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    What Is The Difference Between A Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport, Off-Road, and Pro?

    What Is The Difference Between A Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport, Off-Road, and Pro?

    Most of the blog here at Empyre Off-Road has been dedicated to educating people on aftermarket parts Tacoma parts and options, however, there hasn't been much talk about factory options. What comes stock from Toyota? What is included in each trim? Let's take some time to dive into that. When it comes to Tacoma's there are three trim levels you can get, they are the TRD Pro, the TRD Sport, and the TRD Off-Road. What’s the difference? Which one should you get? Let’s find out a little more about them so you can decide which version of the durable and reliable Toyota Tacoma you want.

    In the event you were wondering: TRD stands for “Toyota Racing Development.” This is Toyota’s in-house tuning shop for all Toyota, Lexus, and formerly Scion cars. TRD is responsible both for improving street cars for more performance and supporting Toyota's racing interests around the world.

    TRD Sport

    Some Tacomas will never see dirt. Let’s face it: yes, these are durable and capable trucks, but they also look good. Some people buy them just because they want to. If you’re looking for a little extra bling for your highway commutes, the TRD Sport is probably your best option.

    Ironically, there is not much sport to the TRD Sport. It is mostly cosmetic; an appearance package over the base (SR) model. The Sport offers body-colored bumpers and fender flares, a non-functional hood scoop, 17-inch wheels with street tires, a "sport-tuned" suspension, and a front air dam attached at the base of the front bumper.

    The sport-tuned suspension means that it is stiffer. There is less body-roll and less flex, which makes it ideal for driving on pavement. You want your truck’s suspension to flex when you’re driving over rocks, but you don’t want that if you have to quickly change lanes on a highway.

    The 2020 Tacoma TRD Sport starts at $32,745. For comparison, the SR (base) starts at $26,050.

    TRD Off-Road

    The Off-Road package for the Toyota Tacoma is a great starting place for those weekend warriors who like to do some off-roading, hill climbing, and tackle other similar terrains. Some of the goodies you get include Bilstein shock absorbers, locking rear differential, Crawl Control, Multi-Terrain Select, 16-in wheels, Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar-lined off-road tires, and black plastic fender flares.

    These are some pricey modifications that many would do to their truck for off-roading, and you can get them from the factory here. The shocks help absorb the bumps and rattles of the rough terrain while the locking differential keeps power going through both wheels for extra traction. Speaking of extra traction, the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select are great features to help get the most help from your truck while off-roading, and they are not really something you can get aftermarket. The tires and fenders are more durable over the stock equivalents, and the smaller wheels assist in off-road capabilities compared to the larger 17-inch ones on the Pro.

    The 2020 Tacoma TRD Off-Road starts at $34,000. That’s not much more compared to the Sport. Of course, prices will vary (for each) model based on options.

    TRD Pro

    While this is the most expensive model starting at $43,960, this what you get if you want a serious off-road machine from the factory. And yes, that means you get a factory warranty on the beast! If you’re beyond the weekend warrior status when it comes to off-roading, or perhaps you just want the best money can buy for a factory Tacoma, the Pro comes with everything the Off-Road does plus tons of extras.

    Fox off-road suspension with front coilovers and remote reservoir rear shock absorbers, 1-inch suspension lift, TRD ¼ inch aluminum front skid plate, 16 inch Black TRD wheels offering a 1 inch wider track, and a larger anti-sway bar are all some of the extra performance goodies you get. Let’s not forget about the TRD cat-back exhaust as well.

    In addition to the performance upgrades, this model doesn’t skimp on cosmetic upgrades as well. The Off-Road package gives you a unique hood with a (non-functioning) hood scoop and "eye-black" decal, TRD Pro-specific grille, black headlight, and taillight bezels, TRD Pro badging, TRD shift knob, TRD Pro floor mats, and TRD Pro black leather seats with "TRD Pro" embroidering. There is no sunroof option for the Pro.

