounds like it’s low on oil, and in fact people ask regularly if it’s low on oil lol.”

“Sounds just like my 22 Sport. I thought it was ticking too, but since day 1 it’s been the same. My buddy has the exact same truck as mine and his is identical sounding,”

The Taco Tick is just a normal characteristic of the engine when it’s running on low quality fuel.

Many owners report that using premium gas can make the engine run a bit quieter. 

“These are tuned to run as lean as possible, thus pinging at times. My 13 does it on 87, but 89 almost never.”

Toyota also updated the ECU software for the later model years of the second gen Tacomas to lessen the noise they make.

Some Tacoma owners were able to make their engine quieter after using Sea Foam and/or other engine cleaners to burn up and remove the excess carbon buildup.

Installing sound deadening products like Dynomat can also make the cabin quieter so you don’t always have to listen to the engine chatter.

5.  Secondary Air Injection Pump Issues

The second generation Tacoma has a secondary air injection system (SAIS) that can fail and cause a check engine light.

The air injection pump, which is part of the emissions system, has a tendency to fail after only a couple of years and can be very expensive to replace.

In a lot of cases, the foam filter inside the pump gets sucked in and burns out the motor.

The air switching valves can also get stuck, leading to trouble codes, and the truck might go into limp mode.

Pump failures can affect all the 4-cylinder models, but a lot were also reported for the 2012 model year of the V6, which is the first year it started using SAIS.

Here’s how owners on TacomaWorld.com described their problems:

“My 2012 has less than 50,000 miles and it started throwing multiple codes (P2440, P2442, P0418) all relating to the secondary air pump a few weeks ago. It only happens when the engine is cold and ambient air temp is below about 85F.”

“My 2015 1GR-FE just got its valves stuck at ~61k miles. I turned off the car a while after cold start and instead of the usual whirring noise, I heard a surge. Checked pump, a bit dusty and ashy from the recent fires but nothing alarming. The valves though, caked in emissions though I haven’t checked if they were actually stuck – but I’m gonna assume they are. Will get to cleaning it and pray that it’ll free up the diaphragm or does something. Those repair bills don’t look that enticing.”

Due to the numerous failures, Toyota extended the warranty of the 2012 Tacoma’s air injection pump to 10 years or 150,000 miles.

A new OEM air injection pump from Toyota costs around $800 while a new switching valve costs around $150.

You can look for used pumps or aftermarket units if you want to save some money.

Toyota also updated the part in the 2013 to 2015 models, which should make it less prone to failure.

Some owners also just remove the system altogether using a delete kit. But this is only an option if your state doesn’t have emissions inspections.

Others replaced the foam filter with a standard cone filter which eliminates the problem of motors burning out.

Related: 24 Best & Worst Toyota Tacoma Years (With Facts & Stats)

6. Radio Problems

As the second generation Tacoma gets older, more and more people have been experiencing radio head unit problems.

On CarComplaints.com, the 2009 model year had the highest number of reported radio issues.

Common problems included:

  • Turns off at random
  • No volume control
  • Flickering or dim lights
  • Display goes out
  • Radio won’t turn on

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

“I am having a problem with the radio on my 2012 Taco where sometimes I get into my truck and the radio wont turn on and other times it works fine. It’s been going on for about a year now and I haven’t seen any patterns like only broken when raining, or hot etc. Seems completely random.”

“I have been having the same problem. I have a 2012 and I can’t find a pattern as to when it will happen or what may be causing it. My problem presents itself a few different ways. Sometimes my display will go off but the radio is still on and I can’t control anything on it. Other times the radio will be on and the display dims so low that I can barely see it, but I can still control it. And I also experience what you have and it won’t turn on at all. I have just lived with it.” 

“Mine died in 2020. Dealer quoted me 1200$ installed. Unit is made by Panasonic. We went with Kenwood 250$ installed, works great.”

If the radio is always turning off at random or not turning on at all, there might be a wiring issue or blown fuse.

You can also try spraying contact cleaner on the volume knobs to clean them out if they’re not working properly.

In some cases, the radio itself just dies. Getting a used radio or a new aftermarket head unit is your best bet since the original OEM radio will be significantly more expensive.  

7. Broken Leaf Springs

Bent or broken leaf springs are a common problem in a lot of older Tacomas.

When the leaf springs wear out and lose their shape, the rear of the truck will sag even if there’s no weight in the back.

You also won’t be able to haul anything close to what it was originally rated for as the suspension will bottom out.

Reports of worn leaf springs can be found in all model years of the Tacoma from the first generation to the third. 

