Today’s world is definitely a throwaway society. If something breaks, we don’t usually fix it. We just throw it out. There was a time when cars were like that too. Many would argue that American cars in the 90s and early 2000s were built to fail. Reliable Japanese imports took over as they seemed to never break, and were cheap to fix when they did. Thankfully, times have changed for the most part, and cars are generally built to last again.
However, most people still will not drive a vehicle over 150,000 miles for fear of them breaking or because they “need” the latest and greatest. That was not the case for Victor Sheppard who purchased his 2007 Tundra with a 4.7L V8 from LeBlanc Toyota in Louisiana. Sheppard told the general manager that he was going to put 1,000,000 miles on it. Long story short, he did just that by 2016.
One million miles is crazy enough, but this Tundra did it on the original engine, transmission, and paint! Since this was quite a momentous occasion, what did Sheppard do? He sold it. The buyer? Toyota! They also gave him a brand new Tundra to make up for his loss.
Why did Toyota buy the high mileage truck? They wanted to dissect it. Toyota wanted to know what their product looked like after 1,000,000 miles. They took it apart piece by piece. Teams studied everything from the pistons to the seats.
Toyota dynoed the engine and they said it performed even better than the new engines off the line. They tore the engine down and found it nearly impeccable. The truck drove extremely well for the miles on it. The frame had no rust, the leaf springs were in near perfect shape despite heavy loads hauled frequently, and the driver seat (which was even shipped to Japan for inspection) only had a slight tear in it. Every bit of the truck was taken down, inspected, and logged.
To say that is this an incredible story is an understatement. If you drive a Tundra, I think I can say that you’re in good hands.
If you’ve read some of our posts before you may have seen we did one on the history of the Toyota Tacoma. We don’t want to leave the big brother out! The Tundra is and has been an extremely capable and well selling truck. From off-road, to pulling, and just driving around on the streets for business and pleasure, the Tundra is a favorite with truck owners. Let’s learn a bit about where it comes from.
The Tundra all started with the T100 pickup. The Tacoma was originally introduced in North America because Toyota realized that a lot of the North American truck market used trucks as daily drivers, and not just work vehicles. Toyota also realized that the North American market also wanted bigger trucks. In 1992, the Toyota T100 came onto the market to answer this.
While it did come with an 8 foot bed, it still was not the overall size of its American counterparts. It was larger compared to the Tacoma at the time, but this caused the T100 to fall into a strange midsized pickup class. Popular now, but not quite known at the time. This was reflected in the sales as numbers were slow at the start.
The truck was almost doomed from the beginning. There was no extended cab, and no V8 option. The biggest engine you could get would be the V6 that you found in the smaller Tacoma. Any time that a new model American truck came on the market, sales seemed to suffer more and more. Toyota was forced to go back to the drawing board.
First Generation (2000-2006)
In 1999, Toyota started announcing a better version of a full size pickup called the T150 since it shared many similarities with the T100. Expectedly, Ford stepped in and did not allow that. While some of the cosmetics remained the same, the now newly renamed “Tundra,” set records.
To get the American people onboard, the truck was to be made in America. Toyota Motor Sales group vice president and general manager Don Esmond said, “It needed to be built in America because it needed to offer better value.” Beyond that, it was the first ever full size pickup to be made by a Japanese company. Production began in May 1999 (for the 2000 model year) at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana. There is where you can see the first Tundra ever made sitting on display in the lobby.
While the T100 offered up to a V6, a V6 was the base engine for the Tundra. The V6 you could get was the 24 valve 3.4L V6 that produced 190hp and 220 foot pounds of torque. New to the scene was the 4.7L "i-Force" V8 engine that produced 245hp and 315 foot pounds of torque.
Not only was the new V8 powerful, but it was the first 32 valve V8 in its class, and it was the first V8 engine to earn a “low emissions vehicle” emissions classification from the EPA. However, if you wanted to ignore all that and focus on performance, TRD offered a supercharged version of the V6 and the V8.
All those records and numbers did not go unnoticed. Sales were double the rate of the T100, and the 2000 model received Motor Trend's Truck of the Year award and Best Full Size Truck award from Consumer Reports. Not too bad for the new kid on the block.
With the correct packages and options, the Tundra also had a towing capacity of up to 7,200 pounds and a payload capacity of up to 1,924 pounds.
