1st. Gen Tacoma Buyers Guide

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate
links, including eBay, Amazon, Skimlinks, and others.

Dec 20, 2006
Ive been thinking of picking up a 1st gen Tacoma. I had a collection of links Ive been using for research and thought id put them together into a buyers guide that might help others who are looking. I started a similar thread in another forum
Please add any info you feel is relevant and let me know if anything is incorrect.


Base info from:
Your Online Offroad 4×4 Tech Resource – IH8MUD.com1995-2004 Toyota Tacoma: Year-to-Year Changes - Consumer Guide Automotive, Toyota Tacoma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, www.SleeOffroad.com, www.tacomaworld.com, http://smg.toyotapartsandservice.com/guides.php, www.4x4wire.com

I still have a lot of editing to do to this.
Last edited:
Toyota Tacoma Gen 1 Buyers Guide

Vehicle Highlights:
Toyota's sixth-generation pickup finally got a proper name of its own--Tacoma. The all-new model has a driver-side airbag, and featured aggressive new styling, both inside and out. Propelling the new Tacoma were three engines: the 2.4 L four cylinder rated at 142 hp and 160 lb·ft of torque, the 2.7 L four cylinder rated at 150 hp and 177 lb·ft of torque, and the 3.4 L V6 rated at 190 hp and 220 lb·ft of torque. The 2.4 L gave a highly useful 29 miles per US gallon (hwy), the 2.7 L gave 26 miles per US gallon (hwy), and the 3.4 L delivered 22 miles per US gallon (hwy). The Tacoma also rode on a redesigned chassis and suspension and came with rack-and-pinion steering in place of the previous recirculating ball system. Also, 4-wheel ABS was now optional on all Tacoma models. The 4WD models were visually differentiated from 2WD models by a distinct grille treatment and an elevated chassis.

Four-wheel drive Tacomas had six-stud wheel lug patterns, which had been used on the prior pickups (pre-Tacoma trucks). The truck's frame is fully boxed until immediately after the front leaf spring mount bracket where it transitions into a c-frame section. The 3.4 V6's manual transmission was an R150F while the automatic transmission was an A340F (Aisin code is 30-40LE). From 95-97 Single cab Tacomas had the option of a manual transmission with the 3.4 V6 engine. From 98 on, the single cabs only got a 2.7 or a 2.4 4-cyl from factory. TRD packages started in 98 (if the V6 engine was selected, a differential locker in the rear came with it).

Two-wheel drive Tacomas had 5-stud wheel lug patterns. The 2.4 L and 3.4 L engines were available in this vehicle depending on options. Automatic and manual transmissions were available.

First gen Tacoma - 1995.5-2004
2RZ 2.4L 4cyl 2wd only
3RZ 2.7L 4cyl
5VZ 3.4L V6

4cyl 5speed 2wd = W59 2wd
4cyl 5speed 4wd = W59 4wd
4cyl 4speed auto 2wd/4wd = ???
V6 5speed - 2wd = R150 4wd = R150F
V6 4speed auto - 2wd = A340E 4wd = A340F

-raydoubles info

If you have a 4 cyl auto all auto trannys from 1995.5-2004 will fit as a replacement.
Last edited:
Year–to-Year Changes:

Lots more info here: http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/tacoma/history.html


1996 Toyota Tacoma: For '96, Toyota's Tacoma pickup is provided with a new off-road package that includes a locking rear differential. The new unit is available only on regular-cab 4WD models with a manual transmission. On 2WD models it includes a rear differential locking system, 31-inch tires on alloy wheels, and a tachometer. On 4WD models, Toyota charges a little more, but adds the the following options: bucket seats, a center console, and 4WDemand, the more sophisticated of Toyota's two 4-wheel-drive systems.
1997 Toyota Tacoma: For 1997, 2WD models get a new grille and flush headlights. Also, the base 2.4-liter engine gains a new ignition system and a more sophisticated sequential multipoint fuel-injection system.

