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Tacoma Leaf and Coil Springs & How to Upgrade Them

Written By: Connor MC

Shop Tacoma Coil and Leaf Springs

Springs are critical components of your Tacoma's suspension. They're the first line of defense when it comes to dips and potholes in the road. There's also a unique set of springs for off-roading purposes as well. Depending on which adventures you have planned, you can tune your Tacoma's suspension with the appropriate springs.

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The suspension system in your Toyota Tacoma is carefully tuned for a comfy ride with excellent load-bearing capabilities. The stock suspension set-up in the 2005 to 2019 Toyota Tacoma consists of a double wishbone with coil springs in the front and leaf springs at the rear. Both the front and rear suspension are fortified with gas-type shock absorbers. The 2007-2015 Tacoma will come with Bilstein 3600 shocks (with 36 mm diameter pistons) from the factory. Other trim models will come with larger-diameter Bilstein 4600 monotube shock absorbers. Both are great for stock and mild off-road applications. The Tacoma TRD models are equipped with off-road suspension. It consists of meatier 2.5-inch FOX internal bypass coil overs to deliver less bounce with better body control. The rear still consists of leaf springs but are upgraded with FOX rear remote reservoir shock absorbers.

What is the Role of the Springs in the Suspension?

Contrary to popular belief, it is the springs (and not the shock absorbers) that are responsible for the smooth ride in your truck. Any type of spring in automobile applications – whether it’s a leaf spring, coil spring, or torsion spring – must be sturdy enough to negate the irregularities on various road surfaces. The springs will have to be strong enough to support the weight of the suspension system without sagging or bouncing the vehicle. 

Both the front coil springs and rear leaf springs in the Toyota Tacoma are tuned for comfort, accurate handling, and adequate load-bearing.

Leaf Springs Versus Coil Springs: What’s the Difference?

Leaf springs are an old-school approach. It is the most widely-used design in spring-mounted suspension systems. Leaf springs consist of one or many pieces of rectangular spring steel. The arc-shaped architecture of leaf springs is many times more capable than coil springs in terms of carrying heavy loads. 

In the case of a Tacoma, the rear axle is suspended by a multi-leaf spring, with each end of the spring connected to the chassis. This means that, in fact, the only thing holding the axle in place is the leaf spring and associated shock absorber. Depending on the year and model trim of your Tacoma, with the factory three-leaf spring in the rear, the payload can be as high as 1620 pounds.

While leaf springs are great for commercial vehicles and heavy-duty off-road machines due to their load capacity, they are far from perfect. Leaf springs are not designed to flex as much as coil springs, which can result in a poor or bumpy ride, particularly when unloaded. Less flex also means higher chances of losing wheel contact over the ground when driving over uneven terrain. 

On the other hand, coil springs are round torsion bars that are wound to produce a coil shape. This design allows for a wider range of suspension articulation compared to leaf springs. Coil springs are preferred in terms of high-performance applications. However, coil springs are more expensive to manufacture compared to leaf springs. Coil springs are also not as capable of carrying heavy loads. This is why the majority of trucks – Tacoma included – still use a leaf spring in the back to deliver good payload capacity.

But when it comes to ride, body control, handling, and overall refinement, coil springs are better than leaf springs. These are the reasons why the front of the Tacoma comes with coil springs and the rear is equipped with leaf springs. Toyota wants a civilized truck that behaves admirably whether on or off-road, and doing all of that without major compromise on the cargo-carrying and towing capabilities of the vehicle.

Why do I Need to Upgrade the Springs on a Lifted Tacoma?

Depending on the type of lift kit or the overall increase in height, you can either upgrade the springs on your Tacoma or just leave them alone. If you are looking for a moderate 1.5” and 1.0” lift in the front and rear, the stock springs are good enough for this application.

As the spring is the primary means of controlling ride height and suspension travel, upgrading the springs (both front and rear) is a must for Tacoma owners that want to lift their Tacoma above an entry-level 1”-1.5” kit. The suspension may also require a set of adjustable shock absorbers or coil overs to compensate the rebound and compression of the stiffer spring. Using an improper spring with a lifted Tacoma will result in poor ride comfort, handling characteristics and increased suspension wear.

Extended shackles or leaf spring blocks are an alternative to replacing the leaf spring entirely. These items change the relative position of the leaf spring and do allow for increased ride height lift, although they have zero impact on payload capacity or suspension travel. They will just lift the body higher up off the axle. If you find the rear is sagging due to what you are towing or loading the bed with, an upgraded leaf spring, or alternatively, a helper spring, can help to alleviate the squat.

The former, a helper spring, is another leaf that installs within the interior of the OEM leaf, making it more difficult to compress and thereby reducing rear end squat.

How do Upgraded Springs Behave Over the Stock Springs?

It depends on the configuration of the spring. In the case of coil springs, there are two types: regular/linear and progressive rate. Regular coil springs have a consistent spring rate per inch of deflection. The stock coil springs in the front double-wishbone suspension of the Tacoma are linear coil springs.

On the other hand, progressive-rate springs can be classified into two types: constant increasing rate springs and dual-rate springs. Whatever the case, progressive-rate springs can offer varying degrees of spring rate per inch of deflection. Progressive-rate springs are easy to spot. They are those that come with closely-wound coils on one end and wider-spaced coils on the other end. 

With that being said, simply upgrading from the stock linear springs to a set of aftermarket progress-rate springs will improve the handling, steering feel, and cornering ability of your Tacoma.

Moving to the rear of the truck, the stock leaf springs are good for handling payloads of 1,620 lbs. for the access cab and 1,505 lbs. for the double cab Tacoma equipped with the 4x2 4-cylinder motor. The 4x4 V6 version has a payload of 1,275-1,295 lbs. for the V6 access cab and 1,155-1,175 lbs. for the double cab. If you need to carry bigger and heavier loads in the bed, upgrading to heavy-duty leaf springs will eliminate squat, sagging, wheel hop, and sway. Of course, with a stiffer leaf setup in place, with the truck unloaded, the ride will be nominally harsher.

The Role of Leaf Spring Shackles and Lifts

The shackles in the leaf springs are equally important. The shackles are responsible for connecting the leaf springs to the chassis of the truck. The shackles also allow the leaf spring to move or ‘flex’ as the vehicle goes over bumps and road undulations.

Replacing the stock rear shackles with lifted shackles is an easy and economical way to slightly increase the ride height of your Tacoma. This is especially helpful if you don’t need a complete lift kit and simply require a bit more ground clearance in mild off-road terrain. 

Extended shackles will not only offer a moderate lift, but they also allow more flex to give your Tacoma a more sedate ride, most especially if the bed is empty. Replacing the stock unit with lift shackles are also required for higher lift kits.

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