A couple months ago, one proud Toyota owner pushed his 2007 Tundra pickup past the million-mile mark, a distance many motorists would be hard pressed to clock in a lifetime of driving.
But Victor Sheppard is no ordinary guy. He hauls parts for the oil industry, keeping its heavy-duty equipment humming and hydrocarbons flowing. Over the past nine years, he’s routinely made cross-country treks from his home in Louisiana to deliver desperately needed components all across America. In fact, he averaged around 125,000 miles each year in the saddle of his Toyota.
Getting any vehicle to roll this many miles is quite a feat, but an up-close look at his Tundra reveals that it has held up amazingly well since it rolled off the line at Toyota’s San Antonio, Texas, factory nearly a decade ago. Where it’s not dented or scratched from years of hard service, the paint is still shiny, body rust is minimal and even the driver’s seat, a touchpoint that receives a ton of abuse, barely shows any wear or soil despite never benefitting from the protection of a cover. Aside from the steering wheel, which is worn around the rim, and a few scuffs on the interior door panels, everything looks practically new.
On top of all this, the truck in question still has its original engine and transmission. A quick twist of the key is all it takes to fire up its 4.7-liter V8, which idles smoother and quieter than some brand-new vehicles. Switched on, the odometer reads 999,999; apparently, they stop after six digits, but this is hardly an issue since the vast majority of customers never clock so many miles.
Obviously, it takes a fair bit of upkeep to make a vehicle go this distance, and Sheppard was religious in keeping on top of required maintenance, bringing his truck in for some 117 oil changes over the course of that million miles.
Another important aspect of this feat is where that work was performed. According to Mike Sweers, chief engineer of the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma pickups, “The dealership’s done all the service.” Taking your vehicle to a place that knows it best may cost a little more than going to the corner lube shop, but as shown here, it can be a sound long-term investment.
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Of course, any vehicle will have a few issues along the road and Sheppard’s Tundra is no exception. Sweers said the transmission needed a little work, losing reverse around the 700,000-mile mark. Also, the engine’s timing chains have been replaced along with its water pump, though the latter component didn’t really need service, but it was wise to swap it out when the engine was opened up.
Improving the Breed
To help celebrate his achievement, Toyota gave Sheppard a brand-new 2016 Tundra in exchange for his million-miler, which will be carefully dissected to see how it’s really held up over the years. As an engineer, Sweers is champing at the bit to tear into this truck and is particularly interested in the body. Aside from digging into the powertrain, he said he can’t wait to check the spot welds and other joints for signs of fatigue or cracking.
What’s the secret to Toyota’s success? Why has this Tundra gone for so long without stopping? The answer may surprise you. Sweers said, “Are they overbuilt compared to our competitors? Yeah,” adding that maybe they’ve over-engineered this truck a bit too much, but this ensures customers don’t have issues.
Two examples of this are the brakes and rear-end. The Tundra’s binders are beefy and designed to withstand years of abuse. Likewise, Sweers said its 10.5-inch ring-and-pinion assembly runs cooler under heavy loads, which contributes to longevity.
This focus on quality is not just something owners experience when using their trucks, it’s also something that will make them smile when they want to get a new one. According to Sweers, the million-mile Tundra is still valued at around $8,000. “I think this speaks to our QDR,” he added, that’s shorthand for quality, dependability and reliability.
And customers have noticed this as the company is selling as many Tundras and Tacomas as it can build. Their plant in San Antonio, Texas is running at 120 percent capacity and shows no sign of slowing down.
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