The second and third generation Tacoma use pretty much the same chassis and leaf spring setup, so there’s not much improvement in the newer model years.

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

“Almost everyone I have talked to around where I live has broken a leak spring including myself.” 

“I have a 2007 Tacoma access cab TRD package, for a couple days I have noticed a significant rattle coming from the rear end. I didn’t really think too much of it as I thought my newly added flowmaster exhaust had come loose. That was not the case. My left leaf spring has completely failed snapped in half. I do not put any significant amount of weight in the back.”

“I had a local spring shop replace my broken leaf last year for $200.”

It’s fairly easy to tell if you need to replace your leaf springs just by looking at them. 

If they look more straight than arched, or even look like they’re bent the other way, then you definitely need to replace them.

Many owners replace the factory leaf springs with heavy duty aftermarket ones. These end up being cheaper than OEM ones which can cost around $500 or more per side.

Wheelers, General Spring, Dorman, and OME (Old Man Emu) are often recommended if you’re considering aftermarket parts.

Your local suspension shop should also be able to fix broken leaf springs for a lot less.

8. Leaking Third Brake Light

The third generation Tacoma’s third brake light has a tendency to crack over time which leads to water leaks inside the cabin.

This issue is more common in the early model years from 2016 to 2019.

Aside from soaking the carpets and possibly running the electronics in the cabin, water getting in through the third brake light can also stain the headliner.

A few owners on TacomaWorld.com shared their experience:

“I decided to bring my truck in for the 3rd brake light recall and 60k service… During their “inspection” they found the light to be cracked, conveniently, the crack is identical to ones I’ve seen in peoples pictures.” 

“Add mine to the list of leaking 3rd brake lights. I am pretty observant when it comes to my truck so hoping I noticed it the first time it was actually leaking. I have to say it was quite a bit of water coming through.” 

“Add mine to the list of Tacomas with the same identical crack in the 3rd brake light. I took mine to a dealership about a year and a half ago to get the leaking fixed and they told me to go pound sand.”

“Mine has been leaking for who knows how long. With the recent rain I found the entire back was soaked. I really hope it’s not moldy.” 

Toyota dealers addressed the water leaks by using sealant around the light and then adding a bezel piece on top.

If your third brake light is cracked and leaking water inside your truck, you can get a new one from Toyota for around $120.

9. Oil Leaks

The second gen Tacoma’s 4.0-liter V6, which was first introduced in 2005, has many documented cases of timing cover leaks.

The fourth generation Tacoma’s 4-cylinder engine also has several reports of early timing cover leaks.

If you notice that the front of the engine is wet with oil, it could be coming from the timing cover.

Other common oil leaks in the Tacoma include:

  • Valve cover gasket
  • Rear main seal
  • Camshaft seal

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

“As I was checking my oil level I noticed a small damp spot on the edge of the timing cover on the passenger side. to be exact right behind the power steering reservoir just right of the dipstick. I have a 2007 4.0. with about 180k miles.”

‘I’ve had the same leak on my 07 for about 3 years now. I got a quote from the stealership a couple years ago when I had all fluids changed and they wanted $2400 to fix the timing cover leak.”

“I have an oil seepage as well. At first glance I thought it was my power steering pump because I was a bit low. When I looked around some more with the light it looks like what others are finding, the timing cover leak. I have 145k, and bought the truck at 80k. I have never been low on oil, and I’ve been doing the maintenance on my own. I really noticed it while I was changing my oil and had the skid plate off this past week.”

“I have a ‘23 Tacoma with 3,000 miles and was just told I have a timing cover leak. They need to pull out the engine it will take a week to fix.”

Fixing the timing cover leak outside of warranty can be very expensive because the front of the engine has to be dismantled and takes almost the same amount of work as a timing chain replacement.

Most timing cover leaks are slow and barely even cause oil to drip onto the ground. 

If your truck isn’t losing a lot of oil, you can just keep driving it and regularly checking your oil levels whenever possible.

A valve cover gasket is quite easy to replace even for a novice mechanic. It can also create oil stains that look similar to a leaky rear main seal, which requires disconnecting the transmission from the engine to fix.

10. Differential Noise

Many third gen owners have complained about a noticeable howling noise that’s usually coming from the rear differential.

This howling only appears as you approach 60 mph or 100 kmh, and affects even the newer model years of the third gen.

The SR5 and TRD Off Road models seem to have more complaints than others.

