Toyota Tacoma Frame Rust

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…

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.

Gsrag, the way these frames rot does not lend itself to gusset plates. They rot on both sides and below, just aft of the front bed mounts, and along a stretch significant enough that material to weld to is virtually nonexistant.
A tubular, transverse frame member that traverses over the differential also rots out, and that’s curved and pretty much inpossible to weld to without major disassembly due to its location. The only real solution there is to remove much of the undercarriage in that area, pull the bed, and replace the member…the replacement of which owuld have to be custom fabricated.

O I C mountain… Well that just stinks… I wonder how bad can it be for the OP who had no issues the year before?? How much could it rust in one year??

To the OP, ok cheap fix number two. Find a truck from the south with a bad motor and swap it with yours??

Yeah, it does stink.

My '79 Toyota rotted right through on both sides and the only thing holding the front and back together was the bed. The whole thing bent like a hinge and the front top of the bed would bang against the back of the cab. There was nothing meanigful left to weld to. At that point I’d abused the crap out of it for 11 years, so I just had the local yard owner haul it off. He put some 2x4s and lag bolts between the cab and the bed and used it for a yard truck. The engine still ran great. He’s probably still using the thing.

I like your solution.

I dunno, a 15 year warranty is pretty hard to fault. For many years you knew there was a frame problem, plus live in a state where inspections could shut you down. Plans change all the time so seems to me maybe 5 years ago you should have gotten rid of it while everything was fine. Now, depending on the severity of the rust you can weld in plates, sell it in a non-inspection state for peanuts, or sell it now for peanuts. 15 years is still pretty good.

Thanks for the good comments. Believe me most of these thoughts had gone through my mind before I wrote the letter to Toyota. I hope that my experience can be used as a lesson for others with this or similar problems. Just a few recommendations based on my experience.

  1. Find out when the manufacturer says your warranty starts and ends, particularly if you bought the vehicle used. Ask your dealer or contact the manufacturer to verify the dates.

  2. When a problem is identified, don’t wait to take it to an authorized dealer to get it resolved. Then take it back annually for an inspection until the warranty expires. Ask specifically for the warranted item to be inspected.

  3. Since the manufacturer has financial motivation to not fix a problem under warranty, it might not be a bad idea to also have an inspection done by an independent garage before the warranty expires. If the manufacturer or their reps can let it slip by, perhaps they will.

Also a couple notes to answer some questions in the comments.

@ Caddyman – The truck has not spent 15 years in New York. It was originally titled in Maryland. I don’t think they are nearly as free with the salt as NY.

@ the same mountainbike – 15 years may be commendable but when the engine is strong, the tranny is sound, the body is good, essentially all the oily bits that can easily be replaced are good it should not be assumed to be at the end of its service life. The frame is the only reason I am considering scrapping it. Toyota acknowledged that the frame did not have adequate corrosion-resistant protection and did nothing to correct the problem until it was too late. Did I mention that Toyota announced a limited service campaign to apply corrosion resistant compound to the frame? I received notice of this 4 days after they told me the frame was rusted out and my warranty had expired.

@ ok4450 and gsragtop – I don’t know what car dealer’s practices are pertaining to “first service”. If they consider a test drive in a new vehicle “first service” then a lot of new vehicles have less warranty than the owner thinks they have. That is all the more reason why you should check with the manufacturer on the expiration date.

Just one other thing …. Anyone want a 1997 Tacoma for parts?

My point about the truck possibly being a demo is this. If you bought the truck and it only had 3 or 4 miles on it then it was a brand new vehicle and the warranty started on the day you drove off with it.
If the truck had 50, 100, or 200 miles on it, etc then it was a dealer demostrator and is technically a used car, not a new one. The warranty period started on the day that it was first put into service as a demo, not the day you bought it.
Many people learn the difference the hard way and no, I don’t want or need the truck. I’ve got enough projects going now to keep me busy for a lifetime. :slight_smile:

I understand your point. I faced exactly the same dilemma. The oily bits on my '79 were still working great, but the frame had broken (rusted) in half. Toyota corrected the problem for awhile. When my '89 Toyota pickup got totalled just a few years ago, the frame was still solid. But, alas, a few years after that they apparently regressed. Frame rot became a problem again.

largren, OK is 1/2 right… A warranty starts when the dealer reports the car sold to the manufacturer… In the Biz we call it burning a car. This has NOTHING to do with the regestratoin with the DMV, and this is what CARFAX reports. In some cases, although not many a demo is reported sold becasue there is money on the line for the dealer to do so. Other times it is just driven and reported sold with 200 miles as a for example. This is not what we are talking about in this case… So in your case what I think happened is the dealer had to hit a number of units sold by the end of december to get a $$$ bonus from Toyota. So they reported the truck sold to Toyota in December, OR it was sold but the deal feel thrugh and the dealer did not “unwind” the sale with Toyota so they could hit there goal. The Truck may not have been actually sold untill July, which is when the warranty actually should have started…

IN any case how bad is the rust in your case??

Maybe the OP needs to clarify a few things about how many miles on the truck when purchaed and what date it was actually purchased on.

There’s still some murkiness on this and unless I’m reading it wrong, why run a Carfax report on an allegedly brand new vehicle as stated in the original post? That makes zero sense to me.