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Toyota Tacoma Frame Rust

edited February 2012 in Repair and Maintenance
An open letter to Toyota:

Mr. Jim Lentz
Toyota Motor Sales USA
National Customer Relations
19001 South Western Ave. WC11
Torrance, CA 90509

Dear Sir,

I own a 1997 Tacoma (VIN: 4TAVL52N1VZ236397) which runs well and looks good. Although it has 178,000 miles on it, I had planned to drive it for many more miles. If I hadn’t planned to keep the vehicle, I would not have bothered to replace the exhaust system and shock absorbers last summer. I no longer put many miles on it but it is very convenient to have in the garage to use when necessary.

In March 2008, Toyota extended the warranty on the Tacoma frame to fifteen years. At that time Toyota said in a press release that, “This is not a recall. Rather, it’s an example of our commitment to the durability of our products and to our owners. These are older trucks and rust is a fact of life, especially where road salt is used, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that we take care of our owners. We just thought you should know that.”

I have had the truck serviced and inspected at the local Toyota dealer (Stateside Toyota and Luv Toyota near Jamestown, NY) since I moved into the area in 2006. It was last inspected on Dec. 18, 2010. I have driven the truck 2,300 miles since then. It sits in my garage most of the time.
On Feb. 7, 2012 I returned to Luv Toyota for the annual New York State inspection. I was shocked to hear that the frame would not pass inspection because of rust perforation. I was also shocked to find that the warranty had expired. My records (Carfax report when I bought the truck) indicated the truck was first registered July 7, 1997. Toyota records indicated it was Dec 13, 1996. According to them, I was 55 days late and they would do nothing for me.

I spoke with Kevin, the case manager at Toyota Corporate Office (Ext. 83711), and he very politely but very firmly confirmed that Toyota would do nothing.

I have suddenly gone from the owner of a vehicle that I had planned to drive for many more miles to the owner of a pile of junk worth nothing more than salvage value. Several questions come to my mind. Was there really no problem a year ago when they last inspected the vehicle? Is 12 months in a dry garage and 2,300 miles going to cause that much rust? Would they have found the problem 2 months ago if I had taken it in then? Or does Toyota feel they can safely transfer the problem to me since according to Toyota’s records the warranty has expired? Does 55 days mean that much over 15 years? Are you living up to your commitment? Are you taking care of your owners?


  • The date discrepancy could be because the truck was a dealer demonstrator. When a new vehicle becomes a demo it is considered to be "in service" and the date it becomes in service is when the warranty period starts.
    Anyone who buys a demonstrator is not technically buying a brand new vehicle; it's a used one and the date it enters service as a demo is the same as if a customer off the street walked in and bought it.

    From Toyota's point of view they would look at it as where does the exception making stop? Giving someone 55 days and someone else 87 days leads into 180 days, 3 years, or what have you.

    I'm not taking one side or the other here; just pointing out the why.
  • 15 years in a Salt State is amazing life for ANY vehicle..I bet you can find another inspection station who will not spot the rusted frame..That gives you one more year...Time to fold the tent and move on...
  • edited February 2012
    If the vehicle is strong otherwise and the rust is localized, it's not that expensive to braze some new metal in. If it's the tip of the iceberg, say thank you and move on.
  • Some dealers will "burn" cars, report them sold when in fact they are not. They usually do this to make a goal and earn extra money. Being yours was "sold" in December there is a very high likely hood the original dealer did this to make his 1/4'ly and yearly goal. 55 days Is not alot, but after 15 years they had to call it. However if carfax shows first reg in July you have some ammo. Just don't expect help from the dealer who sold it new as this may cause him to be charged back alot of $$&&
  • Wow, long since I've posted here and lots of changes to the site!

    I did some research on this issue awhile back since I have an '02 Tacoma which that recall was extended to. From what I've read, you may have missed the cutoff date for the inspection needed to get the warranty extended. This applied to approximately 20 states where this frame rust issue has been noted..... Check out the link below which will include the warranty letter and numerous postings from folks who are having severe frame rust problems. Also, you may get a second or even third opinion from other dealers- results have differed widely depending on the dealership.

    Good Luck!
  • Note that the rust issue is not really a Recall; it's a campaign. A campaign is a voluntary action with time and mileage limits and usually issued if the automaker feels they're between a rock and hard place. In a nutshell, they're trying to head off Federal intervention.

  • "My records (Carfax report when I bought the truck) indicated the truck was first registered July 7, 1997".
    Carfax is more often than not in error, inaccurate, and/or incomplete. They bear absolutely no weight in any official venue. Never rely on Carfax. Ever.

    15 years is perfectly acceptable, even commendable, service in any vehicle. Unfortunately, even though you had planned to drive the truck for many more years, it had reached its lifespan successfully and then some. At this point you should be very happy with the service you got from it. Kudos for trying to piggyback on the frame warranty that Toyota offered, but sometimes we have to accept that the cards don't fall in our favor.

    In short, your attempt to tag onto the Toyota frame warranty was a good attempt, the letter well written and containing proper details, however the expectation that Toyota owes you a new frame because they dave others new frames is, IMHO, unrealistic. You took a shot at it, Toyota won't buy a frame. Time to go shopping.
  • As for date discrepancy, couldn't you contact your DMV and see when you first registered/took title to the truck? Seems to me that would be the most accurate, dependable, and legal record of it. As for your not driving the truck that much it would make little difference. Once rust has started it doesn't stop until it's removed or somehow neutralized. (or has rusted through)
  • +1 on looking for a less thorough inspection station.
  • As an aside, depending on where the damage to the frame is you can have a plate welded over the hole, and keep on trucking. This does not work if the rust is near suspention parts, body mounts, etc.. But if its just a hole in the side of the frame I say fix it and keep on trucking.
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