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Common Toyota Tacoma Transmission Problems, Symptoms, & Solutions

You know how to drive your Toyota Tacoma safely in different conditions, on- and off-road. But are you aware of its transmission problems? Why even bother, though? Having this knowledge ensures you know what to expect after years of driving your Tacoma, whether it may be a first-, second-, or third-generation unit.

So, what are the most common Toyota Tacoma transmission problems you need to know about? The most commonly reported issues experienced by Tacoma owners are no different from those experienced in other cars. They include delayed gear shift engagement, rough or harsh shifting, and slipping.

Of course, knowing these common Tacoma transmission issues isn’t enough. You also need a good idea of what to watch out for, the symptoms associated with the problem, and how to fix the issue, making you a more responsible and proactive Tacoma driver.

3 Toyota Tacoma Transmission Problems

Toyota Tacoma Parked in a Field

Delayed Engagement or Gear Shift

The top transmission issue Toyota Tacoma users have reported is delayed gear shift engagement, which is particularly common for first and second-generation models.

Usually, the delay or pause happens when the driver shifts from Park or Neutral to Drive or Reverse. However, some drivers or owners of the 2016 Toyota Tacoma with a 3.5L 2GR engine and six-speed gear experience delays in upshifting when driven in the cruise control mode.

That said, in any Toyota Tacoma model, the delay in the gear shift has been observed to last from two to four seconds.

Symptom and Solutions

Your car usually lurches or jerks if your Toyota Tacoma has a delayed gear shift engagement issue. Hence, you will commonly hear the term “Tacoma lurch” from automotive experts, professional auto-mechanics, and long-time Tacoma users.

This Tacoma lurch (or jerk) happens a few seconds after you change gear–the moment its transmission engages completely.

When you experience the “lurch” while driving your Tacoma, whether on paved roads or off-road trails, check or have a professional check your transmission ASAP. That is simply because this sudden movement can lead to accidents.

That said, this delay in Tacoma transmission engagement happens for many reasons, namely:

  • Low amount of transmission fluid
  • Dirty, contaminated, or poor-quality transmission fluid
  • Faulty transmission solenoids

The solution to your delayed Toyota Tacoma transmission issue will depend on the specific cause or causes. They include adding more transmission fluid until you reach the optimum level, draining the old transmission fluid and replacing it with a new one, or replacing the solenoids.

For the latter, you can opt to have a professional replace them or do it yourself with the help of a Tacoma-compatible Transmission Shift Solenoid Kit (view on Amazon).

For the newer 2016 models, the issue can also be resolved by simply updating the Tacoma’s PCM (Powertrain Control Module).

Rough or Difficulty Shifting

Another one of the Toyota Tacoma transmission problems commonly observed in first- and second-generation models is the difficulty in shifting the gear, often described as rough or harsh. Like the delay in gear shift engagement, this issue is common in the 2016 Tacoma with a 3.5L 2GR engine and six-speed transmission.

On average, this shifting problem only happens when the Toyota Tacoma has been driven for a long time or after the odo reaches the 150-mile mark.

Symptoms and Solutions

The symptoms of this transmission issue are very straightforward. You will struggle to change the gear, and the car will not transition smoothly and accelerate as quickly as expected. Some users also reported a thud or clunk feeling when their Tacoma shifted from one gear to another.

Generally, users driving an automatic Tacoma reported that the trouble is more common when upshifting or shifting from lower gear to higher gear. Meanwhile, the lever got stuck in units with a manual transmission, requiring more effort or force to engage the gearbox into Neutral mode.

While harsh upshifting and the difficulty in upshifting can have several causes, a malfunctioning transmission range sensor is the most common for the automatic Tacoma.

A faulty sensor will fail to communicate with the car’s internal computer system. The sensor might also transmit incorrect data to the computer. As such, the rough gear shifting will usually be accompanied by a check engine light.

The solution for this issue is to install a new sensor.

On the other hand, the main cause of the difficulty in upshifting a manual Tacoma is a faulty main lock ball plug or pin. Thus, you will need to replace the lock ball pin or plug.

Another reason you’ll experience rough shifting, which is only very minor, is low-level or contaminated, old, or low-quality transmission fluid. The solution is simple: top up the transmission fluid volume to the optimum level or replace the contaminated or low-quality fluid with a new one.

Slipping Transmission

A slipping transmission means your Tacoma’s gear slips from the original gear to the next rather than gliding smoothly.

