10 years with a Toyota Tacoma

Going ahead with my car review theme. I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little about my 2002 Taco.

It’s been my girlfriend for a while now, and it’s hard to over-state how much this vehicle kicks ass.

I could talk for a while about adventures and other such things that I’d like to relate, but let’s start with the facts.

2002 Toyota Tacoma

  • Engine: 3.4 liter V6 DOHC 190 horsepower. 5VZ-FE
  • 5 speed manual 4WD transmission with an electric differential lock.
  • Body Style: Xtra-cab
  • Lifted 2 inches using Icon coil overs in the front, and add a leafs in the rear. Bilstein rear shocks. (The Bilstein’s suck ass. Don’t buy them. The Icons are awesome)
  • 247,000 miles. No engine/drivetrain/electrical failures. Just changed the clutch for the first time about 6 months ago. I expect it’ll continue to run fine for another 100K.


Northern Nevada Backcountry
Northern Nevada Backcountry

This really means 2 things to me, on-road and off-road. It’s a truck, not a car, and on-road performance is affected as a result. The suspension is stiff (especially after the lift) and I’m sure if I tried I could roll it over in a turn. On road it has plenty of power though, and cruises comfortably at 80+ mph if I need to, and if need be, I can always drive over things to get where I’m going. (Bushes, center-dividers, cats, dogs, etc..)

Off road is where it starts to show it’s color (green by the way). This is no rock-crawling custom Jeep or, a super desert racer that can jump 30 feet in the air, but for what I do, it’s almost perfect.

1) Traction – it’s 4WD, has a lock (just rear) and I’ve never had an issue with traction. I drive mostly in the deserts of the southwest, so mud isn’t really an issue, but what mud and snow I’ve see hasn’t been an issue. I’ve driven many miles off-road through un-plowed roads with 12″ of snow and it’s dealt gracefully with it.

2) Clearance – out of the factory clearance is good. I would occasionally wish that I had a little more, and navigating tough spots was a little tougher than I wanted, so I put 2 inches in the suspension with new coil-overs in the front and add-a-leafs. Now it’s perfect. It’s not too high, not too low, and I don’t think I could improve on it much without hurting the rest of the package.

3) Storage – yeah, it’s a truck, and you can put stuff in the back. This is one of 2 things that made me buy a truck rather than a Jeep. I can carry enough supplies to last out in the boonies for quite a long time. Even with 2 people carrying crap. Try that in a Jeep. Sure there’s Jeep trailers, and racks, and stuff, but *yawn* sounds like a pain in the butt.

4) Size – It’s small. Not as short as a jeep (see Jeep envy below) but it is narrow and fits places well, and being small helps, a lot when you’re out cruising around.

5) Wheel base – This is a boon and a curse. I can drive comfortably on bumpy roads at very high speeds in comparison to some vehicles out there. This is good, since there’s some long lonely dirty roads out there, and sometimes you just want to get to the next spot. On the down side, I’ve seen jeeps drive around stuff it took me 3 minutes to navigate. *shrug*

Nevada Desert
Nevada Desert Mountains


 Old Age

235,000  miles later, it starts immediately, gets essentially the same mileage as when brand new, and is reliable and capable still. A few things are showing their age and seem to be symptomatic with these vehicles:

Rear axle leak: The rear axle seals started leaking onto my rear drum brakes at about 220,000 miles. Grease and brakes are kind of opposite tools, so you can imagine the result wasn’t great. It was noticeable that my emergency brake and stopping power kind of just quit.  In talking to others including the dealer it’s apparently fairly common with these trucks. If you have one, keep it in mind. Not too bad since at 220K miles, these were still the original set of factory brake pads.

Front Bumper: Over the course of hundreds of miles of bumpy roads, the bolts holding the front bumper wore through. If I had watched more closely, I could of tightened them and avoided the issue, but it wasn’t apparent until it broke.

Mass Air Flow sensor: The MAF sensor has gone out, and is throwing the CPU into an open loop condition. My power has gone down and you can smell that it’s not burning gas as efficiently any longer. This is my next thing to fix, I’m just not getting the horsepower any more. The O2 sensor is throwing errors too which I’m sure is also a problem.

Cats – The exhaust mesh of platinum and other goodness seems to have turned to dust. This is an issue since they’re pretty expensive to replace. I’m waiting for now since the truck runs fine, but at some point I’ll have to dump a grand or two into it I expect to get this fixed.

Update: I replaced the O2 sensor and the MAF, and the cat issue has gone away and the truck runs as good as ever. I’m even gettting better mileage. I think it’s running slightly leaner now for some reason, so I average 19-20 MPG, which is better than when I bought it. Go figure.

The High Sierras of California


As the current blue book value shows this 10 year old, 235,000 miles vehicle to still be worth over 1/3 of it’s showroom value, ($7,033 at ‘fair’ condition, their lowest rating) this vehicle is known to be one of the best at holding it’s value out there period.  I’ve had many amazing adventures with it, and it’s held up, gone over, and through some of the harshest conditions a vehicle will face and not complained one bit.  I’m pretty sad Toyota decided to update their proven rock-solid model, but even the new Tacoma design seems to be pretty nice.

This truck is hard to beat.

Death Valley Winter Storm
Death Valley Winter Storm
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2 comments on “10 years with a Toyota TacomaAdd yours →

  1. Great article and I share the same sentiment about my 99′ single cab 4cyl. 4×4 Tacoma. Loved it, drove it forever only parting when on a recall Toyota bought it back for 1.5x its value due to a frame issue. I now have an 09′ extended cab 4×4 V6 which I care nothing about. The newer design seems to somehow miss all of what the original had. It’s just a few inches too big and now drives like a full size truck, keep your 02′ until they ask for it in parades. 

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