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2003 Toyata Tacoma w/totally Rotted Frame

Last year I took out a loan and bought a 2003 Toyota tacoma looking at the frame last year thinking it was fine.

In June of 2014, almost year to date of buying the truck I brought it to my mechanic for brake work and the frame was no good, but he felt that it was repairable. I told him I wouldn’t be able to afford the work until the fall and he said it should be fine until then. I brought the truck back to him last week only to find out that the truck frame is totally shot, completely unsafe and should not be driven…it is totally rotted and it went from repairable to non-repairable in 3 warm weather months.

I still owe just shy of $7,000, Toyota won’t replace the frame and everything else about the truck is awesome. My mechanic quoted a new frame at $4809 not including shipping and it was coming from Japan on top of another maybe $3-5,000 for the work. UGH!!

I’ve started to search for a used frame and I am wondering if others have replaced a 2003 with a used frame and had some luck…and didn’t go broke doing it.
Wondering if others have dealt with this and also curious what the truck is worth at this point…the rest of the truck is still awesome…wondering what I might get if I tried to trade it in or sell it on my own.

Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.

These trucks were notorious for the frames rusting out. And for a while Toyota would replace the frames as a good-will adjustment depending on the age/mileage of the vehicle. But I’m afraid your truck is out of that good-will adjustment period.

Your best bet is to find a used frame from a rust free area of the U.S.

But since this was such a problem with these vehicles, the good used frames have already been snatched up.


I’m puzzled. You purchased a 2003 truck last year, and you still owe $7000 on it? How much did you pay for it? The numbers are confusing me.

I made a few guesses and KBB says it would be worth about $4300 now if it were in “good” condition.

Well, one thing you got going for you, since it is built on a frame, that might be something you can do something about by replacing the frame. Unlike a uni-body architecture. You’ll have to get on the junkyard network and see what’s available I guess.

It’s possible since this is a popular make that there are aftermarket frames available too. Take a look at those truck magazines like Classic Truck, etc, contact some of those vendors. There’s a truck parts vendor also you should contact. I think the name is LMC or LEM or something like that.

Edit: There’s a magazine that features Toyota 4WD trucks. That’s another resource for vendors who advertise in it.

Another option might be to part this truck out, and use the money to buy a replacement. You might be better off $$-wise doing it that way. Best of luck.

Thanks so much for the resources,
I’m hoping that we will be able to find a used frame from the south or look in to after market frames.

Up here in New England these 2003 Toyota Tacoma go for a lot of money. I paid $10,500 for it and I think they had been asking $11,500. The Nada values the truck higher then the KBB but I just quickly did the KBB and came out with $6600 for good and very good $8800. This truck is awesome other then the frame and otherwise would be considered very good condition so parting it out could be an option.

thanks again.


I live in southern california, and our Tacomas and Tundras did not rust out

Advise you to look for a frame from the southwest . . . Southern California, Nevada, Arizona

My brother went through this same situation a couple of years ago I guess. He had the truck since it was brand new. Toyota replaced the frame and he sold the truck as soon as he got it back. I agree that you should find a rust free frame and have it done yourself. Who sold you the vehicle? If it was a dealer then you might get some financial compensation through them or in a court if you have to take it that far. Dealers know about these rusted frames and should have known about your vehicle.

doesn t sound like an awesome truck to me

Have owned lots of Tacomas and Toyota PUs in general and their frames can be monitored for rust. With all due respect, you looked at the frame before you bought it and not a mechanic on a lift I gather. One year of use does not cause a frame to go from “fine” to " no good". Not only the frame,but body panels follow suit. These truck frames are not “engineered” in a vacuumed and the frames do not disintegrate that much faster then the rest of the body that you could not see other rust indicators. IMHO, your expectations and price were much higher then they had to be. 03 4Runners for 10,500 is possible but this truck had better be filled with every possible option, have 50k miles and be in perfect condition for it to be worth $10,500. Though NADA and KBB vary some what, they don’t differ by much and you should have looked up the values in these publications a year earlier and had a mechanic inspect the truck. You are now upside down and feel forced to spend more money to recover the loss of the initial poor investment.

I live in rust heaven NE too and rust on a 12 year old car is a huge item and worthy of thorough inspection. You have just had a $10,500 lesson in what not to do in car buying. I only talk about what you should have done so you don’t continue down this frame replacement path. Don’t compound your problem by following a frame replacement plan ! . If you have to put $8k to $10 k (or even $5k) more into replacing the frame on a 12 year old truck, buy a $10k compact ( but do it right with an inspection). It’s only worth replacing the frame if you have help from a benefactor like the manufacturer. If you don’t, move on smarter but with a different vehicle and a lot less money.

there you go. $300 for frame. yes it is a tacoma frame


Thanks for your thoughts, it’s helpful. Although I never had any intention on spending $5-$10k to repair this truck. Wondering if people have had luck or success doing it for cheaper, although, I hear what you are saying about not making the same mistake twice. Replacing the frame may just be asking for the same problem to arise again.

But I still need a truck…not sure if you were suggesting that I buy a compact car…but that does me no good. I need a truck and have owned toyota 4x4 for over 15 years, with this one being the newest model for me. They Have been a good truck for me over the years till now.

The price of these truck just happen to be crazy high around here, just check out the craigslist link for tacoma’s:

I’m just wondering if others have dealt with a similar issue and if so what they did. I’m especially curious if they were able to trade it in at a dealership and how much they got for it. I have an appointment on Thursday with the local toyota dealer, but I highly doubt they will rectify the issue. I also plan to let the dealership that I bought it from know the state of the truck, even though I ultimately realize this was my mistake for not having it inspected by an outside mechanic.

Could you possibly post a few pictures of your frame damage?


Yes, I can tomorrow.

If you are handy you could buy a frame like the one posted and have it shipped. Then do most of the work yourself, then have it towed somewhere for an alignment and pay them to double check your work.

But bthat is a little more than most DIYers can cope with.


@‌ Yosemite
My partner has worked on vehicles for years and I even have some experience working on VW and older toyota engines and doing brake work, be this is even beyond his skill level.

We have a great mechanic though and if we can find a frame that is rust free, I am wondering if it is worth it, since I most likely can’t get much for this truck and buying another one is still going to run me another $8-$10K.

where are you located and what sort of condition is it in?
Is this a frame for a tacoma xtra cab 4x4?
Will it fit a 2003?

The problem is not the frame…The problem is you owe $7000 on a 12 year old vehicle…

I have a 1990 Toyota Pick Up. It spent most of its life in a high-salt area…The body has some bad rust but the frame is fine, little or no rust on it…Toyota must have changed their manufacturing process in later years to have this frame rust problem…

Replacing the frame on an old rust-bucket can not be a very easy job…The brake lines, fuel lines, wiring harness, suspension and engine mounts, all the rusted nuts and bolts…I can’t imagine doing it…

Even if the frame were given to you, many, many other parts need to be replaced and the labor as illustrated on utube is really intense which still means thousands of dollars. . I would not do it. Do we know the mileage on this truck ?

If you want to keep the vehicle you don’t have much of a choice. You’ll have to replace the frame.

Some dealers in NE still have frames left over from the mass replacement they did.

This is NOT going to be cheap.

At this point I think I am going to try to sell it for parts. The engine is great and I’m sure still has lots of life left and the right and left fenders are rust free as well as the doors, tail gate, hood, pretty much the rest of the truck other then the frame is rust free…or try to trade it in.

At this point I think I am going to try to sell it for parts.

How you going to do that since you own $7000.