Pickup trucks are becoming more and more refined by the day, and seem to be distancing themselves from their traditional purposes. In turn, they’re also becoming more and more expensive, leaving prospective truck shoppers with limited options. Many pickup truck buyers look to the second-hand market in order to get the best deal for themselves. Shopping for a used pickup, however, has its drawbacks.
Most obvious would be the truck’s poor condition and various hidden issues that only the trained eye of a professional mechanic can detect. This is something we can’t help you with. What we can do, on the other hand, is to let you know about pickup trucks that have been known to have issues. So, here are pickup trucks plagued by reliability issues that you might want to steer clear of when shopping for a used specimen.
15 Used Pickup Trucks To Avoid
Years: 2004-2005, 2008, 2015
Being smaller than a conventional half-ton truck, Chevy Colorado might seem like the best choice for everyone not in the need of a towing rig. it’s more efficient, less expensive, and easier to handle. Not everything is hunky-dory with the Colorado, however.
First, two model years (2004 and 2005) were plagued by numerous problems including AC heater that only works on high or not working at all, engine start failure and check engine light that’s constantly on, water leaking into the cab, rusted frame, etc. 2008 year model has had its share of similar issues, but there’s the addition of fried electrical system and faulty radiator which contributed to engine’s abnormal heating. Moreover, all of them were subject to 2004-2011 Colorado recall for a faulty child seat and faulty brake light that could have lead to a potential crash. Finally, 2015 Chevy Colorado is experiencing numerous transmission problems including sluggish shifting or even failure to downshift properly. There’s the random engine stall issue too, so you might want to skip 2015 Colorado altogether.
(See Lead Image Above)
Years: 2000-2008, 2014-2015
There have been many ups and downs for Silverado and a long span of nine problematic model years doesn’t have to mean all of them are bad. We’ll list the biggest issues, but be extra careful with second-hand Silverados – just in case. Rusted out brake lines in older Silverados are something that most pickup truck enthusiasts already know about. In addition, millennium models have had their share of engine faults as well. Most of 2004 and 2005 Silverado problems are related to steering, and clunking noise coming from that segment is the most common of them.
2007 Chevy Silverado is probably the one you’d want to avoid, especially if it has the 5.3L V8. Apart from guzzling fuel, that one also guzzles oil. Owners have reported they had to pour up to a quart or two of oil over every 1,000 miles or so. And that hasn’t changed for 2008 as well. Newer 2014 and 2015 Silverados have all kinds of issues of their own. Poor paint that’s peeling off and A/C that doesn’t work are only some of them. Shaky and noisy suspension and automatic transmission that fails to work properly from day one are more serious issues. The way GM treats transmission misbehavior as “normal operations”, doesn’t help either.
Years: 2002-2005, 2007-2008
Avalanche is long gone from this world, but used specimen are still at large and preying upon the unwary potential buyers. Actually, Avalanche wasn’t that bad if you turn a blind eye on its lower towing figures. Clever midgate design which allowed SUV to pickup conversion and vice versa was rather practical. Early models had their problems with cladding of the paint, but GM has later addressed the issue. Speedometer malfunction was another problem in early Avalanches. People would often get surprised after being pulled over for unintentional speeding. Then came transmission failures in ’04 and ’05, and other various issues. Finally, when it came to excessive engine oil consumption in 2007-2008, Avalanche was irreversibly branded a troublesome truck. Add to that cracking-prone dashboard and you’ll get what I mean.
GMC Canyon and Sierra
Years: Same as Chevy Colorado and Silverado
Being Colorado and Silverado’s mechanical twins, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Canyon and Sierra, more or less suffer from the same problems. That’s why we’ll only list the most prominent issues here with a note that you should pay attention as to what plagues the aforementioned Chevy duo. Older Canyons had electrical and brake issues, while 2015 GMC Canyon, for instance, suffers from the dodgy automatic transmission which downshifts roughly. Older Sierras had their share of issues including both electric and mechanical failures. 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 has uncanny headlight issues which leads to extremely poor visibility. It needs to be noted that GM didn’t address the issue for 2015 model year.
