To most people a Toyota motor home built in the 1980s looks like a cute and charming recreational vehicle. And for the most part this is exactly what they are. But there was a fatal flaw built into these early 1980 motor homes was that caused heartbreak and disaster for hundreds of people.
As the motor home size was expanded past 18 feet, the original Toyota pickup chassis which was only rated at 1/2 ton capacity, was simply not up to the job. Specifically the rear axle began to fail. When this happened bad things occurred to good people.
Completely empty, these little campers have a marginal carrying capacity for people and possessions. This meant that the typical motor home left the driveway in probably an overloaded condition. This was normally not a problem because the performance of the camper insured that slow speeds would be maintained on the trip. The hundred horsepower four-cylinder engine would not move three tuns of house in a very fast pace.
As the size of the camper increased it wasn't long until the rear axles began to fail. The camper manufacturers compensated by adding a second set of wheels on the axle. This created a dual set of tires on each side. However this did not correct the problem. The problem lie in the fact that the bearings and the axle itself were just not heavy-duty enough to carry the load.
Excessive load caused the bearings to overheat, fail, and then disintegrate with disastrous consequences. Victims of this problem reported that the wheels would actually leave the truck. This was such a serious problem that the national highway safety administration became involved and issued a recall of certain Toyota motor home models.
There was no way to predict when the axle would fail. Some units failed almost immediately, some units went thousands and thousands of miles, and some units have not failed yet. However any Toyota motor home without the heavy-duty axle should be considered as a suspect vehicle.
There is an easy way to tell if your Toyota RV has a safe axle. First of all, all models of Toyota RV built after 1987 were built with the upgraded safe axle. All models of Toyota motor home built in 1984 and before are required to have the upgraded axle due to the safety recall. In 1985 and 1986 some models were built with the upgraded safe axle and some were not. So it is up to you to be careful when inspecting the axle on any Toyota motor home you are considering to buy.
A simple inspection of the axle itself will tell you if it is safe or needs to be replaced. The safe axle will have six lug nuts, the unsafe axles were built with five lug nuts. The safe axle will also have a protruding center hub that has a ring of nuts around the outer edge.
If the axles on the Toyota motor home you are considering only have five lug nuts and the center does not stick out and have a ring of bolts on the center hub, keep looking for another camper to purchase.