Jason Lancaster is the editor and founder of TundraHeadquarters.com. He has nearly a decade of experience on the retail side of the auto industry, and another decade of experience of the part and accessory side of the industry.
One of the nicest and least expensive upgrades you can make to your Toyota Tundra is to add a leveling kit (also known as a front-end lift kit). Leveling kits are usually steel or aluminum spacers that are added to the top of the front suspension’s coil assembly. These spacers raise the front end of the truck to make it level with the rear without dramatically changing the vehicle’s suspension, ride, or handling. When installed correctly, a leveling kit will improve the look of your truck without altering the operation and “feel” of your truck.
Leveling kits compensate for the fact that the rear-end of most trucks is about 2″ higher than than front end. This is intentional – the rear end is higher because it’s designed to compensate for natural suspension sag when the vehicle is fully loaded. Since most of us drive our trucks when they aren’t loaded up to max payload, we don’t usually enjoy the benefit to having the rear-end raised up higher than the front.
While adding spacers to the front suspension levels out the truck while empty, one of the main benefits is the additional tire clearance we gain.
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Few things are more frustrating than having a problem with your vehicle. In fact, there’s a good chance you bought a Toyota because you thought that it wouldn’t have any problems. Unfortunately, even a Toyota has the occasional issue. But what about when your Toyota car, truck, or SUV has a problem that isn’t resolved to your satisfaction? Maybe you’ve been to the dealership for the same problem multiple times, maybe you know that the vehicle has a known issue that Toyota isn’t acknowledging, or maybe you’ve just been treated poorly. In any case, here is how you can get what you want.
First tip — don’t call Toyota’s national customer service hotline unless you’ve already tried working the problem out with your dealer (see below). If you call Toyota’s national hotline right away, you’ll get the attention of the dealership and Toyota, but you’ve ruined any leverage you have over the dealer. Toyota dealers are graded on their customer service as much as they are on sales, and by informing Toyota of your dissatisfaction you’ve let the “cat out of the bag”. Now the dealer has less to gain by helping you — the dealer is more willing to help you if they know you’re not going to tattle on them to Toyota.
Second tip — your best hope for a solution is to work with your local dealer. Believe it or not, the dealership is invested in solving your problem because they know it’s the best way to make you a lifetime customer. Dealers spend thousands of dollars in advertising trying to create trust with their customers, but statistics show that the best way to create trust is to solve problems. Good dealerships know that solving customer problems is money well spent. Even if the dealership is the problem, your local dealer is still the best place to get a solution.
However, this doesn’t mean that a dealership will solve every customer service problem free of charge, or even solve them at all. In order for a dealership to justify spending money to solve a customer service problem they have to believe that they’re creating or preserving a customer relationship. In other words, if you want to get your problem solved, you’re going to have to convince the dealership that you’re going to be a good future customer and give them good publicity.
The best way to convince a dealership you’re going to be a good customer in the future is to show them you’re a good customer now. When working with anyone at the dealership, be nice. Let’s admit it — sometimes it feels good to yell at someone. But if you want to get the best customer service you’ll need the people at the dealership to like you. “Kill em’ with kindness” and you will prove you are a customer worth saving. Also, bragging about how many cars you’re going to buy, or that your company allows you to make purchase decisions, etc., doesn’t work. Everyone makes those claims. Instead, talk about how much you like the service manager, your salesperson, etc. These statements will do more to convince the dealer you’re a good customer than any bragging you can do.
Third tip — speaking with the general manager of the dealership is the best thing you can do to help yourself. While there are many managers in a dealership, the GM has the power to solve nearly any problem. The GM can pick up the phone and speak with one of Toyota’s regional executives, authorize an expensive repair, or even decide to warranty a vehicle. Toyota empowers every dealership general manager to act on their behalf — perfect for solving customer service problems. They also tend to have the most experience and maturity in the dealership, making them very easy to work with too.
If you’ve tried everything and the GM at your local dealership can’t help you, you have a couple of choices. You can call another local dealer and try over again with them, or you can contact Toyota Motor Company. If you problem is with your vehicle, you should try a couple of local dealers before you call. On the other hand, if the problem is with a dealership, then it’s time to call Toyota.
If calling, I suggest you try a two-pronged approach and call both your local Toyota regional office and the national help line. You can find the phone numbers below. While the local regional office will often refer you to the national helpline, with a little persistence you can speak with a regional executive about your problem.