Here’s what owners on TacomaWorld.com had to say:

“I have had this problem since I got my Taco and I’ve been told that my Taco already came with the parts for the TSB installed. In the end it is just a harmonics issue, because it happens at a specific speed usually 55 – 57 mph.”

“On my 22 Tacoma Trd 4×4 I noticed that is making a howl that is most noticeable at 50 to 60 mph and coasting at light to no throttle. The whine / howl is coming from the rear end.” 

“I’ve had 2 3rd gens, both with this noise. The howl was louder in the 16 OR than in the ’19 Sport.”

“My sister has the SR5 and it is making the noise. It’s still in the beginning only 2600 miles so not too loud yet. My TRD OR got louder over time at 12000 I could hear it over the radio and took it in.”

Some owners were only able to get rid of the whine after replacing their differential with a new unit under warranty.

This could still be a hit and miss as some differentials can also howl even when they’re brand new.

As long as you regularly service the differential fluid every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, the differential should still last a long time despite the whining sound.

If you regularly take your Tacoma off road and through river crossings, you should replace the diff fluid more often because it gets dirtier much quicker.

11. 4WD Actuator Issues

The Toyota Tacoma’s transfer case actuator has had numerous failures across its different generations.

Also known as the ADD (Automatic Disconnecting Differential) actuator, this motor is required to engage and disengage the shift forks of the transfer case.

Without it, you’ll have trouble with the 4WD system and you’ll often see a blinking 4WD light.

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

“My truck will no longer engage into 4wd. While on a trail I put it in 4×4 and it shifted hard with a knock and got locked into gear. I was able to jar it loose so it can drive and turn a corner but the computer knows it has a problem. How do you repair or replace the actuator?”

“I have been having issues with my 2008 Toyota Tacoma V6 4.0 liter 4×4. I have replaced the front ADD actuator. The green 4WD light still blinks and will not go into 4HI. I have checked and cleaned the ground wires. All connection harnesses are very clean upon inspection. I removed the transfer case actuator, it passed bench test ok. It was a bit stiff, but has loosened up and runs fine when bench tested.”

“My 2010 Tacoma goes into 4WD, high and low, just fine… also the rear locker engages. But, when I go back into 2WD after first unlocking the diff and going into H4, the 4×4, Low Range, and locked diff indicator lights blink rapidly. My truck is in 2WD at this point but the 4×4 Lo, locked diff light is blinking fast.”

“I will also add that I’ve NEVER heard of an ECU going bad, it’s almost always those junk actuators from Toyota.”

A new actuator can cost over $400 from Toyota, while replacement parts cost around half that.

It also has a tendency to seize up if you don’t put the vehicle in 4WD too much.

Related: Toyota Tacoma Beeping? (9 Causes & Solutions)

Toyota Tacoma Pros & Cons


  • Easy to maintain
  • Capable off roader
  • Hybrid powertrain
  • Good resale
  • Easy to drive
  • Smaller size
  • Decent infotainment


  • Not the most comfortable in the back
  • Lacks towing capacity 
  • Fuel economy

What Do The Reviews Say?

“Toyota’s popular midsize Tacoma gets a complete overhaul for 2024. Underneath the more muscular styling is a modernized suspension that helps the new Tacoma ride more smoothly over ruts and bumps than its predecessor.’ 

“Also new is a lineup of turbocharged four-cylinder engines that provide improved power and fuel efficiency over the old four-cylinder and optional V6. There’s even a new hybrid powertrain option. It doesn’t really get better fuel economy but it does crank out a stout 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque.”

“Depending on the trim level, the Tacoma’s off-road prowess ranges from mediocre (due to a large but removable air dam) to formidable at both high and low speeds. Trick shock absorbers and clever traction control ensure this truck will excel in most off-road situations.”

“The Tacoma’s wide and somewhat flat front seats offer comfort for people of varying sizes. The cloth seats in our test truck felt a little coarse, especially compared with the optional synthetic leather upholstery, but should prove plenty durable in the long run. The rear seats aren’t especially roomy, which is typical of the midsize truck segment, and taller passengers felt the seat cushions were too low and short for longer drives.”

“How the Tacoma rides will depend largely on which trim level you choose. Lower trim levels like the SR feel more like how you expect a basic truck to ride — a bit stiff. Higher grades offer more advanced suspension systems that help smooth out the ride. All Tacomas benefit from clearly marked and easy-to-use climate control systems. The buttons and knobs are large enough to be operated easily while wearing gloves.”

2024 Toyota Tacoma | Edmunds

What’s the Resale Value of a Toyota Tacoma?

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



  • 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...