What To do if Toyota Tacoma truck is Stuck In 4WD?

4wd Toyota Tacoma on Trail

A lot of issues come with owning a car, from maintenance issues to those with the engine. Frequently, it will come to the point that you would need to go for maintenance checkups, but other times, we would not need to do so. Having your Tacoma stuck in 4WD is a common and very fixable problem that would only require self-fixing. 

How do you get your Toyota Tacoma unstuck in 4WD? Well, you have some options that you can do yourself, like riding on pavement, but it will also entirely depend on your specific situation. 

In this article, I will first go over a step-by-step approach in the general sense, that works most for those car owners with similar issues. Whether you are driving in a Tacoma or any other vehicle, consult the general approach first. Then, I will get into the specifics of the Tacoma and what you have to do specifically, if needed, to disengage the 4WD.

A General Approach

So, in general, the four-wheel-drive can become stuck. There are two main ways that this could occur. One of these ways is due to improper lubrication, and the other is the lack of use. Usually, this is a widespread issue that car owners go through and also not very serious. 

Before heading on over to the general approach, remember that on a hard surface, like a highway, it is imperative to switch to a two-wheel drive. If you choose to operate in a four-wheel drive, it will decrease your fuel efficiency and even lead to further damage. So, to prevent this issue, know which model is best given your terrain. 

The first step is to check and see if you have manual hubs. These are also known as locking hubs and are fitted to older four-wheel drives. These allow the front wheels to rotate freely when unlocked from the front axle. If you, unlike the hubs, it disconnects the wheels and eliminates the load. Then, check if it is in “free” mode. If it is in locked mode and the 4×4 has not been selected, it will not be able to drive the front wheels. 

Now, the next step is to put the vehicle into the four-wheel high mode. There are multiple modes in SUV 4x4s, high range or low range, locked or unlocked. The 4WD is less versatile than the 4WD Auto. However, it locks the front and rear end together and might be useful in the narrow off-road. Make sure it is in this mode. 

The third step is to drive forward for about a quarter-mile. This is because you want to kind of “test run” the car, just to make sure that it is working correctly and efficiently given the settings that you have put it into. 

The fourth step is to stop the vehicle and shift from the 4WD to 2WD. As I mentioned earlier, 2WDs are meant for the road, and so doing this switch is imperative. The next and final step is to reverse the vehicle and drive it backward around 20 feet. Then, slowly, drive it forward to allow disengagement in the shims. 

An Approach with the Tacoma

The Tacoma, like any other car, has specific specs that may differentiate the process rather than the general approach. 

The first thing to do is to elevate the front of the car. The angle here should not be too big or too small, but you want to place some sturdy ramps on the front two wheels of the Tacoma. The back wheels should be at rest on the ground at an angle lower than the front wheels. 

Then, drive up the car all the way to the front of the ramp. This should give you even more elevation to the car than previously, and it should be evident that the front line of wheels is at an angle decently higher than the back wheels.  

Detachment with the Tacoma

The next step is to unscrew the front skid plate. It is a pretty easy step since you only have to unscrew the four bolts that hold it in place. It should be located as two in the left, and right corner(backside) and the last two in the bottom left and right corner. It should come off as smoothly as possible. Also, secure the plate in a separate area. You do not want this impeding in your process of cleaning and fixing the 4WD. 

Now unattached, you should see the actuator of the car. It has three main parts that we have to work with, so we can disconnect it. The first part is the hose, then the wire harness, and the bolts that hold it in place. For the hose, we should use a needle nose plier to fish it out and loosen it up. It is imperative not just to yank it from its position, or you might ruin your Tacoma. 

The next step is to use a flathead screwdriver to complete the detachment of the hose, which can be found on the bottom of the actuator. Then comes the harness, which should be the easiest to remove. You should grab the wires in one hand and essentially squeeze it out with gentle care. This may take some time but is ultimately worth it not to have future damages.

Reconfiguring of the Actuator and Final Steps

The next detachment is the hardest one, which is the bolts that keep it in place. In the upper passenger side, usually found in the middle of the car, use your right hand to push the actuator and use your left hand to unscrew the bolts with a ratchet. Do the same thing with the driver’s side, using the right hand to unscrew and the left to place some pressure. In the end, place a bucket underneath to catch all that fluid since you do not want any residue messing up the pavement or any other material. 

Now, with the actuator, use penetrant oil on the screws that attach the plastic portion to the metal casing. The screws are tight, so this must be done before the proper unscrewing. Now, power the electric motor by soldering them in place. Then, use a car jumper to test its functionality. It should make a wheezing sound. Then take some white lithium grease and put it in the gear and all over the gears in the metal casing. Distribute this evenly in all the crucial aspects of the actuator itself. 

Then, we re-screw it together and use a contact cleaner so you can clear it from debris. Then apply some red gasket maker on the outline of the metal casing to make sure that reattachment works perfectly. Then, we wiggle that actuator back in place. We have to essentially reverse the process by putting the bolts back in place and the harnessing back in place. 

Then, clean the harness itself and wait for it to dry and push it back in place. Finally, we put the air hose back in place with a torque wrench.  After 24 hours, replace the front differential with fluid, and you should be good to go.  

Although this process is straightforward and simple, the best way to avoid this issue is maintenance. Prevention is key in these issues, and you must always go for scheduled maintenance checks to prevent problems like these.

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.