Ocean reanalysis products are routinely employed as reality checks in model evaluations and for process studies. This is especially so for critical regions such as the equatorial cold tongue (ECT) in the eastern equatorial Pacific where models suffer a chronic cold bias. ECT is a major player in the Pacific equatorial zonal sea surface temperature (SST) gradient (ΔEWSST) that has a significant impact on oceanic heat uptake and thus global climate. Hence, we investigate the reliability of three ocean reanalysis products for surface flux and ocean dynamic controls on ΔEWSST and Niño3.4 SST trends. We infer that while Niño3.4 SST trends are positive in all products, the signs of ΔEWSST trends do not agree with each other because initial conditions likely play a big role in their evolution. However, for ΔEWSST trends, the effect of initial conditions gets canceled out to some extent. Mixed layer heat budget and trends in ocean dynamic features such as tropical and subtropical cells, equatorial undercurrent, and subsurface temperatures are also diagnosed. We show that two reanalysis products that show a strengthening of ΔEWSST have contradicting trends in their surface heat flux and ocean dynamic contributions. This suggests that without accurate surface heat and momentum fluxes, data assimilation techniques may produce an east–west trend that is inconsistent among each other. Reanalysis products must address these issues considering the importance of this gradient.