Are Lift Kits Causing 2009-2012 Toyota Tundra Steering Rack Failures?

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Toyota is investigating a rumor that lift kits could be causing steering rack failures in 2009-2012 Toyota Tundra pickup. How could this be possible? Does this rumor have any merit?

Lift Kits Cause Tundra Steering Rack Failures

Toyota is investigating a rumor on whether lift kits are causing steering rack failures in 2009-2012 Toyota Tundras. We say not likely.

In a June 2012 Tech Tip (Tech Tip T-TT-0183-12), Toyota has alerted dealers about the possibility that lift kits may be causing steering racks in the Tundra to fail. Toyota states: “Some 2009-2012 Tundra vehicles may exhibit a condition where the Steering Rack shows evidence of leakage at the bellows (boots). This may occur on non-modified, original equipment vehicles as well as modified (lifted) vehicles.”

While this Tech Tip is based on a rumor and Toyota has not yet confirmed that this is an actual issue, they are still investigating it seriously. They have alerted their technicians to look for steering rack leaks in Tundras built during this time. Technicians have been asked to report any vehicles with steering rack leaks to Technical Assistance (TAS).

EDIT: After reviewing this article, we want to make it clear that some Tundra owners are absolutely experiencing steering rack failures. It’s not a “rumor” that these failures are occurring. The rumor is that the problem is caused by lift kits, which has not been confirmed.

If Technical Assistance is made aware of an ongoing pattern of steering rack leaks in 2009-2012 Toyota Tundras, then we may see a Technical Service Bulletin calling for a replacement. Until then, this is simply a Tech Tip based on a rumor that is currently under investigation.

Even though this issue is currently being investigated as it should be, there are a few tidbits that consumers and Toyota Tundra owners should be made aware of.

This rumor does not really make much sense. Here is why:

Essentially, Toyota has been using the same steering rack design since 2007, with a minor change in 2009. Since 2009, the steering rack design has been the exact same. If lift kits were causing the steering rack to leak, or if there was a design issue with the steering rack, we should have heard about it back in 2009. Not three years after this minor change.

This is not to say that some consumers have not had experiences with a leaking steering rack in these Tundras. However, it is probably safe to say that this issue would indicate a quality issue with the steering racks, not a design issue calling for steering rack replacement in all 2009-2012 Tundras.

This investigation Toyota is currently conducting will determine for certain what the real issue is. Only time will tell. In the meantime, consumers should not assume the worst. They should, however, pay a little more attention to their vehicle and check for odd leaks. If they notice anything abnormal, they should see their local dealer.

What do you think? Is this rumor fabricated garbage or a real issue?

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  1. Mickey says:

    Like mentioned the issue would have risen it’s ugly head back in 2009.

    • Jorge says:

      Here’s my issue. I started getting a vibration and left to right motion from my steering wheel at about 12K miles. The dealership rebalanced the tires and also performed a “courtesy” resurface of the front rotors. The problem did not completely go away. I still experienced the slight vibration and slight left to right “wiggle” on the steering wheel. I was told it could be tires out round. Had those looked at by authorized BF Goodrich dealer and tires were fine. Had the truck lifted with 2 inch strut spacer and 3.5 inch lift spindles. I also need to state that I was getting a rear shutter at initial “hard” take off when stock. After the lift in front with a 4 inch block on the rear, the rear shutter increased. Performance Off-Road, who performed the work then shimmed the carrier bearing three times before the shutter returned to its normal shutter at stock height. I did notice that the rear 4 inch block is at an angle so as not to change the pitch of the driveline to the carrier bearing. My current experiece with the increased lift if an aggressive vibration and, once again, continued left to right movement of the steering wheel. Oh, and they can’t seem to get the steering wheel to stay straight. They straighten it and whitin in the first 25 miles of driving it, it tend to move slightly left. I notice it more when I make a hard right turn then straighten out. Performance Off-Road in Bakersfield, CA installs numerous lifts on various truck models every day and they have told me, after 4 attempts to correct these problems, that I need to have Toyota inspect and possibly replace the Steering Rack and/or bushings as they feel this is causing the problem in the steering wheel. Tires and alignment on “dead-on”. These tires and wheels were installed when I had the truck(2011 Tundra Crewmax SR5 TRD OffRoad 2 wheel drive) lifted less than one month ago.

