3rd Gen Tacoma Problems (TRANSMISSION FIXES)

The year 2016 turned out to be a pretty bad year for the Tacoma. That year model received the most amount of complaints and recalls to date. Many of the issues were related to the transmission, engine, and drivetrain.

The 2016 3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma suffered mainly from Transmission Problems on the 6sp Manual and 6sp Automatic, as well as Problems with the Automatic Transmission Control Module (TCM, PCM). 2017 models suffered Driveline Vibration under deceleration around 10 – 30 MPH.

The 2016 model Tacoma suffered mainly from Transmission (Automatic & Manual) problems, Engine problems, and Drivetrain issues.

Other problems like electrical, interior, and fuel problems were minor and nothing to be too concerned about. If you are in the market for a used 2016-2017 Tacoma, you’ll do well to inform yourself on what specific issues they had and what to look out for before committing to a purchase.

So let’s break down the problems and do a deeper dive into what these issues all entailed.

3rd Gen Tacoma Problems

The 2016 and 2017 Tacoma years were not their best years and they, unfortunately, suffered from a wide array of issues ranging from:

  1. Transmission
  2. Engine
  3. Body/ Paint
  4. Drivetrain
  5. Electrical
  6. Interior and exterior
  7. Fuel
  8. Other minor issues

This list does seem rather long, especially for a company like Toyota who prides itself on quality and reliability.


Gen 3 Tacoma Problems

When it comes to transmission problems, the owner mainly complained about hesitation to shift as well as being hard to shift into gear. Owners were very disappointed in the transmission performance saying transmissions were terrible with constant surges, jolts, and lags. Even after reporting it to the dealerships and having an ECU upgrade, owners reported a slight improvement but the vehicle still wasn’t 100%

There are also numerous complaints about the vehicle transmission hesitating when shifting from reverse into drive. It is also very sluggish when shifting into gear on the highway from speeds 25 – 45 Mph.

I’ll dive deeper into the technicalities a bit later regarding the transmission issues.

What about the engine?

Owners have reported severe vibrations coming from the floor and steering wheel as well as excessive engine noise. Those are the two main issues reported the most, although there were a few complaints about engine check lights coming on, stalling while driving as well as rough engines.

We’ll look more into that a bit later too.

Drivetrain issues

Owners complained about severe drivetrain vibrations as well as the gas pedal. There are also reports of heavy drone sounds heard within the cabin. When in 4H it disappears and returns once in 2H again. Clearly a drivetrain issue. Owners have threatened with class-action lawsuits since this is an old problem on the Tacoma’s that still has not been addressed.

Customer Complaints

Gas pedal buzzes/vibrates on acceleration through most RPMS levels. During extended acceleration periods, vibration can cause numbness in the foot. When I purchased vehicle there was no vibration. (must have a way to turn off Atkinson-cycle during test drive.) Have brought to two Dealers, one said it was my trailer hitch (joke), the other said it was within design limits (so they designed a crappy vibrating engine). They will not admit to any problems with this engine, said I would have to live with it. I would not recommend anyone buy this truck.


– Robert G., Jackson, US

That’s probably one of the worst responses you can get “within design limits” – makes you think you’ll have to live with that annoying problem. Sorry, that’s unacceptable as well as unprofessional.

Driveline vibrations at 20 mph, 35 mph, and at 50 mph. Sounds and feels like a cyclical or oscillating vibration. Toyota dealership has confirmed they feel it, but don’t have a solution. Toyota corporate won’t send a regional tech out to look at it because they state that it’s “normal” for that truck.


– molitacoma, Smithfield, RI, US

Again, Toyota tells their customers, its “normal” behavior. I would be totally livid.

Just put out 41000 for this new Tacoma because my 2015 was such a good driving truck. I didn’t realize that everything was different in the two models. What a surprise vibrations, engine lag wired shifting and of coarse it’s all normal. Yea right Chaplain Paul


– Paul E., Kennewick, WA, US

Let’s look at these problems in a bit more detail to see what the underlying problem was and if anything has been done about it by Toyota since.

3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma Transmission Problems (Manual & Auto)

There’s been hundreds of complaints from Tacoma owners reporting an array of transmission problems.

These problems all include:

  1. Hesitating/hard shifts
  2. Rough shifting
  3. Slipping transmission & Vibrations
  4. Strange howling noises emitted from the transmission

Let’s look at each issue individually now and see what solutions have been offered by Toyota to rectify them.

Slipping transmission

Owners with 2016 automatic transmissions reported a flare in the upshifting process. It gives a slipping feeling for a short period.  


The Engine Control Module (ECM, SAE term: Powertrain Control Module/PCM) calibration has been revised to address this condition

Strange howling noises

If you’ve experienced a strange howling noise coming from the front of your Tacoma, then this section is for you. The noise is most noticeable at speeds between 25-45mph and sometimes even more audible in the presence of a crosswind. This is possibly caused by the 3x 15mm plug holes underneath the lower control arms.


Plug the 3x hole plugs on the lower control arms

Tacoma 6 Speed Manual Transmission Problems

Hesitating/hard Shifts

This problem has been addressed by Toyota with a Service bulletin (SB-10084376-5448). The bulletin refers to all manual 6 speed 2016 Tacoma’s that are experiencing difficulty when shifting out of 5th or 6th gear. The issue manifests itself after driving for an extended period of time.


The repair process involves removing the transmission to access the main lock ball plug and replaced with a NEW lock ball pin and OLD shift/select lever spring to the rear transmission case. They also installed a NEW No. 2 straight-screw plug (with a head) to the rear transmission case.

The issue was covered under the Toyota Powertrain Warranty and covered up to 60 000 miles.

Rough shifting

Owners complained about difficulty shifting into gears with the 6-speed manual transmission. Rough gear shifting from 1st to 2nd, slipping, and transmission shifting too early were also reported on the automatic transmissions. Other symptoms include Delayed engagement when shifting from (P)Park to (D)Drive or (R)Reverse to (D)Drive. . Owners also reported sluggish upshift when the cruise control is activated.


Toyota addressed this issue with (T-SB-0077-16) by updating the Engine Control Module (ECM, SAE term: Powertrain Control Module/PCM).  Calibration has been revised to address this condition.

3rd Gen Tacoma Engine Problems

Below is a list of the complaints by 2016 Tacoma owners. Now, these might not necessarily all be recurring issues and most were taken care of under warranty by Toyota.

  • Owners complain about engine lurching while driving on the freeway and suddenly losing power after which it shuts off.
  • Sluggish performance when rapid acceleration is needed
  • Engine emitting a loud ticking sound
  • Vehicle shudders and splutters
  • Lunging forward violently while driving
  • Rapid and constant engine misfiring
  • Depressing the gas pedal and vehicle failing to accelerate
  • Stalling
  • Failed Crank position sensor
  • Chirping, clicking and grinding noises in 4WD and power loss
  • slow acceleration and overall sluggish performance

Because these modern vehicles are all electronic and managed by the ECU, in many instances a flash reprogramming allows the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) software to be updated without replacing the ECU. In many of these cases, the issues were resolved without needing to replace any components.



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With all the transmission issues that have been reported on the 2016 and 17 models Tacoma, still manage to score a 75/100 on the JDPOWER rating system. Of the hundreds of thousands of owners who offered their independent and unbiased opinions, the Tacoma managed to come 3rd in the pickup category, falling just short behind the GMC canyon in 2nd and the Colorado in 1st who scored 77 and 79 respectively.

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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