Repairs and Maintenance Talks About the Toyota Tacoma Leaf Spring Issue

Earlier this week we covered the Toyota Tacoma leaf spring breakage issue, and today we’ll talk about our conversation with Bryan McKenna of about this same issue. Bryan is an expert on Toyota suspension systems – and off-road truck suspensions in general – and he was able to provide us with some insider details about the Tacoma leaf spring problem.

Q. Do All Tacoma Springs Have the Same Problem?

One of the first things we asked McKenna was whether all Tacoma owners should be concerned about the quality and ruggedness of their stock leaf springs. Bryan told us that for daily use, most Tacoma drivers will be fine, but that anyone who regularly tows or hauls must keep an eye on their springs to make sure that they aren’t developing any problems. In particular, Bryan said that sells more left and right leaf springs for the 1998-2000 Tacoma with four-wheel drive, indicating that that particular build range might be more prone to problems.

Why Do They Break?

In Bryan’s opinion, the reason that Tacoma springs are breaking more often than those found on other trucks that are used for similar purposes has to do with the quality of the steel that was used in their initial construction. Inferior metal and additives went into the Tacoma’s leaf springs, and as a result they are not nearly as durable as those built by the competition. McKenna also said that he has noticed that Tacoma owners “love their trucks,” and as a result may be more prone to overload them a bit in daily use.

Are There Any Quick Fixes?

Firestone air bags for the Toyota Tacoma.

We were curious as to whether Bryan had any advice for Tacoma owners who were looking to prevent their stock springs from being damaged. He told us that ensuring that the truck never carries more than its GVWR in terms of cargo hauling or trailer towing is a great place to start. He also recommended the use of helper springs to help the suspension system better manage loads. Firestone air bags and Timbren Load Boosters can also do a lot to reduce suspension stress for the Tacoma.

Timbren Load Boosters for the Toyota Tacoma.

Stock or Aftermarket Replacements?

McKenna also had some words of wisdom for those who have decided that they want to get off of the stock Tacoma suspension merry-go-round and install a more robust set of aftermarket leaf springs. He said that anyone with average mechanical capabilities can easily replace their own leaf springs, as long as they had all of the parts needed – including U-bolts, eye bolts, shackles, and bushings – as well as the required tools. The entire job can be done with a set of jack stands, basic wrenches and sockets, a hammer and pry bar and a good lug wrench or impact gun.

Bryan actually recommends using aftermarket leaf springs rather than factory Tacoma parts should replacements be needed – and not just because he sells them. Aftermarket Tacoma leaf springs are cheaper and stronger than stock components, and they are built to the same OEM specifications which means that they will fit perfectly without any need for modification. McKenna says that for most drivers, the best option is to avoid heavy duty leaf spring packs and just go for a direct stock replacement with an additional helper system such as the ones listed above. This will help avoid a harsh ride when the truck is empty while offering better performance when it is under load.

Don’t Replace Just One Leaf Pack

One caveat from Bryan for Tacoma owners replacing their leaf springs: make sure to replace both sides at the same time, even if only one seems to be damaged. Replacing in pairs makes sure that you will have the same, predictable suspension response in all driving situations and reduces the chance of unsightly body lean. It’s also a good idea to consider replacing the stock shocks at the same time, either with factory units or heavy duty Bilstein shocks, in order to keep your entire suspension system as up-to-date as possible.

We really appreciate Bryan McKenna taking the time to help explain the options available to Tacoma owners who are frustrated with stock leaf spring problems. He can be reached through the website for further assistance.