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My 1997 Toyota Tacoma Whistles Loudly

My Tacoma makes very loud rearing and whistling noises mostly when I am idle and the brake is engaged while the clutch is depressed. Sometimes, she’ll rear and balk continuously — even more loudly — depending on the outside temperature and her level of activity. I need to get her fixed, but live in the New York City area and am a broke graduate student terrified of getting ripped off. Do you think it’s just belts? My transmission (sometimes I can feel the noise in my gear shifter)? Help please!!! I have been a devotee of your show since my father tuned in with me as a child. He would be jazzed to no end that I came to you for sound advice. Thanks so much for all the joy over the years and in advance for what I hope will be doctoring for my much adored truck.


It sounds like a leak in the vacuum diaphragm in your power brake booster. Is it louder when your foot is on the brakes?

I’ve got “whistle” - I’ve got “rearing” - I’ve got “rear” and “balk” - for the life of me I can’t get my head around what you are trying to say.

Rearing and balking suggest some kind of action. Whistling is a noise. Would you say its absolutely a whistle - as opposed to a screech, and either way how does that have anything to do with rearing and balking?

What happens if you completely let go of the clutch? What happens if you completely let go of the brake?

Thank you. Yes, it’s louder when my foot is on the brake.

Well, to be clear rearing and balking can both be noises in addition to the whistling, only much louder and more insistent. And thank you for the most clear description of the sound: screeching.

When I let go of the clutch and am in motion (any of the gears)and am obviously not using the brake, it rarely makes any noise. when I am in neutral and the brake is depressed it is at it’s loudest.

It sounds like it is related to some kind of a cycle (i.e. a belt) as there is a rhythm to it (it is not a sheer unfaltering screech).

I hope this helps…

At some point while it is screeching sit at idle in neutral, keep your foot on the brake and let go of the clutch - no moving - just stay in neutral with the clutch out and the brake on. What happens to the noise?

If the whole thing is at all connected to the brake/clutch, there are reasons that a whistle could go with brake. But if you’re sitting still a screech could really only go with the clutch.

How old is your belt? When is the last time an actual mechanic (or anyone else for that matter) was under the hood of the truck? Have you made any attempts to identify the location of the noise.

We’re waiting for your answer to these questions.

Thank you for your patience (the grad school part came into play time-wise)! I have noticed while sitting idle (in neutral, brake on) that the noise is much quieter, but still there. It really sounds like it’s attached to a spool (i.e. a belt). No screeching while idle. My belt is older than I can remember having replaced it (probably not a good sign). I get the oil changed super regularly so someone was under the hood of the truck within the last 4 months (I usually go by mileage). And this morning I put my head under there to locate the noise, and stared intently at the rotating belts on the front of the engine (the very front of the truck) and they weren’t making noises. There just wasn’t much noise over all that I could pinpoint. I had left the truck in neutral, emergency brake on, to do this. Then, when I got back into the truck to put it into gear to park it, as soon as I depressed the clutch and the brake, the whining came back. I’ve researched some mechanics on this site and am determined to go and get her fixed. I’m just very nervous about misquotes or that the situation is financially hopeless.


What I was trying to find out is what happens when you depress the clutch only.

Anyway, based on my best interpretation of what you have said I think that you’re going to end up with a new clutch due to a bad throw out bearing. However, you can cross your fingers in terms of something to do with the belt. Whatever you do don’t go in to a shop saying stuff about how you might need a new clutch. Just tell them how to reproduce the noise and let them diagnose it.

Don’t hesitate to get more than one opinion on the issue.

And do not go for a matter of months without lifting your hood. On a fairly regular basis you must lift the hood and at least check your oil and coolant.

I’m not ready to give up on the idea that it’s a vacuum leak associated with the brake booster. While a worn out throw-out bearing will screech, it won’t make the engine run poorly. A big vacuum leak will do that.

And, it’s potentially a cheaper fix.

There was nothing said about the truck running poorly. I was trying to figure out if that’s what “rear” and “balk” meant - but I’ve been “educated” that these are indeed both sounds. (Ok I’m still not buying that).

So EzzieMeyn - can you clarify? Does the truck run ok? Does it stumble or shake or anything like that when you step on the brake?