    There is a downside though: you are limited to a double cab with a five-foot bed. You also have one engine choice, but you do get to choose between a manual and an automatic transmission. As mentioned at the start of this section, it is also very pricey. When you think of Toyota, you think of more inexpensive, yet reliable vehicles. This does stray from the “inexpensive” side and seems to be priced closer to some well specced out full-sized trucks. You do get a lot of truck for the money, so there is a reason.


    TRD makes great options for our trucks. Off-roading is something a lot of people will want to upgrade their trucks to do. There is a fantastic aftermarket for that. However, if something breaks, you have to contact that manufacturer and hope they take care of it in a way that works for you. If everything comes from the factory, you’re covered! Another good reason to get an upgraded truck from the factory is that there are some electronics you can’t get installed aftermarket. 

    Know your needs, and buy accordingly. Have fun, and stay safe! 

    All images come directly from Toyota. They are all of the 2020 Tacoma TRD variants. Please note that the Pro model is a prototype. Images can be found here.

    The Ultimate Guide To Toyota Tacoma Bumpers (Front & Rear)

    The Ultimate Guide To Toyota Tacoma Bumpers (Front & Rear)

    Bumpers have come a long way from when they were first designed. Originally, they were metal bars designed to be utilitarian. They then evolved to be more stylish but built the same way. Eventually, they became much larger and chrome. Automotive design took a major turn and “bumpers” turned into “bumper covers.” Large molded and painted plastic covers hid the small metal plate behind that was now designed to crunch and absorb impact.

    Let’s face it. Our Toyota Tacomas are trucks, and trucks need more. Thankfully there is a massive aftermarket for our Tacos. There are countless style options, but also plenty of utilitarian and offroad bumpers in mind for both the front and rear of our Tacos.  What works best for you?

    Let’s first cover the different types of bumpers you can come across on a Tacoma. Keep in mind that there are usually more front bumper options compared to rear, so unless otherwise specified, most of these examples will be of front bumpers and bumper covers.

    Stock/Bumper Cover

    A stock “bumper” these days is actually considered a bumper cover. These are the plastic pieces that offer no real protection. They are designed to crumple and be thrown away in the event of an accident. They are also made up of plenty of little parts: grills, accents, lights, brackets, and more. For example, a stock front bumper and bumper cover for a 2019 Tacoma has a total of 30 parts, and the rear has 17.

    The rear bumpers have more metal construction to them. While plastic is lighter and cheaper to replace compared to metal, Toyota does recognize that a Tacoma is still a truck, and that rear bumpers need to be stepped on, yanked on, bumped into, and whatever else you can throw at a truck.

    Cosmetic/Looks Aftermarket Bumpers (Front and Rear)

    These are once again just bumper covers, and they offer no protection or utilitarian gains at all. They just look different. Some people don’t treat trucks like trucks. They may lower them, or just make them flashy. These bumpers are not very common for our trucks, but if you look hard enough, you can find them.

    Low Profile Bumpers (Front)

    Now we start getting into what our trucks were made for. Low profile bumpers generally attach to your frame, and wrap over the front of your bumper cover, or replace the bottom half of your bumper cover (if applicable). They are usually a few steel tubes or sheet metal welded together that are generally painted black. They are designed to be light and visually subdued, but still offer extra protection and mounting options over stock bumper covers. Some models can come with or offer mounting options for light bars, winches, and tow hooks.  Typically, these are around $550 to $2000 depending on the make, model, and options.

    Off Road Bumper (Front and Rear)

    When you want to treat your truck like a truck, the stock bumper covers will not last. It is unfair to dedicate just a couple paragraphs to these bumpers because there are so many different types and options, but I’ll try to sum it up.. Generally, these replace the lower half of your bumper cover and can offer some type of protection to the upper half. The lower and upper protection can vary greatly.

    While some just give you the addition of a metal bumper in front of the plastic cover, some offer skid plates that help protect the expensive stuff under the truck: suspension, front-engine components and accessories, and wiring. Some also offer protection above in forms of metal grills or bars around your headlights, metal grills or bars in front of the stock grill, or both.