To recap, when you have a problem with your Toyota that isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, start by working with your local dealership. The dealer wants to earn your faith and trust, and they will often go above and beyond to do so. When you speak with anyone at the dealership, be nice. You want them on your side. Ask to speak to the GM too — the GM has the power to solve your problem and they also have the full backing of Toyota. Finally, if the GM at your local Toyota dealer can’t solve your problem, work with Toyota’s national hotline and try to talk to someone at the regional office. If you’re persistent and you’re nice, you’ll get the best customer service possible.
NATIONAL HOTLINE: 800-331-4331
- Boston Office (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI) 508-339-5701
- New York (NY, NJ, CT) 973-575-7600
- Central Atlantic (PA, VA, WV, MD, DE) 410-760-1500
- Southeast Region (NC, SC, AL, GA, FL) 954-429-2000
- Cincinnati Region (MI, OH, KY, TN) 513-745-7500
- Chicago Region (MN, WI, IL, IN) 630-907-0150
- Kansas City Region (ND, SD, NE, KS, IA, M0) 816-891-1000
- Gulf States Region (OK, TX, MS, LA, AR) 713-580-3300
- Portland Region (AK, WA, OR, ID, MT) 503-493-4900
- Denver Region (WY, CO, UT, NM, AZ, NV) 303-799-6776
- San Francisco Region (Northern CA) 925-830-8300
- LA Region (Southern CA) 949-727-2700
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Some interesting facts about the new Tundra and how it’s built:
To begin with, the Tundra’s style was formally approved in the US, making it the first vehicle that Toyota has ever stylistically approved outside of Japan. Toyota is clearly committed to building an American truck.
Additionally, the new Tundra is almost completely new. There are virtually no carryover parts from the 1st generation Tundra or from the Tacoma.
Most automakers build vehicles in batches — a group of crew cabs are assembled, then a group of two-wheel-drives, etc. This is done to make sure that the correct parts are installed on each vehicle. By building in batches, workers will only have access to the correct part for that type of vehicle i.e. only 2wd shocks available for a batch of 2wds, only tan interior parts for a batch of tan interiors, etc. and won’t be able to put the wrong part on a vehicle. Amazingly, the Tundra IS NOT built in batches — each vehicle is built to order. Toyota gains a lot of efficiency by building each truck to order (batch building is inherently uneven volumes) but the risk of putting the wrong part on a vehicle is much higher.
In order to eliminate the possibility of a worker putting the wrong part on a new Tundra, many parts are pre-sorted and organized by type and then put in a box (basically a shoe box) and sent along with the truck as it travels down the assembly line. Thus, when the truck arrives at a station, the worker pulls the parts they need out of a box, installs them, and then the truck moves to the next station.
Toyota also uses a very aggressive just-in-time inventory system to reduce waste and increase efficiency. For instance, when a new Tundra begins the assembly process, the seats are ordered from the supplier. Within 85 minutes of being ordered, the seats are assembled and delivered to the proper station on the assembly line. Considering the seats can contain upwards of 300 different components (depending upon configuration) this is quite a feat.
Welding and painting the new truck is almost entirely automated — about 400 robots perform 90% of the painting and welding tasks.
Finally, the Tundra is built upside down! The wiring, suspension, and many other frame connected components are assembled while the truck frame is upside down. When it’s time to attach the body, the truck is flipped over.
See 2007 Toyota Tundra: BIG for more information about the just-in-time system used for Tundra assembly and to learn more about the San Antonio campus.
Toyota is known the world over as one of the most progressive and environmentally friendly corporations around — one need look no further than Toyota’s commanding share of the US hybrid market for proof. However, some entities are critical of Toyota because they are debuting the largest, most powerful Toyota Tundra ever. The new 5.7L V8, in addition to being one liter larger than the engine it replaces, is expected to sell better than the previous model. According to some of these protesters, Toyota has taken a “step backwards” by building and selling this monster-sized truck and the huge engine in it, and they should be chastised.
Recently Freedom From Oil, an activist group that is focused on a “pollution-free, petroleum-free” vehicle, put up a banner protesting the new Tundra during the New York Auto Show. While I whole-heartedly agree that the world would be a better place if it were pollution and petroleum free (assuming of course that means a workable alternative), I think that Freedom From Oil is missing the boat here.
For starters, truck sales are a zero-sum game. Most industry experts agree the size of the large truck segment in the US is going to stay the same or shrink, meaning that fewer new large trucks will be sold this year than in the previous year. If Toyota sells more new Tundras this year, it will be at the expense of Nissan, GM, Ford, and Chrysler. In fact we’ve already seen that happen this year with domestic truck sales falling as Toyota truck sales stay level.