In 2002, there was a bit of a front end makeover for the Tundra, and a stepside version was also released. One the more interesting models came out in 2003 called the “T3,” and it was to be a special edition related to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Black with special “T3” badges and 17 inch wheels made this Tundra look pretty darn cool. The Tundra was featured prominently in the movie as the vehicle for the Emery Animal Hospital, which took part in the big chase scene of the movie.
In 2004, Tundra went after the Honda Ridgeline and Ford F-150 by having a bed that was nearly 5 inches longer. The interior got some updates as well taking hints from the Sequoia. The next year, the powerhouses under the hood got some changes too.
A 4.0L V6 was added which was rated at 236hp and 266 foot pounds of torque. The 4.7L V8 reminaed, but it was updated with Toyota's VVT-i “variable valve timing” technology. It was bumped up to 282hp.
In 2006, another special edition called the Darrell Waltrip Edition was released. It was to honor the NASCAR driver and his participation in the NASCAR Truck Series. In that year the Tundra also received a "Good" overall in their frontal offset crash test. It was the first full size truck to receive such a score.
By the end of the first generation, the Tundra had a towing capacity of up to 7,100 pounds and a payload capacity of up to 2,025 pounds. This was not a big difference from the start in 2000, but they were respectable numbers for the time.
Second Generation (2007 - Present)
In the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota showed the world its bigger and badder Tundra. Not only did it look different and grow in size, but it was more powerful by offering a new engine option: the 5.7L V8 mated to a six speed automatic transmission. The engine made 381hp and 401 foot pounds of torque. The 4.7L V8 and 4.0L V6 were still options as well, but power didn’t change much for them.
Towing capacity was bumped up to 10,600 pounds with a payload capacity of up to 1,750. This was a huge increase from the first generation, and it made for some serious competition with the Big Three.
The second generation Tundra was released with 31 configurations. There was the option of three bed lengths, three cab configurations, three wheelbases, three engines, and two transmissions.
While creature comforts were never overlooked, Toyota knew the truck had to remain a truck at heart. While of course the power and towing was there, larger door handles, deck rail systems, an integrated tow hitch, and other features were added so the “truck” roots were not forgotten. A limited slip differential, stability control, traction control, and many other features became standard.
TRD left its mark with many changes as well, including the Rock Warrior package. While color options were limited, upgrades like the 17-inch TRD forged aluminum wheels, LT285/70R-17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, Bilstein shocks, and color-matched front bumper and grille made up for it.
2014 introduced the platform that we are used to today. It also unveiled the 1794 Edition, which was focused on extreme luxury, for those who wanted a truck, but never intended to use it off-road. However, you could if you wanted to. In 2015, the TRD Pro was added to the lineup, and the 4.0L V6 was finally dropped.
As time went on, Tundra focused more on a “bigger is better” mantra. The 5.7L V8 was the only engine choice, and the Double Cab became the entry level size. While some fans may have been disappointed, Toyota focused on what most truck people wanted. The rest can go drive a Tacoma!
There are two reasons people get trucks: they want to look cool, or they need a tool to get jobs done. Lift kits are one of those modifications that can apply to both of those people. However, let’s face it: trucks need to be lifted.
Regardless of how or why you plan on lifting your Tundra, we do need to get some common terms out of the way so you can become an expert! After that, I’ll toss some examples at you, and hopefully you can determine which way is the best way to lift your ride.
Technical Info and Terminology
Coilover: A coilover is the front coil spring and shock assembly together as one unit. A typical spring and shock suspension are two separate parts.
Shock: A shock is an oil or gas filled piston that's designed to compress and expand with suspension travel. They are designed to absorb impacts to give you a smoother or stiffer ride, depending on the type you choose. You can see these inside your springs.
Upper Control Arms: UCA are at the front of your independent front suspension (IFS). They are mainly responsible for the vertical alignment of the front spindles. They generally are not load-bearing.
Lower Control Arms: LCA are also part of the front IFS. These work together with your UCA, but these see most of the load-bearing.
Leaf Springs: These are one of the oldest suspension designs. Leaf springs are made of a number of strips of metal curved slightly upward and clamped together one above the other. They are found at the rear of most pickups.
Add-A-Leaf: AALs are additional springs that are excessively arched to provide additional lift or support to the rear of some trucks.
Leaf Pack: these are a replacement set of leaf springs. They are generally designed to have a better spring rate. Leaf packs may also add lift or additional load capacity.
