Toyota Tundra Transmission Problems

by Tom Lutzenberger

Transmission issues for the Tundra seem to have begun in earnest with the 2007, second generation of the Toyota Tundra pickup truck. The earlier models were plagued with a recall on the brake and rotor system and a ball-joint suspension issue, but they didn't have consistent problems with the transmission design as later models did. The unfortunate turn has now brought into question in many consumer corners what was once an assumed standard of higher quality in Toyota car products.

Early Track Record

The Toyota Tundra had developed a long-standing following of buyers with the success of the earlier model, the T100, and the first generation Tundra. As noted above, the first generation had two issues, but Toyota fixed those quickly with a voluntary recall at no cost to owners.

Six-Speed Transmission Anomalies

It was in 2007 with the second generation model, however, that big transmission issues appeared, which were initially noted by fan-based forums on the Internet. The first was an experienced rough-shifting on six-speed transmissions that would occur randomly. This gear-changing issue would cause the truck to feel like it was bouncing on the road as the gearing jerked in response. The problem was so odd it garnered the name "rumble-strip" as an identified transmission problem. The problem was narrowed down to the torque converter and the part's design, making it difficult to disengage correctly as a gear change was initiated. Toyota did acknowledge the issue after some questioning from forum management and dealer communication.

Fluid Levels

The same year, a bulletin was released from Toyota with regards to transmission fluid. It's no surprise to car owners that keeping proper oil fluids maintains lubrication in the engine and transmission. However, Toyota's bulletin was specific that the fluid fill and level needed to be correct for the 2007 Tundra, as specified. Failure to do so would result in unexpected shifts in the transmission and possible damage to automatic shifting models.

Rear Propeller Shaft Issues

Then, in the end of 2007 at mid-December, Toyota issued a significant recall on more than 15,000 of 2007 Tundras with 4x4 gearing. The cause was potential failure of the rear propeller shaft joint. The rear propeller shaft joint is basically the part where the driveshaft connects to the rear transmission. The joint was described as possibly not having sufficient heat treating. This sub-par metal hardness in the part could cause it to separate while driving or pulling a load. Dealers were instructed to replace the part pronto once certifying it was deficient.

Proof of Getting It Right

Not surprisingly, 2007 was a bad year for the image of the Tundra. Toyota had made significant inroads into what was previously an American automaker dominated car segment, the pickup truck. The Tundra was in the top five of recommended vehicles in consumer magazines, only to then see that title stripped with the 2007 models. The company's marketing had to change the image quickly: the Killer Heat commercial was the answer. This commercial showed a Tundra pull 10,000-lb. cargo up an 80-foot tower. With advance camera aspects it looks computer generated. However, it's not. The commercial was filmed in a desert with already 120-degree Fahrenheit weather. In addition, the Tundra pulls a real load up a real ramp with real flame to increase temperature conditions. The commercial required 11 runs up the ramp to complete filming, each time pulling the same extreme load. Clearly, Toyota had something to prove with the Tundra's improved transmission design.

About the Author

Since 2009 Tom Lutzenberger has written for various websites, covering topics ranging from finance to automotive history. Lutzenberger works in public finance and policy and consults on a variety of analytical services. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Saint Mary's College and a Master of Business Administration in finance and marketing from California State University, Sacramento.