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:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
60,816 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 #20

Jun 102011


  • 90,000 miles


The engine, vsc trac and vsc warning indicators illuminated continuously on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer. The engine 02 sensors were found to be defective. The manufacture will not replace or replace since there are no advisories on the part. There is a high risk the engine may under perform which may cause lack of control and a potential accident while driving. Leading to injury.

- Plantation, FL, USA

problem #19

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 #18

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 #17

Feb 192014


  • 142,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact while driving 60 mph, the vehicle suddenly accelerated without any warning. The contact mentioned that she was able to decrease the speed by continuously depressing the brake pedal. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure and current mileage was 142,000.

- Carbondale, IL, USA

problem #16

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 #15

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

problem #14

Dec 012010


  • 70,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. The contact stated that while driving 5 mph, the vehicle accelerated without any warning. The contact mentioned that the failure recurred on three occasions. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who was unable to diagnose the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure but provided no assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 70,000 and the current mileage was 92,000.

- West Malbourne, FL, USA

problem #13

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 #12

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

problem #11

Feb 212011

4Runner 6-cyl

  • 62,160 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4-runner. The contact stated that the vehicle was parked when he shifted into drive and the vehicle surged forward and crashed into a curb. A police report was not filed and there were no injuries. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that the fuel jets were plugged with carbon, causing the failure. The vehicle was repaired. The failure had not since recurred. The failure mileage was 62,160 and the current mileage was 63,160. Updated 07/08/11 updated 07/181//

- San Diego, CA, 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

Feb 052011


  • miles
The check engine light came on and the vsc trac turned off, the day after the light came on and the traction turned off...the Toyota 2003 4runner flipped over. The vsc traction should not be turned off when a check engine light comes on because it provides the necessary stability of the vehicle that a SUV needs no matter what is wrong with the car. The car is now totaled and one passenger still suffering from injuries from the accident.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #8

Jan 102008


  • 1,000 miles
I have written to you in the past but have not received any response. My daughter and I both drive 2003 Toyota 4 runners. I have brought the following issue to Toyota several times. I am rewriting to you especially after the LX460 recall. In snow or ice, the vehicle will spin to easy as you drive around a turn while giving it some gas. We both have spun out. I have on two occasions. It is very dangerous. My daughter hates to drive it when it is icy or snowy. My 2000 4runner never did it. My BMW Z4 will not do it. Some thing is wrong with the vsc logic. Can you help me?

- Rocky Mount, NC, USA

problem #7

Apr 112010


  • 93,000 miles
My accelerator pedal got stuck on my Toyota 4runner. I believe the floor mat was involved as when I managed to pull over and stop, I pulled the floor mat away and the pedal released.

- Monmouth Jct, NJ, USA

problem #6

Dec 072009


  • miles
2003 Toyota 4-runner. Consumer states vehicle surged forward. The consumer stated while pulling into her garage the vehicle accelerated out of control and hit a workbench. The consumer paid for the damages out of pocket.

- Howell, MI, USA

problem #5

Jan 182008

4Runner 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
-the contact owns a 2003 Toyota 4runner. A police report was filed for the incident. Updated 6/1/10 the consumer stated as she reached from the passengers side of the vehicle to turn the motor off, the vehicle suddenly accelerated backwards. The consumer stated she tried to run with the vehicle, but it was moving too fast. The passenger door was open and it knocked her down and she hit her head. The vehicle then went into the street and then began to accelerate forward and then the front wheel of the vehicle ran over her. Updated 06/15/10.

- Winston Salem, NC, USA

problem #4

Jan 152010


  • 57,000 miles
2003 Toyota 4runner with 57,000 miles accelerated from 5 mph after taking a turn, to 50 mph. I pumped the brakes but the car did not slow down. I put all of my weight (I weigh 230 lbs.) on the brake pedal and after 3 or 4 seconds the car stopped accelerating. The 4runner is not on the recall list but there are many similar complaints on both the 4runner and other Toyota models that are not on the recall list. Toyota cannot be trusted. If you own one, sell it. If you don't then don't buy any Toyota. They continue to try to hide the truth.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #3

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 #2

Jun 182009


  • 56,000 miles
Sudden acceleration of 2003 Toyota 4 runner as my wife was pulling into parking space. The vehicle jumped over a flower bed and struck two parked cars. The front end sustained approximately $2,000 in damages.

- Fresno, CA, USA

problem #1

Jan 162010

4Runner 6-cyl

  • 57,000 miles
2003 Toyota 4runner V6 sport. On Saturday I floored the gas pedal and when I let up the vehicle continued to accelerate. I pumped the brakes but acceleration continued. I applied strong continuous force to the brakes and after a few seconds the acceleration disengaged. Yesterday's announcement of other non-4runner Toyota models being recalled for exactly the same problem has me very concerned. Is it possible that the 4runner has the same issue and should also be recalled?

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

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