Toyota Tacoma: The Car Bible (Second Generation)
A vanilla truck that packs a punch.
Welcome to the second-generation Toyota Tacoma Car Bible. As you scroll down, you’ll learn all about this vehicle’s qualities, features, finer points, and shortcomings. If you’re thinking about buying one of these, want some help maintaining or modifying one, or just want to deepen your knowledge for the next round of car trivia, you’ve come to the right place.
This is a living document that’s updated as we learn (and confirm) new valuable information. That’s also why the comment section is open. Got something to add? Drop a comment. Got a question we didn’t answer? Go ahead and ask. Our staff will try to reply, and if they can’t, you might get some insight from another reader. Don’t be shy; the more dialogue we have the better this Car Bible will get.
–Andrew P. Collins, Car Bibles Editor-In-Chief
(Disclaimers, Disclosures: Some Car Bibles will have links to specific forums, groups, brands, shops, or vendors for parts shopping and such. We have no sponsorship deals or official affiliation with any of them unless explicitly stated.)
- The Short Story
- Fast Facts
- Spotter’s Guide
- Check This Car Out If …
- Important Trim Levels and Options
- Year-To-Year Changes
- General Reliability and Ownership Costs
- Obscure Details
- Red Flags and Known Issues
- Where To Buy Parts
- Aftermarket Support
- Popular Modifications
- Key Technical Details
- Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
- Factory Service Manuals
- Other References and Resources
- Professional Reviews
- Owner Reviews
- What They’re Worth Now
- Where To Find One for Sale
- What To Ask a Seller
- Competitors To Consider
- Photo Galleries
- Pop-Culture References
- Enthusiast Inquiries
- Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
- Comments Disclaimer
The Short Story
By 2005, Toyota had built a huge cache of brand dominance and loyalty for its small trucks and light SUVs. With a reputation for being unbreakable, dependable, cheap to run, and capable off-road, the Toyota Tacoma gained a real foothold in the American truck market when its first-generation model was launched in the 1990s, and the previous, simply named Toyota Truck was the beginning of the journey. With a long run for the first-gen Taco, about a decade later it was time for Toyota to make an all new class-leading small truck.
For this, it turned to Hino, Toyota’s own heavy-duty commercial truck company. An internal competition saw Hino designers Shigeya Hattori and Hideo Karikomi win with their design, their efforts were then led by Toyota chief engineer Chikuo Kubota. The second-gen Taco was developed over three years, then released to the public in October 2004 for the 2005 model year.
The second-generation Tacoma is the small truck that truly laid the groundwork for current Toyota trucks, with the 4.0-liter 1GR-FE V-6 engine being used to this day in the 4Runner, only slightly updated, while the newest Tacoma uses a 3.5-liter 2GR-FKS with direct injection and close roots to the 1GR. The frame is still similar to the modern trucks, and it can be said that this model kicked off the new generation of Toyota pickups. Because of that, facelift models from 2010 onwards feel contemporary and new, hold their value, and present a great proposition for a used car, if you can foot the high initial bill to get in.
We’ll link to some bigger galleries below, but here’s a selection of pictures to get you started.
Most of the development work for the second-generation Tacoma was done by heavy-duty truckmaker Hino. The suspension architecture still lives on to this day with slight changes, using similar control arms and a similar frame with reinforcements. Toyota did the same thing with the current Toyota Tundra, with its architecture remaining essentially unchanged since 2007.
The 4.0-liter V-6 that powered the second-gen Tacoma is one of the larger modern V-6s still in production, alongside the base model 2.7-liter four cylinder. The only modern four-cylinder that is larger is the 3.0-liter M44 dual-cam engine from the Porsche 944 S2 and Porsche 968.
This Tacoma is the first one to have its four-by-four system controlled by a rotary knob rather than a shifter.
Even though this truck won’t let you physically shift your transfer case, you can get it with a six-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive paired with the V-6, as well as a 2WD 2.7-liter four-cylinder five-speed manual, the former is still offered to this day.
This truck is also famous for having rust issues in rust-prone states, so much so that it’s part of a $3 billion frame recall that also affects Tundras and Sequoias.
The semi-famous X-Runner trim only comes on this generation of truck, which is a sports truck named for the X brace that reinforces the frame for performance. It also came with the V-6 and manual gearbox, but it’s rear-drive and lower to the ground than other models.
The Tacoma came in a good variety of body styles, trims, cabs, and bed lengths. But there are two distinct tiers to the truck: base and SR5. The visual difference between the two is substantial. Base trucks come with small wheels and tires and basically no ride height compared to SR5 trucks. They only come in single cab and access cab, only in two-wheel drive for 2005 and with option four-wheel-drive post-2006. The SR5 trucks have much larger wheels and tires, a substantial lift compared to base trucks, and available four-wheel drive. That’s a rule of thumb. It seems that Toyota offered a lot of piecemeal option packages for these trucks and can come in many different permutations.