      • Jorge – Not to be snarky, but OF COURSE the 4×4 shop is going to tell you to take it up with Toyota. That’s much easier than saying “your lift kit isn’t perfect.”

        Yet, I think the reality here is that you’re running a very aggressive lift that isn’t perfect. When you jack your truck 6″ into the air using both a spacer lift and spindles, and then mount a new set of off-road tires and wheels (I’m assuming the wheels are after-market) the factory ride and handling characteristics go out the window.

        Additionally, did anyone ever check the rims for roundness and balance? After-market rims are sort of famous for this type of thing.

        In any case, I don’t think anyone at Toyota is going to take your complaints seriously unless you uninstall all the lift components and verify the problem is with the truck itself. Best of luck to you.

        • Jorge says:

          Yes, (Jason), I agree with you. I was able to get Toyota to inspect the steering rack and also perform a power steering analysis. It all checked out good. I then consulted a local front-end and alignment specialist shop in town and was referred to a local tire/wheel shop that does what they call “Road Force Vibration Balance”. This piece of equipment looks very much like the traditioinal spin balancer, except that it takes all the dimension of the wheel itself and tire. It then makes a comparison of the two. When the wheel and tire are mounted on this machine it mimmics the mount as though it is on the vehicle itself. It does a slower speed balance than the traditional balancer but don’t be fooled that it is not high speed balancing your tires. Once the machine completes the spin it returns the analysis by means of a laser pointer light giving the exact location of the wheel weights position. The shop found that all my wheels/tires were off between 2.75 to 4.00 ounces. They removed the old weights and replaced them with new weight. To my surprise, all tires required much less. This completely took care of the problem I was experiencing. No more left to right and no more vibrations at any speed. I slowely sped my truck up so I could determine if at any speed the vibration or wobble would return. Nothing. I got it up to 100mph and still nothing. We also reset the PSI for each tire. The prior shop had pumped them up to 50PSI and these tires should not have had more than 40 PSI, but we set mine at 38 PSI. The shop I used locally is San Joaquin Tire, however I understand that most/all 4-Wheel Parts Stores also do this type of balancing as this is the only way to truly balance these bigger tires and aftermarket wheels. So anyone else out there having this problem, try this wheel/tire balance method (Road Force Vibration Balance) first before investing a whole lot of money trying to figure out the problem. I paid $60 plus $20 for the weights, $80.00 well spent and very glad to know that my steering rack is not the problem. Oh, on last thing. With the lift I have on my truck, the truck almost rides as smooth as it did stock. I’ve even taken it over some rougher surfaces and still no vibration, no bumpiness, and very smooth. Hope this helps anyone out there having similar problems. Best of day to you!

  2. LJC says:

    I’m a bit confused by this statement “This may occur on non-modified, original equipment vehicles as well as modified (lifted) vehicles”. Does my 2011 TRD Dbl. Cab 4×4 qualify?

    Also, what is a “MY Toyota Tunda”?

    • LJC,

      I took that as a yes your 2011 TRD Dbl. Cab would qualify as well. The bigger story for us, was if lift kits were causing this problem. However, it looks like Toyota isn’t narrowing it down to just lift kits.

      Also, I should have edited out the MY. MY stands for Model Year. You read so many press releases sometimes that language gets into stories. Sorry!