1998 Toyota Tacoma: This is the year Tacoma received its first cosmetic face lift. Tacoma finally gets a passenger-side airbag, and the SR5 models get a new name--Limited. Prerunner models started in 98. They share the same front and rear suspension parts and geometry, frame, styling and engine options as the 4x4 Tacomas of this year range. Prerunner Tacomas also had the option of the TRD Off-Road package which (like the 4x4) got a rear differential locker if it was a V6 model (among other suspension variations). One downside is there was not option of a 5-speed transmission. The V6 Tacoma automatic transmissions were an A340E. Because of the similarities in the Prerunner and 4x4 models, it is possible to use stock parts to convert a Prerunner to a 4x4. prerunner to 4x4 conversion - Tacoma World Forums
1999 Toyota Tacoma: Seatbelt pretensioners topped the short list of changes for '99.
2000 Toyota Tacoma: Intermittent windshield wipers became standard, and models with ABS now had daytime running lights. Four-wheel-drive trucks got numerically higher axle ratios for quicker takeoffs.

2001 Toyota Tacoma: In 2001 Tacoma’s received another front facelift, New for 2001 were 4-door Double Cabs with four front-opening doors and a 60/40 folding rear bench seat. All models got a restyled front end with a raised hood and prominent grille. Also added for 2001 was a new S-Runner model--a manual-transmission V6 PreRunner Xtracab with stiffer springs, premium shock absorbers, color-keyed exterior, and special interior appointments.
2002 Toyota Tacoma: There were no significant changes for 2002.
2003 Toyota Tacoma: Antilock brakes were made standard on all models for 2003.
2004 Toyota Tacoma: The Tacoma loses its optional flare-fender StepSide cargo box in 2004.

In 2003-2004 Toyota started using ETCS-I (Electronic Throttle Control Sytem - Intelligent) this is when the throttle bodys are electronically controlled, but also had a cable for back up in case the electronic system failed.

More info on ETCS here: http://www.toyota.com/safety/electronic-throttle-control-system/
Last edited:
Best year opinions:

Nowhereman04's thread about Things people dont like about their 1st gen:

Alternative besides a 1st gen
1st gen vs 2nd gen opinions:

vs frontier:

vs ranger:
http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/1st-gen-tacomas/171154-ford-ranger-vs-toyota-tacoma.html -TACOMABOSS

vs s-10:

vs dakota:
Last edited:

Trouble Spots:
Frame Rust:The BIGGEST thing to check is the frame. “You want to inspect for severe rust, especially in the rear where the rear spring shackle meets the frame and the rear tire carrier. Look for loose metal and holes. If you see anything like that, walk away.” -98tacoma27

813,000 trucks are included in the 1995-200 buyback program for rusty frames.

Dealership Customer handling procedure for frame inspection:
Dealer letter:
VIN Ranges:
Report: Dana coughs up $25M to Toyota over rusty Tacoma frames
Report: Dana coughs up $25M to Toyota over rusty Tacoma frames - Autoblog

Exhaust system: In compliance with emission-control regulations, the oxygen sensor will be replaced free at the 80,000-mile maintenance. (1995)
“The most common issue you will see with a 1st Gen is O2 sensor codes. The O2 codes are easy to fix. You simply replace them. They are relatively cheap. MAF codes appear too, but they are usually clear with a good cleaning.” -98 tacoma27

Vehicle noise: The heat shield over the exhaust manifold rattles due to cracks. (1995-2000)

Maintenance/Cost of Ownership:
This table lists costs of likely repairs for comparison with other vehicles. The dollar amount includes the cost of the part(s) and labor (based on $50 per hour) for the typical repair without extras or add-ons. Like the pricing information, replacement costs can vary widely depending on region. Expect charges at a new-car dealership to be slightly higher.
Item Name
Repair Cost
A/C Compressor
Automatic Transmission or Transaxle
Clutch, Pressure Plate, Bearing
Exhaust System
Shocks and/or Struts
Timing Chain or Belt
Universal Joints
“The 3.4L has a timing belt. It is a non-interference engine which means if the belt breaks, the engine will not be damaged. It's scheduled replacement is every 90k miles. The 2.4/2.7 4 bangers have chain timing chains. They are also non-interference engines. The scheduled replacement is typically when it breaks.............which is never under normal driving conditions.” -98tacoma27

Some recommend changing the water pump at the 90k interval when youre servicing the timing belt.
How to inspect a used truck (from SleeOffroad.com):

Below is a list of items to look at.
Carfax is a good source for checking the accident history of the vehicle. However, unless the car was totaled even major accidents might not show up. This is typically the case then a car was repaired for the existing owner. The following are some items to look for in checking for accident damage.