Most of the smaller-looking Tacomas are going to be 2WD with four cylinders and some 4WDs, but the taller guys can come with either drivetrain. The only way to tell 2WDs and 4WDs apart is by peeking inside and finding the 4WD rotary knob directly to the right of the steering wheel on the dash — or, of course, climbing under and seeing if there are front drive axles.
Facelift trucks got an updated fascia that is more angular, white accents on the gauge faces, and an updated steering wheel.
Not rare at all. These things are everywhere, like high-quality, very expensive litter. This is the sort of truck you can find basically on demand, even in the white-hot pandemic car market, although it will cost you.
Check This Car Out If …
You’re looking for something that will always work, get you literally anywhere, and will do some towing and carrying along the way with comfort.
Important Trim Levels and Options
Attempting to tell each of the packages apart on pre-facelift Tacomas is like breaking a cipher. A lot of option packages are organized by letter, but the one to look out for is the TRD Off-Road package, easily identified by a TRD Off-Road sticker on the bedside of the truck. Underneath, the TRD package gets Bilstein shocks that are bright yellow with blue dust covers, very easily seen with a quick inspection, as well as a locking rear differential. This is the most desirable second-gen Tacoma. Two-wheel-drive models with the V-6 will be badged PreRunner. There is also a TRD Sport package that is more road-oriented, also with stickers.
Identifying an X-Runner is easy. They came with a sporty-looking body kit, four-by-four overfenders, and optional bright colors compared to the normal Tacoma. It also has an X-Runner badge on the tailgate. They were only offered from 2005 to 2014 with an access cab.
Facelift models have more variety in their special trims, with the one-year-only 2015 Tacoma TRD Pro with Bilstein remote reservoir shocks, TRD Pro exterior treatment, TRD engine and exhaust parts, and some faux beadlock 16-inch wheels with BF Goodrich KO tires.
Finally, for 2011-2014, there was a TRD Extreme or T/X Baja trim that was similar to the later TRD Pro with similar suspension treatment but with Eibach springs. Instead of the retro Toyota grill, it uses the normal one and has bedside graphics a la Ford Raptor.
2005 model year:
- Truck debuts
- Launch colors: Super White, Silver Streak Mica, Black Sand Pearl, Radiant Red, Impulse Red, Desert Sand Mica, Indigo Ink Pearl
2006 model year:
- Colors added: Impulse Red Pearl, Speedway Blue (for X-Runner)
- 4×4 made optional on base-model four-cylinder trucks
2007 model year:
- Color dropped: Impulse Red
- Option packages simplified
2008 model year:
- Option packages further simplified into trims
- TRD Rugged Trail package added with Baja-style black faux beadlock wheels
2009 model year:
- No notable changes
2010 model year:
- Colors added: Magnetic Gray Metallic, Barcelona Red Metallic, Pyrite Mica, Timberland Mica
- Colors dropped: Desert Sand Mica, Radiant Red, Impulse Red Pearl, Indigo Ink Pearl
2011 model year:
- Exterior facelift: Black housing headlights
- Interior facelift: New head unit options and white accents on gauges
- Tacoma T/X and T/X Pro trim levels added
2012 model year:
- Lineup color update: Black Pyrite Mica, Spruce Mica, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Super White, Silver Streak Metallic, Nautical Blue Metallic
- Exterior facelift: New front fascia with narrower, more angular headlights, grill, tail lights, and bumper
- Mechanical update: new ECU
- Interior facelift: new steering wheel, redesigned air vents and interior trim
2013 model year:
- No notable changes
2014 model year:
- Limited trim added
2015 model year:
- TRD Pro trim added
- End of production
General Reliability and Ownership Costs
It’s a Toyota truck that’s relatively new, so it’s one of the most reliable things ever made. Owning this truck will be cheap, save for fuel economy, which is poor. There are only a few areas of concern, mainly being the short 60,000-mile lifespan of the water pump.
Modding is expensive, but that’s for later.
This truck is so vanilla I’m having trouble thinking of anything that could be considered obscure, but if you’ve got any unknown or odd pieces of Tacoma trivia, by all means, share in the comments and we’ll update this section.
Red Flags and Known Issues
Water-pump failure: This generation of Tacoma is known for having a water pump that fails like clockwork every 60,000 miles. It isn’t terribly expensive but will manifest itself as a slight coolant leak and should be repaired quickly.
Rust: See Recalls below.
This truck got caught in the middle of some serious recalls, namely the frame rust recall and the unintended acceleration recall. There is also one random recall that states that the leaf springs may fracture and puncture the fuel tank. Read about that here.
