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The Toyota 4Runner SUV regularly places high on vehicle reliability rankings and ownership lengths. Although it lacked certain safety features until recently, the 4Runner holds its value better than almost any other vehicle. And it’s not like the non-TRD models are built less demanding: 4Runners with 200,000 miles or more aren’t unusual. The SUV is recommended due to its almost comically-strong reliability record. But, after 100,000 miles, some Toyota 4Runner complaints are inevitable.

What are the most common Toyota 4Runner complaints?

Common Toyota 4Runner complaints
A Toyota 4Runner | Amanda Cline, MotorBiscuit

Crossing 100,000 miles is a significant milestone for almost any vehicle. At that point, even the toughest components can start to wear down. Car Complaints notes one of the biggest maintenance issues at 100,000 miles is replacing the timing belt along with the engine’s water pump should be replaced at the same time. At 100,000 miles, these components have started to wear down.

Some Toyota 4Runner complaints by owners reference similar wear-related items and the timing belt and water pump. One owner of the particularly troublesome 2003 4Runner model noted they had to replace their SUV’s suspension, not because of an issue, but normal wear and tear. Other 4Runner model years have also noted this kind of issue.

Reports one 2007 Toyota 4Runner owner complaining of a front differential leak. However, at the claimed 142,600 miles, these are issues that affect most SUVs. Especially ones that may have been taken off-road. On one 2004 4Runner, someone had replaced the entire rear differential, but only after 13 years and 200,000 miles. However, not every Toyota 4Runner complaint is due to age.

Does the Toyota 4Runner V8 have problems?

2005 Toyota 4Runner complaints
2005 Toyota 4Runner | 4th Gen 4Runners via Instagram

Owners also detail issues with the V8 and V6 engines offered throughout the 4Runner’s lifetime. For the 2003-2009 4th-gen 4Runner, Toyota offered two different 4.7-liter V8 engines. This engine was also shown in several other Toyota products. However, based on numerous claims, 4Runners with this engine appeared to suffer exhaust manifold leaks regularly. This would cause a sulfur odor in the cabin and damage the engine’s O2 sensors and catalytic converters.

The cracking issue could stem from the manifold’s design, as well as the weight of the catalytic converters. The converters are placed close to the engine for improved cold-start emissions, where they can allegedly stress the manifold’s thin metal. Over repeated heating-and-cooling cycles, cracks start to form and grow.

RepairPal also notes Toyota issued several technical service bulletins for this issue. Nevertheless, even replacing the manifolds entirely didn’t solve some owners’ problems. Toyota also has not offered a V8 in the 4Runner since.

Does Toyota’s V6 engine have issues?

This, again, appears to be a 2003-2009 4th-gen 4Runner issue. According to some owners this generation’s 4.0-liter V6 was known to blow its head gasket, especially after 100,000 miles. Forum members point to the 2003-2006 model years as particularly noteworthy for this.

The 2003-2006 4.0-liter V6 4Runners have repeated reports of head gasket failures and leaks. For the 2007 model year, however, the problem seems to have disappeared. And this problem has not appeared on the 5th-gen, 2010-current 4Runner.

How are the Toyota 4Runner’s brakes?

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro | Toyota

The 2003-2005 4Runners are notorious for their locking front brake calipers. Even after repeated replacement, the front brakes still lock up or fail. Reports of this issue appear in 2013 and newer 4Runners. The owner of one 2015 4Runner with a reported 15,000 miles on the odometer claims the brakes are “inadequate” for an SUV like the 4Runner. The complaints for this model year also list warped brake pads and rotors. Owners of other 5th-gen 4Runners have reported similar warping and braking issues, though some claim the 2015 model is the worst offender. However, it appears that 2017 and newer 4Runner brakes are better-made: owners haven’t reported sticking or warping issues.

At the moment, Toyota has not issued a recall for this issue. It is possible that some—though not all—of these brake-warping reports come from owners taking their 4Runners off-roading and pounding on the brakes. Toyota’s TRD division does offer improved brake pads for 4Runners, which might fix the issue. However, this is something that Toyota needs to address.

What to know and ask before buying

A red TRD Pro model
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD | Toyota

For wear-and-tear items like the timing belt and water pump, ask if the 4Runner you plan on buying has had them replaced. If they haven’t, budget for their replacement or look for a different 4Runner that’s had the work done.

For cracked exhaust manifolds, failed head gaskets, or brakes, the best bet for a used 4Runner is a pre-purchase inspection. Take the SUV to a trusted, certified mechanic for a once-over to identify any issues, especially if the 4Runner you’re eyeing is a 2003-2005 model.

Does this mean you shouldn’t buy a 4Runner at all? Not necessarily. Toyota appears to have resolved most of these complaints with the newest 4Runners. And repairs for earlier 4Runner issues exist. Plus, experts wouldn’t rank the SUV so high in reliability if these problems were deal-breakers. As always, buyers need to be careful.


Why Does the 2004 Toyota 4Runner Have the Most Complaints?