The large size and the supposed poor efficiency of the new Tundra is also a non-issue. If you accept that the Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Nissan products are all roughly equivalent in terms of fuel economy and efficiency, a person choosing to buy a new Tundra is hurting the environment no worse than if they choose a new F150, Silverado, Ram, etc. Combine the similar efficiency of large trucks between manufacturers with the fact that any increase in Tundra sales will come from a competitor and it’s pretty clear this is a publicity stunt.
Reading through Freedom From Oil’s press release, it’s obvious to me that the real motive is to tarnish Toyota’s image with the green set. I doubt this will work. For one thing, recently released “green rankings” from the Union of Concerned Scientists state that Toyota is doing a good job protecting the environment. In this study of auto manufacturer’s and their relative environmental friendliness, Toyota finished just behind Honda for second place. The closest domestic truck manufacturer (and the leader in the large truck segment) was Ford, ranking 6th place overall. Based on these results, it would seem that someone choosing a Tundra over a F150 would be BETTER for the environment, not worse as Freedom From Oil would lead us to believe.
Freedom From Oil is a great concept, but these activists might be more effective if their protests actually made sense.
Everyone knows the Toyota Tundra can stop heavy loads, but now an armoring company in Texas has figured out how to make the Tundra stop bullets. That’s right — Texas Armoring Corp. is converting a Toyota Tundra into a personal armored vehicle for a secret client. The Tundra, in addition to stopping armor-piercing rounds from an M16 or an AK47, has the ability to create its own smokescreen, to drop razor-sharp tacks on the road as it escapes danger, and to shock anyone that tries to enter the vehicle with electrified door-handles.
The Tundra being converted is a black 2007 DoubleCab Limited. When it’s complete, the Tundra will have 2″ thick armored glass and a secret combination of steel, nylon, and composite materials hidden in body panels surrounding the cab. The window glass, similar to glass used in the canopies of modern jet fighters, is designed to not only stop incoming bullets but actually reflect them away. The doors of the truck will feature a special woven composite fiber 2″ thick that is much lighter than steel but capable of stopping a round fired from a modern automatic weapon, even from point-blank range. The hood, fenders, fuel tank, radiator, and even battery will all receive armored protection to ensure that this Tundra can withstand several direct hits to critical systems and still be able to whisk the owner away to safety.
Who’s this truck for? That’s a secret. The San Antonio Express-News reports the person this truck is being built for is a Texas resident who frequently travels to Mexico. According to the newspaper, several powerful Mexican drug lords have marked this man and his family for death. Unfortunately, these drug lords have already managed to kill both of this man’s brothers. Obviously, in addition to being armored this Tundra needs this vehicle to be discreet. While we can only speculate, the Tundra Limited was probably chosen for its combination of power, size, and unassuming luxury.
When the Tundra is complete it will look just like any other Black DoubleCab Limited — except for a handful of details that only a keen observer would notice. The armoring in the doors is designed to be light-weight so that doors don’t sag when they are opened or closed, a sure tip-off that the vehicle may be armored. The suspension is upgraded so the vehicle maintains the factory empty ride height, disguising the extra 2,000 lbs of armor the truck will be hauling. The front windows, even though they’re thicker and heavier than normal glass, can be raised and lowered just like a normal Tundra. This combination of armored protection with a nondescript, casual appearance should serve the new owner well.
The Tundra’s smokescreen is produced by intentionally spraying anti-freeze onto the hot exhaust manifold, creating a thick whitish smoke. This is nearly identical to the method used by the US Army M1 Abrams tank to create smokescreens. The electrified door handles, designed to shock anyone who attempts to enter the vehicle while under attack, pass a high voltage charge that temporarily stuns the attacker. Finally, razor sharp tacks, carried behind the rear wheels, are designed to land with the “sharp side up” and can instantly flatten the tires of any pursuing vehicle. If the attackers try to flatten the tires on this Toyota Tundra they won’t be successful — the truck has special run-flat plastic rim inserts that support the truck even if the tires have been turned to shreds.
The entire package is reported to have cost $90,000 dollars. While it may seem like an extravagance to some, Texas Armoring Corp. reports that more than 80% of all attacks (assassination or terrorist) occur while the person being targeted is in their vehicle. The world understands that point too — Texas Armoring Corp has upgraded over 1,500 vehicles with protection and has shipped them to Europe, South America, the Middle East, and the U.S.
Here are some interesting facts and links:
A 7.62 x 51 NATO Armor Piercing (AP) round is used in the US M-60 machine gun as well as various rifles. It can reach a muzzle velocity of 2,756 feet/second, more than MACH 2. The Tundra, when complete, will be resistant to this round.
The total cost of the vehicle is estimated to be $125,000 when completed. That’s about $2,450 a month on a five year loan (plus taxes of course).