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:
66,647 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 #17

Mar 152012


  • 133,500 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that the vehicle stability control system and the traction control system were not functioning. The vehicle was taken to an independent repair shop and the yaw sensor was re-calibrated. The contact was also informed that the failure could have led to a brake failure in which the brakes would seize. The failure recurred approximately three days later. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 133,500.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #16

Mar 122012


  • miles
2003 Toyota 4runner has 3 faulty calipers 2 on front and one on the rear. The caliper uses a dual piston and the interior lower piston is the one that failed on both front calipers. This issue is know to thousands of Toyota owners who inquire (its common knowledge among those who own them.) the fact that both failed at the same time was incredibly dangerous I live in the mountains and losing both front brakes simultaneously is cause for great concern my safety is at risk as well as the safety of my passengers and everyone else. I am not sure why it has taken soo much effort from us (the owners of said vehicles and therefore caliper) to get this looked into. The calipers are of a faulty design and will fail prematurely putting human lives at risk. What more do you need" a person to die before this becomes credited information" just check out to find any number of identical claims.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #15

Nov 182011

4Runner 4-cyl

  • miles
Took vehicle in for front brake replacement at 121,679 miles. First set of front brakes were replaced at 70,452 miles. Tech called to inform me that front calipers were frozen and would require replacement. Seems to be a relatively common occurrence for high mileage 4 runners. Same time had right axle boot replaced as well. $1,118 for the whole job! of course I almost keeled over but had to have the work done, and wanted dealer to perform the work so I wouldn't have issues later if anything went wrong. Have had all work done at this dealer and they've stood behind all their work, but was still a bit disappointed that the front calipers were shot. Car has always been garage kept, and kept clean, inside and out. In fact, still looks like a new car.

- Glenview, IL, USA

problem #14

Apr 062011

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 17,000 miles


While driving I noticed that my front ABS would not activate in an emergency situation. Braking distances became a lot longer. When I went to check my front brakes, I discovered that the front lower brake piston had frozen. It was the same for both sides. Took it into the shop, and they said the same thing. They wanted to replace the caliper on both sides for a total of $750. I did it myself. This is the same thing that has happened to many other owners, which can be found on

- Morton Grove, IL, USA

problem #13

Aug 092011

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 91,454 miles
While driving front ABS does not seem to be activating. Braking distances worsened as my 03 4runner was driven. It turns out a piston in the brake calipers had frozen costing over $650 in repairs to replace the calipers. This is a constant problem. More info can be found at

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #12

Oct 062011


  • 135,160 miles
Brakes failed causing me to run off the road almost rear ending another vehicle. The vsc, ABS and brake lights came up on the dash along with an audible alarm. Repair shop said brakes are fine and that is a computer related problem.

- Middle Island, NY, USA

problem #11

Aug 112011

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 67,444 miles


Lower inboard front brake caliper pistons on both sides of the vehicle corroded to the point of being frozen and non-functional leading to excessive braking distance and wear of brake components. Calipers are non-rebuildable and had to be replaced with remanufactured calipers by raybestos. Brake pads and rotors damaged to point of needing to be replaced also.

- Highland, IN, USA

problem #10

Dec 012004

4Runner 6-cyl

  • 12,000 miles
The vehicle would rev itself up to a high RPM, from a stopped position when I stepped on the gas the vehicle would go in reverse. The dealership eventually replaced the transmission only after the manager borrowed it overnight and experienced it himself, but I have noticed the problem beginning again. Another problem is the radiator leaking and needed to be replaced (I was told it had the wrong kind of antifreeze; it was green and it needs a red kind"?"). when replacing this I was notified that my front brakes were paper thin and needed to be replaced this repair cost me almost $2000. Another problem is the rear window trim has shrunk. I also had the sunroof replaced after owning the vehicle less than two years. The brake light on the rear hatch does not work as well as the rear wipers (also when I hooked a trailer to it the electrical system seems to be messed up because the trailer lights will not work; went to autozone and tested the trailer and it is fine). The vehicle is starting to act funny again, the engine revs itself to high rpms (this is not the automatic tranny because it happens when it idles as well). The last incident was when I pulled out from a street parking spot and as soon as I put it in drive the vehicle stalled and we lost all power, when I pressed the gas pedal it was as if it was in neutral yet I triple checked and it was in drive. All of the sudden it acted normal and drove about 10 feet then it happened all over again. I also have the rotten egg smell (sulfur?) which is sporadic. Of course the dealer always says they can find nothing wrong, nothing is coming up on the computer. Luckily no injuries have occurred as of yet but I feel it is only a matter of time before I am on the highway and it decides to play these games. Very disappointed in quality of this vehicle, especially since I purchased it because of the reputation.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #9

Dec 132006


  • 66,277 miles
1. right front brake caliper froze. Toyota replaced free of charge. 2. left rear brake caliper froze on 05/05/2010 at 95, 988 miles. My cost $490.73. Left front brake caliper froze on 11/22/10 at 102,712 miles. My cost $470.40. Toyota claimed no responsibility as there was no required recall on that part. They treat brake calipers like tires and brake pads. I know that calipers should not fail. A frozen caliper can reduce braking efficiency by 25 % plus cause instability during braking. I believe the average owner does not know that calipers should not freeze up, so they are buying Toyota's denial as appropriate. Updated 01/20/11

