Accessories & Gear

Diagnosing Drivetrain Vibration – Drive Shafts, Axle Shims, and Carrier Bearing Drop Kits

We’ve put together a three-part series that takes a look at the most popular after-market components used to counter Tacoma drivetrain vibration:

  1. After-market drive shafts (this post)
  2. Rear axle shims
  3. Carrier bearing drop kits

In each post, we will get to the bottom of each component’s effectiveness in reducing and/or removing a driveline vibration on a lifted Tacoma.

Drivetrain vibration is a often-heard complaint amongst owners of lifted Toyota Tacomas. This vibration can manifest in a number of ways, including shuddering while under power or decelerating, shuddering in the cab at idle, or any combination of clunks, clanks or unwanted noise at speed.

There are a number of different products that lifted Tacoma drivers often turn to as a potential remedy for this particular issue.  First up, we’ll look at after-market drive shafts.

Single Piece Drive shafts

Aftermarket drive shafts which replace the two-piece stock Tacoma design with a single tube unit are often seen as one of the best ways to counter drivetrain issues on lifted trucks. I spoke with Troy at Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts, an off-road axle supplier with a great reputation, about just how effective moving to a single piece drive shaft can be in terms of solving drivetrain vibration issues.

Tom Wood’s doesn’t build two-piece units – they exclusively manufacture single tube drive shafts in a number of different designs. Each of their drive shafts is guaranteed to operate up to the expectations their customers, and the company will triple-check the balance of any shaft that gets returned, in addition to verifying the calibration of their equipment in order to make sure that it meets their standards.

Stock Two-Piece Issues

Troy explained that there is a bit of issue with the hanger bearing for the Tacoma’s two-piece shaft, as it features a cushion that he described as flimsy and malleable. Changing the driveline geometry of the pickup by way of a lift kit causes the U-joint to try to straighten itself out, which can result in downward or side kicking motions. This disrupts the power flow from the engine to the wheels.

Fixed yoke double cardan drive shaft.

A single piece drive shaft can help to solve this particular vibration issue. The recommendation from Tom Wood’s for Tacoma drivers with lifted trucks is to opt for a double cardan single drive shaft that cancels out much of the jerky rotation of the stock drive shaft that is amplified by the lifted driveline geometry.

Reverse slip double cardan driveshaft.

Troy did caution that the shaft’s heavier than stock weight could introduce a bit of extra noise while under load, as well as not feel quite as smooth as a stock drive shaft. This is due to the way that the single piece shaft’s weight hangs off of the back of the transfer case and the pinion bearings. However, in his opinion this is not a significant issue, and the majority of Tacoma owners who have purchased and installed single piece shafts are completely happy with the result.

Can A Single Piece Help A Stock Tacoma With Vibration Issues?

I asked Troy if a single piece drive shaft could help tone down driveline vibrations for Tacomas still at stock ride height. He mentioned that yes, it could be one solution to this type of problem, but he also cautioned that driveline geometry and alignment is a complicated issue and that there could be other factors contributing to this type of drivetrain harshness alongside a drive shaft issue.

Double cardan drive shaft geometry.

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the additional areas of interest that Toyota Tacoma owners should investigate when attempting to combat driveline vibration problems.