Notes: A dependable pickup option that does have a slight history of frame corrosion. Even though mud looks cool on a truck, it's best if you run this through the car wash every now and again.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
93,126 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 Tundra drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Toyota Tundra Owner Comments

problem #18

Oct 022016


  • 79,962 miles


I am a retired Toyota master diagnostic technician. As I was replacing my rear brake lines on my 2003 Tundra-with 79,962 miles, I saw a fluid leak under rear of vehicle. Upon inspection I found the rear differential housing has rusted so badly that the gear oil is leaking through the housing. Unfortunately the only remedy is the replacement of the complete rear axle/differential assembly. The frame has already been replaced-under recall. The rear brake lines have rusted through which had to be replaced- at my expense. Also the power steering lines have also rusted through which also had to be replaced- at my expense. It is obvious that the material that was used is of very low quality causing very dangerous; loss of vehicle control due to differential lock-up, loss of vehicle braking due to rapid fluid loss, loss of vehicle steering control due to rapid fluid loss. I am amazed that Toyota motor co. Will not stand behind the product they sold-without being forced to. One quick look under a 2003 Tundra is all it takes to see that low/poor quality hardware and materials were used. Without repair and/or replacement of above stated components someone will get injured-possibly fatally. My brakes failed as I was towing a trailer in heavy, city traffic. I was going 35mph when a vehicle pulled out in front of me and then proceeded to stop suddenly to make a left turn into a parking lot. I slammed on the brakes and the pedal went to the floor. I was lucky there was room to maneuver to the right so I was able to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of me. I'm sure there have been those less fortunate. Please investigate these complaints as soon as possible. These components should last for the lifetime of the truck. A differential is not an item one expects to ever replace. Owners have been complaining about these failures for years. Thank you.sincerely, ....

- Rogers, OH, USA

problem #17

Jan 152016


  • miles
Toyota had a recall of rusted out frames for 2003 Toyota Tundra trucks. Mine was replaced, but now the differential has rusted out and it requires an entire new rear axle. I filed a complaint with Toyota corporate and was told since my vehicle is out of warranty they will not stand by their product and replace an obviously defective part. This defect could cause the rear end to lock up while driving and possible cause an accident with injuries.

- Califon, NJ, USA

problem #16

Oct 152015


  • 170,000 miles
Bad frame rust bad suspension rust bad differential rust bad spare tire rust.if rust condition gets worse the possibility of suspension failure is very real.some of these models need to be recalled or bought back before there is injury or death.

- Kalona, IA, USA

problem #15

Aug 062015


  • 112,932 miles


I took my 2003 Tundra to a transmission repair shop, independent, to have the rear differential evaluated due to crunching sound which occurred when taking off from a stop and leaking of fluid due to corrosion on housing. The shop called me that day two hours later and informed me that my frame was completely rusted out near the front of the vehicle on both sides making it unsafe to drive and not worth proceeding in any repairs of the rear differential at this point. They contacted the nearest dealership which told them that the frame perforation recall, NHTSA # 09V444 had expired 7/31/2015 six days prior. I was instructed to call Toyota, which I did. The lady informed me that the recall was still ongoing. I took the Tundra to that same dealership for them to inspect the frame. The next day they call me and inform me that I need to contact Toyota again myself. This is a Toyota garage telling me this. Tonight I get on Toyota's website and find two recalls in regards to the frame perforation. According to the toy website both status' of recalls offer remedies available and this site is updated 8/7/2015. I can see that my nearest dealer isn't going to be very helpful. My truck has 112,000. I'm the 2nd owner and have been diligent with maintenance. I do no off roading and use if to Transport my motorcycle to races hundreds of miles from home.

- Lumberport, WV, USA

problem #14

Jul 182015


  • 138,329 miles
The rear differential housing of the truck is rusted through and leaking gear lube, if it goes unnoticed the rear differential could lock up causing the rear wheels to lock up and cause a crash. This a very common issue with the 2000-2003 Tundra and is very unsafe, there is no reason the rear differential housing should rust through this quick, 30 year old trucks do have this issue but a whole lot of Toyota trucks do, if you do a search on google for rusted through differentials its all Toyota trucks, and its not just a differential cover its the entire housing, I would not be writing this if it had a cover I would have replaced it in an hour and called it a day. The frame of the truck was already replaced because it rusted through and now the differential housing is rusted through due to substandard materials used in its construction. This is a serious issue just like the frame that needs to be addressed.

- Olmsted Falls, OH, USA

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problem #13

Jul 152014


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Tundra. The contact stated that while having the vehicle serviced, he was informed that the differential was rusted out and that fluid was leaking. As a result, the differential needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 80,000.