We have now covered all of the parts, but we need to talk about alignment. Alignment is more than just making sure your steering wheel is pointing the correct way. Even if your alignment is a hair off, it will cause uneven wear and tear on your tires and suspension. ALWAYS make sure you have your truck aligned after doing any suspension work, especially when adding a lift.
Caster: This is the angle that your front tires are tilted in relation to the steering axis.
Camber: The angle that your tires are in relation to the vertical axis when viewed from the front of the vehicle.
Toe: The angle at which your front tires turn in or out in relationship to each other.
Types of Lift Kits - Front
Now that we’ve made it through the terms, let’s focus on the meat and potatoes: the different options you have for lift kits on your Toyota Tundra. For the front of your truck, there are three main ways to achieve lift: spacers, coils, and coilovers.
Spacer Lift Kits, which are also known as leveling kits, leveling spacers, or spring blocks, are the most affordable way to get a fixed amount of lift out of your truck. This is achieved by literally adding a spacer between the body of your truck and the suspension.
The biggest upside to this type of lift is that you do not need to invest in any other suspension parts which makes these pretty inexpensive. The biggest downside is that they are not suitable for serious off-roading. They are best for looks and lighter off-roading and give one to three inches of lift.
Coil and Coilover Lift Kits have to deal with actually replacing yoru stock suspension pieces. As stated in the terms, a coilover kit is a single unit containing your spring and shock together. A coil is just the coil. However, they both achieve the same end goal.
Replacing the coils can give some change, but for the best performance, lift, and off-road capabilities, you’ll want to look at coilover kits. While they are the most expensive, you get what you pay for. Not only is it the safest way to get the most lift, but if a company is pairing a spring and shock together, you can be assured they will not only work well together, but have a better warranty compared to various parts you may put together. It’s also hard to beat the “plug and play” nature of a coilover kit.
Let’s take a look at some popular options for your Tundra:
For almost nothing (compared to the cost of other trucks mods), you can get up to three inches of lift from the Rough Country kit. You can dial in just the amount of lift you want with their included spaces to get the look you desire.
As you can see by the instant price increase, coilovers are indeed more expensive. These coilovers are adjustable from 2-3 inches, and have a host of other beneficial features.
Types of Lift Kits - Rear
The rear of your truck is a bit different. Instead of a coiled spring, we’ll be looking at a group of long and slightly curved springs called leaf springs. With these, the most common way to get lift is through lift blocks, add-a-leafs, and leaf packs.
Lift blocks act the same way spacers do. It’s a block that is added between your axles and your leaf springs. Like spacers, I would not consider these for serious off-roading. These will be your most cost effective means of getting a few inches of lift. For looks and general off-roading, these are the way to go.
Add-A-Leafs were covered in the terminology, but they increase the curve of your rear suspension which gives you more lift. An added benefit to the lift is a greater load capacity as well!
Leaf packs are similar to the way coilovers are for the front as they replace your stock leaf springs in the back. Depending on what kit you get, these could increase your ride height, increase or decrease suspension travel, hauling capacity, and so on.
For the most durable and versatile solution, Icon makes the leaf pack that can take a beating. You can choose from three different ways of configuring the kit to give you up to four inches of lift.
Your truck is waiting to be lifted and modded. Tundra is good for it! Keep in mind that a truck is made to work best from the factory. Changing one component may affect others. Any time you change any component of the suspension, it is good practice to get an alignment to make sure everything works well and lasts long.
Find the kit that works best for your needs and budget. Be safe, have fun, and lift ‘em up!
While a good number of people get trucks because they can look cool, the Toyota Tundra is a very capable machine when it comes to towing, but just how much can the Tundra handle? Towing is the main reason I moved from a Tacoma to a Tundra and I'm happy to report that it can tow a lot! For this post, I’ll be focusing on some of the newer models (2018+). Let’s get into it.
Depending on options and packages, the Tundra can pull 9,400 to 10,200 pounds. That’s pretty impressive, but not unexpected from the powerhouse in the form of the 5.7l V8 under the hood. To compare, the best the Tacoma can do from the factory is only 6,800 pounds. Toyota knows that people who buy the Tundra are going to be buying trucks. For that reason, the Tow Package is standard on all 2021 Tundras.
