What to Look for When Buying a Used Toyota Tundra


If you’re considering buying a used Toyota Tundra it really is worth knowing what to look out for to avoid buying yourself a load of problems in the future. I’d offer that same advice for buying any used vehicle, to be honest, but it’s particularly important with pickup trucks. A used pickup truck could have had a much harder life than a car of the same age and mileage, so here are some of the main faults and issues you need to be aware of if you’re interested in buying a used Toyota Tundra.

First of all, we need to get one thing straight here. The Toyota Tundra is one of the most reliable and dependable trucks you can buy in the used market. Even so, every vehicle has its faults that become apparent over time, so here are some things to watch out for.

  • Failure of the secondary air injection system
  • Camshaft failure
  • Integrated brake controller failure
  • Floor mat design problem
  • Accelerator pedal sticking issue
  • Power window master switch fail
  • Front lower ball joint wear wearing prematurely
  • Premature corrosion of the frame
  • Degrading airbag propellant
  • 2013 model year and onwards

Secondary air injection system failure

This is a problem that owners started to report when their Tundra got a couple of years on its back. The secondary air injection system is designed to improve the vehicle’s emissions when starting from cold, but the components turned out to be vulnerable to corrosion. The problem occurs when water finds its way into the system’s induction pumps, and in some cases, the valves too.

The issue is with models from the 2007 year onwards, although it shouldn’t be a problem with models from 2014 onwards. The response to the problem from Toyota was to extend the warranty on models that could be prone to this problem to 6 years or 60,000 miles.

Camshaft failure

In 2007 the Tundra got a new 5.7-liter V-8 engine option, but in May of that year, it was revealed that there had been 20 camshaft failures reported with Tundra trucks equipped with this particular powerplant. The failure occurred as a result of a flaw in the casting process, and the supplier of the components moved quickly to correct the problem.

If a Tundra experienced this camshaft failure, Toyota offered to either replace the engine and extend the powertrain warranty, or if the owner preferred, they’d buy the truck back from them. It’s unlikely this problem would show up after all these years, so it’s not something you should worry about too much if you’re looking at a 2007 Tundra with a 5.7-liter V-8.

Integrated brake controller failure

It turns out that the integrated brake controller fitted at the factory to later Tundra models wasn’t up to the job of providing adequate braking power for those who were towing trailers with their Tundra. That’s a bit of an issue for a pickup, and a lot of owners sorted this problem themselves by fitting aftermarket brake controllers that are actually up to the job of braking when towing.

If you’re looking at buying a Tundra that’s between the years of about 2012 to 2016, it’s worth checking to see if the brake controllers have been upgraded if you’re going to be towing.

Floor mat design problem

How bad can the design of the floor mats actually be? Well, as it turns out, it can be worse than you might think. The mats in the 2007-2010 model years could actually cause the accelerator pedal to get stuck when the driver put their foot down in the Tundra. The issue was so serious that Toyota issued a recall.

The problem was fixed by dealers by replacing the pedal, altering the shape of the floor mat, or replacing the floor mat completely with a redesigned one that didn’t cause the problem to occur.

Accelerator pedal sticking issue

Even if the 2007-2010 Tundra you’re looking at has had the floor mat replaced, there can still be a problem with a sticking accelerator pedal. After a lot of owners complained about unintended acceleration in the Tundras, Toyota investigated the issue and discovered the sliding surface of the friction level was becoming very smooth, which could then cause condensation and then the accelerator pedal was liable to sticking.

The fix was to install a reinforcement bar in the accelerator pedal system to make the whole operation smoother, and this was done as a recall. If it’s a 2007-2010 model year Tundra that you’re considering, make sure you get proof that this recall was carried out as some will inevitably have been missed.

2006 Toyota Tundra

Power window master switch fail

2007-2011 models often had a problem with the power window master switch failing, but it’s only the one on the driver’s side. The switch was prone to short-circuiting, overheating and melting. This happened because the sliding electrical contacts in the switch didn’t have the appropriate amount of lubricant applied in the manufacturing process, which then meant they weren’t properly protected from debris and moisture.

In 2015, Toyota issued a recall to solve this problem by replacing the switch circuit board cost-free for Tundras that experienced the fault.

Front lower ball joint wear wearing prematurely

If the model you’re looking at is a 2007 or later, this is something you won’t have to worry about. The problem here was the lubricant that covered the front lower ball joint degraded too fast, and that led inevitably to premature wear. The first thing you’ll notice if this is an issue with a 2000-2006 model year Tundra is a hard feel to the steering.

If the problem isn’t recognized and addressed soon enough, the issue can then escalate to loss of control of the vehicle due to the ball joint actually falling out of the knuckle that’s supposed to accommodate it. Hundreds of thousands of the trucks were recalled to fix this in 2007, so make sure it’s been done to any 2000-2006 model year Tundra you’re considering buying.

Premature corrosion of the frame

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s not especially surprising that the frame of a first-generation (2000-2006) Tundra might be suffering from some corrosion by now, but it shouldn’t be as bad as it might be if you find a bad one.

The problem is with the way the first-generation frames were designed. They were designed in a way that allowed moisture to enter the inside of the frame, which then had the almost inevitable conclusion of corroding the frame from the inside out. Toyota agreed to help owners of affected Tundras sort the problem, and it was reported to have cost the company a cool $3.4 billion.

Degrading airbag propellant

There were problems with the airbags in the Toyota Tundra long before Takata eventually became a household word due to mass recalls of tens of millions of vehicles from lots of manufacturers a few years ago. Here we’re talking about an issue with those first-generation Tundra models, and it was the front passenger airbag inflator lacking a crucial chemical drying agent that is intended to absorb moisture.

When an excessive amount of moisture builds is able to build up in the airbag inflator, it then leads to the premature degradation of the propellant that is supposed to inflate the airbag in the event of a collision. This leads to an increased risk of the airbag actually exploding when it’s deployed. Inevitably, Toyota and its airbag manufacturer – yes, Takata – eventually issued a recall to fix this potentially very serious problem.

2013 model year onwards

2013 Toyota Tundra

All of the above sounds quite bad, but I would assume the vast majority of you who are interested in buying a used Toyota Tundra will probably be considering something more recent. If you are, I have some pretty good news for you about the Tundra and its reliability, and that news is you’re looking at one of the most reliable pickup trucks you could buy.

Back in 2013, Consumer Reports rated the two-wheel-drive versions of the Tundra as being the most reliable of all full-size pickups. Don’t worry if you want a 4×4 version though, and that’s because they were rated the second most reliable, after their two-wheel-drive siblings.

At the time, the Toyota Tundra was the only full-size pickup truck that even made it onto the Consumer Reports lists of the most reliable new vehicles, and it was the only truck of its type that got a reliability rating of above average.

Another trusted resource, Edmunds, also rates more recent Tundra models extremely highly. The 2016 used Toyota Tundra gets a consumer review rating of 4.5 out of 5, with 73% of respondents giving the Toyota a full five-star rating.

If you’re in the market for a used full-size pickup truck, you’re not going to find one much more reliable and dependable than a Toyota Tundra.

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and now an automotive writer and journalist for the last 7 years

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