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Upgrading Your Tacoma’s Axles for Off-Roading

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Shop Tacoma Axles

Breaking an axle on the trail hours from home is one of the worst ways to spend a weekend. Upgrading your Tacoma's axles to handle to trails ahead is worthwhile insurance. Anytime you upgrade your wheel and tire combination, add heavy-duty bumpers, or other heavy modifications, consider upgrading your axles to better handle the load.

Tacoma Axles >

Underneath all those good looks, the Tacoma is designed for the off-road. This means that the factory operating systems will be put to the test - in particular the axles. As the power is sent to the tires and the tires grab on to obstacles, the axles will have to fight to stay alive. Too much power and too much traction can easily snap an axle and leave the driver stuck in the woods. When building a Tacoma for off-road use, you’ll want to make sure the axles are up to snuff before you find yourself up a creek without a paddle.

Why Your Axle is Important

Your axles serve a tremendously important job on your Tacoma. To understand their purpose we will have to dive into how a differential works. 

Power is sent to the differential with the driveshaft. The driveshaft turns the pinion gear within. The pinion gear rides on the carrier which has female splines within; the male end of those splines rides on the inner side of the axles. The axles are used to turn the wheels.

Without the axles, the truck would have absolutely no forward motion. This means if an axle snaps, you have no way to transfer power from your differential to your wheels.

Tacoma Stock Axle Spline Counts

The Toyota Tacoma arrives with some decent differential and axle equipment from the factory. With removable center sections and E-lockers on the list, you can tell Toyota knew a thing or two about what they would need to give their consumers out of the gate in this department.

The factory axle spline counts were even quite stout all the way down to the 7.5-inch front differential.

Stock Axle Spline Count

  • Toyota 7.5” Diff -27 Spline
  •  Toyota 8” Diff -30 Spline
  •  Toyota 8.4” Diff -30 Spline

Weak Points Off-Road

The axles may be beefy, but still are subjected to failure under the right conditions. When you’re off-roading, there are a number of different conditions that are absolutely capable of snapping a factory axle. Any instance where traction is limited and the tires are spinning fast is particularly dangerous. When the wheels are spinning fast without traction and suddenly bite the axle can easily twist up like a pretzel. While you’re off-roading, you’ll find that you will wind up in situations like this quite a bit. This is exactly why it’s worth upgrading the axles.

Without swapping out the entire carrier you do have the option of upgrading to a chromoly 4340 shaft. This material is much tougher than the factory axle shafts and will stand up to more abuse in these types of situation.

How to Upgrade Your Tacoma’s Axles

Upgrading an axle shaft is fairly easy, but it does require a process. The first thing you’ll need to do is get the truck’s wheels off and the Tacoma off the ground. You will need to remove the axles from the differential.

With the front axle, the CV Shaft will need to be removed from the wheel hub first and then from the differential within. To install the new axles you will simply need to reverse the process. The rear shafts will need to be unclipped from the carrier in the housing.

This means that after the wheels are removed you will need to crack open the differential case to remove the clips. At this point, the old axles can be slid out and the next ones can slide in.

Tacoma Axle Maintenance

To maintain the rear axles is as simple as ensuring that any axle seals and bearings are in good shape. When installing the new axle shafts you can get a head start on maintenance of the equipment.

You will want to make sure any seals and bearings are replaced while you’re in there. Even if the assembly is fresh off the factory floor, ensuring that these components are brand new is the only way to know that they will seal properly when the new axles are installed.

Service Regularly: After every hard day’s use you will want to make sure everything is in proper working order. Check for leaks and signs of worn bearings. If there are any issues, you will want to be sure to address the issues immediately. You will also need to make sure that the differential oil is in good shape. Proper lubrication will be necessary to ensure the axles live a long healthy life.

When All Else Fails

Even the toughest axles are subject to failure. High engine speeds and a sudden gain of traction is a sure fire way to break almost anything. For hardcore off-roaders it may be worth bringing a spare axle along. This way if something goes wrong you can address the issue on the fly. The woods really are no place to open up a differential to perform repairs though.

If an axle snaps, your best bet is to get the truck off the obstacle and into the proper setting to perform repairs.

Recovery Equipment: If an axle snaps and you have no means to pull your truck out of an obstacle you’re pretty much out of luck. If you know you will be in situations where an axle can easily snap you will want to make sure you have the proper equipment and a tow vehicle to get you home. A winch can pull you out of a hole but you will want a buddy to pull you home so you can do the most in order to prevent making matters worse.

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