Toyota Tacoma brake locking, especially during cold weather

I have been experiencing this problem mainly in the winter on my 1997 Tacoma 4x4 auto transmission, 90,000 miles. When it’s freezing or below, every time I come to a stop the rear drive wheel on the passengers side will lock up. If I was on snow or ice the truck would go into a skid I could not get out of. If I take my foot off gas with truck in drive it would not roll forward/wheel still locked. Usually when I stepped hard on the gas there was a loud thump/bang sound and the wheel would release and the truck would go forward. If I shifted into reverse or neutral for a split second and quickly put it back in drive without stepping on the brake, there as no thump/bang sound and the truck would roll forward as normal. In the warmer weather when I stopped, the wheel would not fully lock up, but it would feel like the brake was slightly engaged or sticking; and if I took my foot off the gas sometimes the truck would roll forward and other times you could feel the drag. The problem is worse if you depress the brake harder or quickly.

Sounds like a sticking caliper. If that’s the case it’s easy to diagnose and fix, just get it done now. For everyone’s sake, don’t fool around when it comes to your brakes.

I would agree, and also suggest flushing the system with fresh fluid. In addition to the sticky caliper, which may be causing the warm weather problems, you may have moisture in the system, which is known to cause brake problems in freezing weather. As a matter of fact moisture in the system can be a cause of corrosion, which can cause warm weather problems.

In short, moisture in the system could be the root cause of both the cold and warm weather problems. Note that now that the caliper has been affected, you’ll need to change it.

My research indicates you would have drum brakes on the rear. If so make sure that the wheel cylinder on the passenger side is operating smoothly. When a cylinder starts to leak the brake fluid picks up moisture; rusts the steel wheel cylinder; and gums up the piston causing the piston to stick in the cylinder. That “thunk” you hear is probably brake shoe forcing the piston to retract.

So do an inspection on both rear wheel brakes. See if there is a rust gunge behind the forward cylinder boot. If you find a problem with one you should probably replace both as well as the shoes if they have significant wear on them. Also look at the drums to see if they needed to be replaced or turned to clean up any rust or grooving there.

Also you have a proportioning/load valve actuated by the position of the rear axle. This sends more hydraulic pressure to the rear brakes as more load is placed on the rear wheels. There could be a problem in this valve that is sending too much pressure to the rear brakes.

I had a 97 Tacoma with drum brakes on the rear that needed frequent servicing. I live on a dirt road and did a lot of off roading…so if this is the first trouble you’ve been having, you’re lucky. Get it serviced asap. With the light back end and slippery conditions later in the winter, you’re asking for control problems. As the brake shoes wear, they can get hung up and bind, then release with a thud. If they remain dragging you can really heat up the the area putting other components (bearings etc) in jepardy.

They need to be lubed and serviced regularly after you have a rear brake job (new brake shoes probably), as the protection for parking brake cable and other components, really isn’t that good. The parking brake engages the shoes as well and often cause the the drag and premature wear, resulting in the problems you described.

I crawled under regularly when I changed oil and “painted” the areas with problems (parking brake levers and cables and yoke esp.) with red grease. Removing the yoke and greasing is a good idea as well. They should do all this when you have it serviced. It will cost a bit of $$$$ like all brake jobs do.


Did you ever come to a conclusion? My 1999 Tacoma is doing EXACTLY what you are describing. I’m going to inspect my brakes but wanted to know if you ever found out what was causing this with your truck.


Hey Eric,
Just had it fixed after a few mechanics. Had a bad rear axle seal and bearing on the passenger side. The seal was apparently leaking and covering the brakes, causing the stick. Also ruined the bearings. All’s well now.