There’s no better feeling than when you leave the blacktop for that dirt road leading into the mountainside. At that moment you know the off-road journey really begins and you finally get to engage 4H (4 wheel drive) on your “Taco”. Tacoma’s have been rated to have one of the best 4WD systems and it gives you a real feeling of sure-footedness when driving like you can travel at any speed with confidence.
When driving in 4H in a Tacoma, it is recommended to stay below 60mph when traveling on a low traction surface. 4Lo is only engaged when doing technical obstacles, steep inclines, and declines or rock crawling that requires maximum traction and power delivery.
If you engage 4H on your Tacoma, you should be driving on a low traction surface like:
- Muddy tracks
- Dirt roads
- Icy conditions
Since these are all low traction surfaces, we don’t really want to be traveling at high speeds, even if the road is flat and straight. Limit your driving speed to 60mph for safety reasons. Turning, stopping and emergency maneuvers become a lot more challenging on a low traction surface and take longer to complete.
Let’s look into this in more detail and see what we need to remember when driving your Tacoma in 4H and 4L. We’ll also discuss the proper 4WD engagement process and later we’ll determine if it’s possible to convert a 2WD Tacoma drivetrain to a 4WD.
How Fast Can You Drive In 4 Wheel Drive Toyota Tacoma
So, we’ve since established that 60mph is a safe traveling speed with your Tacoma. With any 4WD for that matter, driving at a maximum speed of 60mph is recommended.
A factory standard Tacoma is a relatively safe pickup and comes equipped with many handling and safety features. With 17” wheels, brake actuated LSD (limited slip diff), and a front anti-roll bar, I can see why you’ll feel tempted to push it well beyond 60mph and still feel comfortable. The Tacoma could do that with ease.
With the standard Tacoma coming equipped with electronic stability, Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) forward-collision sensing, 4-wheel ABS brakes, and traction control, this is one off-road beast to be reckoned with.
But with all those safety features and electronic gadgets, designed to keep safe in the event of a collision, does not mean we can now ignore the laws of physics and push it to crazy speeds.
Driving Your Tacoma in 4H
When driving off-road with your Tacoma, she feels right at home. The 4WD high (4H) setting can be selected while driving under 50 miles per hour. Once engaged you will physically feel and hear the system kick in right away within seconds for increased traction. With a 24-degree departure angle and a 29-degree approach angle, there aren’t many places the Tacoma can’t take you. Sporting a ground clearance of 9.4” (23.8cm) it’s a real go-anywhere type truck, which instills confidence in any driver.
Even with all these amazing specifications, we don’t want to become like cowboys when out on the tracks. We need to respect nature and stay on the designated tracks to keep the 4WD footprint as low as possible.
Let’s now look at driving in 4L (Low range) with your Tacoma.
Driving Your Tacoma in 4L
When engaging (4L) 4WD low-range, always ensure you first bring the truck to a complete stop. The same applies when switching from 4L back to 4H, bring the truck to a stop first and place your vehicle in neutral before turning the vehicle’s knob back to 4H or 2H.
4L should be operated under challenging conditions when traction is low and road surfaces are uneven and rocky.
What’s a good way of determining when we should engage 4L?
If you can’t drive the road in 4H faster than 1st gear without either damaging the track or your vehicle, then you can safely engage 4Lo. This will take the strain off your engine and drivetrain by delivering power better. Also, being 4L uses lower ratio gears which keep revs high, always in the power band and making stalling harder.
Engaging 4 Wheel Drive (4H) On Your Tacoma
Shifting between H2 and H4 is a quick and easy process. Start by reducing your speed to less than 62 mph (100 km/h). Next, turn the 4WD control switch fully clockwise, from 2H to 4H. Your 4WD indicator should light up on your instrument panel. If the 4WD indicator continues to blink, drive straight ahead while accelerating or decelerating. If the buzzer sounds, stop the vehicle completely or reduce the vehicle speed to less than 62 mph (100 km/h). Operate the switch again until the 4H light has disappeared.
Remember never to switch your Tacoma from 2H to 4H if your wheels are slipping. Make sure the spinning wheels have stopped before you engage 4H.
Engaging Low Range (4Lo) On Your Tacoma
If you have an Automatic transmission, make sure you stop the vehicle completely while holding your foot on the brake pedal. Next shift the gear shifter into (N) Neutral. Push and turn the FWD control switch fully clockwise.
If you drive a manual transmission, reduce your speed to less than 2mph (3km/h) and depress the clutch pedal. Push and turn the 4WD control switch fully clockwise.
In both the manual and the automatic transmission trucks, If the 4WD indicator flashes and the buzzer sounds, repeat the above steps again. Try again by bringing the truck to a complete stop.
Can You Convert 2wd To 4wd Tacoma?
So you want to convert your trusty 4×2 Tacoma to a 4WD? Why would anyone even attempt such a project?
Well for various reasons, some of them being:
- Emotional or Sentimental value
- You’ve overcapitalized on accessories
- Fun project to take on
Notice, I never added, cost-saving. That’s because selling your 4×2 and buying a 4WD Tacoma is always going to be a better and cheaper option. If it’s a cost-saving you’re after then a 2WD to 4WD conversion is definitely not the way to go.
Whatever the reason, the good news is it can be done. There are actually specialists who a schooled in the art of 2WD to 4Wd conversions on Tacoma’s. I’ll post a link below.
But basically the following needs to happen:
- A 4WD transmission from a FJ Cruiser with a rear adapter to mate up with the transfer case
- You’ll need to butcher your floor to allow the transfer case shifter up into the cabin
- You’ll need a custom cross-member fabricated up since the original or 4WD from a Taco won’t fit.
- New front drivetrain components
- New Front diff
- New Front CV axles along with all the 4wd front hubs, seals and appropriate dust covers
- A RST ADD harness so you can activate your front diff
- You’ll need custom Drive shafts
- Custom exhaust work to accommodate the new transfer case
Sounds like a fun job! There’s a link below to the guys at rocksolidtoys who are pioneers and specialize in this type of 4WD magic.
Toyota Tacoma 4 Wheel Drive Problems
2009, 2016, and 2017 Tacoma’s have been the most problematic year models by far with the most complaints and TSB’s (Technical Service Bulletins) read more about that here: 3rd Gen Tacoma Problems
2009 suffered mainly from interior accessories problems while 2016 was plagued by transmission and drivetrain vibration gremlins, mainly in the automatics.
Most of the drivetrain complaints were about vibrations and shudders.
- Flashing 2WD to 4WD icon on instrument panel
- Gas pedal buzzes/vibrates on acceleration through most RPMS levels.
- vibration in steering wheel
- transmission shifting wrong and shakes
- alternating drone sound and felt in steering
- Driveline vibrations at 20 mph, 35 mph, and at 50 mph
Most of these issues are transmission-related and have subsequently been addressed by Toyota in TSB’s under their warranty.
Why Does My Toyota Tacoma Beep In 4 Low?
Your Tacoma beeps in 4Lo to indicate the transfer case has not engaged fully. You need to bring the truck to a complete stop and repeat the process. Crawl forward slowly to allow the low-range gears to mesh properly and allow 4Lo to engage. The beeping alarm is to let you know that 4LO has not engaged properly
When it comes to driving your Taco in 4H, keep your speed to 60mph max. Follow the manufactures recommended guidelines on proper 2H to 4H engaging as well as 4H to 4L. If your 4L does not engage while creeping forward, the 4WD light will flash and beep indicating your low-range gears have not engaged properly.