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All About the Tacoma’s Suspension

All About the Tacoma’s Suspension

The Toyota Tacoma is one of the best mid-size trucks on the market. A big part of this success is the Tacoma’s off-road ability right off of the showroom floor. That prowess is due to the suspension beneath the truck. We’ll explain the suspension across the generations of Tacoma, some common modifications to make your Tacoma even better off-road, and some basic preventative maintenance to keep your truck’s suspension in tip-top shape.

Shop Tacoma Suspension Parts

You could argue your Tacoma's suspension is the lifeblood of the overlanding and off-roading community. From lift kits, to coil over setups, and controls arms, each piece works in harmony to make your overlanding adventure go off without a hitch. Make sure to keep your Tacoma's suspension in perfect working order by upgrading parts before they fail.

Tacoma Suspension >>

Tacoma Major Suspension Components, and Changes Through the Years

Front suspension: First generation Tacomas (1995-2004) use a very tall, skinny steering knuckle. The knuckle is attached to the upper and lower control arms via the ball joints. With the use of this taller knuckle, the upper and lower control arms are different sizes. The upper is much shorter than the lower.

Both of the control arms are connected to the frame on the opposite end with metal-sleeved rubber bushings. The body support and suspension damping come courtesy of a coil on strut setup.

The strut assembly is attached to the body at the top with a rubber cushioned metal top plate. The bottom of the strut bolts to the lower control arm utilizing rubber bushing with metal center sleeves.

The sway bar is secured to the body in the center using rubber bushings, and at its ends is connected to the lower control arm with metal end links and rubber bushings.

The second and third-gen trucks (2005-Present) all share the same suspension. This design incorporates a much shorter knuckle and equal length control arms. These control arms also attach to the frame and knuckle with metal-sleeved rubber bushings and ball joints. This setup also uses a coil on strut damper and is attached the same way as the first gen.

The sway bar similarly attaches to the body in the center but attaches to the strut assembly with metal end links and rubber bushings.

Rear Suspension: Early Tacomas utilize a short leaf spring, with the front of the spring attached to the frame, and the rear of the spring connected to a long shackle. The other end of the shackle bolts to the frame. Both ends use rubber bushings with metal center sleeves.

Standard shock absorbers provide cushioning. They attach with rubber and metal bushings between the body and the frame. First-generation trucks were not equipped with a rear sway bar from the factory.

From 2005-on, the trucks use a longer leaf spring and a shorter rear shackle. The spring bolts to the frame in the front. The rear of the leaf again attaches to the shackle, though much shorter. Standard shock absorbers are found here also.

All of these items use the same types of bushings described above. The big difference in the late-model variant is the availability of a rear sway bar. While the sway bar was available for earlier trucks, not all trucks were produced with that option.

All of the more current models are equipped with rear sway bars. The sway bar bolts to the body in the middle using rubber bushings. The ends are connected, via metal end links with rubber bushings, to the frame of the truck.

Body Mount Bushings

Body mount bushings go between the bottom of the body, and the body mounting pads located along the frame. If there were no body mount bushings, the metal body would be mounted directly to the metal frame. 

As you can imagine, metal on metal would end up being a really rough ride! All Toyota Tacoma trucks are factory equipped with both metal encapsulated rubber bushings, and rubber bushings with a metal center sleeve.

Common Tacoma Suspension Mods for Off-Road Purposes

There are many common modifications that can be done to improve your Toyota’s stock suspension. Probably the best place to start is your shocks and struts. There are a few options to choose from. The least expensive option would be upgraded shock absorbers. These units are valved differently than the stock shocks, yielding better ride as well as better control.

Another good idea would be a polyurethane bushing kit. The polyurethane bushings last longer and operate smoother than the factory rubber bushings. Many of the replacement polyurethane bushings come equipped with grease fittings for maintenance lubrication. The factory bushings, in most cases, are not lubeable. You can buy kits for specific locations, or one giant kit to replace all of the bushings on your vehicle.

Our next option is lift shocks. Lift shocks have a built-in adjustment via the lower spring perch. There are a few pre-determined location slots in the body of the strut. You can locate the lower coil spring perch up higher, compressing the coil spring further. By applying more preload, the result is a little more room for bigger tires, as well as leveling the front of the truck with the rear.

How to Maintain the System

Proper maintenance of your suspension is key. You should properly lubricate, according to manufacturer’s recommendations, all joints and bushings that have grease fittings. This service should be performed at the manufacturer’s regularly recommended intervals. Inspect joints regularly for torn grease boots, leakage, or play. Repair or replace.

Check shocks and struts regularly for leakage or damage. Replace as soon as possible. Check all coil and leaf springs for cracks or damage, and replace as necessary. Inspect all rubber bushings for cracking, dry rot, separation, and tears. Check control arms for damage and cracks.

Test sway bar end links for play. Grab the center of the end link, and try to move it up and down. If there’s any noticeable movement, it’s bad. Replace it. Regularly check the rear leaf spring hangers and shackles for damage or rust. Checking the torque of the body mount bolts is also a good idea. They can, and frequently do, work loose with time and vibration.

The three things to take from this would be to: 

  • Maintain your equipment properly
  • Check your truck’s suspension frequently
  • Replace any worn or broken parts as soon as possible 

It’s always better to find a problem in your driveway, rather than when you’re off-roading, or - even worse - on the highway with your family. Unexpected component failure can result in serious damage to your truck, along with possible serious injury and death. Take the extra time, and be safe!

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro