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Front Differential 4WD Actuator Warranty Denial and Victory

Discussion in '3rd Gen. Tacomas (2016+)' started by Dreamcastera, Mar 11, 2019.

  1. Mar 11, 2019 at 10:27 PM
    #1
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    Tampa, Florida
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    Good evening everyone! Sorry it's a long one...

    Join me on my perilous journey through dealership, warranties, and my own stupidity!

    I just wanted to let you guys know about a situation that I recently experienced - and wanted to see if anyone else has had any similar issues. I bought a 4x4 2017 TRD Offroad around July of 2017. It's a great truck and has stood up to a LOT of driving and some fairly intense offroading. (That's somewhat relative compared to some of what I've seen you guys doing!) A few months after first buying the truck I participated in a hunting trip by Valleyhead, WV. I distinctly remember the truck taking a few minutes to disengage from 4WD HI to 2WD HI. (I was on a flat dirt road going about ~25 mph.) I eventually stopped and rolled the truck back and forth for 5-10 min before it finally disengaged. Weird. I did some research online and found that this is a fairly common annoyance with electronically actuated 4WD systems, so I chalked it up to that. However, this issue repeated itself a few more times, albeit intermittently, throughout the trip. When I returned home (to Florida) I gave my dealership a call asking about the issue - I was told pretty much what I read online, that it's somewhat common with electronic 4WD systems. My truck isn't offroad for about 4 months after. I then use it to go setup some deer feeders in Jacksonville, lots of muddy roads, and 4WD HI engages perfectly, however, when I am set to leave it takes its sweet time going from 4WD to 2WD. I call a different dealership this time, same story. Do some more research, same story. Fast forward - I've been living with the issue for a little over a year. Some friends of mine and I decide to find some trails that are actually in Florida - so we explore Crooms Trail in Brooksville and Hard Rock Offroad in Ocala. This is where the story gets good. In Croom 4WD HI was taking its sweet time, like always, but worked. Going from 4WD to 2WD took nearly 30 minutes to actually worked this time. Funnily enough, my buddies 4runner took its sweet time as well, so we both brushed it off. Next we took a trip to Hard Rock Offroad in Ocala - and I had to drive up and down a dirt road for nearly 20 minutes to actually get into 4WD HI. When I went to leave the truck would not leave 4WD HI. I had done a TON of research on this by now so I had the idea that it was probably the two prongs on the solenoid not contacting all of the way. It's getting dark, and I have a ~2 hour trip home. I understand the risks of driving in high traction situations with 4WD engaged - even if the rear locker is disengaged. So, I find a guide and attempt to remove the front differential actuator and check the prongs. I was unsuccessful in removing the actuator because I couldn't get to the top two bolts. I admitted defeat and reinstalled the bottom two bolts - I did not have a torque wrench obviously, and the idiot I am snapped one of the bolts. Which I'm aware takes some force (that's what I get for using an extendable ratchet). I reinstalled my skid plate and went back to driving up and down the road. I called a dealership expressing my issue and they told me that I should go over a bump fairly hard - and lo and behold it worked. After an hour of driving and 30 minutes of snapping a bolt it was finally in 2WD. The 4WD light was still flashing but the truck was definitely in 2WD.

    I scheduled an appointment to leave the truck overnight immediately (it was Saturday) at a dealership and drove it straight there. They didn't get to it until the next day. I get a call saying they have bad news. They tell me that my front and rear diffs (along with my actuators) have been flooded and need replacement or serious repairs. I was quoted ~$5500 for repair. My truck has never seen more than 6-8 inches of water in very short bursts of time - so I head over to the dealership and they tell me that because water was involved the warranty is invalid. They told me that my truck had been "submerged". When I asked how they knew they told me that they LOOKED DOWN THE 1/4" TUBE and saw mud and water. Despite the fact that the rear doesn't even have a breather tube. This is ridiculous SO, I take my truck from them and drive it 45 minutes away, to the dealership that sold me the truck, per recommendation by my grandfather. I did not tell them that I had just seen another dealership and they call me back saying they found the issue. There was a split at the base of the hose connected to my front diff 4WD actuator. There is no water in my rear diff (despite how stupidly low that check valve is), transfer case 4WD actuator or anywhere else for that matter. It's just in my front diff 4WD actuator. There was a small small amount of water and a decent amount of rust on the solenoid and contacts, but not anywhere else. This of course, caused the connection to be unreliable. Knowing all of this I ask them if it is covered under warranty, the tech told me that because the truck was modified (Icon Suspension) and had been offroad it wasn't covered. We all know that is BS, so I go to the service manager who tells me that because it was "submerged" it wasn't covered under warranty, and would be ~$1100. I was upfront with them about the broken bolt and the fact that I tried to remove it as a last attempt to drive home without risking driveline damage. I payed the $1100 because I need my truck for work.

