I've read some posts about later model Tacomas have this issue--loose steering. I own a 95.5 4x4 tacoma and at 300,000 miles the steering is still tight. I just bought an 04 Tacoma d-cab 4x4 with 50,000 miles and the thing has a lot of steering slop. I crawled under it, looking around for a cause and noticed a lot of shift in the rack bushings--everything else out to the tires was tight. I replaced them with Energy Suspension bushings and the problem still exists. Further digging led me to believe that it was an issue above the rack and I found the problem, or at least isolated the play--it is totally in the column--I'm guessing in the tilt mechanism. In fact, if I grab onto the exposed section of shaft (inside the cab at the firewall on the steeringwheel side of the coupler joint) with channel locks, the wheel can be moved about a half an inch before it tries to rotate the channel locks. Before I start tearing into this, does anyone have any advice, or know where I can find a parts schematic. It seems like a common issue--I'm just hoping it doesn't require a complete column replacement (if it is a self contained, non-re-buildable unit).
Update: I found a rough IPC picture and it would seem that the only thing that could cause the issue is play in the tilt-steering knuckle joint, which was my first guess without seeing a pic. Is this just poor MFGing--sloppy from the factory, meaning a new unit might be just as sloppy?