- East Greewich, RI, USA

problem #12

Feb 072014

Tundra 8-cyl

  • 93,568 miles


Hello, I am having a really strange problem with my 2003 Tundra, the rear axle is actually rusted out and leaking gear lube! I live in a snow area and drove the truck for a couple months before noticing the oil on ground after snow melted, now it is too late as the rear axle is now making a noise and cannot be driven until I replace the entire axle housing! you cannot hear it in the cab unless windows are down! I have taken exceptional care of this truck and all my cars, washing and waxing frequently even in winter. The truck has been back for rust inspections and frame coating but nothing for the axle! I have actually spoken with a number of other Toyota owners that are also experiencing the same with their Tundra! actually this could cause a serious accident if the bearings seize from no lubrication and cause the truck to lock in the rear! I really can't believe Toyota would not stand behind this error! I really cannot afford the 4-5 thousand repair on the truck! I have had many new Toyota cars and trucks starting in 1984 with an all wheel tercel followed by 5 Tacoma, every 2 or 3 years, a previa, a sienna and in 2009 a Camry hybrid. I was going to sell it to my son and buy another Tundra but I am not so sure now. I feel Toyota should cover this structural defect. I have never seen any other car or truck that actually rusted through the axle housing! also the floor of the bed in the Tundra where the cross braces are welded to are rusted through as well, this started within 2 years of ownership! I have read on the internet about all the other Tundra owners having the same issue! I have been a big supporter of Toyota but maybe that is coming to an end!

- Rouseville, PA, USA

problem #11

Oct 072013

Tundra 8-cyl

  • 48,648 miles
My 2003 Tundra SR5 4X4 access cab broke down coming to a complete stop during interstate driving in 2wd at the posted speed limit. Upon a lengthy and expensive tow to my mechanic, I was advised the rear differential had failed due to extensive rust not only on the rear differential cover, but over the entire rear axle assembly. The rust was so pervasive it allowed differential fluid to leak from the carrier assembly resulting in heat and friction leading to the catastrophic failure of the differential gears. The truck has just over 48,000 miles on it and had previously been recalled for replacement of rusted fuel tank straps. I received no satisfaction from any Toyota dealer except to be referred to Toyota usa. As such, I contacted Toyota motor sales, usa direct on Oct. 28, 2013 and was assigned a case number (incident: 131027-000079). As expected, Toyota's oral reply on Oct. 29, 2013 failed to acknowledge any responsibility for the excessive rust that is plaguing many Tundra owners and is resulting in expensive repair costs that would ordinarily be unnecessary had the vehicles been properly manufactured. Rather than simply apologize for the inconvenience and advise the matter would be elevated to management and rather than hide behind warranty expiration excuses, Toyota should be ashamed of its maleficence and in the interest of maintaining its reputation and owner base, do the right thing and correct this well documented deficiency. Toyota's response is typical of what other owner's are reporting on various web sites including "Tundra solutions" and others. This is a serious defect for which Toyota should accept full responsibility. This failure could have led to a serious accident had there been a rear end collision or had control of the vehicle been lost while steering into a muddy median where road construction was in progress.

- Akron, OH, USA

problem #10

Jun 202013

Tundra 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,426 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Tundra. The contact stated that while shifting from park to reverse, the shift lever fractured and detached from the vehicle. The vehicle remained in reverse. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, who replaced the shift assembly, lever sub assembly, tilt lever and the shift lever. The failure was reported to the manufacturer, who refused to provide any assistance. The failure mileage was 125,426. The current mileage was 125,540...updated 08-07-13 the dealer replaced the column and replaced the broken shift components. Updated 08/13/13

- Cambridge , ID, USA

problem #9

Feb 042013

Tundra 8-cyl

  • 104,000 miles
Noticed oily substance on driveway, took truck to mechanic and he informed me the rear axle housing had rusted through! I was shocked at the news and dumbfounded to find out this is a common problem with Tundra's and Tacoma's and there is no recourse except to pay upwards of $2000 to have it fixed. I have never heard of any newer vehicle having the axle rust through at only 104,000 miles. This is low miles for a 2003 and the truck has been taken care of too.

- Hillsborough, NH, USA

problem #8

Oct 312011

Tundra 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Tundra. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph, he switched from four wheel drive to two wheel drive and the entire front end of the vehicle abruptly and violently seized. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnosis and the entire front differential was replaced. The manufacturer was not notified. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was 120,00 and the current mileage was 125,000.... updated 02/27/13