Years: 2001-2003, 2011, 2013-2014
RAM 1500 and its spiritual predecessor from the Dodge era have had their share of problems (and they still have). If you’re in the market for an older Dodge, you’d be advised to stay away from 2001, 2002 and 2003 models. In fact, you should avoid them like the plague. They were bad back then, and time is one factor that certainly hasn’t helped them out. Transmission failures, severe oil sludge build-ups, engine failures, and even cracked dashboards… Take your pick. 4.7L Magnum V8 seems to be the culprit in most cases. Furthermore, 2002-2003 Dodge Ram 1500 has been subject to a dozen various recalls. 2001 model has been recalled on no less than 16 different occasions. No need to add anything else there. Finally, the last ever 2011 Dodge Ram features below-par safety ratings and the infamous Chrysler TIPM which wreaks havoc under the hood.
On the other hand, the newer RAM 1500 suffers mostly from electronic issues. Troubles with the infotainment system, cruise control failures, and radio that stops working aren’t that uncommon. Only diagnostic will cost you $150, and it’s often an entirely new system that needs replacing. Chalk another $2,300 there. Moreover, there are the standard issues like various transmission twitches, electrical issues, engine problems, and so on.
RAM 2500 and 3500
Years: 2006-2007, 2012-2015
The main issue for both of then Dodge’s heavy-duty Rams in 2006 was the AC/heater. They simply didn’t work properly in many cases. As far as more substantial problems go, it was suspension, steering and transmission. In other words death wobble, more death wobble, and shifting troubles. While the heater and cooler were taken care of for 2007, steering and suspension issues remained.
2012-2015 RAM 2500 models might have been better built, but they still had some issues you might want to check out. Death wobble, high vibrations, and uncontrollable steering can be occasional problems, especially on 2012 and 2013 models. RAM 3500 suffers from death wobble and shaky suspension for 2012 and 2013, while 2014 and 2015 one-ton RAM 3500s seem to be better built than their three-quarter ton counterparts.
Years: 2000, 2002, 2004-2006
Revolutionary Dodge Dakota is another truck you won’t be able to get new, and will have to rely on a second-hand alternative. 2000 year models experienced loss of oil pressure due to oil sludge buildup, and brake problems. Brake troubles continued in 2002 as well. Dakota’s brakes would simply lock up at random, requiring caliper, pads, and rotor replacement. Fast forward into 2004 and Dakota’s experiencing irregular shifting. Add to that engine’s rough idling and more brake troubles, and you got yourself a clunker.
Years: 2004-2005, 2010
It might be the best-sold US vehicle, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of issues. 2004 and 2005 model years were the absolute nightmares for Ford F-150 owners. Those were the first two years of the eleventh generation and Blue Oval still hadn’t figured things out back then. Engine problems don’t necessarily account for most of the complaints, but they’re by far the most serious issues. Spark plugs that break off inside the head or pops out, loud noises from the motor, and all kinds of other engine failures have accompanied F-150 throughout those first couple of years. Then, there’s the power window failure which also occurs in both 2004 and 2005 models. Finally, there’s the transmission failure as an icing on the cake. Needless to say, there were more than a dozen recalls.
Although Ford has addressed most of these issues in subsequent years, 2010 was also a bust. Believe it or not, the most common issue wasn’t engine-related. No, it was the self-shattering rear window. Apparently, the rear window would simply off itself at random without any kind of impact. Problems with transmission, however, weren’t gone yet. Hard shifting from second to first, vibrations, and inconsistent shifting deserve to be mentioned.
Ford F-250 and F-350
Years: 2006, 2008, 2011
Both three-quarter-ton F-250 and one-ton F-350 have had most of their problems during the same years. In addition to F-250’s extremely shaky suspension, both pickup trucks have suffered from engine failures in 2006. Both trucks continued experiencing engine troubles in 2008 as well. Furthermore, F-250 also experienced premature braking and unintended acceleration. Finally, 2011 year models returned with death wobble suspension issues which were downright scary at times.