    Of course if it was submerged then it wouldn't be covered. But if a faulty part is what allowed the water in, then it should be covered. I finally convinced them to submit it to Toyota for warranty and it was denied due to "submersion". I requested an arbitration hearing because I believed that a reasonable person could see that there was no water in anything but the front 4WD actuator, so the truck was NOT submerged and had a manufacturer defect that allowed water inside without submerging the vehicle. I proposed that water had been creeping in for a long time allowing rust to slowly build causing the connection to get worse and worse until it no longer shifted. This would likely also explain why the truck got worse and worse over a year. Here's another kicker. My grandfather spoke to a Progressive insurance adjuster to determine how long the rust would have taken to form, knowing that its possible to have been muddy water, and therefore more acidic, we got a range of 12 - 24 months. Although he said that it was likely closer to 24 months. At this point I had only owned the truck about 18 months. I then requested an arbitration from Toyota, which they denied! One nasty e-mail later, they agreed to an arbitration hearing. Yeah, it's not like it's in my warranty paperwork or anything.

    EDIT: I told the dealership to leave the old actuator AND the old split hose in my truck when they were done. They didn't leave the items in the truck as promised - and long story short it took a whole week before I got the actuator back. The small split hose mysteriously disappeared. I'm not a lawyer - but the way I understand Magnoson-Moss is that they have to prove I abused the truck. I don't have to prove I didn't abuse it. I'm not sure how they could even pull that off without the failed part.

    The hearing date finally comes around, myself, my grandfather, and I meet with the arbitrator, and a Toyota corporate field technician to represent Toyota. Toyota's position boils down to this:

    - The vehicle was submerged.
    - The vehicle was abused in extreme offroad scenarios (exceeding the trucks capabilities, demonstrated by the dent in my front skid plate), causing the split. (They loved pointing out the mud on the underbody.)
    - That amount of mud underneath my truck could only have been caused by full submersion.
    - That I damaged the part when I went under the truck, causing the problem I went under it to fix.
    - The hose was likely split by a direct impact while offroad.
    - They also claimed that there was a waterline on the frame, showing that it ad been sitting in deep water for sometime.

    To address these issues to the arbitrator I showed them the TRD Pro challenge Vietnam video from Toyota's YouTube channel. To demonstrate that the amount of mud could be caused by offroad events without submerging the truck. They also claimed that I caused the problem the day before I brought it in by trying to fix the problem (which I honestly probably shouldn't have attempted. My reasoning was I'd rather risk damaging a $300 part over driveline damage.). The Toyota rep then asked if the dealership could lift the truck up so that we could all see the underbody. I agreed, of course, and pointed out that there was no waterline, showed the arbitrator the length of the hose and where the water allegedly entered. I noted that there was no water in the rear diff, the transfer case actuator, the doors or anywhere else - which would have occurred during a submersion. I also noted that an impact would have had to have dodged both skid plates and hit the hose with such force, all while not breaking the tiny plastic nipple the hose slipped onto. The Toyota rep pointed out lots of dirt and the dent in the skid plate - to which my grandfather replied, "I'm glad it's doing its job! So glad you guys designed that!". I should note that it was all business and he was very courteous - he had no real dog in this fight. He was just there to read the paper. The arbitrator then wrapped things up and just recently I received a decision:

    I was AWARDED $950 by the arbitrator (I accepted the cost to drill out and replace the bolt.)

    Point is: If you know you're right don't give up.

    *I'll post pictures of the parts and what not when I can get them off of my desktop!
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
    Zoop, AKGSD, mgmdclb and 28 others like this.
  2. Mar 11, 2019 at 11:22 PM
    #2
    Pro-Taco

    Pro-Taco Well-Known Member

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    Great job! Is the 4x4 now engaging and disengaging as it should?
     
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  3. Mar 11, 2019 at 11:23 PM
    #3
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    Yes! It works so much better than before it's like a new truck! It's nearly instant.
     
  4. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:06 AM
    #4
    05Taco4x4

    05Taco4x4 ToyotaHubs

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    FJ Tcase, Manual Hubs, 2017 Head unit, Mirror Riser
    And this is why I installed manual hubs :rolleyes:
     
  5. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:09 AM
    #5
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    Could be a dumb question - but when you have locking hubs installed is power essentially always being transferred to the front diff but not necessarily the wheels unless the hubs are locked? I took a look at your thread when I was also considering just going to a manual 4WD conversion - pretty awesome stuff!
     