    They allow or come with plenty of desired offroad goodies such as winches, fog lights, light bars, tow hooks, and more.

    Rear bumpers are a bit more simplistic, but work the same way: plastic out, metal in. Generally, these replace the whole rear bumper and bumper cover. Like the front, they bolt to the frame to offer actual protection. They are usually visually more basic compared to stock bumper covers: one color, all metal, fewer parts, and less flash/chrome. They are robust and designed to take a beating. Generally they are solid sheet metal but sometimes are made out of tube steel for lighter weight.

    While they don’t typically offer taillight protection, some more expensive models can offer storage space for fuel jugs, jacks, a spare tire, and other modular storage. Since this can take up substantial room, some offer built-in gates to hold all these extra items. To not disrupt the function of your tailgate, they can swing out of the way when needed. 

    There may also be optional LED lighting and tow hook attachments built into the bumpers as well.

    Push/Bull Bars (Front)

    While push bars (also known as “Bull Bars”) are not exactly considered “bumpers,” they mimic the same function of a lot of the other bumper types listed in this blog. These do come in all shapes and sizes depending on your needs, but they all offer more front protection over stock bumper covers. They can be for pushing (as the name suggests), or they are great to have another line of protection before something hits your plastic bumper cover.

    Basic models are a simple tube that comes up to right under the grill. They wrap over the bumper cover. More protective (and more expensive models) might replace the lower half of your bumper cover and cover a bit more of the grill. There is a bit of a grey area at some point with what is just a push bar, and what becomes an offroad bumper.


    There dozens and dozens of bumper options for Toyota Tacomas. Those are the main categories, but there are a bunch out there that blur the lines and become a bit of both. This will give you a better understanding of what to search for when you are looking for the type of bumper that you want.


    Now that you know what type of bumpers you may encounter, let’s take a look at what some Tacoma drivers really like. This list is based off forum results, reviews, and being in the industry.

    A good example of a moderately priced low profile front bumper is the Front Lo-Pro Winch Bumper by C4 Fabrications. This bumper has a base price of $670, but with options, you can get the cost up to over $1800. It does ship with no finish (bare steel), but its rugged construction and plenty of options make it a popular choice.

    A popular option for full-sized off-road bumpers would be the ARB Summit Bumper. Depending on options, these are around $1500. They give the bottom of your truck full protection, and have lots of areas to attach fog lights, LED light bars, antennas, and more. Above the lower section of the bumper is a bar that surrounds both headlights and above the grill. This will help protect your ride should you slide into a tree while offroading. They do have the option to arrive powder coated.

    Push/bull bars are pretty inexpensive, and a good option is the Rough Country Bull Bar. At $280, they are far cheaper compared to a complete bumper, and they offer great basic protection for getting people out of your way on the highway. This brand comes painted, and with an LED light bar already installed. While more powerful light bar options are suggested for serious use, it’s hard to beat for the price.

    A good, basic hybrid would be the Barricade Off Road Brush Guard. The bottom of it is all push/bull bar, but the top is all full-sized off-road. Due to the nature of the mounting, it will not offer the same serious protection as full-sized off-road bumpers, but it will get the job done if you’re driving through some overgrown paths, or if you just want something that has “the look,” but doesn’t have the high price, you can get these for about $540, powder coated, and ready to go.

    A bumper, like anything on your truck, depends on the look you want, your intended use, and how much you want to spend. Our Toyota Tacomas are very popular trucks, and that leads to many options. Find what works best for you, and get it on your truck! 

    Image Credits

    Low Profile Bumper - C4 Fab: C4 Fab

    Offroad Front Bumper - C4 Fab: RIGd Supply

    Offroad Rear Bumper - DV8 Offroad: DV8 Offroad

    Push Bar - Rough Country: Rough Country

    The Ultimate Guide To Toyota Tacoma Camper Shells

    The Ultimate Guide To Toyota Tacoma Camper Shells

    As I have covered in many of my previous posts, there are tons of things that the Toyota Tacoma is good at. If there are two things I’ve tried to drive home, it’s that these trucks are great offroad and great at hauling. Camper shells can be a fantastic addition to make those two points even better.

