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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
71,254 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 #8

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 #7

Aug 222013


  • 24,000 miles
Near the end of August four warning lights came on at the same time in my 2003 4runner. They were the vsc trac, vsc off, ABS and brake. I scheduled an appointment with the local Toyota authorized repair shop to determine and fix the problem. They looked at the vehicle and discovered significant rust and corrosion on the frame, rear axle and attached parts. I have asked for an estimate to repair, and they are unable to do so as there is so much rust, corrosion, and lack of material to work with. I am the second owner of this vehicle. The first owner, a friend of mine, had the vehicle undercoated the day after purchase, kept the car in a garage, and washed the vehicle frequently including the underside. I purchased the vehicle in February 2007 with 13,750 miles. It has also lived in a garage here. As of August 29, 2013, the date of the inspection, the vehicle had 24,005 miles. The exterior of the vehicle is in perfect condition, and the interior is the same. However, the underside is a different story. I have contacted Toyota and received this response. "there are no known issues or current recalls relating to body and frame rust issued for your vehicle...your vehicle is out of warranty, and we would be unwilling to offer you any compensation for any repairs to the vehicle. While we understand your dissatisfaction with this decision, it does represent Toyota's final position in this matter."

- Kodiak, AK, USA

problem #6

Jan 172011

4Runner 4WD 8-cyl

  • 50,485 miles
ABS warning lite stays on, brake lite is on, vsc trac lite on. Goes on & off intermittently. Mostly stays on. Brakes occasionally feel crunchy and do not stop properly. Am calling for service today. Vehicle will be parked until problem can be resolved.

- Clark, NJ, USA

problem #5

Jan 162005


  • 15,000 miles


I purchased a brand new 2003 Toyota 4runner in May 2003. In one cold morning of Jan. 2005, I was driving it in highway that was still covered with some snow. All of sudden, an engine check light on the dashboard was automatically turned on, followed by vsc lights, indicating that a vehicle skid control function was automatically turned off. At that point, I could not drive the car beyond 50 mph, no matter how hard or frequently I pushed the accelerator pedal. I pulled over, restarted, and re-entered the highway but had the same results. I managed to drive the car to a dealer for inspection the same day. The dealer could not find a cause and simply reset the computer controller. This seemed to have resolved the problem at that time. However, the engine check and vsc light issues resurfaced about two years later. The difference this time was that there was no acceleration issue. No inspection was made. The dashboard lights were automatically turned off after driving for about a month. In Jan. 2010, those lights reappeared and have remained turned on. No impact on acceleration has been observed.

- Jersey City, NJ, USA

problem #4

Feb 012009


  • 89,995 miles
2003 Toyota 4runner vsc trac, vsc off, brake, ABS lights on.

- Walla Walla, WA, USA

problem #3

Aug 202009


  • 80,000 miles
My 2003 Toyota 4runner has the vsc trac/trac off light on. Ever since these 2 lights have been on my vehicle performance has been affected. I have had 2 incidents where my 4runner fishtails on mild wet road, the 2 times when this happened I was entering a ramp, and while slightly turning onto the street my vehicle fishtailed violently and turning the vehicle facing the opposite direction against approaching traffic. It was a very scary scenario. I was going very slow since it was an exiting ramp with a stop light so I hit on the brakes to slow down and make the turn at the light onto the street and this is what the vehicle did...this has happened twice already. I've seen many reports on the internet from many people having this problem. Is there a recall in place for this type of problems (vsc trac/trac off) on the 4runners?? please advice.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #2

Oct 032009


  • 93,555 miles
After replacing an oxygen sensor several times, the dealership finally discovered the root of the problem that is making the oxygen sensor and traction control circuit short out. The air divertor flap inside the HVAC box under the dash had grease applied to the flap hinges in the factory. Directly below the flap is a wiring harness which drops down from the HVAC box and plug into the ECU. Over time the grease has traveled down through the wiring harness to the electrical connection plug into the ECU causing various circuits to short. No damage at present, however various safety circuits such as traction control are being affected. Furthermore, as oil is combustible, an interior fire could result from the oil penetrating the 12 volt electrical connection point on the ECU. This issue/ problem should be considered hazardous and should be a recall to replace the wiring harness and ECU as well as clean the grease out of the HVAC box.

- Chapin, SC, USA

problem #1

Mar 302009


  • 50,000 miles
Failure of automatic braking control and anti-skid control. Service light activated but no recall or notice to consumers. See technical service bulletin br 005-03 (Dec. 4, 2003). Toyota refuses to recognize safety risk or obligation to replace outside of warranty period.

- Washington, DC, USA

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