Any Ford Truck With 5.4L 3V V8 Engine
This goes for F-150 series which were already covered, but due to the engine’s malfunction proneness, I felt I had to put special emphasis on it, so that fewer people end up with one of these engineering disasters. Ford has had a 5.4L V8 engine between ’97 and ’04, and it was fine. The 2-valve Condor V8 was practically indestructible, so if you find a pre-2004 F-150 with it – go for it.
The 3-valve replacement, on the other hand, was a complete bust. Triton, as they called it, was intended as an improvement but ended up being a giant leap backward. Spark plugs would randomly break off, as mentioned above, and repair costs would usually end up being in a region between $1,000 and $3,000. Better double that money and do a complete engine swap. Especially because, with Triton, you just know you’ll end up doing the same process all over again – and soon. I swear, 5.4L 3-valve V8 has to be the engine with the worst spark plug design in automotive history. Kudos to Ford for that. As for you: if you see a truck with 5.4L 3-valve Ford Triton, run away from that abomination! Run and don’t look back!
Years: 2005-2013, 2016
Due to low interest for the mid-size pickup segment on Big Trio’s part, Toyota Tacoma surfaced as the leader in the segment. Although it’s generally a reliable truck, Tacoma’s been a subject of a massive 700,000 vehicle recall for 2005 through 2011 models. Leaf springs at the back were prone to corrosion which could have lead to them fracturing and coming into impact with other parts of the truck, like the fuel tank.
Older models were generally prone to rusting and came with awful quality paint that used to peel like an apple. Then, there are engine problems like sudden acceleration or failure, while numerous Tacoma owners complained about 2009 year models’ radio that turns off at random. While 2016 Toyota Tacoma is finally all-new and redesigned, that didn’t stop new problems from emerging. People complain about the loud annoying noise coming from the driver’s side door while cruising at highway speeds. Moreover, engine vibrations and slow automatic transmission engagement while cold, will have to be addressed.
Tundra has been subjected to a massive 110,000 units recall for 2000 through 2003 year models, for rust-prone rear crossmember. The last model years of the first generation and first model years of the second generation were among the worse, however. Secondary air pump failure, check engine lights, and cold piston slap were only some of the issues. Dull, fading paint (especially on the roof) and radio malfunction are another thing. The fact that 2005 through 2008 Toyota Tundra has been subjected to a dozen recalls speaks for itself. If you’re in a market for a loud piston-slapping truck with 5.7L V8, then 2007 Tundra is the one for you.
Buying a late second-gen Nissan Frontier would be a mistake due to its outdated styling (and everything that goes with it), but buying early second-gen models might end up being an even bigger ordeal. 2005 through 2008 Frontiers are pickup trucks with some of the most consistent transmission issues we’ve ever seen. And it’s not the tranny itself that’s dodgy. It’s the radiator design flaw that causes the problem. To be more precise, the radiator is prone to cracking after which the coolant would find its way into transmission. Needless to say, antifreeze and transmission fluid mixture causes irreversible damage. So, there’s one great mid-size pickup if transmission replacements are your favorite activity.
Until lately, Nissan Titan has been one of the most outdated full-size pickup trucks in the market – a feat its smaller sibling Frontier still prides itself with. When it was still fresh, between 2004 and 2006, Titan exhibited various reliability issues. The most common of them was the rear axle seals leakage. One thing leads to the other, and if Titan loses enough differential oil, the entire rear end will fail. Of course, Nissan never recalled their faulty pickup trucks, and they let the issue resolve itself naturally.
The jury is still out for the new resurrected Ridgeline, but we already know a lot about the older trucks. 2006 through 2008 were the worst years, with ’06 being particularly bad. While ’07 and ’08 experienced numerous issues like the peeling paint, premature rust, and A/C that doesn’t work, the 2006 Honda Ridgeline experienced much more serious issues. Infamous #4 cylinder would often turn up rotten, indicated by puffs of blue smoke coming out of the exhaust. Replacing the spark plug can only get you so far, before ultimately you end up being forced to swap the entire engine. And 3.5L V6 doesn’t come cheap.