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  6. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:15 AM
    #6
    05Taco4x4

    05Taco4x4 ToyotaHubs

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    If your t-case was in 4wd, then this would be the case.
    The way your truck works now- your wheels and CVs are connected, CVs and front diff rotating in 2wd and 4wd. Because it's an open diff and disconnected on passenger side (ADD) no power is being transferred in 2WD.
     
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  7. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:17 AM
    #7
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    Does that mean that, if I did this conversion, I would leave the truck in "4WD" all of the time - withe the tcase actuator on 24/7, or would I just be eliminating the ADD actuator and still switch the vehicle into 4WD (and then of course locking the hubs when I want 4WD) Either way I've been considering your kit!
     
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  8. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:21 AM
    #8
    Nunya Bizness

    Nunya Bizness Electricly Wreckless Moderator

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    Jk, glad you got a win in the end and that its working now.
     
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  9. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:27 AM
    #9
    05Taco4x4

    05Taco4x4 ToyotaHubs

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    That's not necessary.
    I'll start by telling you what I did- added the FJ t-case and deleted the ADD. I shift in and out of 2wd/4wd with a stick and connect/disconnect the wheels from the CVs at the manual hubs.

    You could swap in an FJ t-case, a quick google search found this:
    https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/fj-case-in-a-3rd-gen-tacoma.571689/

    It's also possible you simply disconnect the ADD actuator and tuck it away in a sealed box [idk, i'm spit-balling here] and retain your t-case, connect/disconnect your wheels from CVs at the manual hubs.
     
  10. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:27 AM
    #10
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    ...yeah it was a novel. Thanks for the support!
     
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  11. Mar 12, 2019 at 11:59 AM
    #11
    Hwy88-Taco

    Hwy88-Taco Taco Paw Patrol

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    Mods: I was supposed to keep track? I'll make a build page some day. Don't hold your breath.
    I especially like the final chapter.

    Glad you didn't give up and stuck to your guns. I too have been known to take the long road when I believe I'm right. I fought the insurance adjuster to keep my Taco from being a total loss when I punted an Integra that made a U-turn in front of me. Took me about a year and a few trips to the dealership as well as feedback from the technicians to finally get the approval. See how short I kept that, LOL.
     
  12. Mar 12, 2019 at 1:01 PM
    #12
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    That's the way to do it! Glad to hear that you finally got what you were looking for! Yeah it's pretty long... lol. I always find it helpful when people give TOO much info rather than too little. But I may have gone a little overkill...
     
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  13. Mar 12, 2019 at 1:10 PM
    #13
    Fly Skids Up!

    Fly Skids Up! Well-Known Member

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    Good for you!! Dealership are the biggest S-bags in the world. They lie and will say anything to avoid repairing your vehicle under warranty. I know this was under the standard warranty but if there was ever a argument to be made whether or not to buy the extended warranty, this would be it.
     
  14. Mar 12, 2019 at 1:19 PM
    #14
    Rujack

    Rujack Stop Global Whining

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    Good write-up. To whom did you make the arbitration request? Corporate?
     
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  15. Mar 12, 2019 at 1:36 PM
    #15
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    Yep, we made the arbitration request to Toyota corporate (which was originally denied) - more specifically the southeast warranty rep for Toyota corporate.
     
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  16. Mar 12, 2019 at 1:58 PM
    #16
    commbubba19

    commbubba19 Well-Known Member

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    you have far more patience then i do. crap like this really grinds my gears.
     
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  17. Mar 12, 2019 at 2:28 PM
    #17
    Fly Skids Up!

    Fly Skids Up! Well-Known Member

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  18. Mar 12, 2019 at 3:16 PM
    #18
    lynlan1819

    lynlan1819 Well-Known Member

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    Agree,Personally I think the electric 4x4 acuators in these trucks are pure junk and for sure a weak point.
     
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  19. Mar 12, 2019 at 7:29 PM
    #19
    Rujack

    Rujack Stop Global Whining

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    And they initially denied it? Is that even legal? Wouldn’t that effectively make them the arbitrators? :facepalm:
     
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  20. Mar 12, 2019 at 8:37 PM
    #20
    Dreamcastera

    Dreamcastera [OP] Member

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    I'm no lawyer, but I don't think it is legal! Especially since my warranty paperwork says that any warranty work is subject to arbitration. Apparently Toyota had just done some warranty work audits on that dealership in which the dealership had to pay back some $20,000 to Toyota - so there was plenty of incentive NOT to do warranty work in the first place.
     
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