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The Toyota Tacoma is well known for being reliable. But it does not have a reputation as the world’s most advanced midsize pickup truck. So you might be surprised to hear that two of the top mechanical Toyota Tacoma issues are actually caused by a malfunctioning onboard computer.

The automatic transmission shifting erratically

Toyota Tacoma spraying mud as it navigates a trail in 4WD.
Toyota Tacoma | Alexander Londono via Unsplash

When my colleague Nathaniel Ehringer wrote up the most common Tacoma problems reported by Toyota owners, an automatic transmission shifting at the wrong time made the list. When the experts at 1A Auto wrote up the worst third-gen Tacoma (2016-present) issues, a malfunctioning transmission made their list as well.

This Toyota Tacoma problem can manifest as a truck hesitating when you go from park to reverse or reverse to drive. It can also be an engine that’s slow to shift while on an incline, or shifts hard while driving, or even seems to shift unnecessarily in cruise control.

A transmission issue like this can often be caused by low automatic transmission fluid or another mechanical issue. And some Tacoma owners found that replacing the shift solenoid or adjusting the throttle position sensor fixed their Toyota transmission issues. But this fix doesn’t solve the problem for many Tacomas: they have an issue with the calibration of the computer that controls the transmission. Luckily Toyota has developed a software update to fix this that dealers can install.

Turning the steering wheel stalls out the engine

A man's hand on the steering wheel of his Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, snowy mountains visible through the windshield.
Toyota Tacoma | Dusty Barnes via Unsplash

Here’s another pesky issue: Some owners found that if they turned their steering wheel while their Toyota Tacoma engine was idling, the RPM dropped, or the engine even stalled completely. Others reported the opposite issue; when they turn the steering wheel, the engine revs for no apparent reason.

At first, this might seem like a simple mechanical issue: perhaps the power steering pump is drawing more power than it should. But according to 1A Auto’s mechanics, this “idle surge with steering input” is actually a computer malfunction. This problem was bad enough that Toyota recalled the affected Tacomas to install new software.

How do you know if your truck is affected? Well, it should idle at between 500-1000 RPM. If turning your steering wheel puts your engine outside this range, it may be worth checking out. You can call your local dealer or Toyota’s customer service at 1-800-331-4331 and share your VIN to see if you have any open recalls.

Bonus: Worn crank position sensor limits acceleration

Black Toyota Tacoma with a white cap is parked on a paved road with snow-covered trees visible in the background.
Toyota Tacoma | Ryan Stone via Unsplash

Another mechanical issue some Toyota Tacoma owners have reported is their engine stumbling when they try to accelerate from an idle. This might seem like a mechanical issue, but it is computer related–with a physical cause.

The Tacoma’s onboard computer adjusts the engine’s timing based on the RPM. It uses a magnetic sensor to tell the crankshaft’s position and adjust accordingly. When this sensor fails, the computer struggles to adapt to acceleration, and the truck runs poorly. Sadly, this problem cannot be fixed by a simple software update. You must instead have the crank position sensor replaced.

Next, find out what about the Tundra reveals just how dated Tacomas are, or watch 1A Auto’s rundown of the top Tacoma problems in the video below: