How to Replace Leaf Springs on a Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma is one of the more troublesome vehicles when it comes to the suspension system. The problem reaches down to the leaf springs, which break at disproportionate frequencies on this particular vehicle. Therefore, if you own the vehicle, it is important to know about replacing a rear leaf spring in Toyota Tacoma trucks because you just might have to perform this task at some point in time.
How to Change Leaf Springs on Toyota Tacoma Trucks
Depending on your general knowledge of trucks, and the Toyota Tacoma in particular, you might be able to change the leaf springs with a simple set of instructions. Basically, the steps can be summarized as follows:
- Elevate the rear portion of the truck with a jack.
- Take off the rear wheel of whichever side you do first — remember, only do one side at a time.
- Place jack stands under the rear to hold the vehicle in suspension.
- Lower the axle to relieve pressure from the leaf springs.
- Loosen the bolts.
- Take the brake cable off the drum.
- Loosen the bolts and remove the nuts on the rear shackle.
- Remove each nut from the U-bolt.
- Turn the spring to loosen it from the rear shackle.
- Remove the old spring from the bolt and set the spring aside.
- Pick up the new spring and note the long and short side from the center bolt.
- Line up the center bolt of the spring to the hole in the rear axle.
- Install the new leaf spring.
- To keep the axle from moving, do one end of the spring first and then the other.
If you still aren't sure how to proceed with replacing these parts, read on for a more detailed set of instructions on how to change leaf springs on Toyota Tacoma trucks.
How to Install Leaf Springs on Tacoma Trucks
So how do you replace a broken leaf spring on Toyota Tacoma trucks? First of all, you need to know how to identify the leaf springs, which you can locate along the vehicle's rear suspension. The leaf springs are the layered, metal strip assemblies that support the rear axles at each end next to the rear wheels.
1. Get Your Tools
In order to access this part of the vehicle, you will need to have the right tools at your disposal. For starters, you will need the following:
- Safety stands
- A wrench
- A small pry bar
Replacing a leaf spring can take a couple hours or more on your first attempt, so only commence when you can set an afternoon aside for this project.
2. Inspect the Springs
As you inspect each spring, you will need to determine whether the problem is down to one or both of the springs. To make this judgment, look for signs of wear and cracks on each spring. On the spring or springs where problems are present, you will need to gain access to the spring itself. In order to obtain that access, you will need to remove the tire on the side in question.
Only do one spring from start to finish at a time. That way, in case you mess up as you install the new spring, you can look to the preassembled one for guidance.
3. Remove the Tires
Use a jack to lift the truck in the back and use safety stands to hold the vehicle in suspension. On the side with the leaf spring that needs be replaced, unscrew the lug nuts on the tire and perform the following steps:
- Remove the tire
- Remove the cotter pin on the lower end shock absorber
- Remove the nut and washer
- Remove the shock absorber
- Remove the brake clamp
Now that all of these pieces have been cleared away, you can reach the leaf spring that you intend to replace. As you proceed with the next steps, make sure that the rear axle does not put undue pressure on the springs.
4. Remove the Old Springs
Loosen and remove the U-bolts, then proceed to the following steps:
- Loosen the spring shackle
- Remove the inner plate of the spring shackle
- Remove the spring shackle
- Take off the front-end bracket pin
- Take off the rubber bushing
When you take off the spring, be careful not to hit the brake cable or the hydraulic brake line. Pay attention to the eye on the replacement leaf spring, as this will need to align with the spring hanger. Place the rubber bushing on the eye and insert the pin through the bracket holes.
5. Install the New Springs
Now that you have the replacement leaf spring ready, apply the spring seat with the U-bolts. Using a torque wrench, tighten the U-bolts and then proceed with the following steps:
- Reapply the brake cable
- Reapply the clamp
- Fasten the pin and shackle nuts
- Apply the shock bushings
- Apply the washers
Before you reapply the wheel, you must put the stabilizer link back into place.
6. Reapply the Wheel
Manually fasten the link nuts until the stabilizer is tightly secure. After you have reattached the wheel, the vehicle will need to have a degree of bounce in order for the suspension to be properly set. Fasten the shock absorber and shackle pin to the following specifications:
- Shock absorber — 115 ft-lbs
- Shackle pin — 67 ft-lbs
Once you have the new leaf springs installed and the wheels reattached to the vehicle, lower the truck from the stands and take it out for a test drive. Does the vehicle ride as it should? Is the riding smooth, even and free of jolts as you shift gears and drive over speed bumps? If the driving feels vastly improved and more comfortable than before, you have successfully completed your first DIY leaf spring replacement.
Signs That It Is Time to Fix or Install New Leaf Springs on Your Toyota Tacoma Truck
Knowing how to install leaf springs on Tacoma trucks is one thing. Knowing when to replace leaf springs on Toyota Tacoma trucks is another thing entirely.
Fact is, there are various reasons to augment or replace the leaf springs on your truck. Some of these reasons are due to minor wear while others are more urgent. In case you wonder whether these issues apply to your vehicle, look out for the following broken leaf spring symptoms of Toyota Tacoma trucks.
1. Swaying of the Toyota Truck
One of the more unsettling experiences that Toyota Tacoma drivers are known to experience is vehicle sway, which occurs when the suspension loses strength. If your truck sways on one side or the other, it is a sign that the leaf spring has weakened on the side in question.