      -Tim

      • LJC says:

        Thanks for the clarification.
        It’s cool 🙂

        I suspect if the design did not change then the lubricant may have. Perhaps the lubricant and rubber seals are not compatible, thus leakage?
        Just a guess, but I do recall when synthetics oils first came out some value seals would not swell and thus lead to blue smoke at start up.

  3. MICHAEL says:

    I have an 08 lifted tundra. It blew the seal at the bellows on the drivers side. no warning just lost all steering assist. No doubt that seal blew since bellows swelled until it blew. Is there a remedy yet offered by toyota?

    • Michael,

      That’s awful! I haven’t heard of anything like that before and no I haven’t heard anything from Toyota on this being an issue. Just bad luck I guess??

      -Tim

    • CRAIG says:

      MINE DID SAME THING. HAVE LW RANGE LEVELING LIFT. HAD IT AT DEALERSHIP FOR 2 DAYS PUTTING IN NEW REAR DIFF. 3 DAYS LATER BLEW BELLOW ON RIGHT SIDE OF RACK. I AM WONDERING IF ALL OF THE WIEGHT OF TIRES WERE SITTING ON RACK INSTEAD OF THE END OF TRAVEL OF SHOCKS

      • Jose says:

        Craig I’m wondering if you ever got the issue resolved. Am having the same problem with the same lift kit and Toyota won’t warrantee it because of the lift. They are saying I need to install the idler arms on the top of the steering knuckle to aleviate the angle.
        Any help would be appreciated

  4. ch says:

    my 07 tundra DC 4X4 just had this problem yesterday. all my PS fluid leaked out my steering rack. dealer quoted me $2500!!! it ran for 20k/9months on a 2.5inch leveling kit before it blew. this is definately not just a 2010+ tundra issue. ran fine before lift.

  5. erica says:

    I have a 2012 tundra and ran perfect until we installed a lift kit. the steering rack seals broke and filled up with fluids. any ideas how to fix it?

  6. edwin says:

    I have a 2008 CM Tundra 3/1 LRO lift with 18 rims and 295/65/18 tires andAs I made a Uturn I heard a clunk so I step out and check behind driver wheel and notice a leakby the steering rack seal.. Told my mechanic and he said bring it next day is not good.I’m reading about this stuff being posted and might true , cause I did not have this problem before. I bought the truck used in march of 2012 with 51000mlge.

  7. Albert says:

    Maybe someone asked this but if I have a lift and this issue occurs, does that mean it’s not covered under the warrantee?

  8. Joe says:

    I have a 2013 Tundra 5.7l 4×4 Double Cab. I want to put a 2.5″ front end raise lvln kit on it for my 275/79/18 BFG Ats . Is it safe to put it on or what? Ugh better looks aren’t worth this. Thanks!

  9. Joe says:

    Edit* 275/70*/18

  10. Darren says:

    Purchased certified used 2011 Tundra Crew Max in August 2011 with 7470 miles on it. 6″ lift kit was installed prior to my purchase. At 9600 miles rack blew. After several days of back and forth with Courtesy Toyota dealership in Brandon FL (truck was purchased at Ed Morse Toyota in Delray Beach FL; 4 hours from home) Toyota agreed to fix under warranty. On June 1 2013, at 30,000 miles, rack blew again. Toyota has taken the position that the after market lift was creating the problem and they would not cover under warranty. I have taken the position that this vehicle was sold with the lift kit installed and certified by Toyota and should be covered by the warranty. I may not win this fight, but I refuse to go away quitely. There is an act called the Magnuson- Moss Warranty Act, which basically states that a dealer cannot void a warranty because an after market part was used. This includes lift kits. The dealer has to prove that the lift kit was not designed for the vehicle or installed incorrectly, and this created a condition which placed extreme limits on the parts involved in the failure. The burden of proof is on the dealer. Courtesy Toyota Brandon states that this car probably should not have been certified by Ed Morse Delray Beach. Ed Morse states that it’s my problem since the lift kit was an after market product even though they certified the vehicle. I now have no choice except to take this to the public forum in hopes that I can save the next person from having to deal with such B.S. I may have to pay for this costly repair, but maybe the next person will be informed before purchasing their next vehicle. By the way, this vehicle never saw any offroad duty, and only pulled a light trailer twice. I must state that I have been a loyal Toyota customer(second toyota truck purchased), and probably will remain loyal to the brand. However, I will never use or recommend their service department for any repairs.