  • Signs of overspray on trim pieces, lights and inner fenders
  • Weld and signs of repair work on inner fenders, core supports and underside of body
  • Check for VIN stickers in doors, hood, tailgate.
  • Check body panels with a magnet. If body filler was used, the magnet won't stick in places.
  • Use Polaroid sun glasses and look at the paint. Repainted panels will stand out, especially if they are metallic paint.
  • Check body lines and panel gaps for alignment
  • Check A/B/C/D pillars for overspray or signs of paint matching. These are the normal placed where the body shop will try to blend the paint if just one panel was painted.
  • Check the overall shine of the paint on different panels.
  • Check for dirt in the paint, or changes in texture. The factory paint is uniform and clean.
  • Check behind the rock panels, fenders and tailgates for signs of repair.
  • Check the edges of body panels for paint masking marks or body filler.
  • Check for marks on frame where it might have been pulled on a frame straightening machine
On vehicles where a lot of accessories were added bad wiring can cause endless headaches.

  • Check all lights, horn, interior lights and electrical parts for functionality
  • Check fuse box for incorrect wire taps or modifications
  • Check for blown fuses
  • Check condition of battery
  • Check for corrosion under battery tray
  • If possible, remove dash panel below steering wheel or look underneath. This is most often the spot where accessories are installed. Check the neatness of the installation and correct splicing of wires. A rats nest is normally an indication that the work was not done properly.
  • Check for additional wires that were added to the positive terminal on the battery. Check that these were done properly, routed properly and fused properly.
  • Look underneath the back and along the frame rails to see if any trailer wiring was done properly.
Indications that the interior was kept clean and maintained is normally a good indication of the overall owners attitude towards the vehicle. Do not confuse a detailed interior with one that was kept clean on a regular basis.

  • Check for scratches on plastic trim pieces.
  • Check condition of upholstery, headliners, door panels and trim pieces.
  • Check under seats for dirt
  • Check the operation of the electric seat
  • Check the operation of all the heater controls, radio and other accessories
  • Check interior lights
  • Check for mildew and water stains on carpet.
Drive Train

  • Check head/block interface for antifreeze leaks.
  • Check outside of steering knuckles for oil & grease. Caked on dirt and grease is a good indication that the inner axle seals has failed some time ago and internal components could be damaged or worn beyond service specs.
  • Remove the square fill plug on the knuckle and take a sample of the grease. If the grease is runny, it is also an indication that the differential oil is running into the knuckle.
  • Check if radiator has been replaced. This could be indications of overheating conditions previously.
  • Check if there are deposits in the coolant overflow bottle. This could also indicate deposits in the radiator.
  • Check for leaks underneath.
  • Check tires for uneven wear.
  • Check tires to for the same tread on all tires.
  • Check that all the tires are the same brand and size
  • Check condition of spare and if it is the correct wheel
  • Check if any drive train components have been replaced. If so, try to determine why.
  • Check for vibrations during drive.
  • Check all fluids to see how dirty they are. Dirty fluids are an indication of owner neglect.
  • Run the engine at normal temperatures and check for unusual smells
  • Listen for any unusual sounds
  • Check for signs of any emissions equipment that might be removed.
  • Check exhaust system for rust, holes and repairs
  • Check for blue or white smoke when car accelerates.
  • Check the automatic transmission shifts smoothly
  • Check that the electric lockers engage by turning them on in low range and driving on a low traction surface
  • Apply the brakes at different speeds and see if there is any fade, or if the vehicle pulls sideways.
  • Apply brakes lightly and check for any vibrations through the pedal
  • Turn the steering from lock to lock and listed for any noises and/or roughness
  • Test drive the vehicle at highway speed and see if there are any vibrations
Last edited:
Toyota maintenance Intervals:
Toyota Parts and Service

30,000 mile / 24 month maintenance items

These items also apply to the 60K, 90K, and 120K maintenance intervals.