The problem becomes most pronounced when you drive the truck on uneven terrain. If your suspension is weaker along the driver side of your vehicle and the road is also lower along the left half of the lane, you are bound to feel the sideways slope from inside the cab. If the problems are on the other side, you will feel as if you sink rightward.
An issue like this can be discomforting for you and your passengers. Moreover, a lopsided suspension can put undue stress on the axles as well as the tires of the affected side.
2. Slouching of the Tacoma
Another tell-tale sign of weak suspension in a Toyota Tacoma is when the vehicle slouches at the rear. If you drive along a flat road or highway and it suddenly feels as if you are leaned back in a rocking chair from behind the wheel, the truck is likely slouching in the back due to poor rear-end suspension.
If your vehicle slouches heavily in the back, you will probably need to replace both of the rear leaf springs. If this only happens when the back of the truck is full, you should still have the rear suspension boosted, whether this entails new springs or adding leaves to the existing ones. If the rear slouches even when the back is empty, you definitely need a new pair of springs.
A vehicle with a slouching rear can cause problems for your fellow motorists in certain settings. For example, if your truck back-slouches as you drive at night, the headlights on the hiked front-end of your vehicle might beam brightly on the faces of oncoming drivers in opposite lanes, causing momentary blindness in the process.
3. Rocking of the Toyota Tacoma
A more frightening symptom of weak suspension in a Toyota Tacoma is rocking, which becomes pronounced when you drive over uneven terrain. If you are driving along a gravelly route and the motions of the vehicle seem abrupt from within the cab, chances are the issue is not solely due to the unevenness of the road. Sure, rocky roads cause shakes in any vehicle, but if the motions feel extreme, the problem is likely just as much the fault of your suspension.
Rocking can happen when one or both of the springs become weak. Aside from on gravelly routes, the problem also occurs when a truck with poor suspension drives on cobblestone streets or along off-road routes.
4. Jumping of the Toyota Tacoma
Perhaps the most discomforting — heck, perhaps the most frightening — experience drivers and passengers could possibly experience in a Toyota Tacoma is when the vehicle abruptly jumps. This can happen when you drive over speed bumps or pull in to a parking lot too close to a curb. It can even happen if your vehicle encounters a road obstruction.
In a vehicle with healthy suspension, the purpose of the leaf springs is to smooth out the turbulence and absorb the shock of bumps before they hit the chassis. This way, the impact of speed bumps and road obstructions are softened before such motion can reach the cab. Therefore, if the shock of bumps and other imperfections along a given route cause our truck to jump, it is time to inspect your leaf springs.
5. Age of Your Tacoma Truck
Scary and discomforting vehicular movements are not the only indicators that your suspension system needs work. On some vehicles where the leaf springs are overdue for replacement, the symptoms arise slow and subtle. However, this is no excuse to ignore or postpone your attention to the issue, as these very springs could suddenly fail outright. Without warning, your truck might suddenly display all kinds of dangerous motion symptoms, from rocking and jumping to slouching and swaying.
If your vehicle is more than a decade old and you have never even looked at the leaf springs, now would be the time to give them some attention. Ideally, you should inspect your leaf springs every 12,000 miles. Problem indicators include wear, rust and cracks along the strips of the springs.
In some cases, a spring might be in satisfactory condition except for one leaf, in which case you should change out that leaf for a new one. If you overlook the situation, the other leaves are liable to fail sooner from undue stress.
6. Added Strength for a Tacoma
A worn suspension system is not the only reason to upgrade or replace your leaf springs. You could, in fact, have a perfectly reliable set of leaf springs already in place, yet wish for something even better.
If you intend to use your vehicle to haul heavy loads over challenging terrain on a regular basis, you will probably want to augment your suspension system. A passenger truck, after all, is made for a range of uses. While the truck might be equipped to handle heavy loads and rough driving conditions, vehicle parts can wear down sooner if you push these limits on a nonstop basis.
Examples of pushing the limit could involve daily uphill routes with full truckloads of 1,000 pounds. If that characterizes your use of a Toyota Tacoma, you should probably consider augmenting your springs with additional leaves. Likewise, if you intend to tow a trailer along mountainous routes on a regular basis, the pre-installed leaf springs under your vehicle could give way sooner unless you strengthen each spring with an added leaf or two.
Buy Tacoma Leaf Springs From General Spring
Leaf springs soften the load of a vehicle on the axles and wheels. At the same time, leaf springs absorb the shock of all the turbulence that wheels encounter so that you don't bear the brunt of such tremors. As such, leaf springs are made to soften thousands of pounds of pressure.
However, leaf springs do wear out over time and eventually lose their ability to function properly. Therefore, it is crucial to know when and how to fix leaf springs on Toyota Tacoma trucks and other demanding vehicles.
At General Spring, we have been providing leaf springs and coil springs for a vast range of trucks for more than 40 years. For the Toyota Tacoma, we have springs that can give the vehicle the necessary lift to handle maximum loads on rugged terrains. To learn more about our inventory and to buy a new set of leaf springs for your Tacoma truck, browse our catalog today and contact our sales representatives for answers to further questions.