    What are the most common uses for camper shells?

    When it comes to camper shells on the back of a pickup, there two main reasons for having them: storage and lodging. Whether you are overlanding for the week, going on a weekend camping trip, or just need a place to rest for the night during a long road trip, camper shells are an excellent option. They give you extra room to stretch out and keep you safe from the elements.

    Perhaps you don’t want to sleep in the appropriately named “bed” of your truck. Maybe you just want more storage volume? Tonneau covers seal off the top of your bed, and that’s it. A camper shell allows for usually double or more volume of safe, dry, and secure storage space.

    Which camper shell is right for your Tacoma?

    There are five main categories for camper shells: cab high, high-rise, commercial, pop-ups, and full-size campers.

    Cab High Tacoma Camper Shells

    These shells reach the height of your cab’s roofline to provide a smooth and streamlined look to the back of your truck. These are generally made of light material such as fiberglass. Less expensive models are made out of cloth material with a metal frame.

    Often on the sides of the shell are windows, but here there are optional models that are solid without them. The side windows can either be fixed, sliding, swing up with hydraulics, or a combination of the last two. The rear is most commonly a hatch window on hydraulics, similar to the back of many SUVs. There are some with “barn doors” that involve replacing your tailgate with two vertical doors. Cab highs are easy to install, light, cheaper, and can be painted or come painted to match your truck! It’s also common for roof racks to be mounted to the top of the shell for ever more storage.

    High-rise Tacoma Camper Shells

    These shells are pretty much the same as the cab high shells but are taller. Generally these are higher towards the rear of the truck to allow for a more aerodynamic shape overall. The rear is generally the same as well with either a hatch window or barn doors. Depending on the manufacturer, roof racks may not always be able to be mounted on the tops of these due to curvature of the roofline.

    Commercial Tacoma Camper Shells 

    These shells are great if you are using your truck for utility purposes. These are generally crafted out of metal and have many storage compartments and shelves built into the sides and inside/bed are. These are durable and versatile. Racks on top are common for more storage and hauling capabilities. Don’t expect these to be pretty or in a wide range of colors. Commercial camper shells are utilitarian first and foremost but can be customized to anything you want with the right budget and imagination.

    Pop-up Tacoma Camper Shells

    These shells really bring home the term “camper.” There is a fine line between calling these a pop-up camper, and a pop-up camper shell, but they are worth noting since they may come up in your searches. These shells are designed for you to live in. When collapsed, they are generally the same height as your cab, or perhaps a bit taller at most. When extended, they are a few feet higher and have the amenities of a small RV or camper van. You can find a bed, shelves, and some more expensive models might even have things like a sink. These are not designed to be permanently lived in, but they are great for overlanding or weekend trips if you want a place to stay off the ground.

    Full-size Tacoma Camper Shells

    These shells are for those extreme weekend campers. These are very tall, and very bulky. Size varies, but for the most part, they are what a pop-up is, but always extended. Generally there is also a section that hangs over your cab. They are not cheap, and they are not for everyday use. They are also not a good selection for overlanding due to their size.

    While these technically come on and off easily in terms of mounting, the size and weight almost make them a “permanent” installation. They are significantly cheaper compared to a full-sized RV or camper van, so if you have an old Tacoma laying around and like to drive up the mountains on the weekends to go camping, this could be a great option for you. Keep in mind that many of these are custom ordered.

    Now that we have camper shell types out of the way, what are some good brands our fellow Taco drivers like? 

    A lot of drivers on the forums tend to like the ARE line of shells. They make many different models including cab high, high-rise, and commercial models. They offer the ability to custom make your own as well. One of the more popular models is the cab high “Overland,” which features a bedliner type spray in some of the areas that may encounter the most stress. This will increase the life and durability of the shell. They are around $2000 depending on the options and models.

    Another popular model is the SnugTop Rebel. While SnugTop also makes many different cab high and high-rise models, the Rebel offers a perfect color-matched option with all of the windows and locks you need. They are around the same price as the ARE Overland, so it comes down to personal taste.

