A cross between a compact and mid-sized SUV, the 4Runner is a great blend of on and off-road capability. However, this SUV has experienced its fair share of issues over the years. Here are the Toyota 4Runner years to avoid.
Out of all the modern Toyota 4Runner years to avoid, by far the two model years with the most problems is the 2015 and 2019 4Runners. Both these model years tend to have costly problems, including steering, fuel system, and windshield problems.
These models are the most susceptible to recurring problems. And if you are in the market for a modern Toyota 4Runner but aren’t sure which model year is right for you? You’re not alone.
With over 25 years of production, sorting through the different generations of 4Runners can be overwhelming. But, if you are searching for a model year 2015 and newer Toyota 4Runner, we got you covered.
We’ve done the research and compiled a list of the modern 2010 and newer Toyota 4Runner years to avoid.
And if you are feeling a little more vintage, don’t worry we got you covered there too! In this guide we also touch on the earlier generations of 4Runners years to avoid, too.
Let’s jump into this!
2014-2023 Fifth Generation Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
The 2014 4Runner has had some complaints about the paint peeling or chipping off easily. While purely a cosmetic issue, it will affect resale value when you go to sell or trade in the vehicle.
The 2016 4Runner has received reports of a vibration or shudder when accelerating. Complaints suggests it might be due to a drivetrain problems. Be sure to do your research on this if considering a 2016 model year.
Meanwhile, the 2017 4Runner has been the subject of complaints regarding the transmission. Some owners reporting that the transmission shifts “roughly” or jerks.
When it comes to the 2019 4Runner, many owners have found one major thing to grumble about: it’s windshields. So transparent and yet surprisingly delicate! In fact, many owners are going on their second or third windshield within a year!
Also worth mentioning, 2019 4Runner owners have also report of issues with the infotainment system freezing or rebooting unexpectedly.
Meanwhile, 2020 4Runner owners are reporting a major issue: exploding sunroofs. Sure, it might not sound dangerous, but sunroofs randomly bursting into pieces in the middle of a drive!
That’s more than inconvenient. It’s an actual safety threat. This isn’t something to take lightly, either. So if shopping for a 2020 or later 4Runner, be sure to check on this.
There are no major issues or recalls reported for the 2021 4Runner. But, some owners are reporting issues with the steering system.
Finally, the 2023 Toyota 4Runner is starting to rack up complaints over the back-up camera. Complaints range from, distorted screen to quality of video being grainy. Similar complaints can be found here.
2010-2013 Fifth Generation Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
From 2010 to 2013, both owners and mechanics reported problems with the air bags, vehicle speed control, brakes and frame rust.
Toyota alerted 4Runner owners that some vehicles were in need of an airbag replacement due to issues with the system. But, unfortunately for many owners, parts were said to unavailable during those critical times.
So if you’re in market for this generation 4Runner, it’s absolutely key to double check whether the airbag recall fix was performed.
Some owners also reported a hesitation or lack of power when accelerating from a stop. This could be caused by a faulty throttle body or a clogged air filter.
Also, premature failure of the water pump, which could cause the engine to overheat, was reported by some owners. Especially in models with higher mileage.
A small number of owners reported issues with the suspension, including a rough ride, noisy shocks, and uneven tire wear. Some owners experienced problems with the electrical system, such as faulty door locks, malfunctioning power windows, and issues with the radio and navigation system.
Additionally, some owners reported rust issues on the undercarriage of their 4Runners. This was mainly in regions with heavy snow and salt on the roads.
While it’s important to note that not all 2010-2013 Toyota 4Runners had these problems. However, regular maintenance and inspections can help prevent or catch these issues early on.
If vintage is your taste and you’re on the hunt for an older 4Runner, the following model years should probably be avoided.
2003 to 2005 Fourth-Generation Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
Perhaps worst of all, the fourth-generation 4Runners from 2003 to 2005 experience both rust and head gasket problems. These problems are recurring and expensive to fix. Both can also detrimentally affect how the car functions.
Dashboard crack is also a concern with fourth-gens, which may not affect the function of the vehicle, but it does impact the aesthetic.
Be careful with this model; even if the head gasket and rust have been serviced, the issues will likely return.
2001 to 2002 Third-Generation Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
Rust is a pain to deal with, especially if you’re a layman with no experience in bodywork. The third-generation 4Runner is the most susceptible to rust problems.
Poor bodywork designs will inevitably lead to an uphill battle with rust, something that can ruin the aesthetic and function of your vehicle.
1990 to 1995 Second-Generation Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
The same is true of any 1990-1995 3.0-liter engine 4Runner; the head gaskets are notoriously unreliable. Even when the issue is fixed, it will inevitably rear its ugly head in the future.
The 1990-1995 time frame also experiences a problem with rust (a common trend you’ll start to notice with 4Runners). Power suspension and steering problems accompany the recurring head gasket problems in the 1990-1995 4Runner.
1988 to 1989 First-Generation Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
First gens always have issues, which is a given if you’re buying an older car. However, if you’re in the market for a 4Runner, then you definitely don’t want to fight with the constant head gasket problems the 3.0-liter 1988 to 1989 first generation 4Runners have.
A flaw in the engine design will inevitably lead to more frequent repairs down the line, meaning that a low offer on these first gens just isn’t worth it.
Final Thoughts: Toyota 4Runner Years to Avoid
There are numerous years to avoid with the 4Runner, particularly for rust, head gasket problems, and steering and electrical issues. Consider avoiding the above years mentioned if you’re in the market for a Toyota 4Runner.
Overall, do your research before committing to buying a Toyota 4Runner. Use our Vehicle Reliability and Safety Rating reports to help guide your purchasing decisions.
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Christopher is an internet technology expert and mechanical engineer. When he’s not at the local autocross event, he can often be found working on one of his cars. He loves nothing more than taking something apart and putting it back together again. Email me direct, or learn more about us