Why are 2016 – 2018 Toyota Tacoma Models so Unreliable?

There seems to be something off about 2016 – 2019 Toyota Tacoma models. The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most reliable trucks, but these model years aren’t ranking well for J.D. Power’s reliability scores. So, why are these Tacomas seemingly undependable? 

The most undependable Toyota Tacoma Years 

The dive into what exactly is going on with the Toyota Tacoma, CarComplaints.com, was able to shed some light on transmission problems. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma received a new engine and a new transmission that seem to be causing trouble. 

Two 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road trucks parked in a field
2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road | Toyota

CarComplaints lists issues that drivers reported on their own trucks and 43 people reported transmission issues. The leading causes of frustration include harsh upshifts, delayed shifts while using cruise control, delayed engagement when in park or drive, and more.

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Forty-three people may not seem like a lot, but there were also multiple complaints about the engine and the drivetrain, which could be very similar to transmission problems. 

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD parked in sand on a mountain top
2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD | Toyota

However, reflashing the TBS system seems to help solve a variety of these issues, and there was a lack of transmission oil from the factory. There were also two recalls, one for a leaking differential and another for a crankshaft sensor malfunction. 

The Toyota Tacoma issues were fixed 

If you skip ahead to look at complaints about the 2017 Toyota Tacoma, you can see that the transmission complaints had a sharp decline. Only 24 drivers reported transmission issues. The amount of engine and drivetrain problems also decreased. 

Then if you take a look at the 2018 Toyota Tacoma, these problems are almost nonexistent. To be fair, sometimes you have to wait for drivers to accrue more miles before these problems arise, and the 2018 model is still relatively new. Also, reflashing the TBS system seemingly fixed the previous issues. 

Another thing to note is that the significant Toyota Tacoma problems weren’t mechanical. Your transmission isn’t going out. It just needs to be reflashed. It’s a quick and easy fix. Once the shift points have been updated, the drive is more fun and reliable. 

Toyota Tacoma initial quality 

The J.D. Initial Quality Award is ranked based on how drivers feel about their trucks during the first 90 days of ownership. That doesn’t leave much time for fixing problems that may occur once updates have been made, like when the 2016 Toyota Tacoma received a new transmission. 

2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro | Toyota

The Vehicle Dependability Study is based on how drivers feel about their trucks after three years of ownership, providing enough time for issues to be resolved or not. You can see a correlation between Toyota Tacoma models with low initial quality scores and low dependability ratings. 

However, as these Toyota Tacoma issues have been fixed, their dependability ratings have been improving. So, we can speculate that the Toyota Tacoma will have higher dependability ratings as more time passes. 

2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro parked on rocks
2019 Toyota Tacoma Off-Road | Toyota

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is rated at a 3.5 out of 5 for dependability, but there aren’t any mechanical issues impacting the score. The cons are for lackluster engine power, a stiff ride, and a lack of passenger space compared to rivals. 

It still ranks above average and is praised for having an impressive interior quality, excellent off-roading abilities, and a long list of standard features. Don’t let the reliability issues with the 2016 – 2018 Toyota Tacoma models scare you away. The Toyota Tacoma is still a good truck.