Toyota Knows About Tacoma Frame Rust, Keeps Quiet

This is part of my campaign to shame Toyota. Until a week ago, I respected Toyota, but they did me wrong, and I want to tell my story. If one person reads this and has a better outcome than me, fantastic. If a lot of people read this and Toyota gets slapped, then my mission will be accomplished.

TL/DR: I know a lot of you have Toyotas, and I hope you are happy with them. Please get your vehicle’s frame checked regularly. Some models have a severe problem with frame rust, making them profoundly unsafe. Unlike other vehicle safety issues you may have heard about, there is *no recall* for this, and as I found out, there is no remedy for the owner either.

On 12/1/2014 I took our 2002 Toyota Tacoma to our usual shop for what I thought would be regular mechanical repairs (I thought my alternator was failing).

What happened was the mechanics said the truck’s frame — that huge piece of metal that everything is built upon — was so badly rusted they would not even put the truck on a lift. They said they literally have had Toyota trucks break in two in their shop, while on a lift, due to rusted frames. I’m not talking about surface rust here. I’m talking about a hole big enough to pass my hand through.

It turns out Toyota knows about this problem too, but somehow no regulatory action has ever occurred. No recall was ever issued. On the internet I learned Toyota ran a “program” (from 2009 to 2012, I believe) where they were compensating owners with these frame problems. So I called Toyota corporate. The rep confirmed there was indeed a “program”, and mailed owners about it several times. Mind you, I was the second owner. I emphatically told her I never received notices of the program, and didn’t know about the rust until 12/1/2014. Nevertheless, Toyota closed my case by telling me the “program” closed and they will take no further action. None.

So what I thought was a $5000 asset is actually a $200 scrap heap that isn’t even safe to drive. Toyota knew about this material defect, didn’t care that I didn’t get the memo (the rep herself suggested these might have been mailed to the previous owner — HELLO?), and basically I showed up too late to be remedied.

Needless to say, I will not be shopping for a Toyota any time soon. And I promised the rep (who was very polite, and I did not blame her personally), that I would do my best to prove to Toyota that while they may have closed their financial liability on this rust problem, they can expect to feel the impacts of bad publicity for not taking care of the customers who slipped through the cracks.

Hole in frame

Picture of a hole in 2002 Toyota Tacoma frame. This hole is just forward of the left rear wheel on the lower surface of the frame (or what’s left of it). Taken 12/7/2014 on the truck I owned.

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