What The Tundra Has
What does that Tow Package get you? A lot! You get a towing hitch receiver, 4.300 rear axle ratio, TOW/HAUL Mode switch, Integrated Trailer Brake Controller (ITBC), a heavy-duty battery, 170-amp alternator, and a 4-/7-pin connector.
Let’s break some of that down. First off, the Tundra’s frame features an integrated tow hitch receiver and a trailer hitch that utilizes 12 high-strength bolts that are secured directly to the frame. When you’re using that to tow your load, you’ll be pleased to know that Tundra’s Integrated Trailer Brake Controller and Trailer-Sway Control are there for you.
Why It’s Good to Have
Now you know what the Tundra has, but why? Any time your truck is pulling or hauling more than the weight of the vehicle, it has to work harder. This means it needs power. Thankfully the 5.7l V8 gives that, but the upgraded battery and alternator are a must.
The integrated hitch receiver ensures the most optimal way for the safety of the truck but evenly distributing the forces caused by towing. The Integrated Trailer Brake Controller (ITBC) system is designed to link the trailer’s brake system with the Tundra’s, making towing easier and safer than ever before. This will tell your vehicle how much braking power to supply to each wheel of the truck and trailer to get you the safest and most secure braking.
The Trailer-Sway Control (TSC) helps keep control of your trailer. It will detect a sway in your trailer, generally before you even notice it. To compensate, it will apply brakes to the wheels where needed, and lessen some torque coming from the engine. All this helps keep your trailer where it is supposed to be!
Tongue Weight/Load of The Tundra
When towing, you have to make sure you have the right setup on your hitch to tow the right load. You need to consider your “tongue weight” or “tongue load.” Tongue load is the static force a trailer tongue puts on the hitch ball.
Generally speaking, your tongue weight or load is 10 percent of the total trailer weight. If you’ve maxed out your Tundra to its 10,200 pound towing capacity, your max tongue load is 1,020 pounds.
I mentioned this when I talked about Tacomas, however there is so much more science that I could get into, but West Marine has an excellent article and all the mathematical details on how to select the proper hitch, ball, coupler, and just about all the other stuff you need. You can read the article here: Sizing Up Trailer Hitches and Couplers.
Payload Capacity of The Tundra
Towing is great, but many people get a pickup so they can throw what they need in the back. Payload capacity is the amount that can be hauled above the axles, or in the bed of the truck. With a new Tundra, you can get from 1,520 to 1,730 pounds of stuff in your bed. With a 5 foot bed or a 6.5 foot bed, the sky is pretty much the limit with what you want to tow or haul.
Things Will Change When You Tow
Towing is a big deal. You’re changing the way your truck works. The handling is different, gas mileage is different, turning is different, and so on. Thankfully Toyota does make a lot of this easy with all of its features and standard equipment. However, you do want to make sure that you take some extra caution when you are towing something in your Tundra.
If you plan on using your Tundra for towing, know that Toyota thought of you. Many trucks out there need optional packages or aftermarket parts. Tundra comes ready to tackle whatever towing you need to throw at it. While there IS an aftermarket for these trucks, it’s not too important. Just make sure you don’t overload your truck, and drive carefully!
If you own a 2nd gen Tacoma, chances are you’ve done something to modify it to make it truly unique. This could be something free, or it could have cost you thousands or dollars.
After scouring the Internet and the Tacoma forums, I’ve put together a list of the top twenty mods under $200 for your second generation Toyota Tacoma build out.
TRD Pro Grille ($139)
One of the quickest and best looking mods for a 2nd gen Tacoma is a TRD Pro grille. These full inserts can be easily swapped out with no modifications to your truck in about twenty minutes. Add raptor lights and you'll be off roading in style. You can buy them right here on our site by clicking on of the links below.
While it may seem like a no brainer, many manufacturers these days don’t make their cars or trucks with hood struts. Perhaps it’s to save money, or perhaps ensure longevity, but let’s face it: hood struts are cool. They assist in opening your hood, and give you more room when you need to work with that prop not being a thing of the past. You can get them cheaper, but this is a good kit from Redline Tuning that many people are happy with.
A great way to give your truck a mean look is to black out the taillights. While you could use a spray can, going the extra mile with a replacement kit is the best way. Incandescent bulbs might not shine as well through the tint, so why not bring your truck up to modern specs with LED lights while you’re at it? This will be to taste, but the kit here is a nice aggressive look, and will give you a good starting point.