You’ll definitely want to run the VIN through the NHTSA’s recall lookup tool if you’ve got one of these or are looking to buy.
Where To Buy Parts
This truck is dead simple and common. You can get most of your parts at your local auto-parts store, although I will vouch for the quality of Toyota genuine stuff, which is some of the highest quality in the industry. With something like NAPA or O’Reilly, you still can’t go wrong. This a vehicle any competent mechanic should be able to work on and most auto-parts stores should be able to get you spares in no time.
This is another area where the near-ubiquitous Tacoma benefits greatly from. This is a Lego truck as far as the aftermarket is concerned. Anything you can think of has been done and can be done to this truck. External light kits, roof racks, bed accessories, off-road suspension, wheels, tires, lockers — you name it, someone makes it for a Tacoma. It’s a great starting point for a usable off-roader and can become pretty unstoppable with simple mods or insane with a lot of money.
Wheels, tires, and a slight lift are the most popular mods for these trucks. A fair number of folks even go a step further with fairly expensive suspension and control arm kits for maximum comfort and articulation off-road.
People also seem to enjoy adding auxiliary lighting to these trucks, which is easy to do thanks to great kits from decent companies. I’ve used a Rigid Industries wiring harness on my dad’s Tundra to great success and had a clean install using an aftermarket switch that slots into the blank on the dash.
Exhausts seem to be popular for some reason, but nothing can really help this engine make power. It’s more about sound, but I don’t care much for how they sound.
Key Technical Details
Base: 2TR-FE, 16 rocker-actuated valves, 2.7-liter inline-four with single VVT-i variable valve timing, longitudinally mounted. 9.6:1 compression. Run by Denso engine management. Iron block with aluminum heads, coil-on-plug direct ignition
SR5/TRD/X-Runner: 1GR-FE, 24 rocker-actuated valves, 4.0-liter V-6 with single VVT-i, longitudinally mounted. 10.0:1 compression. Run by Denso engine management. Aluminum block with aluminum heads, coil-on-plug direct ignition
Aisin A340E (2WD), Aisin A340F (4WD) four-speed automatic
Aisin R155 (2WD), Aisin R155F (4WD) five-speed manual
Aisin A750E (2WD), Aisin A750F (4WD) five-speed automatic
Aisin AY-6/RA60 (2WD), Aisin AY-6F/RA60F (4WD) six-speed manual
Drivetrain: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive
Suspension: Front double wishbone with high-mount upper control arm, rear live axle with leaf springs
Regular cab: 110 inches
Access cab/Double cab: 127.8 inches
Double cab long bed: 140.9 inches
Regular cab: 190.4 inches
Access cab/Double cab: 208.1 inches
Double cab long bed: 221.3 inches
4×4 Regular Cab, five-speed manual: 3,595 pounds
4×4 Access Cab, five-speed manual: 3,875 pounds
4×4 Access Cab, V-6, six-speed manual: 3,955 pounds
4×4 Access Cab, V-6, five-speed auto: 3,980 pounds
4×4 Double Cab, V-6, six-speed manual: 4,055 pounds
4×4 Double Cab, V-6, five-speed auto: 4,080 pounds
4×4 Double Cab, V-6, long bed, five-speed auto: 4,135 pounds
Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
Fuel: 87 octane for all trims
Battery size: 27F
Engine oil: 5w-30; 7,500 miles between changes
Oil filter: Spin-on-type oil filter, part no. Genuine Toyota 90915-YZZD3
Air filter: Genuine part no. 17801-0P010
Cabin air filter: Genuine part no. 88508-01010
Transmission oils: Manual gearbox gets 75W-90 GL-4; automatic transmission gets Toyota Genuine ATF-WS; change guide here
Transmission filter: Not normally serviced, N/A
Differential oil: 75W-90 GL-4, no friction modifier necessary for limited-slip-equipped models
Coolant: Toyota Genuine Super Long Life “red” coolant, no interval
Power-steering fluid: Dexron III ATF
Brake fluid: DOT3 recommended by the factory, DOT4 works as an upgrade
Spark plugs: Denso 90919-01235, 100,000-mile interval
Factory Service Manuals
Right now, it seems like the factory service manual is an offline only or a paid affair. If you find a linkable PDF, send us an e-mail.
Other References and Resources
To my utter amazement, Aaron Robinson wrote a classically Aaron Robinson review that engages us much more than I thought the Tacoma ever could. He drove one 4,000 miles from Alaska to Los Angeles and has a lot of thoughts to go with it.
