NHTSA Opens Investigation Into Tundra Frame Rust Issue


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into reports of frame rust and corrosion problems in 2000 and 2001 Tundras similar to those that caused the Japanese auto giant to extend warranties, buy back entire trucks, or repair or replace severely rusted frames in its 1995-2000 and 2001-04 Toyota Tacoma midsize pickups last year.

The investigation is the latest quality ding against Toyota after an urgent warning to remove driver's side floor mats from 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles last week.

"We're cooperating with NHTSA after learning about the investigation today," said Brian Lyons, Toyota’s Safety and Quality communications manager, this afternoon.

Several readers have experienced and reported the problem and a source inside NHTSA told just last week that the agency has been receiving "about one new report of frame rust issues a day recently."

Lyons says that NHTSA has received 20 complaints total. Approximately fifteen of the complaints relate to the spare tire mount rusting to the point where the spare tire has dropped away from the vehicle. Five reports say owners experienced broken brake lines at the proportioning valve that's located on the driver's side of the rear frame crossmember at the upper shock mount.

Pictures taken by 2000-01 Tundra owners also show flaky rust, perforated frame rails and broken leaf springs.

Toyota has been studying the issue for several months and recently agreed to replace one owner's rusted frame as part of its investigation process, though no formal repair program has been put in place, according to Toyota officials. The 2000 Tundra belongs to Tim Gatzke, a reader. Toyota has also contacted several other owners to directly inspect their Tundra pickup trucks.

According to Lyons, 1995-2004 Tacoma pickups and 2000-01 Tundras shared the same frame supplier: Toledo, Ohio-based Dana Holding Corporation. In investigating the Tacoma’s rust complaints, Toyota discovered that Dana hadn’t properly prepped Tacoma frames to resist corrosion before they were shipped to Toyota’s NUMMI manufacturing plant, where the Tacoma was assembled.

Most rust-damaged Tundras have been reported in what Toyota defines as20 severe cold-weather states, like Massachusetts, where brutal winterroad conditions can take their toll on under-protected metal.

2000 was the Toyota Tundra’s . It was introduced as a replacement for the earlier Toyota T100 pickup. The first trucks were built in 1999. In 2000, 100,455 were sold, and another 108,863 were sold in 2001.

NHTSA's investigation is in the earliest stage, and the only way the agency will issue a recall is if it finds a reason for concern, though Toyota could take some kind of action before that happens. We’ll keep you posted.


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