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:
67,036 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota 4Runner Owner Comments

problem #7

Feb 172015


  • 134,000 miles


I bought my 2003 Toyota 4runner less than a year ago from an auto group (Toyota, Honda, ect) and had them perform a safety inspection. Since it was used I knew there would be some issues, the only problem it had was the recommended service wasn't completed at 90K miles (timing belt, water pump, ect). I worked that into the deal an was on my way. After departing the U.S. and shipping my car to Hawaii, the inspectors here found a lot of rust on the frame and said it could be an issue getting an approved safety inspection (required for registering the car in Hawaii). They said it isn't severe now, but can be living in this state as it is very rusted and will continue to do so in such a humid environment. They also said that Tacoma for that year had a recall due to excessive frame rust (similar if not the same frames) but 4runners do not, so they recommended I talk to Toyota about it. I called the Toyota service center here and they said there is no recall and if I wanted the frame fixed or replaced, it'd have to be at my expense. Toyota's are fantastic vehicles, I just hope this comment aids in their decision to approve a recall on 4runner's frames due to rust like the other makes for the same year.

- Honolulu, HI, USA

problem #6

Apr 062014


  • 120,750 miles
While in process of replacing serpentine belt and idler pulleys on engine, I noticed (after removing lower engine shield under vehicle) significant rust damage to front frame segment under radiator support. The right side tow hook and corner of frame it was mounted to fell off in my hand when I touched it. Upon further inspection, there are other parts of vehicle frame with rust damage, though none appear to be as severe as area of frame underneath radiator. This portion of frame appears to connect the two side frame rails together.

- Glenville, NY, USA

problem #5

Mar 132009


  • 20,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that when driving above 25 mph, the check engine light would illuminate on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where they were unable to diagnose the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 20,000 and the current mileage was 30,000.

- Skokie, IL, USA

problem #4

Jun 012011


  • 100,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that the vsc tracking light illuminated, causing the vehicle to violently jerk when applying pressure to the brakes. Neither the dealer nor manufacturer had been notified. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The current and failure mileages were 100,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Theodore, AL, USA

problem #3

Jul 212010

4Runner 4WD 6-cyl

  • 94,500 miles
Bought a 2003 Toyota 4runner V6 4WD 2 1/2 years ago as a Toyota certified used vehicle..within a year I needed a new serpentine belt due to excessive noise at start up. The dealer told me there was a tsb for this and to bring the car back if I had further issues. The noise came back but was irregular, it would come at start up every day for a couple weeks and then disappear for another few weeks. The noise got louder and sounded somewhat different a couple weeks ago. Brought it to the dealer and they replaced the idler pulley on Friday 07/16/10. It sounded loud again at start up after I picked up the vehicle but the noise eventually went away. However my serpentine belt actually ripped less than a week later (07/21/10) while I was driving 45mph on a curvy road. I first lost my ac, quickly followed by my power steering...somehow managed to pull over but by then smoke was coming from underneath the hood due to the fact that in the ripping process the belt broke a coolant hose. I have been without a vehicle for 5 days now and am waiting on the dealer to get a new hose so that they can actually run the car and make sure the pulleys are all ok. However so far they're telling me that all the pulleys are fine and I am having to fight with them to get them to do the recommended fix to the tsb EG012-13. A noise at start is one thing, but a year and 1/2 old belt actually ripping is not normal! I was fortunate to come out of this unharmed and not damage my car or somebody else's.

- Morgantown, WV, USA

problem #2

Dec 152009


  • miles
My vehicle seemed to become louder when idling over the past 2 years that I've owned it. A couple months ago I noticed it being noticeably much louder. The noise could be heard while idling (red light, drive thrus...) and would become louder with acceleration up to about 40mph. This was a rattling noise located on the driver's side of the underbody, somewhere between the driver's and the passenger's seats. It sounded like loud heavy vibrations, metal on metal. I asked the Toyota dealership service department to check out and they found that the heatshield was seriously rusted. They had to order the part in order to replace it but said it was rusted so badly that they had to remove what was left of the original heatshield to prevent further damage to other components. Once the new part was received they were able to put on the new heatshield.

- Morgantown, WV, USA

problem #1

Nov 072007


  • miles
Chirp noise from engine area on cold start--this has repeated 5 times since vehicle purchase--each time the local Toyota dealer has repaired under warranty--replaced tensioner and belt--chirp sound returns repeatedly after approx 6 mths operation.

- Indian Harbour Beach, FL, USA

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