“As they say in Tuntutuliak, if the customers want seal meat, don’t bring back a walrus. The Tacoma serves up the winning Toyota recipe by the bucketful. Yet, the truck, which isn’t assembled in Tuntutuliak or even Tacoma but in Fremont, California, is thoroughly reborn. It’s longer, wider, roomier, smoother, and a whole bunch of other -ers, including heavier and pricier. Although prices were not announced before deadline, Tacoma stickers will assuredly climb a few percent across the extensive mix-‘n’-match catalog of cabs, pickup boxes, and powertrains when the truck arrives in dealerships this month. … Styling and development duties went to Hino, Toyota’s heavy-truck subsidiary in Japan, even though the Tacoma sells exclusively in North America. Hino won Toyota’s internal design competition by turning up the Tacoma’s testosterone with square shoulders, fender arches, and a Kenworth-compatible grille. The Tacoma pickup and the 4Runner sport-ute now share the frame of the mid-size Toyota Prado, a sort of low-carb Land Cruiser sold in overseas markets. A thick box-section front member, seven cross members, and a center section of reinforced steel C-channel contribute to increased frame stiffness (and weight, about 350 pounds across the line), Toyota says.”
I recommend clicking on the link and reading the rest. It’s a great read.
Allyson Harwood enjoyed the value proposition of the T/X Pro Tacoma.
“Our Barcelona Red Double Cab 4×4 is powered by Toyota’s tried and true 4.0-liter V-6, with the addition of a TRD performance exhaust. The exhaust is part of the T|X Pro package, which also includes 16-inch beadlock-style wheels with wheel locks and T|X Pro graphics. (The T|X includes all of the same features, except without the contents of the T|X Pro package.) Other upgrades include the TRD Off-Road Extra Value package — off-road-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, BFGoodrich tires, locking rear differential, skidplates, foglamps — and T|X Pro styling cues. The truck we tested also came with a tow package and a few other goodies, bringing the price to $34,581.
This Tacoma is a lot like other double cabs we’ve driven. It’s easy to forget that the size of this truck is about where half-tons were not that long ago, when six cylinders were a more than adequate source of power. The Tacoma’s V-6 offers plenty of power and has the added bonus of the TRD exhaust. Throttle response is excellent, and the exhaust rumble sounds cool off the line, but at midrange and around town, the note drones.”
Real Owner Impressions
I don’t have any Tacoma-owning friends. That’s strange, considering how many are out there. Hit our line if you want to put some words here.
What They’re Worth Now
These trucks aren’t really prone to getting ratted out for some reason. Owners generally take care of them, or the trucks are simply so tough that they don’t break. Either way, I’m not going to do my normal price breakdown by condition. SO, it’s very simple for the Tacoma.
The 2WD base models are the most affordable, for sure, but expect to spend $6,000 to $8,000 for a good little work truck.
The 2WD SR5 and TRD Sport models are more expensive at about $10,000.
Any 4WD Tacoma absolutely explodes in value, with a big jump up to between $16,000 and $20,000 for a pre-facelift example. Finding facelift trucks is rare, and finding a T/X, TRD Pro, or TRD Extreme is almost impossible. Expect to spend more than $30,000 easily.
That, my friends, is the absurdity of the used Tacoma market.
Where To Find One for Sale
Once again, the ubiquity of this truck gives you a lot of options. You’ll find the older ones on Craigslist, but the more expensive low-mile trucks will be on dealer aggregating sites like Autotrader, Cars.com, and CarGurus. Those sites will be the meat of the Tacoma market.
What To Ask a Seller
It’s a short list for this venerable truck.
• When was the water pump replaced?
• Is there any rust on the frame?
That’s pretty much it.
Competitors To Consider
This truck existed well before the return of the Ford Ranger and the debut of the Chevrolet Colorado. It was launched alongside the current Nissan Frontier. On the used market, facelift Tacomas go for similar money to used Rangers, Colorados, and even third-generation Tacomas.
An adjacent competitor might be a contemporary Toyota Tundra or any number of small SUVs. But the pickup bed is what the Tacoma is all about.
This is an interesting one. Tacoma enthusiasts aren’t generally car enthusiasts; they just like trucks.
I think the most common truck questions apply here: What’s the biggest tire I can fit under the stock wheel wells? How much lift can I do before I break stuff? Those seem to be the main questions that come up in forums and Facebook posts. Editor Andrew Collins said: “Not a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking I would max out at around a 31-inch tire and/or a two-inch lift on trucks from that era if you don’t want to do supporting mods or regear.”
Downloadable Paperback Car Bible (Coming Soon)
If you’re old school and like to keep reference notes on paper or you’re just a completionist and want a free accessory for your Toyota Tacoma, we’ll have a downloadable supplement soon.
Think of it like an owner’s manual supplement. Keep it in your car, and your days of waiting for slow internet on your phone at the auto-parts store are over.
You’ve reached the end of the Toyota Tacoma Car Bible and are about to scroll into the comment section. If any questions were left unanswered in the text above, try posing it in the space below. All Taco tips are also welcome.