Home Opinion Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Engine/Transmission Issues Plague Reliability Scores

Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Engine/Transmission Issues Plague Reliability Scores


Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Powertrain Issues Plagued Reliability ScoresIn the recent 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Dependability Survey, the Toyota Tacoma wasn’t mentioned as a top mid-size pickup. It turns out, it hasn’t made the list since 2015. What gives? Transmission issues, now seemingly addressed, played a big role in dropping its score.

Long known for its reliability, the Toyota Tacoma has been off its game since its redesign for the 2016 model year. The problem seems to be largely due to the new 6-speed automatic transmission and 3.5L V6 2GR-(FKS) introduced for the pickup. Numerous owners have complained and Toyota has issued two technical service bulletins and two recalls to address the various problems.

What are the Problems?

First, there was a transmission issue causing a lot of frustration. TSB 0077-16 (PDF) explains the problems as:

  • Delayed engagement Park to Drive or Reverse to Drive.
  • Harsh 1st-2nd upshift.
  • Delayed upshift when using cruise control.
  • Busy shift like hunting gear behavior when driving on highway speed/slight grade.

The TSB fixes these issues with a software re-flash to the Engine Control Module (ECM) and many dealers also check the transmission fluid level. This means there is nothing mechanically wrong with the transmission, which Toyota uses elsewhere in their lineup, but rather it is a software calibration issue and a lack of transmission fluid from the factory.

Another, smaller issue also seems to be holding the pickup back in higher reliability scores. TSB 0062-18 (PDF) addresses one of these issues where 2016-2018 Toyota Tacoma pickups with the 3.5L V6 engine (2GR-FKS) is known to “stumble at wide open throttle takeoff at altitude,” the TSB fix, like the one above is a re-flash of the ECM.

A big recall of 228,000 2016-2017 Toyota Tacoma pickups for a leaky differential causing a host of problems has also played a factor in reliability rankings.

Finally, Toyota issued a recall of 32,000 2016-2017 Toyota Tacoma V6 pickups to address an issue with the crankshaft position sensor may malfunction due to too much anti-corrosion coating on the crankshaft timing rotor.

All of these problems certainly caused a lot of questions on the new 2016 Toyota Tacoma.

Problems Solved?

These various TSBs and recalls do seem to have fixed many of the problem. According to CarComplaints.com, a website focusing on gathering various consumer complaints, recalls, TSBs, etc… and compiling them into a score, the issues since 2016 have dropped dramatically as the chart below shows.

Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Powertrain Issues Plagued Reliability Scores

Digging a bit deeper into the data, we can see the majority of the problems from 2016 due indeed relate to the transmission shifting issues.

Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Powertrain Issues Plagued Reliability Scores

These issues were solved by the transmission software re-flash and some owners didn’t experience any issues which is likely attributed to their driving style or how they feel like the pickup should operate.

The 2017 chart shows many transmission issues where addressed, however, it still looks like there is some work to be done.

Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Powertrain Issues Plagued Reliability Scores

For 2018, we can see even less problems, however, it is still early and more complaints can come in once the pickups see more miles added to them.

Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Powertrain Issues Plagued Reliability Scores

Reliability Scores Will Improve

What does all of this have to do with J.D. Power and Consumer Reports ranking? With these issues addressed, the Toyota Tacoma should move back into the reliability category quickly for Consumer Reports and likely by 2021 for J.D. Power U.S. Vehicle Reliability Study (the study looks back three years).

We can say this based on prior studies. For example, the 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality survey had the Tacoma #1. 

The Toyota Tacoma hasn’t had the #1 spot since 2015 and this is directly related to the new 2016 model.

These issues probably played a role in the Toyota brand taking a hit, since Toyota sells hundreds of thousands of Tacoma pickups each year, on overall score over the last few years and only now regaining its top spots.

Consumer Reports currently lists the Toyota Tundra as most reliable. Once the Tacoma’s issues get worked out, it is reasonable to expect that pickup to join the list.

Toyota Tacoma Still Reliable? Powertrain Issues Plagued Reliability Scores

What does all of this mean for consumers? Simple, the bugs have been worked out and the Toyota Tacoma is really undervalued on reliability due to past software issues. It is reasonable to expect it to resume its role as one of the most reliable pickups on the market.


  1. I have a 2017 Tacoma Sport and still after the flashes many times still have transmission shifting issues. At times it feels like I am riding a bucking bronco. Owned 6 Tacomas and right now #6 will be the last. I have an 89 Toyota Supra and that car was Notorious for head gasket failures. Toyota always seem to be working the issue. But never came up with a solution. I’ve driven that car 527 thousand miles and 6 head gaskets until I went with a metal and racing stud head gasket. Toyota just buys their time.

  2. It appears to me these results imply that moderate to significant changes to a model will lead to an increase of problems. So, with that, if Toyota were to make the same magnitude of changes as the big three do with their models, ie stay caught up, how would Toyota’s QDR compare to the big three?

    • No question making major updates/changes causes some concerns about quality. Toyota would, like the others you mention, have to work out the bugs over time. The questions on quality are really driving Toyota to move slowly. The saying goes, “Toyota will always be last to the market with innovations, but when they do it, they are typically the best at it.”


    • “Simple, the bugs have been worked out and the Toyota Tacoma is really undervalued on reliability due to past software issues.”

      Software issues? The Tacoma’s issues go FAR beyond software in nature. Howling rear differentials, high pressure fuel pump failures, crank position sensor issues, automatic transmission issues that extend beyond simple software problems at this point, interior material quality issues, etc. It’s also inexcusable that Toyota has ignored us when it comes to complaints about the 2nd gen that were carried over to the 3rd gen, including the inferior quality of the clutches that Toyota uses, the relatively weak ring gears in the rear diff, the vibration-prone front diff issues, squeaky clutch pedal assembly, etc. As a past member of Tacoma World, it was absolutely shocking how many 3rd gen Tacomas have been lemon lawed or left people stranded. Between my issues with the 3rd gen Tacoma, the rear diff failure in my 2010 Tundra, and my wife’s oil burning 2009 Rav4, I have come to the conclusion that Toyota quality has slowly turned into a myth. Our early 90’s Toyotas were fantastic. The vehicles Toyota sells today are at best, average in reliability and mediocre in quality.


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