Is The Toyota Tacoma Reliable? Common Tacoma Problems Explained.

The Toyota Tacoma is known for its ruggedness and reliability, with loyal owners racking up hundreds of thousands of miles on their trucks. However, if you own a Toyota Tacoma or want to buy one, there are some common issues to be aware of - we'll explain the top 5 below.

1. Lower Ball Joint Failure

A common Toyota Tacoma reliability issue involves the lower ball joints. While you can expect ball joints to wear out after hundreds of thousands of miles, the Tacoma has had a pattern of premature ball joint failures. A lower front ball joint is a load-bearing part of the front suspension that allows both steering pivot and suspension travel. A worn ball joint can exhibit several symptoms, including:

  • Clunking Noises
  • Excessive Vibration
  • Tire Wear
  • Wheel Separation

This problem is known to affect 1995 to 2007 models. However, the 2001 to 2004 models were bad enough for Toyota to issue a recall. According to the safety recall notice, Toyota stated:

"There is a possibility that the surface of the ball portion of the front suspension ball joint in your vehicle may have been scratched."

  - Toyota Motor Sales USA

The problem will result in excessive wear and looseness. Preventative maintenance and regular inspections are recommended to address ball joint issues before they become a safety hazard. If you own A Toyota Tacoma within the affected model years, check with your local dealer to ensure that any outstanding recalls have been completed. If you need replacement ball joints, be sure to check out our Ball Joint Buyer’s Guide.

2. Automatic Transmission Shifting Incorrectly

Older, high-mileage Toyota Tacomas can experience problems with automatic transmission shifting. This issue affects Tacoma models over two decades, from 1995 to 2015. A few different parts can cause shifting problems. Most commonly this problem in a Tacoma involves one of 2 these parts:

  1. Throttle Position Sensor
  2. Shift Solenoid

Throttle Position Sensor: The engine control module (ECM) monitors the position of the accelerator pedal from the throttle position sensor (TPS). The ECM must interpret throttle position data to maintain the engine's correct air and fuel mixture. The transmission control module (TCM) also needs data from the TPS to know when to upshift and downshift the automatic transmission. Transmission shifts may be harsh or erratic if the TPS data is faulty or missing.

Shift Solenoid: The transmission control module (TCM) controls the rate and flow of fluid in the transmission with shift solenoids. The shift solenoids are located in the valve body, allowing the transmission to shift smoothly between gears. The valve body controls fluid flow throughout the transmission to engage each gear clutch pack at the appropriate time. If a shift solenoid malfunctions, the transmission may shift harshly or not at all.

If you are experiencing transmission issues with your Toyota Tacoma, a scan tool can be handy for diagnosing stored trouble codes. The throttle position sensor can wear out with age and is relatively easy to replace. Transmission shift solenoids are a more complex repair and require some transmission disassembly in the vehicle. Scheduled transmission maintenance can improve the longevity of shift solenoids and other transmission parts. Learn more about other Toyota Tacoma Complaints, Problems And TSBs.

3. Daytime Running Lights Melt/Burn Headlamp Lens

The headlamp assemblies on Toyota Tacomas built from 2005 to 2011 utilize the amber turn signal bulbs as daytime running lights (DRLs). The intensity of the DRLs mixed with bulb placement creates a hotspot that will break down the headlight assembly lens material. The bulbs' proximity to the headlamp lenses can cause the lenses to melt and discolor over time. Without attention, the plastic lenses become distorted. In a TSB related to the burnt lens problem, Toyota states that the signal lens may:

"...become distorted and bubbled in appearance. In addition, the inner lens may appear cracked or separated."

  - Toyota Motor Sales USA

Toyota issued a technical service bulletin to address the issue under the standard 3 year/36,000 mile warranty. However, the problem became so widespread that Toyota eventually issued a warranty enhancement program, covering all affected Tacomas until November 30, 2015, regardless of mileage. Toyota modified the headlamp design, including reshaping the DRL/turn signal lenses and mounting the bulb further away from the lens. If you require replacement headlamps, be sure to check out our Toyota Headlight Buyer’s Guide.

4. Ultra White Paint Peeling

Many Toyota owners have encountered problems with peeling paint on both second-generation (2005 to 2011) and third-generation (2016 to 2023) Toyota Tacomas. The complaints center around Tacomas painted in Ultra White. Oddly enough, Toyota issued a customer support program for peeling Ultra White paint on multiple Toyota models, but this program excluded the Tacoma.

While there doesn’t appear to be much recourse for Toyota Tacoma owners, you can take steps to voice your concerns. Check your warranty coverage, document and photograph peeling paint, and contact Toyota customer service. Sharing your experience on social media and online communities can also help influence companies to address known product defects. If you’re replacing any Tacoma body parts, be sure to check out our Toyota Tacoma Paint Code Guide.

5. Faulty Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensors

Certain Toyota Tacomas with high mileage can experience issues with the mass air flow sensor (MAF). The problem is most common in Tacomas built from 2006 to 2013. MAF sensor failure can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Check Engine Light
  • Hard Start Or No Start
  • Stalling
  • Rough Idle
  • Loss Of Power
  • Poor Fuel Economy

The most common cause of MAF sensor failure in Toyota Tacomas is a buildup of dirt and grime over time. A poor-quality engine air filter or aftermarket cold-air intake can also contribute to the issue. Fixing the problem can be as easy as cleaning the sensor with a specific MAF sensor cleaner. Otherwise, replacing the MAF sensor may be the only fix. Learn more in our Mass Air Flow Sensor Buyer’s Guide.

Tacoma Resources And Parts From Olathe Toyota Parts Center 

At Toyota Parts Center we have a large selection of parts and accessories for your Toyota vehicle. We're centrally located in Kansas City and can provide fast shipping to the east and west coasts. We offer many Toyota Tacoma resources online, including:

The Tacoma is a iconic model with a long production history. If you need Tacoma parts, we've got a huge selection ready to ship. All our OEM Toyota parts are backed by the standard Toyota 12-month, unlimited miles warranty. Do you have questions? We’re here to help. Please feel free to contact us today!