- Valley Center, CA, USA

problem #7

Nov 022012

Tundra 6-cyl

  • 55,000 miles
Took 2003 Toyota Tundra in for frame rust corrosion program 09V-444000. Was told frame and other components had extensive rust and multiple 10mm holes by lead service technician at local Toyota dealership. Service manager explained that my 2003 Toyota Tundra frame was extensively rusted and unsafe to be on the road and they wanted to take my truck immediately and provide a rental car due to safety concerns. Asked for a plan of action of the scope of work to be performed (corrosion compound verses frame replacement) before giving possession of vehicle. Photos of 2003 Toyota Tundra frame, rear cross members, spare tire carrier, rear brake lines & fuel tank mounting system were taken and sent to lead service tech three states away in Texas. Was informed extensive frame rust exists on all components (frame, rear cross members, spare tire carrier, rear brake lines & fuel tank mounting system) but it is not covered because vehicle is no longer registered in Wisconsin. Purchased this 2003 Toyota certified vehicle in Wisconsin in April of 2010 and no information was given to me at regarding the NHTSA investigation or any rust inspections that were performed. Toyota corporation refuses to repair, replace or add corrosion resistant compound to any severely affected rusted components. Significant rust issues exist on this vehicle and still Toyota corporation refuses to provide any documentation of their inspections. Toyota corporation will not put in writing that the frame, rear cross members, spare tire carrier, rear brake lines & fuel tank mounting system is safe or road worthy. Deadline for all rust repairs is December 31, 2012. Toyota corporation is stalling consumers to keep from doing any repairs and leaving unsafe rusted 2003 Toyota Tundra's on the highways. Please initiate a new NHTSA investigation regarding this matter for the safety of consumers.

- Madison, MS, USA

problem #6

Oct 292012


  • 124,505 miles
For the third time since I have owned the vehicle where the shift control goes into the steering column, where it connects has broken. This is a piece of metal that has again snapped making it unable to shift the car. What happens if I was in drive and could not shift into park? I have had this fixed twice before, once when I was stuck on the road and once towed to Toyota.

- Verbank, NY, USA

problem #5

Feb 182011

Tundra 4WD 8-cyl

  • 110,907 miles
Toyota had a re-call for excessive corrosion on the 03 Tundra. I have been taking the truck in for inspections for 3 years & was told everything was ok. This year Toyota said they had an ok to undercoat the frames. While my truck was in for the work it was discovered that the rear differntial had rusted through & was leaking oil. Even though this componenet is on the underside of the truck just like the frame that was covered the repairs were not covered under the recall. It was obvious that the issue was caused by corrosion. Total cost of the repair was $2000 for the rear differntial casing to be replaced. Why was this not covered under the recall if the componenet is part of the uderside of the vehicle?

- Northfield Village , OH, USA

problem #4

Dec 012011

Tundra 8-cyl

  • miles
I believe Toyota sold hundreds, possibly thousands of this type vehicle to customers who asked for a limited slip differential and paid a premium to get one. Many times when on slippery surfaces one rear tire just spins with no traction to the other. My window sticker says I have lsd and I don't. the mechanic at desert Toyota told me I didn't have a ls when he changed my rear dif oil. I couldn't believe what he told me, "no, you have a regular drive rear end." Several months passed and I drove the vehicle down to precision Toyota where I bought the vehicle. They just looked underneath the truck and said I had it. I said I didn't. they pointed to a decal and that was their proof. I asked for a test to be applied to it to prove it but said they were to busy and declined to do it that day. A day or two later I took the vehicle back to desert Toyota where the mechanic worked that said I did not have lsd. When I described my concerns and asked for the mechanic they said he wasn't available and gave me some other guy. They jacked the rear end up and told me when they spin one rear tire in one direction and the other tire spins in the opposite direction that proves I have ls. But the information I get off the internet and independent mechanics says the opposite is true.. they say if I spin one rear tire in one direction the other should also spin in the same direction. I believe Toyota committed fraud and did not give me what I paid for and will not except the true facts.this rear ends puts me in dangerous slip and slide risks when on slippery surfaces that results in no traction.

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #3

Jun 132003


  • 45,000 miles
Shift assembly broke.

- Cypress, TX, USA

problem #2

Jul 222010


  • 108,000 miles
I have a 2003 Tundra access cab 4WD truck. Took it to the Toyota dealership for the rust recall inspection and to investigate oil leaking from the rear differential housing. Dealership said that the frame was fine but the cross members and tank supports need coating. They also advised that the rear differential housing was rusted to the point that oil is leaking and would have to be replaced. They said that Toyota is not responsible for the replacement of the rear axle housing. The vehicle has 108K miles. I can not believe that with all the known rust issues that Toyota will not stand behind this problem.

- North Ferrisburgh, VT, USA

problem #1

Sep 222009


  • 160,000 miles
When returning to MY2003 Toyota Tundra, from a doctors appt, I noticed a pool of liquid, under the rear axle of the truck. Having wife back truck up, I checked this viscous, clearish fluid, finding it to be a rear end oil/grease, and had been leaking from mid housing of the rearend. Upon further inspection, I found this had been leaking for enough time that oil spots were all over the rear window of and tailgate of truck. I called Toyota to look at it and they wanted ?$120 just to look at it, so I brought to a mechanic down the road form Toyota and he found the rear axle housing had rusted thru. He in 40 years had never heard of this problem, and while searching for a replacement rear end, could only find one "good used" one in new england. He obtained and replaced my damaged one, for a cost of >$1000. He later told me he had another one come in less then a week, same problem. At home, I found oil had been leaking front the back of the truck for some time, evidenced by oil on the ground and wood near where the back of the truck was backed into driveway.

- Webster, MA, USA

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