The Toyota 4Runner was first introduced for the 1984 model year and is now in its 5th generation, which came in 2009. It was first intended to be a compact SUV, but Toyota made it bigger for the 3rd generation, which remains to this day. It is one of the most popular and iconic Toyota SUVs because it is a global model with millions of units sold.
In this article, we will focus on all the issues 2009 and later 4Runner (5th gen) tends to suffer from. We will first list these together but later go in-depth about them and tell you what you need to do to fix them!
The 5th gen 4Runner suffers from rust issues, which have been prevalant in most model years. Electrical issues have been a problem as well, these entail taillight issues, broken wiring, door locks not functioning among others. The 4Runner has also had recalls for the airbag, certian components falling off the car, and fuel pump problems.
Now it’s time to dig in and go through each of these in more detail. We will also include all the essential information needed to help you fix these issues, in addition to the most critical recalls.
Structural issues are always a big problem because they affect the car’s structural rigidity. Some of them are more serious than others, but all of them are indeed serious. The most common Toyota 4Runner structure-related problems are rust issues, components flying off the car, tailgate issues, and issues with the paint.
If you are into modern-classic Toyota SUVs and trucks, you’ve probably heard that they are known to experience substantial issues with rust, especially on the car’s frame.
It is the same story with the 4Runner as well as virtually all model years of the 5th generation 4Runner are prone to rust, except maybe for the very few latest model years (2021,2022). They’re not the only line of vehicles that suffer from rust and several Mercedes vehicles, including the E320 and SLK200 are known to suffer from rust in older models.
This even led to a massive class action lawsuit, leaving Toyota to pay upwards of $3.4 billion in settlements. The issue is that the frame and some nearby components aren’t treated for rust, which can cause them to rust or sometimes even crumble completely.
This tends to be a massive expense, as replacing the entire frame of a car can often be more expensive than the car itself.
Components Flying Off The Car
This one might seem a bit weird, but it happens more often than one would think. For starters, a few owners of the 5th gen 4Runner reported problems where the sunroof could fly off the car or explode at highway speeds. However, the two worst problems are the accessory hood scoop flying off and the billet overlay grill detaching. Both of these led to two recalls which go as follows:
- 17V425000 – Toyota recalled specific 2011-2016 Toyota 4Runner models back in July 2017 due to the possibility that Toyota accessory hood scoops can fly off the car due to inferior adhesive and wind resistance.
- 17V763000 – Toyota recalled certain 2015-2018 Toyota 4Runner models back in November 2017 due to the possibility that Toyota billet grille overlays can fly off the car due to a U-nut fracture.
The 4Runner also seems to be suffering from specific issues with the tailgate in which the tailgate can fail to stay open. These have been reported for 2009-2015 models mostly, but seem to be happening with other model years as well. One owner of a 2012 4Runner said that this was due to faulty struts and that the tailgate fell on his head and caused injuries.
A few owners of a 2011 4Runner said the same and that this can be extremely dangerous if the struts fail while the tailgate is fully opened. To fix this, be sure first to inspect the struts first and try to see if they genuinely have failed. If so, replace them with brand-new ones.
Paint issues are not a new problem for the 5th generation of the 4Runner, as many people complained about previous generations of the 4Runner using “softer” paint. The idea here is that the paint simply can’t withstand the abuse associated with daily driving. Many owners have reported issues such as bubbling, peeling, or whitening.
Sadly, this is not something you can repair without sanding down, prepping, and repainting the affected components. To make matters worse, sometimes you will have to paint the majority or even the entire car if you want the paint job to match.
By far, the most complained about aspect of the 5th generation 4Runner are the airbags, which accounted for almost half of all the recalls the 5th gen 4Runner was ever part of. We will mention these issues by listing all the essential airbag recalls. These are:
- 13V014000 – Toyota recalled certain 2009-2012 Toyota 4Runner models back in January 2013 due to problems with the front occupant sensing system, which can be out of calibration and thus not deploy the airbag when necessary.
- 16V340000 – Toyota recalled certain 2010-2011 Toyota 4Runner models back in May 2016 due to the airbag inflator rupturing and sending metal fragments that can strike the occupants and cause serious injury or death.
- 16V937000 – Toyota recalled certain 2016 Toyota 4Runner models back in December 2016 due to the front passenger airbag not inflating fully and thus causing injuries in an event of a crash.
We also need to add that Toyota recalled the 4Runner almost ten times due to airbag-related issues, which means that these three are just the tip of the iceberg but represent the most common airbag issues with the 4Runner. As you can see, the 2017 and later 4Runner models are much better and haven’t been recalled due to airbag issues.
Transmission Harsh Shifting
Harsh shifting seems to be the most common transmission issue with the 4Runner, which was mostly reported for 2009-2011 models but is also reported for later models. The problem most owners seem to be reporting is that whenever the car is being driven at low speeds and needs to accelerate briskly, the transmission can’t seem to engage a gear, and the RPMs go up.
