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

Toyota is known for having some of the most reliable and most dependable vehicles on the market. As with any automaker, they saw a few terrible years with some of their vehicles, though. 

The 2004 model was probably the worst year for the 4Runner yet. With all the complaints lodged against it, it’s a wonder they continued to produce it at all. CarComplaints.com forum shows all the common problems plaguing the 4Runner and how bad the issues were.

Dashboard problems on the Toyota 4Runner

The most common problem seen with the interior of the 4Runner is the cracks showing up on the dashboard for no apparent reason. Sometimes, the dash melts and becomes sticky. A few owners, who experience this, state they had the vehicle garaged when not in use and took good care of it, but cracks started forming within the dash material, anyway. The average mileage for the cracks were around 81,000 miles. 

This issue, rated fairly significant by CarComplaints.com, didn’t necessarily pose a risk to passengers, but it hurt the SUV’s value, not to mention that it looked just plain ugly. However, one driver was concerned about the airbag since the crack in his 4Runner was running across the dash right where the airbag was nestled within. 

There’s no report of anyone repairing it themselves, and it seems most people just left it and drove it around that way. But there was an enhanced warranty rolled out in 2015 that would get owners the repair done for free. However, it would only extend until the end of May 2017. 

Body issues with the 4Runner

One of the most concerning issues found with the 4Runner deals with the vehicle’s underframe, which CarComplaints.com rated pretty bad. Owners wouldn’t realize there was a problem until another issue popped up. A driver took their SUV in for muffler/exhaust repair, but the mechanic refused to fix it because the underframe badly rusted.

There were more serious incidents, though. One owner had a lower control arm break, which caused them to lose steering on the vehicle. When it went in for repairs, they were told of the underframe was in terrible shape due to the rusty condition. They were lucky that it didn’t fall apart on them while they were driving. 

Rust happens on many vehicles as they get older, but most of these owners experienced them around 100,000-140,000 miles. That’s far sooner than it would be for normal conditions. Another thing to note is that the rust was terrible, and the frame was ready to split in half in some of those cases. You rarely see that in older vehicles with tons more miles on them. 

There were no reported prices for the repair because most seem to have found the issue too late to do anything about it. Others gave up and let the vehicle sit until something could be done at a later date. Toyota released a recall out for the rusty underframe, but it was for other Toyota trucks, not the 4Runner. 

Performance problems with the Toyota 4Runner


The 2020 Toyota Highlander Overshadows the 4Runner in Every Way

There were a couple of problems concerning the performance of the vehicle. The first dealt with the brakes. Owners reported driving their 4Runner normally until, all of a sudden, the dash would light up with warning lights, and a high-pitched alarm sounded. They would try to pull over to a safe area, but they would often find their brakes would not work. 

The repair costs for this ranged from $2,000-$4,000. Mechanics couldn’t quite agree with what caused the problem. Some felt it was a failed master brake cylinder, while others thought it was a faulty ABS actuator pump. Some owners stated that they thought the issue stemmed from a bad ground cable on the battery sending low-voltage signals to the car’s computer, which would shut down the brake system. 

CarComplaints forum rated it awful because this could cause an accident. The average mileage when this would occur was 119,000 miles, which isn’t all that much. 

The second problem encountered by owners had to do with the engine. In cylinder compression tests, mechanics found one cylinder was misfiring, which was usually caused by coolant leaking into the chamber. The underlying problem, though, turned out to be a bad head gasket. 

The cost of replacing the head gasket was around $3,200. One mechanic claimed a new engine would be in order, which would set the owner back approximately $6000. But he declined to have it done. The average mileage for this problem was around 165,000 miles, and Car Complaints forum rated it pretty bad. 

There were several other complaints lodged against the 2004 Toyota 4Runner, some of them keeping the NHTSA pretty busy. But, these were the most common issues plaguing the owners of these SUVs. The 4Runner went on to get produced for many more years, and quite a few of them saw fewer complaints.