Toyota Tacoma Problems: 4 Known Issues (Explained)

The Toyota Tacoma is a pickup truck that has been in production for over 25 years. It spans 3 generations, with each being more efficient than the last.

The Tacoma has great handling and a wonderful bed design. It is also a pretty safe vehicle.

However, it still has some common problems associated with it. We outline the most common issues with the Tacoma in this  article:

1. Automatic Transmission Problems

The automatic transmission in many Tacomas is going to have problems over time.

When some Tacomas have been driven for some time, the transmission may suddenly shift into the wrong gear. Most times, drivers have to readjust the lever before it shifts correctly.

This problem can cause a delay in movement and eventually lead to accidents.

It often arises because of a displaced throttle position sensor. Another likely culprit is the shift solenoid which can wear out after thousands of miles.

On average, problems with the transmission usually occurred after about 150,000 miles.

The problem is common with the 1st and 2nd generation Tacomas, although the 2016 Tacoma has transmission delays of its own. It would seem Toyota solved the problem as there have been little or no complaints with the 3rd generation Tacomas.

This has been an issue on more than a few of the models. You can see a full list here of the Toyota Tacoma years to avoid (and the best years).

Precautions and Solutions

Where the problem is because of a misaligned throttle position sensor, it has to be readjusted or reset. If this doesn’t work, you might need to have the shift solenoids replaced.

Replacing the shift solenoids might be more demanding but will have a higher chance of fixing the problem. Your auto mechanic can identify the solenoid that needs to be replaced. Replacing one solenoid would be cheaper than replacing all.

In rare cases, however, all shift solenoids might need to be replaced.

The replacement cost might range from $150 to over $370. The total cost depends on your location and whether it is a partial or total replacement.

The shift solenoid would wear out over time even in ideal situations, hence you should maintain it properly. Servicing your transmission at the right time contributes to the longevity of the shift solenoids.

Your mechanic might reveal that the shift solenoid is the reason for your transmission problem. If that’s the case, have it replaced quickly. A delay will cause further damage to your transmission.

Related: How Long Do Toyota Tacomas Last? (Solved & Explained!)

2. Improper Ball Joint Finishing

The ball joint in many Tacomas has a tendency to wear out faster than normal. The ball joint handles navigation, since it connects the wheels to the steering.

Over time, ball joints normally wear out. However, with the Tacoma, the process appears to be sped up. We suspect the premature wear to be because Toyota did not properly do the finishing during production.

Toyota issued a recall for the 2001 to 2004 models because of the severity of the ball joint problems.

When the ball joints fail, the Tacoma may drift from left to right while driving. This is quite dangerous, hence when it occurs, avoid driving at all costs.

The problem is peculiar to certain model years, mainly from 1995 to 2007. One can only guess that Toyota found a lasting solution to the decade long ball joint problem.

Drivers complained of the ball joints snapping off or failing while they drove. This caused many of them to have difficulty with stopping. Others complained the ball joints still failed after being replaced.

Car Complaints gave the 2001 Tacoma a 10.0 severity rating. This comes as no surprise as the model year has 1 case of crashing, 3 injuries and 1 death.

Precautions and Solutions

  • Clean the underbody of your truck while paying special attention to the wheels. Rust on your wheels could spread out to the ball joints and frame.
  • Always look out for warnings from your ball joint. It rarely fails unexpectedly, as the issue often produces certain clunking sounds or noises with vibration. These are signs that provide you with time to have them checked.
  • Also, inspect your ball joints regularly, as they are extremely important components of your Tacoma. If your ball joints fail, your truck fails.

The replacement costs for a Toyota Tacoma ball joint ranges from $230 to $440. The model and repair shop may have effects on the total cost.

You should know that your wheels need to be realigned after you have replaced the ball joints. The realignment cost ranges from $140 to $170.

The alignment would ensure uniform wearing and working efficiency of the ball joints and tires.

Related: Toyota Tacoma In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

3. The Amber Front Parking Light Lens May Crack or Melt

According to data from RepairPal, there were reports of the front light melting the plastic lens directly in front of it. However, a few other cases weren’t as severe. In such scenarios, the lens had cracks on them.

In more extreme cases, the lens may melt on the amber lights themselves. This often warrants extra repair costs.

While it is possible that this problem can affect any model, reported cases fall in the second generation Tacomas. More precisely, the 2006 to 2013 model years.

According to data from Car Complaints, some drivers had cracked or melted lens anywhere from 23,000 or 30,000 miles. Some didn’t experience the problem until they got to 60,000 miles. Fewer situations had the lens cracking at 80,000 miles.

