If you own a Toyota Tundra, you may want to peek underneath it every now and then. Federal auto safety investigators are reportedly looking into a series of complaints that allege premature frame rust so severe it could lead to brake failure.
The Detroit Free Press reports, "The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it's looking into 20 complaints on model-year 2000 and 2001 Tundra pickups alleging broken brake lines and spare tires that came loose. The inquiry covers about 218,000 vehicles."
Edmunds Inside Line adds, "There have been 15 reports alleging the underbody-mounted spare tire separated from the rear crossmember, and five reports alleging broken brake lines at the proportioning valve located on the driver side of the rear crossmember at the upper shock mount." NHTSA documentation says "There are no crashes, fires, injury incidents or deaths related to the Tundra investigation."
The problem is a familiar one for Toyota truck owners. Autoblog reports that Tundra frame rust complaints have "lit up owner forums for years." The problem has occurred in other Toyota truck models as well. The company "extended the rust warranty of 1995-2000 Tacoma trucks" after similar complaints earlier this year, and "has even offered to buy back the trucks in 20 cold weather states at 1.5 times their Kelley Blue Book values. 2001 to 2004 Tacomas are already eligible for supplemental corrosion protection and replacement frames if necessary, but Toyota will not buy the newer trucks back."
In fact, Autoblog notes, the same supplier built the potentially-defective Tundra and Tacoma frames, "so we're thinking a similar issue could be a real possibility."
Whatever the outcome of the investigation, it's contributing to questions about Toyota's quality control. The investigation comes on the heels of a massive recall campaign due to a floormat design that can cause unintended acceleration. David Champion, director of automobile testing for Consumer Reports magazine, told the Free Press the incidents "are sort of worrying signs that maybe [Toyota has] grown too big too quickly and brought out too many cars to be able to maintain their stellar reliability histories. That being said, they are still one of the best manufacturers out there."