Should I re-gear my Tacoma or just get a tune? Or both?
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
In the world of Tacoma ownership, wheels/tires/lift seems to be one of the FIRST mods that people go for. I mean, who doesn't want to improve the stance of their Taco? It's all for Insta, right? ;-) Here at Mobile Antics we tune a lot of Tacomas, and see many different setups. Outside of the 30-32" stock tire size (which we see a lot of), 33" seems to be the most common tire size upgrade. What I rarely see, however, is anyone re-geared.
Wes Siler of Outsideonline.com wrote a good article in early 2021 titled "How to Modify Your Tacoma the Right Way," which addresses the need to re-gear when you lift your vehicle. I'll let that article do most of the talking, but the highlights are as follows:
- In order to deliver strong fuel economy numbers in the EPA's standardized test cycle, Toyota opted to fit the vehicle with relatively tall gear ratios (stock is 3.91:1).
- At 60 miles per hour, in sixth gear, the V-6 is turning over at 1,500 revolutions per minute.
- In the Tacoma, that 3.5-liter V-6 makes for a healthy 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque; however, it only delivers that performance at high engine speeds.
- Put your foot down at that speed to pass or to climb a hill, and the transmission will need to shift down two or three gears to deliver the performance you’re asking for.
What Tacoma owners often do wrong is fit larger tires without the accompanying modifications to support them.
- Larger tires reduce a vehicle’s effective gear ratio
- Upgrade your Tacoma from stock 30.5-inch tires to 34 inches and you’ll now be spinning that 1,500 rpm at 70 mph (rather than 60 mph).
- That may not provide enough performance to maintain top gear while cruising at a constant speed on a level road, and it will force the use of lower gears everywhere
The problem is even worse off-road, where the concern isn’t fuel economy but performance.
- By reducing the effective gearing of your vehicle, you’re also reducing the amount of horsepower and torque that reach the road
- Off-road vehicles are able to safely climb and descend steep obstacles at very low speeds by switching into separate, very low gears.
- A stock Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro has a 36:1 crawl ratio with an automatic transmission; 44:1 with a manual
- Fitting larger tires will decrease that further. Which is why it’s common to see videos of Tacoma drivers tackling climbs at inappropriate speeds, risking damage to their vehicles in return for the momentum necessary to make the climb.
One great solution to the problem above is to re-gear.
- By replacing the gears in your axle differentials, you can increase your final drive ratio
- Accounting for the effective gearing reduction created by larger tires, you can either return that final drive ratio to something close to stock or opt to increase it.
- For optimal performance and fuel economy from the Taco’s V-6, you’ll want to fit gears that increase engine speeds at 60 mph to about 2,000 rpm; that way you’ll be able to maintain highway speeds without downshifting, keep the engine operating in its most efficient rpm range, and boost safety as well as control off-road.
My personal rig (2017 Tacoma SR5, 4WD) has an Icon suspension setup with 285/75R17 tires. After driving my modified rig for 3 years on the stock gears, I opted to re-gear to 4:88 Nitro's. The changes were excellent, especially when off-roading in 4Lo...it just CRAWLS!
There are 3 major gear manufacturers as follows: Nitro, Revolution, and Yukon. If you are based in Arizona, your install options include:
- Underdog Motorsports: sales & install (Yukon)
- SDHQ: sales & install (Nitro)
- AZ Driveshaft: sales and install (brands unknown)
- Zuk @ gearinstalls.com: you have to remove and bring in your differential for him to work on it
So where does tuning fit into all of this? If you are on a tight budget, and it's simply not in the cards to spend thousands on a re-gear, a tune will definitely help. Our YotaWerx tunes have improved shift points, increased low-end torque, and increased throttle. As I stated earlier in this post, most of my clients have NOT re-geared, but they see huge improvements in their truck's drivability just by tuning.
A tune + re-gear is the perfect combo. If you tune first and end up re-gearing later on, Mobile Antics will re-tune you for FREE to account for any setup changes, like gears.