  • Drive belts
  • Ball joints & dust covers
  • Brake lines and hoses
  • Brake linings/drums & brake pads/discs
  • Fuel lines, connections, and vapor vent system hoses
  • Fuel tank cap gasket
  • Steering gear box, linkage, and boots
  • Exhaust pipes and mountings

Testing the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve
Cleaning the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor
Cleaning the Throttle Body
Changing the Fuel Filter

30/60/90/120K Walkthroughs
Toyota Maintenance: Tacoma & 4Runner 30K Mile Service
Toyota Maintenance: Tacoma & 4Runner 30K Mile Service
Toyota Maintenance: Tacoma & 4Runner 30K Mile Service
Toyota Maintenance: Tacoma & 4Runner 30K Mile Service
Toyota Maintenance: Tacoma & 4Runner 30K Mile Service
Trying to decide which engine to get? Here is a thread by maverick491 about towing capacity and calculations:

The Tacoma Towing Bible - Tacoma World Forums

"First off I am going to say the absolutely correct thing first, and that is, tow ratings are there for a reason, and when you excede them is when bad *stuff* happens. DON'T DO IT. If you are going to do it there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk and we’ll cover them, but it’s still not a good idea."-maverick491

Road Test:
Acceleration with the base engine feels brisk, particularly with the manual transmission. The 2.7-liter 4 cylinder in 4WD models has marginally more horsepower and torque, but feels more taxed in all driving situations. Tacomas with the 3.4-liter V6 have strong standing-start acceleration with either transmission. The 2001 test 2WD automatic V6 PreRunner Double Cab did 0-60 mph in a respectable 9.7 sec. And we averaged 16.1 mpg with 4WD and manual transmission, 19.4 with 2WD and automatic in our tests of V6 Xtracabs. Ride quality is poor. Tacoma pounds over bumps and bounds over dips in the pavement. Handling is nothing special either, but at least the brakes work well. Inside, the Tacoma feels rather spartan. There is enough room for two adults to stretch out in front, but the rear area, like in all compact pickups, is best left to cargo and not people. Controls are well-arranged, but are a bit on the small side--especially radio controls. Visibility is excellent and noise levels are only marginally higher than in comparable Ford or Chevy compact trucks. Tacoma's payload ratings are competitive with anything in this class, but even with the 3.4-liter V6, towing limits fall short of the Ranger and S-Series by about 1000 pounds. Note also that Tacoma has only a single 6.2-foot cargo bed length; while nearly all competitors offer a regular-cab model with a cargo bed of 7 or 7.5 feet.
Last edited:
Last edited:
good write up! I started the other one, but lacked time to finish then it never crossed my mind!


How do you like your 02? What engine tranny combo did you get and a re you happy with it?
Great guidance information for a buyer!

How do you like your 02? What engine tranny combo did you get and a re you happy with it?

I got the 3.4/auto combo. I love it! The engine is awesome. The only thing about the setup i dislike is how early the auto shifts. It sucks with larger tires, so around the country i drive with the O/D off. On the big highways, O/D works great.

So far, I've had to replace the rear main seal, spark plug wires, adjust my SAW's, replace one 02 sensor, replace front catalytic converter, and (biggest $$$) replace the outer bearing on the front differential. The only thing I havent done myself is the outer bearing, and i took out the diff and took it to a local gear installer.

I've become very intimate with this vehicle, and I only gave 8k for it so I braced for having to do some work. Especially considering nothing the PO said he had done, had been done. He did have proof that the timing belt had been changed along with the water pump. (water pump at 7xk and timing belt at 9xk via a toyota dealer).

Its got 158k btw.

Next up sliders and snorkel!
Really nice truck. The 255's look good. Did you notice much power loss after you put them on?

I'm torn between getting an auto or manual transmisision with the 3.4. I guess a manual is one way to cure an early shifting problem.
Took my little sister to see the new pirates and cruised around 75 the whole way without downshifting to pull a hill. I see more loss at take off then at speed. Lost some mpg, but this the first tank I went through totally on these tires so well see what happens.

don't 'mud and drive

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom