2020 Toyota 4Runner Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Airbag, brakes, and steering issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2020 Toyota 4Runner is a mid-size SUV known for its off-road capability and rugged design. Despite some user reports of shaking steering wheels and brake problems, Toyota touts the 4Runner’s durability and exceptional handling on various terrains, stating this is “when your adventures require more.” However, many customers are dealing with adventures that aren’t particularly fun. Many are complaining about defective airbags, faulty brakes, problematic steering, and forward collision avoidance failures.

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Complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highlight multiple issues with the 2020 Toyota 4Runner. The most common problems are airbags that don’t deploy during collisions, brakes that lose pressure or simply fail to stop the SUV and steering wheels that shake and vibrate at highway speeds.

There are also significant complaints that state the forward collision avoidance system triggers a warning when there isn’t an obstacle ahead. And there are problems with the sunroof exploding.

Other components and systems mentioned in complaints include backover prevention, electronic stability control, exterior lighting, the fuel/propulsion system, powertrain, structure, suspension, and wheels of the SUV.

Additionally, some 2020-2022 4Runner vehicles equipped with 20-inch Black Gunner Wheels, have load-carrying capacity modification labels that are incorrect. This fault can lead to unintentional overload, which increases the risk of a crash. As a result, 280 of these SUVs have been recalled.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Air Bags
Service Brakes
Back Over Prevention
Back Over Prevention: Sensing System: Camera
Back Over Prevention: Warnings


Airbags are an essential safety feature included with every new vehicle. This system has been proven over the years and should be completely operational. However, owners of the 2020 Toyota 4Runner are finding that their airbags don’t always deploy during a crash.

An owner from South Carolina states that when her father crashed into another vehicle, the airbags failed to deploy. Additionally, the braking alert for getting too close to a vehicle failed to illuminate. Both the driver and passenger were injured in the crash and the vehicle was “destroyed.”

An owner from Georgia tells how the 4Runner struck a vehicle that ran a red light. “The 4Runner was at approximately 35 miles per hour and struck the other vehicle, a Nissan Altima side-on with enough force to propel that vehicle two lanes into another vehicle. The airbags failed to deploy (on) the 4runner but did deploy on the Altima. The roads were dry and visibility was clear.” Both drivers were injured in the crash. “Investigation of the vehicle computer showed the vehicle was unknowingly sold to me with errors in the multi-terrain, ESC and pre-collision system.”

An Ohio owner calls the front passenger seat the ”death seat.” This is because the airbag “is deactivated automatically whenever the front passenger weighs less than 100 lbs. We did not know about this feature when we bought the car. My wife, who is 65 years old, weighs about 95 lbs and whenever she sits in the front passenger seat, a warning light appears indicating that the front passenger airbag has been deactivated.” According to Toyota, “this system was designed to automatically protect smaller children who may ride in the front seat. Unfortunately, this system prevents my wife from using what I consider to be an essential safety feature (the front airbag).”

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As with the airbags, the service brakes are designed to keep people from getting hurt. Yet, this is another system that seems to have some flaws in the 2020 4Runner. The most significant brake problems relate to a loss of brake pressure and brakes that don’t function at low speeds.

A complaint from an owner in Washington highlights the unpredictable nature of brake pressure loss, especially at slow speeds and while stationary. “After letting the car sit overnight and coming up to a stop sign or anything, slowly (the) pedal goes to the floor. If you pump the pedal the brakes will come back and seem to work fine, except when sitting In a drive-through line with your foot on the brake pedal. (Then) it’ll slowly lose brake pressure and you’ll start creeping forward until the pedal starts going lower and lower.” When this happens, the driver has to use “excessive pressure” to stop the vehicle. The dealership maintains “there was nothing wrong” with the SUV!

An owner from Colorado states that “every time I push the brake pedal, (it) makes a hissing sound. There is an electronic noise after the hissing sound. This is annoying and it makes me feel nauseous.”

An owner from California describes a complete failure of the braking system, which has occurred multiple times. The severity of this malfunction showcases the potential risk of accidents. Luckily the owner avoided an accident.


The most significant steering problem highlighted in these NHTSA complaints is a shaking steering wheel and vibration at highway speeds, typically between 55 and 68 mph. This shaking can be severe, sometimes reaching 1.5 inches of back-and-forth movement in the steering wheel, and can also be felt throughout the vehicle.

Key points that owners highlight are:

  • The shaking can occur even after multiple attempts at balancing the tires and alignments.
  • Replacing tires with different brands does not solve the issue.
  • Some complainants mention the problem progressively worsens over time.

For example, one owner states that he has had the wheels of his 2020 4Runner rebalanced three times because of this problem. But it hasn’t helped. To make matters worse, while describing the problem to a dealer, “he cut me off and said it is a known problem.” Highly concerned, the owner states, “It is disturbing for me as a driver, my passengers, and from an engineering standpoint; shaking can never be good. It could easily cause premature and unnecessary wear to drive, suspension, and steering parts. It could lead to a serious and fatal accident over time. The shaking, I imagine, could also lead to a problem in less than ideal driving conditions such as rain, snow, or ice as well.”

An owner from Texas states that his 4Runner has been to the dealership six times but they are unable to fix the problem. “Toyota corporate states that it is a known issue and ‘is a characteristic of the vehicle’ caused by ‘harmonics’.” After requesting buyback arbitration he asked for a loaner. They refused. They also refused to state, in writing, that the vehicle was safe and mechanically sound.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

If you think your 2020 Toyota 4Runner may be a lemon, the team at Lemberg Law is available to assess your problems free of charge. The law makes Toyota pay the legal fees for lemon law cases, so we may be able to help you get rid of your lemon.

Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of lemon owners, so it’s certainly worth a try.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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