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Lots of issues! 03 Tacoma

My 03 Tacoma TRD is showing her years! The truck has about 215k and has some serious vibrations and noises going on. First off I have a constant shaking type of vibration between 25 and 35 mph, but it is also present in the higher speeds of 55 and above but sometimes it gets drowned out. I work at a ski resort so when Im coming down the mtn using 3rd gear or so to slow down I feel the vibration is the most apparent then. So far I have had 2 shops look at my driveshaft and both concluded there is nothing wrong with the u joints. I had a CV shaft installed because one of the boots was torn so I went ahead and had that replaced. So far NOBODY knows what the vibration is…2nd is more of a intervalled whooomping sound almost like a bullfrog-like interval. As I increase speed the intervals get faster but it is a drawn out whooomp whooomp not a fast sound. It actually rattles the change in my ash tray to the bpms of the sound. Also I have a metallic clunking sound happening when I put the truck in gear (manual) or start and stop at slow speeds without using the clutch. I was driving around a parking deck the other day in first gear and it would make the sound whenever i hit the gas AND when I let off the gas. ONE MORE THING, whenever I am starting off under load in any gear, the truck jerks…it hesitates and lurches but only at low rpms and again in any gear. Any ideas???

Is it a 4WD? If so, are you using the 4WD on dry (not snowy, not sand and gravel, etc.) pavement?

Bad clutch is pretty likely. Sounds like the damper springs have fallen out or the clutch plate itself is coming apart. It is also possible the transmission has a bearing failing.

might be a sticking caliper too . (My Dakota is known for that )

There are so many possibilities here its a little daunting. For some reason I feel like this Toy made it to 215 without any real preventive maintenance…is that about right? Its all original and basically starting to have issues?

The symptom and sound you describe sounds like it could be…an out of balance wheel/tire and subsequent tread damage to the tire. This is a real possibility… Could have a worn shock which allows the unbalance wheel to basically hop up n down as it pleases. Have you had tire balance done any time recently?

You mentioned slowing down in 3rd gear on a hill… Not sure if you are using brakes at all in this case? If you are on the brakes…it will be a warped rotor… If you are not using brakes…then it can be the driveshaft and U Joints… Has the drive line been greased at all? Toyotas thankfully have Zerk fittings ALL OVER THE PLACE… Use them. The slip yoke…the u joints…even ball joints sometimes. They require and need grease.

As for the clutch? If you had springs floating round in there you would hear and feel it constantly and it would or should vibrate while in neutral or make noise just while idling. The clutch can cause these problems…but they would exist all the time…even while stationary. When a clutch starts to fall apart literally…all sorts of fun stuff happens as well as sounds…so thats easy to figure out.

Anyway…until we know whether the brakes are combined with this sound and feel will guide the troubleshooting steps. A warped rotor and or stuck caliper are very very simple to diagnose… If brakes are not involved I would start with wheel balancing…and a look at the wear pattern of the tires…the tires can tell you an awful lot about what is going on. Drive Line issues can be elusive sometimes but are pretty basic in troubleshooting. I would start at the wheel balance and tread reading…good place to start


Double check the u-joints. Clunk sounds when first starting out or coming to a stop are often a result of a bad u-joint. If you have a limited slip differential, that not working correctly can cause clunking sounds too in those situations. There should be no play at all in any of the u-joints. The shop may need to temporarily remove the drive shaft to do this properly. Tire problems or bad wheel bearings can cause a whoop whoop whoop sound. You say you had one CV shaft replaced, but has the other been checked too?

Yes the truck is a 4x4 and I do drive a lot in 4 wheel drive being in Vermont but not so much if its not needed. This truck has been a beast otherwise, I haven’t had to replace anything major its whole life except for a clutch and a parking brake assembly. Otherwise I change my oil regularly and lube the drive train about twice a year.So to add some more info, at 180k I got a brand new clutch put in with all genuine Toyota parts, I had 4 brand new tires put on last Fall so probably around 200k with a new alignment as well. Since then Ive had the tires re-balanced and aligned again since it was under warranty. My local guy up here in Vermont took the drive shaft apart last month and drove the truck for 2 days and he said he didn’t notice anything. The brakes don’t seem to give my any issues. I do have a question though, If it were a U joint issue which Ive thought was the culprit the whole time, would you really be able to know if they were bad just by human touch and examination? Or would it be undetermined unless they were under load? I don’t buy that just because your hands don’t feel any play then there isn’t any. As far as the CV shaft goes I guess I should go ahead and replace the other in order to confirm or debunk it, it wasn’t too expensive. Thank you all so much for taking interest and giving me some ideas and options.

I will add that many times with CV shafts the joints can be bad with no busted boots and they may feel fine while in the vehicle.
Once removed and physically checked by hand rough spots can often be found.

Of course that brings up the issue of the shaft being out and there being no sense in reinstalling a high miles used shaft into the truck.
In most cases, when a part on one side of a car goes bad (CV shaft, tie rod, ball joint, you name it…) the part on the opposite side is not far behind the bad one.

It really sounds like U joints to me.

Regardless if it IS them or not, theyre a high mileage, worn out part and if you plan to keep the truck going its just a good practice to replace them by now in my book. Theyre not too expensive either.

I wonder, do you do much 4 wheeling with this thing? Is it possible you knocked the driveshaft on something and put it out of alignment?

I know you had it checked by 2 shops but all your symptoms point to that.

For whatever its worth - my method to check U joints is to get under the car, grab the driveshaft and push and pull on it in every direction…if it clicks or moves at all in any way then those U joints are bad.

That being said, on an old hot rod forum that I frequent, a couple guys claimed that method wasnt sufficient and that the driveshaft had to be removed to really inspect the U joints.

I have replaced U joints before and there isnt much to them, so I feel that checking by hand is pretty sufficient, but you make a fair point that being under load might show something ugly that you couldnt tell by hand.

Again, just go ahead and replace them, no doubt at all on that.

It is entirely possible for U-joints to be faulty while still remaining tight and the guys on the hot rod forum are correct.

It’s no different than CV joints which I referred to in my last post.

My only additional thought is to check the motor mounts. The lurching and shuddering you report can sometimes come from a torn or broken motor mount. They can and do deteriorate with age.

Adding my 2 cents to the excellent comments above, on my 4WD Ford truck every time a u-joint was bad I could tell by getting under there and twisting it with my hands. That’s not to say it is impossible for one to fail in a way that wouldn’t work, just my own driveway diy’er experience is all. CV joints are a different matter. I’ve had CV joints on two cars, a Corolla and a VW Rabbit. I’ve never been able to diagnose them by twisting w/my hands. In every case of a CV problem for me, the diagnosis method was that it started making an unusual sound while moving, especially when turning at slow speed.