Even with the recalls in recent years, Toyota still has the brand recognition for some of the longest lasting and most reliable vehicles on the market. But nobody is perfect, just ask my wife, and there are some common traits to look for in used Toyota trucks. It’s important to always get as much information as possible when searching for a used car and hopefully these issues will get you to ask the right questions and to look for the problem areas.
Any old truck should be inspected for rust on the frame and body as this can be a sign of poor upkeep and future problems. This is even more important if the truck is in an area with bad winters since salt on the roads can increase the amount of rust on a truck. However, some Toyota trucks have been known to have big rust problems due to manufacturing issues. Be wary of Tacoma T-100s from 1997 and Tacomas in general from 1997 – 2010. Always check the frame for heavy rust or signs of rust starting.
I would usually refrain from calling a “strawberry milkshake” a red flag, but in Toyota’s case I have to use this term that describes a common problem. Strawberry milkshake is a term used to describe the outcome after the transmission fluid and coolant fluid mix which results in a pink paste – much like the delicious desert it’s named after. Ask whoever you’re buying the truck from if they’ve ever had to address this problem. If they have, ask and check to see if they installed an external cooler to bypass the transmission which resolves the problem 99% of the time. If they had a strawberry milkshake and only had the transmission flushed, without installing an external cooler, than you’ll want to install one yourself if you buy the truck. To check to see if a truck has strawberry milkshaked, check the transmission dipstick and look for any pink, pasty residue, and check the coolant which would be full of the stuff. Trucks that get driven after the milkshake occurs run the gambit with potential problems and you’ll probably want to stay away from it.
Tons of guys like to lift their Toyotas and there is no real harm in doing this, but you should be aware of the added stress it puts on some components of the truck. Ask if the owner ever replaced the CV boots after lifting the truck. These tend to leak, especially after lifting, and you’ll probably have to make this repair / replacement if the owner hasn’t. The rear leaf springs have also been an issue in some Tacoma trucks. Ask what kind of use the truck was used for and if there was added weight in the back or off-roading these springs could be in need of repair.
Any used Toyotas will probably serve you well, but it’s important to be mindful of potential problems that could end up costing you a lot more than the initial purchase. This is only an overview and every truck has a unique history that could cause unique problems. A good rule of thumb is, if you do not want to put more time and money into the vehicle, have a professional go over the truck to find any glaring issues.
Vince Evans was a light mechanic and auctioneer until he went back to his old love, writing. Rather than shouting at North Easterners, he prefers to write about the New Jersey used car dealers.