Toyota Tacoma 2005-2015: problems, engines, 4WD maintenance

April 18, 2020
The 2005-2015 Toyota Tacoma is a simple, practical mid-size truck with a 5- or 6-foot rugged composite inner bed. It offers a solid 2.7L 4-cylinder or a strong 4.0L V6 engine with either a manual or automatic transmission.
Toyota Tacoma Toyota Tacoma Double Cab.
Both motors are available in 4x2 or 4x4 configurations.

The second-generation Toyota Tacoma comes as two-door Regular Cab, Access Cab with two front and two rear-hinged rear doors or Double Cab with four regular doors. Double Cab is available with a 5 or 6-foot bed; all other trims have a 6-foot bed.

The 4x2 Toyota Tacoma with a 4-cylinder engine is one of the most fuel-efficient pickup trucks with an EPA rating of 20/25 mpg city/highway (2011-2015 Tacoma with a manual transmission). The 2012-2015 4x4 V6 auto Tacoma gets 16/21 mpg. Maximum towing capacity for different V6 trims with Tow Package is listed between 6,300 and 6,500 lbs.
Toyota Tacoma interior Toyota Tacoma interior.
The 4x4 Tacoma has a simple part-time 4WD system (2H 4H 4L) with an electronically controlled 2-speed transfer case. An optional locking rear differential was available. In a part-time 4WD system, the transfer case rigidly locks the front and rear axles, meaning it should not be used on dry pavement.

The interior is not as roomy as in larger trucks, but durable and functional. The Tacoma has a reliable powertrain and is easy to work on. It will hold its value well if you keep it in good shape. Of course, everyone wants to know what are the reported problems?

Toyota Tacoma Problems: Rust damage to the frame has been reported by a number of owners on the NHTSA website, mostly in 2005-2008 model years. Trucks from areas with high road salt usage or high humidity are more likely to have rust damage. Toyota replaced frames in some eligible trucks under warranty; some other trucks received corrosion resistant compound (CRC) application of the frame. (Warranty Enhancement Program ZH6 and Limited Service Campaign H0F).
Toyota Tacoma Toyota Tacoma Double Cab.
Campaigns were available for vehicles registered in Cold Climate States. However, we found a number of more recent complaints on the NHTSA website about rusted frames. Some owners report that the frame is rusted, but the dealer says that the warranty coverage has expired.
We also found Customer Support Program ZKA and Limited Service Campaign K0D related to the frame corrosion for the 2011-2017 Tacoma in cold climate states, but at the time we worked on this post, they were in early stages.

Considering the importance of the frame, if you are looking to buy a used Toyota Tacoma, it's good to know if the frame has been replaced or received CRC application under one of the campaigns. Before buying the truck, it's important to have the frame carefully inspected for rust and other damages by a mechanic while the truck is on the lift. A simple visual inspection will not be enough, as rust might be hidden.
Toyota Tacoma engine Toyota Tacoma 4.0L V6 engine.
This also means that if you have a Toyota Tacoma, you might want to check with Toyota if the VIN number of your vehicle is eligible for any of the service campaigns. It's also a good idea to have the condition of the frame checked periodically during regular services. Consider rustproofing for extra protection. YouTube has several interesting videos about frame rust.

We found a number of complaints about weak rear leaf springs. Toyota issued Safety Recall E02 for certain model year 2005-2011 Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner and 4x4 vehicles (NHTSA Campaign Number: 14V604000) to replace rear leaf spring assemblies. Check for recalls at the NHTSA website. Another problem is that the rear leaf springs tend to squeak when driving over bumps. Typically leaf springs squeak when leaves rub against each other, for example, when the spacers are worn out or missing. Toyota issued T-SB-0274-09 for the 2005-2009 Tacoma that recommended installing updated leaf spring silencer pads. Read also: Why do leaf springs squeak? If you are buying a used Toyota Tacoma, watch out for the sagging rear end of the truck. It might be noticeable when looking at the back of the truck that one of the sides sits lower. Read also: When do leaf springs need to be replaced?

The overhead compass/temperature display may stop working. Replacing the unit is not too difficult, but the part costs over $100. However, there are many YouTube videos showing the repair.

A bad U-joint in the intermediate steering shaft can cause the steering to feel stiff. If the U-joint is badly worn, it can also cause a rattle felt in the steering. This thread at TacomaWorld.com has some info. The part costs from $70 to $110 (aftermarket) to $150-$170 (OEM). Steering U-joints are common to fail in many vehicles.

Another common problem familiar to many truck owners is a jolt or bump when coming to a stop. It's like someone bumps the truck slightly from behind. This problem might be caused by lack of lubrication on the slip yoke of the drive (propeller) shaft. Greasing the slip yoke regularly usually takes care of this problem.

A faulty air/fuel ratio sensor (A/F sensor) can cause the Check Engine with the trouble code P0135 or other problems. Sensors are designated as for example, B1S1 meaning Bank 1 Sensor 1 (upstream sensor). The upstream sensor, or Sensor 1 is installed in the exhaust before the catalytic converter; the Sensor 2 is the one after the catalytic converter. In a V6 engine there are two banks. See the diagram of the cylinder banks in the 1GR-FE engine. B2S1 means Bank 2 Sensor 1. An aftermarket A/F sensor costs $50-$75 and is not very difficult to replace. The sensor connector must also be checked and cleaned whenever the A/F sensor is replaced.

Toyota Service bulletin T-SB-0333-17 for the 2012 Tacoma describes a problem where the Check Engine light with codes P2440/P2442 could be caused by moisture intrusion into the air injection pump. The bulletin provides the inspection process and if the cause is confirmed, the air pump, air pump cover, air switching valve and gaskets must be replaced.

There are reports of daytime running light bulbs melting the plastic inside the headlights. Toyota issued service bulletin T-SB-0129-11 back in 2011 for the 2005-2011 Tacoma. As per the bulletin, the headlights had to be replaced with updated parts. Now that the earlier models are out of warranty, Tacoma owners report replacing the headlights using cheaper aftermarket parts ($57-$120 for one headlight assembly). Replacing headlights is not very difficult; we found these videos on how to do it. If you want to get it done in a repair shop, it should cost $200-$360 labor (for two headlights) plus the cost of parts. Besides this issue, same as in many other cars, the headlights tend to fade from the outside with age. Restoring headlights is easy and can even be done without any special tools. YouTube has many videos on this subject.

Engines: The base engine is a 159-hp 2.7L 4-cylinder DOHC (2TR-FE). It's a simple engine with a conventional fuel injection. If you take care of it, it can last very long. Check out this video with the famous 4-cylinder Tacoma with over 1 million miles, where the first 2.7L engine lasted for over 800K miles.
The 4.0L V6 DOHC (1GR-FE) offers 236 horsepower. It's also known for its reliability.
If you want your engine to last longer, keep the engine oil clean and topped up and make sure the cooling system works properly and is not low on coolant. Read also: How often should you change the oil in your car?

Does the Toyota Tacoma have a timing belt or timing chain? Both the 2TR-FE and 1GR-FE engines in the 2005-2015 Tacoma have a timing chain. The timing chain doesn't need to be replaced unless it's stretched or there is some other issue with the chain drive components. One of the reasons timing chains can fail prematurely is if the engine runs low on oil. Watch these videos about replacing a timing chain in the 1GR-FE engine.

Engine oil capacity: The engine oil capacity for the 2TR-FE engine in the 2005-2015 Tacoma is listed at 6.1 qt. or 5.8 liters (with the oil filter change). The oil capacity for the 1GR-FE engine in the two-wheel drive Tacoma except PreRunner is specified at 4.8 qt. (4.5 liters) with the oil filter change. For the four−wheel drive models and PreRunner it's listed at 5.5 qt. or 5.2 liters with oil filter change.
Check the owner's manual to be sure; you can download it from the Toyota owners website. At higher mileage, the engine may consume oil, which means that the oil level needs to be inspected regularly and topped up if needed.

4WD maintenance: The 4x4 Tacoma has a transfer case and front and rear differentials. All three units must be checked for leaks regularly. The oil in all three units must be checked and changed if dirty or in recommended mileage intervals. The drive (propeller) shaft needs to be greased during regular services. Front CV axles and boots need to be inspected during oil changes as the boots tend to rip at higher mileage.

Rustproofing This truck has been sprayed with oil spray.
Rustproofing: Given the frame rust issues, rustproofing is not an expense, but an investment in your truck's longevity. There are many shops that can rustproof your truck for $89-$200. This 8-years old Toyota FJ Cruiser in the photo has been regularly driven during winters with high road salt usage. As you can see, there is almost zero rust. It has been rustproofed using oil spray and re-sprayed every year. Read more: Should you rustproof your vehicle?