Piston Slap: My Pick Up's Failing Clutch Pick Up?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap my pick ups failing clutch pick up

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 sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.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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2 of 11 comments
  • Gone4Day Gone4Day on Dec 01, 2015

    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.

  • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on Dec 02, 2015

    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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