- Annapolis, MD, USA

problem #8

Nov 012010

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 99,990 miles
2003 Toyota 4runner AWD V8 with ~99,990 mileage. Front brake caliper inner pistons seized and inner front brake pads failed to apply for indeterminate time period (approximately 3 years and 30,000 miles). Heavy corrosion of caliper contact surfaces also prevented normal travel of oem replacement inner brake pads. Resulted in reduced braking force and intermittent brake pedal pulsation due to thermal imbalance of the rotors. Passenger side inner rotor surface corroded because no brake pad contact was occurring. Probably contributed to front wheel bearing premature failure due to unbalanced braking force on the brake rotors and inordinate torque on the bearing assembly. This vehicle has the original factory brake fluid (I.e., the hydraulic brake system has never been flushed.) this is a permanent failure of the braking system in this vehicle. Replacement of calipers is anticipated. Failed calipers could be made available for inspection but will ultimately be returned for core charge.

- Hudson, OH, USA

problem #7

Oct 042010

4Runner 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 41,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. While driving approximately 25-30 mph, the contact applied the brakes and heard a squeaking noise. The contact stopped the vehicle and inspected it; he could find nothing wrong. The vehicle was taken to a local repair shop where the contact was informed that the bottom two floating caliper pistons were locked. The vehicle had not been repaired. The contact called the manufacturer and filed a complaint. The current and failure mileages were approximately 41,000. Updated 1/21/11 updated 02/07/11

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #6

Sep 012010

4Runner 4WD 6-cyl

  • 96,400 miles
2003 Toyota 4runner (V6-4WD) had 2 frozen front brake calipers. Had the brakes checked bc intermittent squealing noise and increased braking distances. On each side: Outer brake pad barely had anything left (literally less than paper thin) + inner brake pad looked great bc never really used since calipers frozen. Needed both front brake pads and rotors replaced, along with 2 calipers (1 each side). So I basically had no front brakes for months and no way to tell unless someone notices the outer pads are worn and goes to replace them. Poor design leading to safety issue.

- Morgantown, WV, USA

problem #5

Apr 302010


  • 100,000 miles
We have a 2003 Toyota 4 runner limited with the all wheel drive V8 engine. I noticed that Toyota was going to recall the 2003 sequoia for braking, slowing issues. We have had similar issues with our vehicle with seemingly automatic braking. The vehicle does have a down hill assist button for what I understand to be used in low gear on the transfer. The vehicle being all wheel drive does have a high and low transfer with a center locking differential. The vehicle with slow almost which small lunges, as if the transmission was downshifting with the RPM's being too high for the gear. That is the best I can explain. It is not a sudden stop, no brake lights appear, but the vehicle does slow, as if its dragging, perhaps that is some automatic pulsing of the brakes. Should I take the vehicle to Toyota.

- Nashville, TN, USA

problem #4

Apr 232010


  • 45,444 miles
When stopped and holding down the brake pedal my 2003 Toyota 4runner lurches forward. It feels like the vehicle is going to loose the brakes but then catches. The dealer calls this a known 4runner problem. They say there is no fix from Toyota.

- Annandale, VA, USA

problem #3

Jun 262009


  • 122,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that he was involved in a front end crash while driving approximately 50 mph. There were no injuries. A police report was not filed. The vehicle began pulling to the left when the left tire locked or to the right when the right tire locked. Both tires never locked at the same time. The anti-skid light and traction control warning lights illuminated on the dashboard. The failure occurred 5 times in a 4 mile trip. The front end damage was repaired at a body shop. He took the vehicle to the dealer who stated that the yaw rate sensor (in the brake system) needed to be replaced. The contact called the manufacturer but was offered no assistance. The vehicle had not been repaired at the time of the complaint. The current mileage was approximately 124,000. The failure mileage was approximately 122,000.

- Nampa, ID, USA

problem #2

Feb 112007


  • 85,330 miles
Erratic throttle response and erratic/unpredictable/difficult to predict brake application.

- Fountain Valley, CA, USA

problem #1

Feb 232005


  • 20,000 miles
I had issues with the brake pedals ever since 2-3 years into driving the vehicle. I have a 2003 Toyota 4runner and the brake pedal is not very responsive. I had the brakes, rotors and brake system checked and there are no issues. My biggest issue is with the brake pedal itself. I feel when I hit the brake, a gentle tap doesn't produce a response. Only a mild to hard step on the brakes would cause the vehicle to stop. Im very wary of this B/C I always have to hit the brakes hard to get a response. I feel the brake pedal is loose because it is not very responsive and does not respond to tapping. In fact, if I hit the brakes and the brakes drop one inch, there would be no brake response. I had the vehicle checked by Toyota dealer and they said its some sort of brake part that needs to be replaced. Upon replacing that part, I still feel the same looseness in the brake pedal. My most serious concern is that when I hit the brakes sometimes B/C I have to hit it hard, my vehicle feels like it's drifting. The wheels would go left and right and then go straight. This does not happen often, but when it does, it freaks me out. At freeway speed, when I hit the brakes, whether its light or soft, sometimes, the car just does the random drift. I feel its the result of a loose brake pedal and perhaps delayed response to the tires. I changed the brake pads and I had my brakes inspected often due to this issue.

- Hacienda Hts, CA, USA

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