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Tacoma Clutches Upgrade Options: Shifting Gears & Crawl Control

Tacoma Clutches Upgrade Options: Shifting Gears & Crawl Control

The clutch is a critical part of the manual transmission drivetrain of a Toyota Tacoma. A worn or weak clutch will have difficulty to move the truck under any sort of load condition - if able to move the truck at all! Unless your Tacoma is heavily modified with forced-induction, a 4-inch lift kit, exoskeleton roll cage, and monstrous mud tires, the stock clutch pack is good enough for normal driving applications. But if you demand higher clamping loads for extreme off-road competition, upgrading the stock clutch with an aftermarket clutch pack is the best recourse.

Shop Tacoma Clutches

For manual transmission Tacomas, the clutch system is critical to your truck's operation. If you plan on upping your horsepower, upgrading the clutch system is recommended since the stock clutch is only designed for certain thresholds of power and torque.

Tacoma Clutches

What is a Clutch?

A clutch is a friction-based device utilized to transfer the engine power to the driving wheels when it is engaged. And while the clutch is part of the transmission, it is important not to interchange the functions of both. The transmission utilizes a set of gears to make sure the motor is working within the optimized power band. On the other hand, the clutch is responsible for transferring the power from the engine to the transmission. The clutch also makes it possible to shift gears by disengaging the flow of power without stalling or turning off the engine.

How Does the Clutch Work?

The clutch is manufactured using friction materials and is connected to the flywheel. The flywheel is also equipped with a friction surface and is bolted directly to the crankshaft. As the flywheel spins and makes contact with the clutch, the rotational friction allows the clutch to spin with the flywheel and subsequently transfers the power from the engine to the input shaft of the transmission and eventually to the drive wheels.

So if the clutch in your Toyota Tacoma is slipping, it means the friction material in the clutch is wearing out, resulting in lesser friction. This will make it tricky to maintain sufficient clamping force with the flywheel as the engine turns. The result is weak acceleration and poor performance. This will also make it difficult to engage the proper gear.

What are the Pressure Plate and Release Bearing?

The clutch rests between the flywheel and the pressure plate. The pressure plate is bolted to the flywheel. If you find it tricky to change gears, this means either the pressure plate or release bearing is not applying enough force to disengage the clutch from the flywheel. 

The release bearing pushes the pressure plate to disengage the clutch from the flywheel. This is what happens when stepping on the clutch pedal in your Tacoma to change gears. As it is a hydraulic system, when depressing the clutch pedal the master cylinder pushes hydraulic fluid towards the slave cylinder, which then presses against the clutch fork. The clutch fork slides the release bearing forward to press on the pressure plate. The pressure plate uses a diaphragm spring that when pushed forward actually pulls the clutch plate off the flywheel which results in the engine being temporarily disconnected from the transmission.

Which is Better: Full Face or Puck Clutches?

The OEM clutch in the Toyota Tacoma is a full-face or full disc design. For example, this type of clutch is preferred for normal driving applications due to the lower cost. The full disc clutch also delivers a smoother clutch engagement/disengagement, which will result in a quieter and more comfortable ride.

On the other hand, puck-style clutch discs are designed for high-performance and extreme applications. The puck-style clutch is engineered to deliver more force per square inch on the flywheel compared to a conventional full-face clutch. This enables the clutch to hook up instantaneously to deliver the power to the driving wheels. However, a puck-style clutch disc will result in a jerky clutch engagement. It is also harsher than full face clutch packs and can be much noisier.

Unless your Toyota Tacoma is modified for extreme off-road or racing applications, a full face clutch design is a better option overall.

The Different Types of Clutch Materials

Organic clutch: This is the most basic type of clutch. Organic clutch discs are manufactured using compounded rubber, phenolic resins, metal oxides, and friction modifiers. There are two types of organic clutches: molded and woven. As a general rule, most OEM clutch packs for the Toyota Tacoma are manufactured with woven facings. 

