By on December 1, 2015


TTAC Commentator halftruth writes:

My 2012 Tacoma has a temperamental clutch. Sometimes it catches high, sometimes low. This is most annoying on a grade when the pedal comes up and very little happens, then — boom! — it grabs all at once or it catches a little at a time and eventually works as it should. The ambient temperature does not seem to matter nor if the truck is hot or cold.

I noticed the pedal linkage is all plastic and has lots of play in it. I have also noticed this in other Tacomas of the same generation. I did adjust the actuator gap as it was way out of spec at about 8 mm, but it did not make a difference.

For the most part, I like the truck, but the clutch setup is crap. I took it to the dealer and, of course, they came back with “no trouble found”. My Dakota had an all-steel linkage and worked the same way every time with no surprises.

Is there anything I can do to improve the clutch operation to make it more consistent? I’ve searched and searched online but nothing. Did Toyota really save that much on each Tacoma by going to plastic for the clutch pedal/linkage? Any advice greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Oh boy. Now I’ve gotta examine my 2011 Ranger’s pedal assembly to see if this plastic-fantastic nightmare is in my future, but this isn’t in my wheelhouse. My experiences are limited to dumping the garbage-y plastic clutch quadrant on Fox Mustang assemblies though Foxes are a cable operated system.

If there are no leaks in the hydraulic assembly (slave cylinder, etc.), I reckon the combination of chintzy pedal assembly and a worn out clutch (more travel, usually) are causing your sporadic pick up problem and additional damage.

And then the Googling shall commence.

Apparently Toyota technical service bulletin T-SB-0365-10 (check the VINs listed in that link) is a similar problem stemming from a squeaky pedal assembly. If yours squeaks, fits in the VIN range and you are still under warranty, you’ll get a new Tacoma clutch pedal assembly, master cylinder, etc. which would likely net you a better assembly.

I’d call your local service department and discuss this TSB and how you might be able to take advantage of it. If there was that much slop in the “actuator gap” as you mentioned, you never know…

Best of luck with that.

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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11 Comments on “Piston Slap: My Pick Up’s Failing Clutch Pick Up?...”

  • avatar

    Based on your description, not having experienced the issue first hand, I would replace the slave cylinder making sure to bleed it thoroughly. The only time I’ve had “spring back” issues on a clutch pedal; it has always been hydraulic related.

    How many miles on the truck? What I’ve been hearing about Toyota lately has been alarming. It seems like their quality has been on a downward trend.

  • avatar

    this isn’t that uncommon in order Tacos. My 2002 has 172k on the stock clutch, but over the years, the slave cylinder has gone bad, which resulted in air in the line and gave me similar agita. Another thing that tends to go wrong is the clutch pedal return spring. it does lose tension over the years and doesn’t come all the way back up. If your clutch is catching low today, stick your foot under the clutch pedal and pull it up. if that magically fixes your issue, go buy a new $4 spring.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t believe the pedal spring would cause the delayed and inconsistent engagement that OP describes. The only spring that could affect engagement is the pressure plate, its force is what pushes back on the hydraulics.

      A damaged PP would have many other symptoms, not described, which is why I don’t believe it is the problem.

  • avatar

    In such a short time, it seems unlikely the slave cylinder itself would fail so spectacularly. I’ll grant that I had to have my slave cylinder replaced on my Ranger at less than 20K miles, but it’s a ’97 model that spent most of its life in a garage and only averaged about 1100 miles per year; so I have to blame lack of use for that clutch failure.

    Definitely it sounds like an air bubble in the hydraulics, so a pre-emptive strike at the slave cylinder isn’t unreasonable, though it could be nothing more than a small leak at a connector that let the air in.

    (I ‘inherited’ the Ranger from its original owner. In four months I’ve put over two years of “average” driving on it. Use it or lose it is a mantra to live by with anything technical.)

  • avatar

    A clutch in 3 years? Yikes!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I like manual transmissions, but this post gives the impression that the 5 speed auto is a better choice in this truck.

    Toyota hasn’t offered many manuals in the last decade and I can’t remember reading any favorable impressions of the ones they did offer. Even the one in the last Lexus IS was panned.

    I had a chance to drive a manual transmission 2010 RAV4 in another country and I really disliked it. Short-throw clutch with vague and abrupt take up, cheap-feeling shifter action, and a shift knob that was literally a vertical plastic cylinder with hard edges. I think the 2007ish Camry had the same knob. It’s as if Toyota deliberately worked to make you hate the manual transmission so much that you’d run for a 4 speed auto instead.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The Hilux with the 4 litre V6 in Australia has had clutch problems as well. Speaking to several owners of these vehicles it appears to only occur to those who have driven their pickups hard or were using them with a large continuous load.

    I have not heard many issues regarding the 2.7 and clutches.

  • avatar

    Totally different application, but I experienced clutch problems on a then-new 1964 International 900 pickup, which had a Scout drivetrain. The first time or two after a cold start the clutch wasn’t releasing properly. I found that if I pumped the clutch pedal a couple of times the problem went away. We didn’t find any leaks or anything, so I simply got into the habit of pumping the clutch pedal in the morning.

    The OP doesn’t mention whether his clutch pedal’s vagaries are related to cold starts, but it’s worth thinking about.

  • avatar

    I think your clutch is starting to slip and it may not be noticeable on level surfaces, but is noticeable on uphill grades as you state in you post. This is when you need the most torque to get moving.

    I’d try bleeding any air out first, but it sounds like you are looking at a new clutch plate, pressure plate, throw out bearing, and flywheel resurfacing.

    I did one clutch replacement on an older Chevy S-10, and it wasn’t easy. If your truck is newer and doesn’t have a lot of rust, it might go easier than on an older vehicle.

  • avatar

    Definitely a problem with the hydraulic clutch. If you are not losing fluid, its most likely the slave cylinder. The internal seals can go bad letting fluid pass from the high to low pressure side.

    Although I never had a problem with either my ’98 or ’07 Tacos, a few years ago both the slave and eventually the master cylinder on my ’98 Chevy went bad. The clutch itself is fine, but it acted pretty much the way you describe. You never really knew where the clutch would catch. It was possible to pump it up by lifting the pedal with my toe and pushing it back down a few times, but that only worked for so long. You can drive and stop a manual without a clutch but its hard to get started again.

    Since its probably still under warranty, I’d take it back to the dealer and have them check both the slave and master cylinders. If you previously asked them to check the linkage, they looked at it and said it was normal without noticing the flakey clutch. Try to get the dealer to cover it. The parts are cheap but changing them can be labor intensive. Probably why the mechanic didn’t notice.

    Hydraulic clutches have been around for decades. I wouldn’t read too much into a rare failure.

  • avatar

    There is a metal tube extension surrounding the transmission input shaft that extends into the bellhousing area, and the clutch throwout bearing rides on that. It sounds like your throwout bearing is hanging up on the tube, either from lack of lubrication or from damage to the surface of the tube. The dealership doesn’t get paid much for warranty work, so they’re not really going to invest much time into diagnosing it unless you’re a regular customer who spends too much money there on a regular basis. Personally, I’d call Toyota and let them know you’re having a problem and that the dealership is having trouble diagnosing it.

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