2021 Toyota Tacoma Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Powertrain, steering and engine issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma might not be as popular as the Big Three, but customers still tend to flock to this pickup. After all, the automaker claims it is “built for the endless weekend.” With that in mind, the endless weekend could include sitting at the service center because of the defective engine, malfunctioning powertrain or poor steering capability.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2020   2022

Most Common Problems

Complaints about last year’s model were categorized into 15 groups, all of which are listed below. There were only 20 complaints, but when you consider the current recalls on Toyota’s Takata that are in the spotlight right now, just 2 complaints about Tacoma airbags last year could be more serious than any of us might imagine.

Right now, NHTSA reports that tens of millions of Toyota Takata airbags are being recalled. The problem is that when airbags are exposed to high heat and humidity long-term they can cause them to explode when they are deployed. So, instead of saving lives, they have potentially caused injuries and death.

In 2019, a different group of defective Toyota Takata airbags was recalled. According to NHTSA, the defect in these can result in airbags exploding or under-inflating when deployed.

Airbag issues cannot be taken lightly.

2021 Toyota Tacoma Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Power Train
Service Brakes
Air Bags
Vehicle Speed Control
Electrical System
Fuel/propulsion System
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking

Problems with the Engine

For a truck to have enough power for towing and hauling, it must be equipped with a potent engine. However, numerous customers are running into issues with the motor under the hood of the Toyota Tacoma.

One Edmunds review states, “The engine has a knocking noise when cold that seems to almost go away when it’s warmed up. Lots of research says piston slap. I cannot find a definitive answer on whether it is harmful to the engine or not.

Toyota has yet to discuss the defects occurring with the engine, but it’s clear there are some. Service Bulletin #T-TT-0615-20 shows that the Toyota Quality Group wants to hear from customers regarding the vehicle surging and hesitation issues. With this information, the company plans to issue some guidance on how to repair the problems. How long will it be until more guidance is given out? It’s possible this communications is simply a ploy to never resolve the problem, but merely make it look as if the automaker cares. At least Toyota still cares about appearances and doesn’t completely brush off the consumer.

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Problems with the Powertrain

The complaints with the powertrain are just as disturbing. It seems that the new Toyota Tacoma can’t provide the smooth drive that consumers are hoping for.

Another Edmunds review states, “Whenever I am decelerating, the RPM goes up. Especially when gears are changing the speed is changing from 40 to 38 or from 20 to 29. Sometimes, even the speed also raises and I feel a pull and then it starts going down like normal. I too it to the dealer because I Still have warranty from factory. And then found nothing. I am in the city and I do continuous stops. It is very annoying driving like that. I also feel like I am going to hit someone if I am not being careful. At the dealership I was told that the computer did not pick anything up. And that I need to be on a look out for recalls. I made a research ( after I bought the truck) and I see Transmission and gear problems from 2016 all the way to 2020. So there is nothing yet out there for 2021.”

At least this time, the company is willing to make some warrantied repairs to the powertrain and suspension. Service Bulletin #T-SB-0124-20 acknowledges that 4WD Tacoma models with the automatic transmission might suffer from a vibration while decelerating, which is different than the original complaint. The vibration can be felt in the steering wheel, floorboard and seat. It requires replacing the steering wheel damper and occasionally the leaf springs to repair. However, this fix doesn’t do anything about the RPMs rising when slowing down. Maybe the Tacoma wants to be the tough guy on the block and is looking to race the vehicles next to it. In that case, it belongs on the drag strip instead.

Problems with the Steering

To top off all of the problems, the steering isn’t much better with newer  Toyota Tacoma trucks. After all, who needs to control the pickup while hauling heavy goods?

A final Edmunds review states, “The steering on the 2021 Tacoma SR5 is terrible. Very little feedback on hi-speed curves feels like it wants to oversteer. The bump steer at higher speeds is dangerous, my truck jumped almost 1/4 lane after hitting a minor bump at 60 mph.”

Toyota hasn’t released any information about this problem, probably hoping it would simply fade into the background with the larger complaints taking center stage. Meanwhile, owners are left trying to keep the pickups under control on the roadways. Let this serve as a warning to other drivers, stay far away from Tacoma trucks unless you want to be the victim of this dangerous oversteering situation.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Toyota pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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
  • Ken

    2021 Tacoma 7k miles Motor is louder than the V8 in my Ram. Brought it in for inspection. They looked at me like I was crazy. Guessing fuel pump after searching google? Front suspension makes a clunking noise coming off the back side of a speed bump. Brought it in for inspection. They stated it will need to break before they can find the cause. The plastic on the interior scratches VERY easily. Seats are very uncomfortable. The truck surges at stop signs trying to force me to move forward. This is very dangerous on packed ice and snow. Rust on the rocker panel. Dealer installed leveling kit 3″ with 18″ rims and tires. I asked them if the spare was the same size. They told me yes. It is not. I wish I could go back in time. I’d never had made this trade.

  • Jeff T

    Just purchased a 2021 Tacoma sport TRD 4X4. It has been 3 weeks since my purchase and the engine knock really has me worried. This truck has only 25000 miles on it and is full of oil. I go in tomorrow morning to meet with the service manager. Any advise????

  • Tim

    Sometimes when I come to the top of a hill and stop at a stop sign and then start to go again The transmission shifts way down. And when I start to go again the engine surges because it’s in such a low gear. It’s definitely not normal. You just have to press the gas through it so you can get to the next gear. And sometimes going up a hill it thinks it can shift and then it poops out because it can’t have enough power on the hill. Not normal for most automatic transmissions. Other than that it’s a good truck. And yes if you are going fast and you hit a bump on a curve it can bounce. That actually IS normal. It’s a truck not a Porsche.

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