RepairPal puts the average mileage of occurrence at 57,451 miles. However, further data shows it can occur in just over 6,000 miles or as long as 142,000 miles.

Many drivers have complained that their warranties expired just in time as the problem occurred. Many others concur it is so serious, it should be a recall.

Precautions and Solutions

The best solution so far is to replace the entire amber head light assembly. Some drivers got quotes of up to $900 to $1,100 to replace the headlight assembly.

If the lens has only cracks or it doesn’t melt on the bulbs, you can replace the lens only. Make sure you replace them with a material that can better withstand the heat from the bulbs.

If the damage affects the bulbs, you would need to replace the entire assembly. This is often cheaper if you replace all the headlights, even if only one is damaged.

Other times, the technician might advise you to replace the entire headlight assembly, even though only the lenses are damaged. This may be because of the compatibility of bulbs and lenses.

That means the new lenses may still not be compatible with the bulbs and may end up melting again. If you replace the assembly, the lenses would be evenly matched with the bulbs and would withstand the heat better.

4. Failed Mass Airflow Sensor

The mass airflow sensor is a major component in the combustion process of the engine. It measures the amount of air that is needed by the engine for combustion at any point in time. The engine uses this information to burn the right amount of fuel.

Tacoma drivers made complaints that their check engine lights came on because of a faulty airflow sensor. This causes an imbalance in the fuel combustion process. That’s because the engine would be unable to determine the correct amount of fuel to use.

The problem is common with the first and second generations. It affects most years, from 1996 to 2013. A problem with the airflow sensor can cause decreased power output from the engine. The car may also jerk continuously because of an improper supply of fuel to the engine.

A bad airflow sensor can also cause excess fuel to be sent to the engine. This causes increased fuel consumption. The poor fuel economy eventually leads to increased maintenance costs.

Precautions and Solutions

Besides the symptoms already discussed, look out for a thick black smoke from the exhaust pipes. When the engine burns more fuel than is required, the smoke being emitted changes.

If you notice such, or any other symptoms, have your truck inspected immediately. Keeping an eye out for these symptoms is mostly only used to confirm the condition of your truck. This is because most times, the check engine light will come on, unless it develops a fault, too.

The mass airflow sensor can be professionally cleaned if it develops a problem. Cleaning the airflow sensor isn’t a complicated process. However, cleaning might not always work-in such cases, replace it.

The cost of replacing a Toyota Tacoma mass airflow sensor ranges from $287 to $409.

Related: 11 Toyota Tacoma Statistics You Should Know (Facts & Numbers)

General Pros and Cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of the Toyota Tacoma:


  • Available Six-Speed Manual Transmission
  • Powerful Engine
  • Impressive Towing Capabilities
  • User-friendly Control Interface
  • Superior Off-road Performance
  • Efficient Truck Bed Design
  • Feature-Rich Entry-Level Trim
  • Excellent Safety Suite


  • Automatic Transmission Problems
  • Improper Ball Joint Finishing
  • The Amber Front Parking Light Lens May Crack or Melt
  • Failed Mass Airflow Sensor

What Do the Reviews Say?

RepairPal gives the Toyota Tacoma a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5. They gave the rating based on the frequency and severity of the repairs.

The Tacoma has a low reliability and is 7th out of 7 for mid-sized trucks. It also ranks poorly in overall reliability, frequency and severity of problems when compared to other mid-sized trucks.

However, it compensates for that with its low ownership costs. The average annual repair cost for the Tacoma stands at just $478. This is relatively cheap when compared with the average annual maintenance cost for mid-sized trucks, which is about $548.

What Is the Resale Value of the Model?

The Toyota Tacoma has a great resale value. It keeps its value pretty well when compared to other mid-sized trucks.

Model Year Mileage (Miles) Resale Value ($)
2010 132,000 5,598
2012 108,000 13,125
2015 72,000 21,578
2017 48,000 22,867
2018 36,000 23,044


Final Thoughts

Getting quality parts that last or that are compatible is a serious challenge that drivers face. Often, it doesn’t stop at fixing the problem in your car. Drivers often complain that they’ve had to fix a problem with their trucks repeatedly.

Therefore, some of these issues are better handled by Toyota. Do well to report any noticeable deficiency. The more reports, the higher the awareness and this enables due attention to be given to the said problem.

Also, before doing any repairs, check if your Tacoma has a recall concerning that same deficiency. Recalls are usually because of errors in production. So Toyota has a better chance at ensuring the same problem doesn’t occur again.

Go Back: Problems for each Toyota model.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.