Heavy-duty organic clutch: This type of clutch is manufactured using a higher percentage of metallic resins. This enables the clutch to deliver a higher load rating while resisting clutch fade and higher temperatures. 

Ceramic clutch: This clutch is constructed using graphite, silicon dioxide, tin, bronze, copper, and iron. Ceramic clutches are designed primarily for racing applications. It can withstand higher temperatures (up to 1,000°F) and resist fade for lasting performance. However, its harsher engagement characteristics can make for an abrupt on-and-off feeling. 

Kevlar clutch: This is the clutch of choice for modified or off-road Tacoma pickup trucks. Kevlar clutches have a lower static-to-dynamic friction coefficient courtesy of the para-aramid fibers in the friction material. This makes them ideal for rock crawling or competitive off-road applications. The Kevlar clutch is also designed to last longer than an organic clutch. However, the low friction coefficient also means the clutch has a lower torque rating than an organic clutch. 

Feramic clutch: This clutch is strictly intended for racing applications. Feramic clutches are constructed using a precise combination of graphite, silicon dioxide, steel, and other metals. Feramic clutch packs have a high friction ratio and are ideal for modified diesel trucks.

Which Clutch Type is Ideal for Serious Off-Roading or Towing Purposes?

For mild off-roading and trailer towing, your Toyota Tacoma will perform better with a heavy-duty organic clutch. But for extreme off-road applications, installing a Kevlar clutch can be a reliable choice due to their long lasting nature and high heat capability (lots of slipping and engagement/disengagement cycles). 

Feramic or carbotic clutch packs are a bit of overkill for the Toyota Tacoma. These clutches are best utilized in vehicles equipped with modified high-torque diesel motors. 

How Does a Clutch Wear Out?

If you drive your Tacoma properly, the clutch will last a long time. But improper driving behaviors (riding the clutch, dropping the clutch), constantly carrying or towing heavy loads, and harsh off-road abuse (heat and moisture) will wear out the clutch faster than normal. 

Riding the clutch: This holds especially true in stop-and-go traffic or when navigating tricky off-road situations. If a certain gear is engaged, riding the clutch (or partially stepping on the clutch pedal as the vehicle moves) will have a tendency to wear out the frictional surfaces on the clutch as the flywheel and clutch disc will be rotating at different speeds, creating unnecessary heat and wearing off extra friction material.

Incorrect shifting: If you either shift before the clutch is fully disengaged, or if you don’t complete the shift before engaging the clutch, the action will wreak havoc on the clutch damper springs. This will result in excessive wear and tear. Excess heat inside the clutch pack will eventually warp or damage the clutch. 

Holding your truck using the clutch: Toyota Tacoma owners know this very well. It is not healthy to use the clutch to hold the truck in an incline or slope. That’s what the parking brake or emergency brake is for. But there are reasons why holding the clutch is good practice, but it is tricky to find the right balance between engaging and burning the clutch. This particularly holds true in extreme off-road scenarios. 

Modifying the engine to produce more power: The stock flywheel and clutch pack in the Toyota Tacoma are engineered to harness the torque of the stock 2.7-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V6 motor. The stock clutch and pressure plate do not have the necessary clamping force when at power levels or weight ratings (when towing) above stock. 

Burning the clutch: Performing a burnout may look awesome, but it will severely affect the service life of the clutch. This also holds true when towing heavy loads or playing a game of Tacoma tug-of-war with your buddies.

Off-roading and towing: Frequent off-roading and towing will likely decrease the service life of the OEM clutch due to more frequent slipping when off-roading and higher load when towing. Both of these situations produce more heat than regular on-road driving with an unladen truck. 

Essentially, all of these scenarios involve excessive heat – excessive heat is a clutch killer and the scenarios above are some of the ways in which it is produced. Of course, a clutch is designed as a wear item so by no means are we suggesting it will last forever if you drive perfectly (plus, that would be a little boring). 

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