My Tacoma Corrosion Nightmare!

The Short Story:  I purchased my Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, brand new, from Green's Toyota in Lexington Kentucky.  90,000 miles later, the frame is corroded through in one spot, is close to rusting through in another spot, and shows signs of bubbled corrosion over a large portion of the frame.  I've been under the truck for every oil change and this problem only became significant in the last couple of years and it's been progressing very rapidly since then, apparently corroding from the inside out.  There is essentially no rust anywhere on the body, but the frame is corroding rapidly.  There is no repair that would be cost effective.  For all practical purposes, my Tacoma has stage IV car cancer and is not long for this world.  Toyota has admitted that there was a manufacturing defect and the frames were not adequately treated to prevent corrosion.  The latent problem develops after five years where the trucks were frequently driven on salted roads in the winter, and more like fifteen years with much less exposure to salted roads.

Here's a picture of the rusted through area of the left tubular frame, on the inside, about halfway back.

3/4" X 1/2" Rusted Through Hole, Left Box Frame, Inside, About Halfway Back

Scroll to the bottom of this page to see the complete
Tacoma Corrosion Gallery Of Shame!

My Customer Perspective:  I paid approximately $2400 more to buy my Tacoma instead of a similar vehicle from another manufacturer, and suffered the salesweasel mindgame abuses of an arrogant dealership because I believed the Toyota hype.  A Toyota is more reliable.  Over 80% of all Toyota vehicles sold in the last 20 years are still on the road.  In the unlikely event that there is a problem, Toyota will make it right.  They have a well earned reputation for reliability and they want to protect that reputation.  Even worse, I parroted this marketing misinformation to others.  I convinced my wife to buy a RAV4 instead of the Subaru Forester.  I sang the praises of Toyota to my friends, family, and business associates.  I paid a significant amount more and endured a hostile dealership because I believed I was making an investment in quality and reliability.  I expected to get at least 200,000 miles from my Tacoma, per the marketing propaganda.  I kept up on the mechanical maintenance, to protect my investment.  I used only Toyota oil filters, and after the 500 mile break-in, I only used full synthetic motor oil.  It was more expensive, but I was protecting my investment.  I have a 4WD vehicle but it's only been off road about once a year and I've never taken it "four wheeling". Well, all of that was for naught, because the frame is rusted through after only 90,000 miles.  As can be clearly seen in the images, there isn't a spot of rust on the vehicle, and even the underside of the truck bed looks almost new.  This wasn't a truck that was subjected to a corrosive environment.  This is clearly a manufacturing defect.  The frame wasn't adequately treated to survive even a relatively benign environment.  I work at home, so I don't log many miles on my truck, and I'll be lucky to get to 100,000 miles before my Tacoma's frame rust renders it no longer safe to drive.  I've now derated the half ton cargo capacity to what I would consider to be a reasonable safety limit, and as the corrosion continues, I'll be forced to derate the cargo capacity even more.  If I wanted only 100,000 miles from my new 4WD pickup, I'd have bought a truck from Toyota's competition.  I was a victim of Toyota marketing, and I've lost 100,000 miles of vehicle life as a result.

Oh, what a feeling!

Didn't Toyota Offer A Buy Back Program?  Yes, they did.  I received a notification in the mail.  At the top it said that there was a voluntary "warranty enhancement" program being offered by Toyota that would extend the frame coverage for fifteen years.  Basically, Toyota would test my truck by hammering on the frame with a ball peen hammer.  If they could punch a hole in the frame, they'd buy it back at 150% of the Blue Book excellent value.  If not, they'd spray some corrosion inhibitor on the frame and good luck!  Well, by the time I received the notice, I knew I had a pre-existing hole, so my Tacoma would fail, even though we don't have much winter weather here in Kentucky and I had meticulously washed any road salt off the frame immediately after exposure for the first several years.  The notice had a bunch of legalese and distracting details in the body of the text and near the bottom was the following (scanned from the letter):

Misleading Notice Cons Owners Into Thinking They Had Until 12/31/2011

I made an appointment in mid October 2011, but had a 1000 pound lathe in my pickup truck that I couldn't unload for a while, then got busy with work, life, etc.  I made another appointment on November 14th and the service department at Green's Toyota plugged in my VIN and pulled up all of the information from the Toyota database.  I was thinking I had a 1997 Tacoma, purchased at the end of October 1997 at the last of the model year, but I actually had a 1997 Tacoma purchased at the end of October 1996, at the beginning of the model year.  My truck was 15 years old, not 14.  The service manager displayed an almost hostile delight in telling me that the frame was corroded through in one spot, would almost certainly fail in another spot if they tested it, but they wouldn't test it, because it was no longer covered.  No apology.  Just a confrontational "gotcha, sucker" attitude.  It was the same need to make sure I knew they had gotten one over on me that I had experienced at that dealership when I bought my truck.

The What should I do? callout box on the notice from Toyota clearly implied that I had until the end of the year, but the fine print indicated that was for the "CRC application process".  The date I bought my Tacoma was in the same database that was used to obtain my name and address to mail the notice to me.  It would have been very easy for the notice to have a callout box with the purchase date in bold and, "Your local dealer must inspect your Tacoma no later than fifteen years after this date to be eligible for the buy back program", had Toyota been motivated by doing the right thing, rather than appearing to do the right thing while actually not taking responsibility for their manufacturing defect.  Toyota wanted me to believe that I had until the end of the year to have this problem taken care of, so they could present a false marketing perception that they will cover their critical manufacturing defects even outside the normal warranty period, while catching their customers in a technicality for not taking the time to read the fine print and see through their deliberate subterfuge.  The entire notice can be read here.  Had I kept my original appointment, or brought in my truck two weeks earlier, they say they would have bought back my Tacoma.  Maybe so, or maybe they'd have a different excuse.  It still would have been a bad deal for me, but it would have been a lot better deal than the deal I got, which was dick and donuts, and I had to supply the donuts.

Conclusion:  I have a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that had a rusted through frame at 90,000 miles due to a manufacturing defect.  Toyota sent a deliberately misleading notice to give the impression they were going to own their mistake and offer some relief to the customers who had prematurely junk vehicles, while their real intent was to do the minimum possible to whitewash over their marketing disaster.  Their concern was purely for their market perception, and not for their customers.  They have no interest in earning a reputation for quality when they can use deceptive marketing to create a false perception of quality.

Why Am I Doing This?  I'm not a petty or vindictive person.  Far from it.  I have much better uses for my time than crusading against Toyota after half of the life of my Tacoma was stolen from me by Toyota's manufacturing defect.  I'm motivated by the knowledge that I've aided Toyota's marketing department in spreading the Toyota quality myth.  I've been a significant factor in convincing people to buy Toyota vehicles, and this is my way of trying to right my previous wrongs.  I know better now, and it's incumbent upon me to help educate others.

My Tacoma Frame Corrosion Nightmare YouTube Videos:
Coming soon to a YouTube near you!  Watch this space for the links.

80 Percent Of The Toyotas Sold In The Last 20 Years Are Still On The Road... Excluding Tacomas

The Tacoma Frame Corrosion Nightmare Hall Of Shame!

The following images are presented in order, from the front toward the back of the truck.

Items to notice:

Toyota Certified Rusted Vehicles

Here's my Tacoma, at the dealer, just after they told me that the frame is badly corroded because of a manufacturer's defect and they aren't going to do anything about it.  My truck is healthy and well maintained on the outside, and rotting away on the inside.

My Tacoma, Just After The Dealer Inspection