It was crashed, smashed, drowned, dropped, burned, and dropped again. And Top Gear‘s Toyota pickup still started and ran. From then on our suspicions were confirmed: Toyota makes the toughest trucks on the planet. Now Top Gear is likely dead, but we’re guessing that Toyota is still alive. Your Tacoma is worth investing in. That’s the conclusion Streetside’s own Danny came to when he started modding his 2013 Tacoma TRD. That’s right, folks, for the first time in AutoMods history, we’re actually modding a vehicle, rather than just doing it virtually. Real mods, real pictures, real performance.
Because we have so many parts for the Tacoma, we’re going to break up our usual power/suspension format. Today we’ll cover some underhood and suspension mods, and on Thursday we’ll go over some exterior and practicality mods to make your Tacoma versatile and menacing. We’re also going to cover mods that Danny’s already done, as well as some he wants to do in the future. How you mod your own Tacoma is totally up to you, but this should give you some ideas.
We’ll start with a part that doesn’t move: the battery. Danny has opted for an Optima YellowTop® D27F battery. Why? Because it’s the only battery on the market that matches the truck in longevity and toughness. The Yellow Top is a great option for off-roading, even if you’re not running alot of external accessories like lights and winches, because it’s so stable, even with all the movement of the trail. It’s also stable in extreme temperatures, the AGM core outperforming standard lead acid batteries with flying colors. If you are running all those lights and winches, the YellowTop is perfect, because it’s a deep cycle battery, which means it stores more power, even when the truck is off. Since Danny plans to add a winch later (more tomorrow), a deep cycle battery is just what he needs.
How about some extra horsepower? As a future mod (shown below), Danny’s looking at a MagnumForce Stage-2 Pro Dry S cold air intake by AFE. This intake is great for off-roading because the Pro Dry aspect means it has a fully enclosed air box with an extra inlet you can leave open for extra horsepower, or close if you’re going through extremely wet conditions that might compromise the included. It’s a washable filter, by the way, so you can reuse it as many times as you want, but you’ll want to let it dry out first. Now for the good stuff. The AFE intake was dyno-tuned to add 13 hp and an incredible 21 lb-ft of torque, bringing the truck’s grand total to 249 hp and 287 lb-ft. And remember that this thing weighs about as much as a Chevy Camaro, so 250 hp will put you in pretty good territory for a truck.
Wheel spacers have gotten a bad rap recently, because there are cheap brands out there who will sell you a set of glorified washers and call them proper wheel spacers, and those are unsafe. But real wheel spacers, like Danny’s set of Spidertrax spacers, are different. These guys are hub-centric, which means they are fitted perfectly to match the durability and safety of your stock hubs. Wheel spacers (real ones) work by bolting up to your existing lug studs with the included low profile lug nuts. Between these lug nuts are more lug studs, which come pre-installed. They have the same pattern as your stock studs, so you can use your stock wheels. Except now you have a wider track. These spacers shove each wheel out an extra 1.25 inches. So install them on both sides and your track is 2.5 inches wider. That means more stability, better handling, and a much cooler look.
Let’s talk about suspension. Old Man Emu is the suspension division of ARB, Australia’s toughest and most popular off-road parts brand. Australia has alot of rough, Outback trails, and alot of Toyotas. As a result, they’ve forged some of the most durable, well-designed suspension upgrades you can buy for your Tacoma. So when Danny was looking for a lift kit for his, where else would he turn? Danny’s 2013 Tacoma lift kit, which raises the truck 1.97 inches up front and 2.16 inches out back, and rides better than the stock TRD suspension, includes the following Old Man Emu parts:
- 2 NitroCharger Sport struts up front. NitroChargers get their name because their gas of choice is nitrogen, known for its stability even in extreme temperatures. It’s the same reason NASCAR drivers use nitrogen in their tires. These struts are valved for extreme off-road performance and instantaneous adaptability.
- 1 pair of Old Man Emu coil springs to match. OME coil springs aren’t for show. They’re not designed with a specific lift height in mind. Just the best control, handling, and ride. The lift is a pleasant side-effect. And since these are the heavy-duty springs, they’re able to support an extra 220 lbs over stock while maintaining the same ride dynamics. They’re great if you have a winch up front.
- 2 OME rear leaf springs. These things are draw tapered, which means they offer a progressive spring rate. This allows for comfort and stability whether you have a bunch of weight in the bed or not. Each unit is also thicker, with 5 leaves compared to the factory 3.
- 2 OME NitroCharger Sport rear shocks to match up with those leaf springs. Remember that nitrogen? Same deal.
- 4 OME U-Bolts.
- 1 OME Driveline Carrier Bearing Drop Kit. Due to the lift, you’ll need this spacer kit to keep your two-piece driveshaft straight despite the lift.
- 2 OME XL Leaf Springs. These add-on springs aren’t required, but Danny included them for an extra 15mm of lift, and because they’re great for hauling cargo or offsetting constant weights like on-board toolboxes or camper tops.
All that lift calls for some bigger feet. We’ll start with the wheels. Danny plans to go with a set of ProComp 17×9 flat black Helldorado wheels (shown below). These guys are seriously heavy duty, but they’re alloys, so they’re light weight. They specifically designed for off-road use, powder coated against wear and corrosion, and low pressure cast. Low pressure casting helps avoid tiny air pockets or weak spots in the alloy, to help prevent cracks or failure when you’re on the trail. They also feature a high offset to clear your calipers if you choose not to opt for the above spacers.
To match some shoes to those feet, Danny will opt for the ProComp Radial Xtreme A/T (shown below), a 32.8 inch tire with a tread depth of 17/32nds. The Radial Xtreme is so great because it’s balanced between on- and off-road use. You won’t have to deal with a deafening roar on the pavement, and you’ll get plenty of grip in the mud. And ProComp offers a 50,000 mile tread wear warranty.
With great tires come great errors in your speedometer. Your ECU is programmed to calculate your speed based on your stock tire size. So increase that size and you’ll be going faster than your speedo says. Thankfully, Hypertech makes a speedometer recalibrator for just this instance (shown below).
Finally, brakes. If you think brakes are only important on race cars…who are we kidding? None of you think that, because it’s silly. Danny has a tow package on his Tacoma (more on Thursday), so he plans to upgrade the complete system with Stoptech pads, rotors (right and left), and shoes. Stop Tech’s cryo-treated drilled and slotted rotors are designed to run way cooler than stock, which greatly reduces the chance of fade if you’re towing something downhill.
Because it’s a Toyota, the parts Danny has added or will add have a certain responsibility to be as tough as the truck. We think he’s made some great choices, and this Tacoma is about ready for the trail. But we’re not done. On Thursday we’ll look at even more mods and future mods to increase the Tacoma’s practicality and improve its appearance. Stay tuned.
Click any of the links above to start AutoModding your own Tacoma! If you have any questions, give us a call at 877.787.8989. Our expert, American techs will be glad to assist you.
We’ve already given away two $100 gift cards to commenters who suggested vehicles for us to AutoMod. Drop your own suggestions in the comments below. We’ll pick one each month, and if you suggested it first, we’ll send you a $100 StreetsideAuto.com gift card. We’ll announce the winner of our next prize on April 24th at noon central, so don’t be late!
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.