1996 Toyota Tacoma Problems

RepairPal has identified the most common problems with the 1996 Toyota Tacoma as reported by actual vehicle owners. We'll tell you what the problem is and what it'll take to fix it.

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24
Known Problems

Toyota issued a recall on the lower ball joint due to the possibility of premature wear from improper finishing in production. The ball joints will be replaced under the recall. This recall applies to 2001-2004 models only. Please contact you local Toyota dealer to see if your vehicle is included.

Some engines have had the problem of the crankshaft pulley bolt coming loose. This will make a rattling noise as the engine idles. Our technicians tell us that the pulley bolt should have a thread locker applied and then retorqued.

Loud rattling or loud slapping may be heard from the engine on the 1995-2004 Toyota Tacoma with the 2.7L I4 engine. 

These noises has two known causes: a failed balance shaft bearing, and a failed timing chain tensioner. 

The balance shaft, also known as the counter rotating assembly, is installed to reduce engine vibration, and counter the rotational force of the crankshaft and camshafts. When the bearing fails, it will rattle loudly, and the timing chain will produce a metallic slapping noise. The rattle has been described as shaking a can of marbles. 

The timing chain tensioner is also known to fail, allowing the timing chain to contact the timing chain housing. This produces a metallic slapping noise coming from the front of the engine, but there is no "can of marbles" sound associated. This would not indicate balance shaft failure, but the timing chain may need to be replaced.  

To repair these issues inspection of the entire timing chain system will be necessary, and replacement of the timing chain, timing chain guides, balance shafts, timing chain tensioner, and associated seals may be necessary. 

Avoiding these issues may be possible by early oil changes, and using the factory specified engine oil. 

The 1996-2002 Toyota Tacoma with the 3.4L V6 and automatic transmission may develop an issue which is commonly known as the "strawberry milkshake".

The name is based on the color and consistency of the fluid found in the coolant reservoir, transmission, and radiator.

The radiator on these models has an isolated portion for cooling automatic transmission fluid(ATF) that is pumped in and out by the transmission. This area of the radiator is known to rupture internally, and the following occurs:

  • Transmission overheating warning light
  • Transmission slipping (engine revs high and vehicle moves slowly)
  • Engine overheating
  • ATF and engine coolant mix in the radiator, engine, and transmission

Engine coolant in the transmission can cause severe damage, and if not caught immediately may require replacement or rebuild of the automatic transmission.

To correct the situation, the radiator must be replaced, and the engine cooling system must be flushed thoroughly. Also, the transmission will need to be professionally flushed, inspected, and possibly repaired or replaced.

To prevent this from occurring, proactive replacement of the radiator is necessary and recommended.

The Toyota Tacoma 2.7L I4 engine has a known issue with the valves that if left unchecked, will cause burned valves and engine performance issues. 

The engine ‘breathes’ through valves that are pushed open by the camshaft, and closed by springs. When valves are closed, they seal against a valve seat. In this vehicle, the valve seat is too soft, so after the valve contacts it thousands of times, it becomes crushed. Once it is crushed, the valve can no longer make a proper seal, and the valves erode due to extreme temperature (burnt valve).

Symptoms related to this issue:

To repair the burnt valves, the cylinder head must be removed and rebuilt, which is a costly internal engine repair, however, this issue can be prevented through inspection and adjustment of valve clearances every 40,000 miles.

At higher mileages, (125,000-150,000) the automatic transmission may not shift correctly. This can be caused by the throttle position sensor being out of adjustment or a shift solenoid needing to be replaced. Typically the transmission does not need to be completely overhauled.

At higher mileages (125,00+) the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor may intermittently stop working, especially when the vehicle is fully warmed up. This can result in illumination of the Check Engine Light and/or an engine stalling problem.

On vehicles with a manual transmission, worn shift bushings can cause the transmission to pop out of gear, especially when coasting down in 1st or 2nd gear. Replacing all the shift linkage bushings is pretty straight forward and not expensive and will commonly correct this concern.

The Throttle Position Sensor can get out of adjustment due to wear in the throttle body or due to carbon build up. This will cause the idle timing to advance more than 30 degrees which will cause very high HC and NOx emissions. Conversely, the Throttle Position Sensors can wear out and not properly advance the timing which causes a lack of power and poor fuel economy.

Occasionally, the Check Engine Light may come on, this can be related to a failed air flow sensor. This type of fault is commonly repaired by cleaning or replacing the air flow sensor.

The EGR System tends to get restricted or blocked with carbon after 100,000- 125,000 miles which will cause an emissions test failure for NOX. If the EGR system is equipped with an EGR temperature sensor it will trigger a Check Engine Light for improper EGR flow. The repair is to clean out the EGR passages and the EGR Temperature sensor. Our technicians tell this repair is pretty straight forward and takes about 1-1.5 hours. It is also wise to verify the EGR system components i.e. the Transducer, EGR Valve and VSV Solenoid at this time.

At higher mileages (125,000+) the mass air flow sensors may cause the vehicle to idle rough, run rich and even stall. It is recommended to replace the mass air flow sensor with a factory unit because the aftermarket units have very mixed results.

Occasionally, the mass air flow sensor can go lean and set a code P0170 for fuel system lean. This in not an oxygen sensor problem. If there are no vacuum leaks, the mass air flow sensor may need to be replaced. Our technicians remind us to use a factory part because the aftermarket rebuilds are very inconsistent.

If the vehicle will not crank over, the most common problem is the starter, which tend to fail at about 100,00-125,000 miles. Sometimes it is only the starter solenoid contacts, but often the complete starter (including solenoid) needs to be replaced.

In some vehicles, the automatic transmission over heat light may come with sustained highway driving or driving at a sustained speed. Flushing the transmission and changing from Dextron lll to Dextron ll can help remedy this problem.