Changing the Oil on a 2016 and Newer Toyota Tacoma Is Unnecessarily Difficult

If you’re the type to “do it yourself” when it comes to maintaining your vehicle, then you might want to be aware of the oil change process on the third-generation Toyota Tacoma, should you plan to buy one. While it’s still a great truck, the 2016 and newer Tacoma requires an oil change process that is unnecessarily difficult.

2016-2021 Toyota Tacoma oil change

If you have never done it, changing the oil on a truck or SUV is generally pretty easy considering you don’t even have to jack up the vehicle. Although, we must include the disclaimer that you should always use the proper safety equipment and tools when working on your vehicle, regardless if you have to jack it up or not. That being said, if you own a 2015 and earlier Toyota Tacoma, then you can enjoy the benefits of having a top-side oil filter that’s easy to remove.

However, if you are planning to buy a 2016 or newer Toyota Tacoma, then we advise to either take the truck to the dealer to get an oil change done or at least know what you’re getting into if you plan to do it yourself.

A gray 2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition parked on brown dirt in front of green and brown mountains
2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

It’s all about the oil filter

Don’t get us wrong, changing the actual oil in the third-generation Tacoma is as routine as can be. You simply crawl under the truck, located the oil drain plug, and unscrew it to drain the oil. But the fun part comes when you have to change the actual oil filter. Unlike the handy and convenient oil filters on the Tacomas of the past, which use normal screw-on type filters, the newer Tacomas use a “cartridge-style” oil filter that consists of the filter element, a couple of O-rings, and a plastic bleeder valve.

2021 Toyota Tacoma parked
2021 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

In order to change the filter on the third-generation Tacoma, here are some simple steps:

  • First, you need to remove the skid plate via the four 10mm bolts fastening it to the truck.
  • Locate the oil filter, which looks like a black plastic cylinder with a metal plate on it.
  • Remove the metal plate using your 3/8-inch socket wrench and be aware that some oil will drain out upon doing so.
  • When the plate is removed, you’ll be able to see the exposed filter housing
  • Next, you’ll need to drain the oil filter using that plastic bleeder valve
  • Simply press the valve into the filter and watch the oil pour out. It helps to either have a bottle or a hose leading to a drain pan attached to the valve when you press on it since oil could go everywhere.
  • When you’re done draining the filter, you can then use your socket wrench and oil filter wrench to remove the actual filter housing.
  • Replace the old O-rings on the housing with the new ones that came in your oil filter kit. Make sure they are adequately lubed before doing so.
  • Replace the oil filter element with the new one
  • After the oil filter is put together, you can now install it back on the engine. Just be sure not to cross-thread the housing since it’s made of plastic and can easily be damaged,
  • Reinstall the skid plate

You Should Consider a Used 2012 Toyota Tacoma for Under $20,000

Why are there so many steps?

As we can see, that’s a lot of steps just to change an oil filter. If it were a normal filter, then it would just be a process of simply unscrewing and then screwing a new one on. However, with the new filter style, the process is much more involved although it does the same job as the older filters.

So why would Toyota do this? The only theory we can think of is that the automaker wants consumers to bring their cars to the dealership for oil changes. And while that’s really only a theory, one thing we do know is that the “do-it-yourself” route is getting a little tougher. However, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker if you plan on buying a newer Tacoma. If anything, just take it to the dealer for oil changes.