Notes: Although it has a stellar record in terms of vehicle problems, initially the 4th generation (2003 - 2009) 4Runner didn't earn our top "Seal of Awesome" rating because it received poor crash test ratings for rear impacts. However it's proven to have one of the lowest driver death rates out of all vehicles (not just SUVs), so we've bumped it back up to our top award.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
119,488 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Toyota 4Runner brakes problems

brakes problem

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2003 Toyota 4Runner Owner Comments

problem #14

Aug 202016


  • 167,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. While driving 65 mph, the vsc and traction control warning indicators illuminated. The anti-lock braking system engaged and locked the front brakes. The vehicle violently pulled to the left lane and the steering and brakes failed. The dealer was unable to duplicate the failure and repair the vehicle. The manufacturer stated that they were unaware of the failure previously occurring. The failure mileage was approximately 167,000.

- East Hartford, CT, USA

problem #13

Jul 052016


  • 54,000 miles
I've been doing research online for the non stop vcs trac, vcs off, ABS and brake warning lights and buzzers going off. It has been described as a common issue with Toyota and can lead to complete loss of brakes, but no recall. The dealership wants $3200 for the part and $600 to install. I guess Toyota needs fatalities to back their product. Shame on Toyota.

- Princeville, HI, USA

problem #12

Feb 122016


  • 260,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. When the vehicle was started, the ABS, emergency brake, and vsc trac lights remained illuminated. The contact turned off and restarted the vehicle, but the failure recurred. The contact placed the vehicle in drive and then depressed the brake pedal, but the vehicle did not stop. The contact quickly placed the gear in park and called a tow truck. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the hydraulic ABS and the tc motor failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was at the shop for repairs. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failures. The failure mileage was 260,000.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #11

Nov 082015


  • 65,000 miles


Owner was driving vehicle in a city at 10 mph when ABS, vsc, trac and ebrake light came on along with an alarm sound. Brakes completely failed and would not respond on several attempts. Managed to slow car to side of the road without hitting anything by pressing ebrake and pumping brake pedal. Towed to auto repair shop and was told that the hydraulic brake booster completely failed and brakes would not work without replacing the entire brake booster assembly. Quoted $3100 for repair. Based on some internet searching, this appears to be a fairly common issue on this model/year. Disappointed that Toyota has not provided some fix for this issue which could prove incredibly dangerous.

- Arlington, VA, USA

problem #10

Apr 252015

4Runner 6-cyl

  • 169,251 miles
My front brake calipers continue to freeze or seize and causes the brake pads to stick to the rotors. This is the third time this has occurred since I owned the truck. Recently, upon replacing the both front calipers, brake pads, and rotors, after bleeding the brakes the brake system now only worked in the front brakes and not the rear brakes.

- Rockville, MD, USA

problem #9

Apr 202015


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. While the vehicle was idling, the ABS, parking brake, vsc and traction control lights illuminated on the instrument panel. The contact lost all braking control immediately. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the master cylinder that controls the ABS and booster was defective and would need to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure but declined to provide any assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 100,000.

- Winter Spring , FL, USA

problem #8

Mar 102015


  • 165,588 miles


Exact same issue identified in: Date complaint filed: 01/07/2015 component(s): Service brakes date of incident: 01/05/2015 NHTSA id number: 10670783 drove car to shop without losing brake power. Quoted $3,000 and told the ABS actuator requires replacement. I've replaced transmissions and engine parts over car lifetimes, but never run into this part failing before, not even in a Ford. Would like to know if this is a design defect.

- Dover, MA, USA

problem #7

Jan 052015


  • 102,000 miles
I was driving normally with no issues on local streets. Suddenly the vsc, trac, and E-brake lights came on the dashboard with a very loud audible alarm. No prior issues with this system. I was able to drive slowly home on side roads (1.5 miles away). I made it to my driveway, pulled in on my upsloping driveway and then I had no brakes. Pedal went all the way to the floor. I was able to get the car into the street and had it towed to the shop. I feel lucky to have had this happen at low speed and in town. There was little to no warning for a critical system failure. Diagnosis by mechanic is brake master cylinder/traction control module, at approximately $3000 to replace. I have found multiple incidents of this failure across multiple vehicle types. The lack of responsiveness upon failure (including the emergency brake) and the short window to react makes me feel lucky that I did not hit or harm myself or anyone else with this failure.

- Torrance, CA, USA

problem #6

Nov 212014


  • 160,000 miles
We were driving along normally, the vsc, trac, ABS and E-brake lights came on the dashboard, along with an audible alarm. Then we had no brakes. I had to push with all my strength just to slow down at all. We were lucky we did not crash, we could have been killed. I am finding out it is a common problem on this year and model, as well as other Toyota models that use the same brake master cylinder/traction control module.

- Fort Collins, CO, USA

problem #5

Aug 012013


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that the vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for inspection when they detected that the rear differential, rear lower control arm and frame were severely corroded. One of the two rear lower control arms had become slightly detached from the vehicle. In addition, the emergency brake also exhibited corrosion. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 90,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Waymart, PA, USA

problem #4

Jan 072011

4Runner 6-cyl

  • 72,000 miles


I purchased my vehicle in February of 2010. I have had to replace both front brake calipers three times each. I had to have both rear brake calipers replaced twice each. Currently my right rear brake caliper is malfunctioning. All of my brake calipers have been seizing up and the cost to have them repaired is expensive. This is a serious safety issue along with an expensive one. I have read numerous internet complaints about this particular vehicle edition having brake problems and the company will not address it. Something needs to be done such as redesigning the brake calipers for this particular vehicle. Thank you.

- Peabody, MA, USA

problem #3

May 062013

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
My 4runner was making a funny noise, and the brakes felt weird. I was due for an oil change, and that's when I had the mechanic at the newark Toyota world in newark, Delaware, which I always use, check the brakes, and that's when I was told it would cost approximately $1,200. Which is very difficult for me at this time to come up with since my husband has been unemployed since October of 2012. But, I need a car for my job, so I had no other choice, I can't drive it without brakes.

- Bear, DE, USA

problem #2

Dec 242012


  • 93,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that while traveling approximately 65 mph, the brakes failed to respond to deceleration attempts and the contact crashed into another vehicle. There were no injuries. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where the vehicle was awaiting diagnosis. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted about the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 93,000.

- Long Beach, CA, USA

problem #1

Feb 282012

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 50,000 miles
On approximately February 28, 2012, the ABS/trac control/vsc lights came on and remained lit on my 2003 Toyota 4runner. I called the dealership and they said to bring it in right away. They diagnosed the car and came up with "no sensor reading?. it cost me $150 for the diagnostic test. I picked up the car and a few weeks later I brought it back for the same problem. The computer then indicated that there was a faulty O2 sensor which they replaced my cost was over $650. The next week the lights came on again. The dealership kept the car for a few days but later reported that they could not duplicate the problem. They told me that I should wait until it got worse and bring it back. I suffered with this problem for months. I say suffered because when I was in park and these lights came on, I could not shift out of park. The lights would eventually go away and allow me to drive. On 8/24 the problem became worse. I could not shift my car out of park for more than 15 minutes on over 10 different occasions. The warning lights remained lit almost constantly over 3 days. When I called to return the car to the dealership on 8/27, the service person said that she thought there was a recall associated with that issue, but then told me that there was not. Later that day, they called and said that they again could not replicate the problem. After a quick internet search, it seems that many people have had the same experience that I have had on various Toyota vehicles. I feel an investigation is appropriate in this instance.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

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