The Problem – Toyota vehicles equipped with alloy wheels are experiencing abnormal corrosion and bubbling of paint and/or clear coat finish. I noticed that the finish on my Sienna’s (2005 XLE AWD) alloy wheels had some bubbles several months ago. My wife drives this vehicle almost exclusively, so I don’t “inspect” it too often. But last week I noticed the wheels now look horrible. Looking at other Siennas with these same wheels, most (over 80%) have the exact same problem. The problem affects post-2004 Siennas and other Toyota models equipped with alloy wheels.
Toyota’s Position – At this time, not admitting any manufacturing defect, and not extending any corrosion warranty protection. Toyota has suggested that brake dust build-up and lack of prompt removal of road salt are to blame. Very interesting because my 1998 4Runner has alloy wheels, and they’re in great shape. Same geographic location, same level of care (probably above average), and 7 more years on the road.
My Suspicion – Toyota or its alloy wheel supplier switched to a “greener” manufacturing process, perhaps using a water-based finish process (as opposed to solvent based), or at the very least, a lower level of solvent. The switch-over, although well-intentioned and environmentally responsible, is often difficult to pull off. Recall the peeling paint problem (body panels) GM had in the 1990s. The problem we’re talking about here is similar, originating under the finish, as if there is a problem with the finish’s ability to adhere. The problem has nothing to do with curb rash, stone chips, etc., in which the integrity of the finish has been compromised externally.
Strength In Numbers – If you have the same problem with premature bubbling or corrosion of your Toyota alloy wheels, add your comments below. Be sure to provide the Model and Year of your vehicle. If you submit a photo of an affected wheel (150X150 px .PNG or .JPEG file preferred), I will add it to the “Toyota Quality Wall of Shame” below. Send wheel photos to: olivecg(@ symbol)charter.net. With enough feedback from angry customers, we might be able to get Toyota to accept responsibility for this widespread problem.