    Commercial shells are generally boring and utilitarian, but forum users are really loving what you can do with Tradesman Truck Toppers. While starting at around $2000, the price can quickly increase, but you have complete customization. These are generally built to order, and some people have gotten very creative with them for overlanding excursions. Since commercial toppers are generally high-rise and have lots of storage, these are great for your camping and overlanding trips.

    When it comes to a hybrid model of a high-rise and camper, folks seem to turn to the AT Overland models: Summit, Habitat, and Atlas. While much more expensive (up to around $7000 depending on the model and options), these look great, are of excellent quality, and very versatile. They give you the storage space of a cab high but have a very large tent on top that can easily be deployed. You can make the bed like the inside of a camper as your weekend getaway truck, or leave that area for daily use, but always have a tent ready for when you want to go camping!

    Like most things regarding your Tacoma, there are so many options. It all depends on your budget, and what you plan on doing with your truck. From daily use to offroading, to overlanding, and looking good while doing it, there are options for you! 

    Image Credits

    Cab High and ARE Overland Model: Tacoma World User “vuTron”

    Commercial and Tradesman Truck Topper Model: Tacoma World User “Toynado”

    Camper and AT Habitat Model: Tacoma World User “excorcist”

    Toyota Tacoma Towing Capacity - How Much Can A Tacoma Pull?

    Toyota Tacoma Towing Capacity - How Much Can A Tacoma Pull?

    Trucks are great for a lot of things: durability, storage, offroading, and towing. Towing opens up a whole new world of transportation possibilities, but just how much can your Tacoma tow? For this article, we are going to focus on third-generation Tacos (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, & 2020) and discover what these trucks can handle.

    The stats from the factory list these trucks to have a towing capacity of 3,500lbs with the 2.7l four-cylinder engine, and 6,800lbs with the 3.5l V6 and the towing package.

    What is the Toyota Tacoma Tow Package?

    While the 2020 model is changing things up a bit with what is standard and what is optional, the optional Tow Package for the third generation Tacoma includes a class-IV towing hitch receiver, transmission cooler, power steering cooler, a beefier 130-amp alternator, 4 and 7-pin connector with converter, and a Trailer-Sway Control.

    Why is all of that important? From the factory, trucks are designed to haul some stuff in the bed and do well without pavement. Anytime you add substantial weight behind your truck, regardless of the make or model, your truck has to work harder. The engine and transmission have to work harder, the alternator has to draw more power, and all this causes heat. Added cooling and more electrical power are necessary to allow your truck to pull the most it can, and safely. All of these features can be added to your truck with aftermarket parts, but Toyota offers exactly what the truck needs to perform the best it can.

    On that note, to be safe, 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.

    For example, the 2019 Tacoma has a rated tongue load of 350 pounds on the four-cylinder trucks, and between 640 pounds to 680 pounds on the V6. A proper tongue load, or weight, is about 10 to 15 percent of the total loaded trailer weight. If your Tacoma is rated at a towing capacity of 6,800lbs, 10 percent of that is 680. So your tongue load/weight needs to be 680 pounds.

    There is so much more science that I could get into, but West Marine has an excellent article an 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.

    With all stats out of the way, what can you tow with your third-generation Toyota Tacoma? Can your Tacoma pull a boat? Yes. Can your Tacoma pull a camper? Yup. Can your Tacoma pull a horse trailer? You betcha! In short, Tacomas can pull all types of loads in or out of trailers. Once you do the math about what the weight of your load is and you have the proper equipment, you’re really only limited by local/federal laws and your skill.

    Can A Tacoma Pull a 5th Wheel?

    Some people have asked if you can use a Tacoma for fifth-wheel towing. Fifth wheel towing is a whole different animal. This counts more on the truck’s payload capacity, which for a third-generation Toyota Tacoma is 1,175 pounds on the short bed and 1,370 pounds on the long bed.

