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:
58,716 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 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Toyota 4Runner Owner Comments

problem #7

Jun 012016


  • 130,009 miles


Extensive frame rust through and rear differential/axle rust the frame rust is in an area that connects the rear axle to the vehicle.

- Georgetown, KY, USA

problem #6

Aug 052010


  • miles
My 2003 Toyota had emissions issues in that all four oxygen sensors would fail quickly. It took me two years and lots of money later to determine that the cause of this is because transmission fluid is wicking its way through the transmission solenoid harness all the way to the ECU and once there because of the way the ECU is mounted gets into all of the other wiring harnesses of just about every other sensor. I went to Toyota and the first technician never heard that happening before but another overheard our conversation and said "I bet you have a 4runner" so yeah its happened to others. They wanted nearly $4500 to fix the issue. New engine wiring harness $1500-$2000 and another $1000 for the labor and the rest of the estimate is for other parts not specified. Their solution is to cut the wire below the transmission wiring harness connector then splice and solder but I would have to replace nearly all the critical wiring in that car. I cant give an exact date on when it started going wrong but I can look at the service history on the Toyota owner's website and give you this timeline. 0-89,997 - no, issues with emissions or electrical systems. 89,997mi - 90K service done - transmission fluid change w/flush done at dealer. 98,152mi - car reporting lean codes, dealer replaces maf sensor. 100,117 - car reporting lean codes, dealer replaces O2 sensor and A/F sensor bank 2 position 1 & 2 105,312 - car reporting lean codes, dealer replaces bank 1 position 1 A/F sensor and maf sensor again. Total cost $798.76. There are more but I have character limits. I will say this though that the problem should have been obvious because you can clearly see the fluid when you unplug the O2 sensor from the harness but Toyota was content charging me $500-$700 every 10K miles without actually fixing it. Car still remained functional but ruined fuel economy.

- Cabot, AR, USA

problem #5

Jun 242013


  • 125,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that the steering wheel failed. The steering wheel became hard to turn and the vehicle was taken to a mechanic for inspection. The failure was located at the steering wheel system, which failed due to severe corrosion that expanded to the transmission lines and the frame. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure and current mileage was 125,000.

- Coventry , RI, USA

problem #4

Feb 242012

4Runner 8-cyl

  • 59,000 miles


I have had this vehicle since new, and only travel back and forth to work approx 30 miles a day..(now has 59,000 miles).vehicle has been regularly serviced at a local Toyota dealer...vehicle never used for towing or never been off-road, and maintained like a baby...all of a sudden dealer told me my front axle cv joints are leaking and needs replacing including the rear shocks" this is fully loaded 2003 Toyota limited edition V8...seems very unusual at 59K miles" will contact Toyota to see if they can help out in any way...

- Olney, MD, USA

problem #3

Sep 172011

4Runner 8-cyl

  • miles
Vehicle has a low gear sound which began when vehicle was relatively new as I travelled down slight grades. I never complained because that was the only time it seemed abnormal and there are only a very places in my town where the hill was steep enough to cause it. Plus I assumed it was related to the trac braking system and might be normal. Last weekend on a 5 hour trip each way the problem began to manifest itself as I accellerated on flat ground. The tachometer showed low rpms (under 2000) until 50-60 mph. However the sound was much more noticible with some additional vibration. The vibration is now worse, could it be a speed sensor problem? [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Memphis, TN, USA

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problem #2

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 #1

Jan 072009


  • 85,000 miles
From a completely stopped position, letting off the gas and allowing the truck to idle forward results in a klunk noise whether you accelerate or not. As I have read, it is a problem within the drivetrain. I took the truck to Toyota to have it looked at. They say it is because the rear needs to be lubed with every oil change and was completely dry. They lubed it up and said the problem should improve with time. The truck is still making the klunk noise. The truck has only 85K. This seems very similar to the problem with Toyota Tundra and some lexuses.

- Tucson, AZ, USA

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