By Bob Rachlis
In 1995 my ‘85 Isuzu Trooper II failed inspection and was ordered off the road for excessive frame rust rendering the vehicle unsafe to drive. I turned to Toyota and bought a ‘95 Tacoma. My mechanic applauded my decision commenting that “Now you have a real quality vehicle!” I was surprised when a leaf spring broke after only a few years, since I didn’t use it as a heavy transport or off-road vehicle, but only to occasionally haul home lawn debris to the local recycle, commuting to work before gasoline became so expensive, and loaned it to a Dartmouth Student because the high clearance avoided the New Hampshire snow. The broken leaf was discovered in time, because I found the sharp edge protruding from the leaf pack and within a short distance of the right rear tire.
Next the exhaust hanger broke from the frame and had to be re-welded. That was about five years into vehicle life, but I figured that things like that could happen, even on the best of vehicles. Then a leaf broke on the driver’s side around 2003. Then around 2005, with little more than 100,000 miles I started to find oil spots on the ground under the differential. This developed into puddles of heavy gear oil, to the extent that I carried a roaster pan with me so as not to leave puddles in parking lots that might foul the wheels of motorcyclists. I suspected a worn seal or that the mechanic had cross-threaded the inspection-refill plug, but the problem turned out to be that the differential gear case steel was porous and heavy gear oil leaked right through the casting. As you might expect, replacement was well over $1,000.
Then Toyota announced the recall of era ‘95 Tacoma and Tundra for excessive rust in the frame. My vehicle was inspected, but judged not to be so bad as to qualify for compensation under the recall, and the recall did not include porous castings or broken Leaf Springs. One mechanic suggested to me that to qualify, a sharp blow with a ball-peen hammer had to penetrate the frame member. Now, with a little over 120,000 miles, the body is beginning to rust out from the inside and the bumpers have rotted down to a thin chrome foil.
I suggest that anyone planning on a long-lived utility vehicle review the vaunted Toyota quality with a jaundiced eye, and get a really good signed warranty on body and frame materials as well as the standard motor and drive train coverage.
Perhaps Toyota quality is, or was, no better than Isuzu.