Specifically, the five-speed automatic Tacoma equipped with a 2.7L 2TR engine and the six-speed manual Tacoma have been reported to slip in reverse and all forward gear shifts. Some users of the 2016 six-speed automatic Tacoma with the 2.7L 2TR engine also reported a slipping transmission slipping when upshifting.

Symptoms and Solutions

The typical symptom of a slipping transmission is the definition of the issue itself. However, you may also notice interruptions when accelerating, upshifting flares or sudden increases in RPM, strange sounds when shifting, blinking, or illuminating check engine light, and a burnt smell.

Regarding causes related to a slipping Tacoma transmission, the most common, whether you have a manual or automatic unit, is a faulty clutch system.

Common clutch system problems with the five-speed automatic Tacoma include a worn-out clutch cover, disk, pedal turnover spring, or flywheel. Hence, solving the issue requires the replacement of the worn-out part or parts.

On the other hand, the six-speed automatic Tacoma’s slipping issue is easily resolved with PSM calibration. For the five-speed manual Tacoma, the common cause of slipping is the friction material’s separation from the clutch disk’s central part. Replace the pressure plate (clutch cover) and clutch disk to solve the problem.

Another reason for a slipping Tacoma transmission is throttle position sensor displacement or misalignment. In this case, the sensor will require readjustment or reset.

In certain slipping transmission situations, the main culprit is worn-out shift solenoids. Of course, you will need to replace them with new ones.

Transmission bands and the gears linked to them may also wear out, leading to a slipping transmission issue. You may also want to check your Tacoma’s torque converter. This part will receive the engine’s power and convert it to torque for the transmission to use and send to the car wheels. Now, when the converter wears down, fluid flow is interrupted, causing your transmission to slip.

Again, you must replace one or more of these parts to solve the problem.

Another reason your Tacoma’s transmission slips is a burnt or low amount of transmission fluid. Thus, your car will also produce a burnt smell besides the transmission slipping when this is the cause.

As mentioned earlier, simply topping up the amount of transmission fluid can solve the problem. However, once your Tacoma has burnt transmission fluid, you likely have a damaged transmission. As such, your vehicle will require transmission replacement.

A Summary of Toyota Tacoma Transmission Problems

Now, let’s sum up the main issues, the associated symptoms, specific causes, and solutions to each of the causes. This table will serve as a quick guide to refer to as and when needed.

Delayed Shift EngagementLurchingLow amount of transmission fluidTop-up
Contaminated or poor-quality transmission fluidReplace
Faulty transmission solenoidsReplace
Rough or Difficulty ShiftingStruggle to change the gear

Failure to accelerate quickly

A thud or clunk feeling

Stuck gear
Faulty transmission range sensorReplace
Faulty main lock ball plug or pinReplace
Low amount of transmission fluidTop-up
Contaminated or poor-quality transmission fluidReplace
Slipping TransmissionThe gear lever slips to another gear

Interruptions when accelerating

Upshifting flares

Strange sounds when shifting

Blinking or illuminating check engine light

Burnt smell
Worn-out clutch system part/sReplace
Friction material and clutch disk separationReplace the cover and disk
Throttle position sensor displacement or misalignmentReset or readjust
Worn-out shift solenoidsReplace
Worn-out transmission bands and gearsReplace
Worn-out torque converterReplace
Low amount of transmission fluidTop-up
Burnt transmission fluidComplete transmission replacement

FAQs About Toyota Tacoma Transmission

What year did Toyota Tacoma have transmission problems?

As you have read from the Toyota Tacoma transmission problems discussed above, you will notice that they’re more common in the first- and second-generation units. That would be those manufactured from 1995 to 2015.

The first third-generation unit manufactured, or the 2016 model, is also one of the Tacomas typically reported to have these issues.

Is the Tacoma transmission reliable?

Yes, the Tacoma transmission is reliable. After all, most of the common issues reported happen after driving the car for a long time and when the user fails to maintain or check it regularly.

How long does a transmission last in a Toyota Tacoma?

Like with other Toyota units, you will expect your Tacoma’s transmission to last from more than 10,000 to more than 200,000 miles ( That will, of course, depend on your driving habits and how well your car is maintained.

Understanding Toyota Tacoma Transmission Issues

Like any other vehicle, the Toyota Tacoma’s transmission isn’t fault-free. That is especially true when you keep driving it without properly caring for it. So, make sure you use this guide to help you understand what parts to regularly check, update, calibrate, and replace to prevent any of the Tacoma transmission issues from happening.