Some say this is due to low transmission fluid levels, while others believe that metal shards within the fluid are causing the car to experience severe lag when trying to engage a gear.
Electrical issues are common for virtually all car brands these days as cars have become so complex that something electrical is always bound to break at some point. These include problems with the car’s taillights, rodents chewing through wires, issues with the rearview camera, issues with the horn clock spring, and issues with the door lock mechanism.
The 2010 Toyota 4Runner and potentially the 2011 model are prone to burning through taillight bulbs at an alarming rate. One owner of a 2010 4Runner reported going through a few bulbs only to realize later that the tail light experiences excessive high voltage, which burns through the belt incredibly quickly.
Some have even said that this can result/has resulted in a fire. To repair this, you must replace the entire taillight assembly and potentially even the associated wiring.
Rodents Chewing Through Wires
Back in the mid-2000s, Toyota wanted to make the world a better place by using soy-based materials to cover the wires, supposedly to make their cars more eco-friendly and less harmful to the environment. Be that as it may, this has also led to rodents chewing away at these wires and affecting virtually all of the car’s essential and non-essential electrical systems, costing up to $10,000 to fix!
This led to a class-action lawsuit, and many owners were furious at Toyota. This is still an ongoing issue for many Toyota models from the 2000s; no one knows where this goes from here.
Rearview Camera Issues
As most of you know, a functioning rearview camera is mandated by the US government, which means that every “serious” rearview camera issue will need to be repaired through a recall of some sort. No official rearview camera recalls have been issued for the 5th gen 4Runner, but that didn’t stop many owners from complaining about their cameras intermittently failing to display any images.
Horn Clock Spring Issues
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner predominantly, but many other model years of the 5th gen 4Runner tend to suffer from issues where the horn clock spring fails and completely disengages the car’s horn. If the horn fails and some of your other steering wheel buttons also fail, it is more than likely that your cock spring has failed.
Toyota supposedly charges up to $1,500 to replace it, which is a lot of money, but on the other hand, not having a horn can be dangerous and is also mandated by law.
Door Lock Problems
Door lock problems might just as well be the most common electrical issues the 4Runner tends to suffer from. The 2014 4Runner has gotten the highest number of complaints regarding failed door locks, while 2015, 2016, and 2017 models also seem to experience these to some degree. These door locks fail due to a faulty actuator that needs to be replaced whenever this happens.
Vehicle Speed Control Problems
These issues aren’t unheard of in the car industry, but no one can deny that these are often some of the most dangerous issues you can encounter. In the case of the Toyota 4Runner, these include problems with the car accelerating by itself and problems with the cruise control.
Car Accelerates By Itself
The consensus regarding these issues is that they are either due to the floormat getting stuck behind the pedals and causing the car to accelerate, or it can also potentially be due to some vehicle speed sensor issues. In this case, it is due to a floor mat getting stuck behind the pedals, which eventually prompted Toyota to recall.
The recall occurred in February 2011 (11V113000) when Toyota recalled more than 1.3 million cars, including the 2009 4Runner. It is said that Toyota replaced specific accelerator pedal components and got rid of any floormat compatibility issues.
Be that as it may, these issues have also been reported for later 5th models, sometimes stretching up to the 2021 model, which was not included in this recall.
Cruise Control Issues
Issues with the cruise control system seem to primarily affect the 2020-2022 4Runner models. One owner said that his 4Runner refuses to accelerate over 30mph with cruise control on, while one 2021 4Runner owner complained about his car disengaging cruise control in snowy weather. One owner of a 2020 4Runner complained about his car stalling whenever the cruise control is engaged, which has something to do with the start/stop system.
Fuel System Issues
To round up our list of the most common Toyota 4Runner issues, we will also mention specific problems associated with the fuel delivery system. These include faulty fuel pumps and issues with the fuel gauge.
Fuel Pump Issues
The fuel pump tends to be a sore point for many Toyota models, as many recalls have been associated with faulty pumps. This is also the case with the 5th 4Runner, which has had its fuel pump recalled on two separate occasions. These are:
- 20V012000 – Toyota recalled certain 2018-2019 4Runner models back in January 2020 due to the fuel pump failing and causing the car to stall.
- 20V682000 – Toyota recalled certain 2018-2019 4Runner models back in November 2020 due to the fuel pump failing and causing the car to stall.
Fuel Gauge Cluster Issues
A few owners of a 5th gen 4Runner complained about the car failing to show the correct amount of fuel left inside the tank, regardless of the type of fuel used. One owner of a 2012 4Runner reported that his car showed that ¼ of the fuel tank was full, but the tank was empty. These issues were prevalent on previous generations of the 4Runner, but they do seem to sometimes pop up with 5th gen models.
Marko´s interest in cars runs in the family. His father was a car trader and regularly took him to car dealerships when he was younger.
These days, when he isn´t watching Drivetribe or Doug DeMuro videos, he´s building up quite a resume as an automotive writer since he´s also a regular contributor on Cararc.com, Tirehungry.com, and Luxurycarsa2z.com.