Incandescent bulbs are classic, but LED bulbs are much brighter. For cheap, you can replace your map, dome, vanity, license plate, and reverse lights in this one kit. This is one of the best 2nd gen interior mods available.
While tint may be a little more expensive, it has two functions: it looks good, and keeps your truck cool on those hot summer days. Look around for a place by you that does it. It’s best to find a place that offers some type of warranty on their work in the event the tint starts to bubble. Check your local laws to see how dark your tint can legally be.
Chrome looks good, but when you want that blacked out look, you can get expensive replacement parts, or you could get a couple cans of black spray paint, or Plasti Dip. This route may not be the most durable, but it will give you quick custom results that you can touch up any time. The benefit to using Plasti Dip is that you can peel it off if you ever get bored with it, or want to sell your truck. (But, why would you ever sell your truck?)
This one does involve some tools, skill, and elbow grease, but if you want some extra power to your bed, then adding a 12V plug might be a great option. While the 110V plug is great, many things we get for our vehicles come with 12V plugs. This guide will show you the cheapest way to add the socket to your bed, should you need it.
For a fraction of the cost of a new pre-made one, you can extend your bed with some wood, paint, screws, and a couple extra pieces. You can make a really good looking and effective piece of hardware. I would not suggest leaving it on 24-7 if you don’t need to. Even if you get treated wood, it may warp during extreme weather over time.
Lighting is probably one of the most noticeable, effective, and cheapest modifications you can do to any vehicle, as I’ve shown on a few mods already. Your bed is no exception. While this may be more expensive than putting fog or driving lights in the side pockets by the cab, this method looks great, is very bright, and will give your trucks a very nice custom and unique look.
You can’t leave your headlight stock after getting those smoked LED taillights. Projector headlights are what you find on high-end cars and trucks. Smoked ones will give you that mean look, but with the power of the light behind them, you won’t have to worry about visibility issues. This is just one of the options out there.
Back-up cameras are almost becoming standard on newer vehicles. While you can get aftermarket ones that mount on your license plate, those look cheap and might not give you the best view. This kit emulates the camera on the new Tacos, but at a fraction of the cost. It’s something to look into to give you the feel of a newer truck, and to assist with seeing what’s behind you. You will need to get a display of some sort.
These are a great way to add style and protection to your truck. The aggressive look says, “Get out of my way.” If you are into off-roading, it’s a great way to protect parts like your bumper, grill, and radiator from getting too damaged. There are a few options. This is just one.
I go into pretty extreme detail in a previous post about lifting your Tacoma. Some options are effective, yet pretty inexpensive. Lift blocks, spacers, and leveling kits can be found for under $200. As long as you are not doing any serious off-roading, they look great, and are effective for some extra ground clearance.
This involves a bit of elbow grease, but for a few bucks and some of your time, you can create something usually only found on luxury vehicles. It’s a helpful and unique feature that will have people asking about how you did it.
Wheels are a great way to express your style, but they can get rather expensive. Painting them is a cheap way to get the look you want, with only spending a few bucks and a little bit of your time. Just remember to take your time. If you rush, it can turn out looking quite bad. You can always touch them up if they chip, and best part about Plasti Dip is that if you don’t like it, just peel it off!
Custom Lug Nuts (About $30)
I don’t have a link for this one because there are so many options, even though most people tend to overlook this. For generally around thirty bucks, you can get chrome ones, black chrome ones, matte black, different styles, and so on. Like the ideas for the grill and wheels, you can also paint or Plasti Dip your stock ones. Just keep in mind that if you do that, it’s chipping the instant an impact wrench hits it.
With a couple bucks and little splicing, you can add a unique feature and turn your side markers into turn signals even when they are off. Not only is it different, but it’s a great safety feature too.
Again, lighting is super simple and effective. Adding lights to your center console gives a touch of luxury to your truck.
Not all mods and aftermarket performance parts have to be expensive. Many of these are super cheap, and just take a little bit of your time. Take a look at your truck, and think about what you can do. While money may be the limit sometimes, it mostly just comes down to your imagination and creativity, so I hope this post has given you some good ideas. Now, get out there and mod your Tacoma!
* Please note the following:
These mods should fit the following models: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, & 2015. Please verify with the seller that this is the case before ordering.
Prices fluctuate daily on Amazon/eBay and the prices represented above are accurate as the day of this posting.
Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links and we make a small commission if you purchase the product.