  11. Joe says:

    Thanks Tim. Was concerned about the steering rack. They fit fine on stock suspension but a 2.5″ raise would look better.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Joe,

      Agreed that they would look better on a 2.5″ raise! I wouldn’t be so concerned with the steering rack issue. Since this post was written, we haven’t heard about a ton of people having issues. There are some isolated cases it seems. It is really just a precautionary item we discovered. Hope that helps.

      -Tim

  12. Eric B. says:

    This is a huge issue. I have blown 2 racks in 2 months. 2010 tundra with 3/1 level lift. First one blew 1 month after lift and finally got money to replace a couple months later blew again less than a week later. Do a Internet search for this problem and you’ll find tons of issues with stock and lifted trucks. I’m just trying to figure out how to resolve this problem. Toyota needs to step up and figure something out. It’s obviously a pressure issue cause of the new variable pressure power steering pumps putting out to much pressure for the seals on the steering racks.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Eric B.

      I have spent hours on forums reading about this issue. Frankly, it is interesting. We called and talked with our offroad friends, company reps and dealership friends who ALL say they haven’t heard of any steering rack issues. On the forums, there seems to be more issues with this, except it seems it is 90% of 2010-11 Tundra owners who have lifted their trucks. After doing the research, I am lead to believe that Toyota had a bad steering rack from a different supplier for those years. While, the very occasional stock truck blew a rack, it simply wasn’t a consistent issue for Toyota to issue a TSB.

      Now, that the tech tip has been out for a while without a true TSB, I’m not sure Toyota saw enough of the problem that it issues a recall. I am NOT trying to argue with you. Frankly, yes it seems that there is a steering rack issue. I think the best recourse is to buy an aftermarket replacement or newer OEM steering rack.

      -Tim

  13. leto says:

    Have 07 tundra crew max 9″ lift 20/35/13.5 I have my lift for 4 years now.
    My rack Never did blew. Till 4 month ago took a hard right then my rack blew.
    Bought a new rack from Napa cost me $600 something + $200 freight with
    But they have lifetime warranty that’s kinda good.
    Anyways me in my friend help put my new rack, 5 months later I blew my rack again reversing one of the install in the parking lot so I plug the hole on the right side where is leaking, found a small hole leaking a lot of steering fluid so I put ssealant hopping that would fix it, put power steering fluid but the left side blew.
    So I talk to the dealership why my rack keep blowing up told me probly my power steering pump not good anymore.
    So bought me a new power steering pump @ O’Reilly cost me $300.
    Never install it yet but hopefully that solved my problem.

    But been thinking why only the right side of the rack keep blowing up!?

  14. leto says:

    Have 07 tundra crew max 9″ lift 20/35/13.5 I have my lift for 4 years now.
    My rack Never did blow till 4 month ago. I took a hard right then my rack blew.
    Bought a new rack from Napa cost me $600 something + $200 freight.
    But they have lifetime warranty that’s kinda good.
    Anyways me and my friend put my new rack on, 5 months later I blew my rack again reversing into a stall in the parking lot. so I plugged the hole on the right side where it was leaking, found a small hole leaking a lot of steering fluid so I put selant hopping that would fix it, when I put the power steering fluid in the left side blew.
    I talked to the dealership to ask why my rack kept blowing. They told me probably the power steering pump not good anymore.
    So bought me a new power steering pump @ O’Reilly cost me $300.
    Never install it yet but hopefully that solves my problem.

    But been thinking why only the right side of the rack keep blowing up!?

  15. john says:

    I have 2013 crew max …I want to lifter kit but I’m worry about having this kind of problem

  16. Jason says:

    I drive a 2012 5.7L 4WD and got a 3 and 1 leveling kit about two weeks ago, with offroad 305’s. My left bellows just blew and I lost all power steering. Not really sure I understand the power steering system, but are the bellows supposed to hold power steering fluid? Doesn’t seem logical. Any help appreciated.

  17. Rey says:

    2011 DC 4WD just blew the rack after having the truck inspected at the dealer who raised the truck. So disappointing that Toyota doesn’t come up with a solution for this. I had an 05 DC Tundra with a daystar kit and had no issues… all the way up to 175k miles.

  18. john says:

    mine has gone 2 times now fml i got a 3 in level kit

  19. Anonymous says:

    Fuk Toyota. Mine blew

  20. jorge says:

    Sorry I haven’t posted any responses regarding my issues in a while. Here is the quick and dirty Reader’s Digest version.

    I think we may have somewhat resolved in part some of the issues I had. As to the rear vibration at initial “hard” take-off, I installed a angled carrier bearing drop then added my own custom made tapered-slotted shims to give the bearing the correct pitch and angle. This almost completely took the entire shutter/vibration down to nothing. Prior to this the dealer finally acknowledged through my complaint to corporate that there is a TSB out there to replace the entire drive-line and bearing assembly in this year model. I guess the factory parts were slightly defective and causing a “clunk”/hit from behind feel at take off. This, too, has been corrected.

    On the issue of the front end and side to side wobble, I took the truck to a custom shop that builds lifts and also built their own competitive monster truck. Shocker Motorsports in Bakersfield, CA took my truck in and had it two days running analysis on the entire thing. They determined that installing the 2 inch strut spacers with 3.5 inch lift spindles was not necessarily the best way, however the alignment performed and balancing by the first shop was totally way off. Once the alignment was corrected and wheel/tire balancing was redone under “static” balancing the driving difference was remarkably great. I still get a slight wobble, especially when the weather is colder due to the 10 ply tires and the fact that the truck is lifted, but no way near what it was. I actually enjoy driving the heck out of my Tundra now. I still keep an eye on the steering rack but thank God I have yet to experience what some of you out there have. I also have a pretty good service rep/manager at my local Toyota who actually understands and addresses any concerns.

  21. John says:

    well here goes i have an my 2011 trd rock warrior
    just blew my rack on the right side as many have
    i do have a lvling kit installed bought it from the dealer and dealer installed it brand new they say they install these kits for the weight of a snow plow
    i dont plow snow but it made the stance much better
    i also got a 100k mile warenty with the truck
    the waranty company asked if i towed with it
    of course i do it is my work truck i also installed air bags to the rear so i get no sag when i tow or have a full payload
    then they asked about lift and oversized tires those would also void the warranty wtf Toyota i spend 45k for a work truck i am supposed to baby no way
    needless to say i got the dealer to install a new rack next week under warranty
    the truck has 60k and factory warranty would have been void good thing i got extended but why the runaround getting my truck covered

    • Anonymous says:

      well here we are 1 month later and the dealer still has my truck , i need my truck for work . so the get me a rental a ford of all things cant tow with it and my tools barely fit and with a 5 ft box i cant even take my wheeler anywhere . i understand part take time for delivery but 1 month cmon Toyota gimme my truck back 2011 trd rw

  22. Kyle says:

    Steering Rack issues continue, blew the passenger side bellow on my 2010 TRD DC this morning. I have a 3/1 LRO level kit installed (less that 2k miles on kit; no problems prior). Factory warranty has expired; extended warranty still in play.

    Inspection tomorrow by 5:00. To be continued…

    • Kyle says:

      Extended warranty picked up the repair no argument.

      But I am worried that this will become a persistent problem based on everything I have read.

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