    Payload capacity is what a truck can handle on its rear axle, and it’s important since fifth-wheel towing involves the mount for what you’re towing to be in the bed of the truck. In short, Toyota does not recommend it. People have done it, but you have to get creative with how you do it. It’s not a simple installation, but if there is a will, there is a way. I would recommend sticking with “traditional” towing when it comes to Tacomas. After all, they are built for that and build for it well.

    You do have to keep some things in mind when you are towing: your handling and the way you have to drive will change dramatically, your gas mileage will go down, and your truck will be working harder.

    If you have a proper factory or aftermarket tow package, the extra load on your drivetrain will be fine. If not, you could damage parts or overheat due to temperature increases. Your gas mileage will drop around or below about three miles per gallon less than what you currently get. Of course, that depends on the weight and the drag/aerodynamics of your load. Handling is obvious: you have a MUCH longer truck now. Sharp, last-minute turns at high speeds could cause a massive and very expensive spill, and wind can become your new worst enemy. You must drive with care when towing.

    All in all, the Toyota Tacoma is a fantastic truck. It is extremely capable and reliable in almost any situation that you can throw at it. Towing is no exception. If you take care to adhere to all safety regulations and not exceed what your truck is rated for, our little Toyota Tacomas can really almost tow it all: campers, cars, boats, and more.

    Image Credits

    TacomaWorld User atrain23

    TacomaWorld USer Optimaltaco

    Arlington Toyota

    3rd Gen Toyota Emblem Grille Installation Instructions





    Here are the instructions for installing your new grille insert.

    Tools Needed

    • Flat head screw driver
    • Phillips screw driver (or drill bit)
    • Rachet
    • 1/4 inch socket
    • Drill
    • 1/4 inch drill bit
    • Small pair of pliers
    • Dirty rag
    • Soft blanket

    Step 1

    Remove the entire grille and outer surround from the truck by removing the two bolts (top two arrows) with a phillips tip screwdriver or drill bit and the two push pins (bottom two arrows) with a flat head screwdriver. With the two push pins, just pry up the little round tab and pull it out.

    Step 2

    Grab the top of the grille and start gently wiggling. Once it starts to break free, grab the front and pull straight out.

    Step 3

    Once the grille has been removed from the truck, lay down a soft blanket (or cardboard if you’re me) and remove these eight screws.

    Step 4

    Once the screws are out, you need to start popping out the insert and bezel. To do this, you must apply light pressure to the clips while you pull on the outer bezel piece and grille from the front. These tabs will snap off very easily, so be careful. Make sure to get them all!

    Step 5

    You will have to drill out 8 of the holes with a quarter inch drill bit. Don't worry, this doesn't affect the ability to remount your stock grille if you choose. Drill out the marked holes below and the final two screws go into two of the horizontal slats in the bottom of the grille.

    Step 6

    Remove the TSS sensor and Toyota emblem from the original grille. Please note that you're probably going to break off the points highlighted by the red arrows.

    Step 7

    Tighten the four bolts holding on the sensor plate. Don't overtighten the bolts so you don't pull the pems through the grille. Push the Toyota emblem into the opening of the grille until the four tabs click into place.

    The emblem should fit tight and not be able to push out from the backside. If the emblem is loose, you'll want to glue the tabs into place with some epoxy.

    Step 8

    Attach the TSS sensor to the mounting plate with the two locking nuts provided.

    Step 9

    Attach the grille following these steps:

    • Start with the top center hole
    • Insert the bolt
    • Grab the bolt head with a rag and a pair of pliers (to keep the powder coating from chipping off)
    • Use the ratchet and 1/4 socket to tighten the bolt from the back of the grille (don’t tighten all the way)
    • Go around the remaining 9 holes following these same steps
    • Once all bolts are in and lightly tightened, finish tightening all of the locking nuts

    Step 10

    Reconnect the TSS sensor.

    Please note, powder coat will chip like paint. This grille is made out of aluminum and may oxidize if the powder coating is chipped or scratched. If you notice any chips or scratches, please make sure to touch it up with touch up paint as soon as possible.