For those of new uninitiated to this issue, let me just say that the OEM Transfer case (TC) acutator is a Piece of SH*T (POS). In my area the dealer wanted ~$1300 for it. It has a reputation of failing again in short order due partly because of the grease used hardens in cold temps lifting the wiper fingers from the limit switch wheel, and I also read that the Hi-Lo shaft sticks in the TC. This is what happened to me I think as after I cleaned the grease I got 4-Hi back but 4-Low was almost impossible aside from the time it went in but wouldn't come out.
I happened accross a thread from Rock Solid Toyota (RST) about swapping out a manual TC from an automatic transmission (AT) FJ cruiser. If you have a AT Tacoma this is a bolt-in. For a 6-speed like me there are some guts to swap that is more or less painless.
I absolutely hate this kind of OEM bad design but worse is the price for the replacement part! I would think that if Toyota knows that the part is a POS they would lower the price on that part to a reasonable price point; but no they need to make you regret having bought the vehicle in the first place.
I picked up a slightly used TC from HondaToy in Edmonton and had it shipped out to me. They even threw in some MT goodies that I needed and were patient with me as I explained what it was that I was trying to do. I will not duplicate posts as RST did a great job of it so follow the link below:
and this fellow did one too in a parking lot:
The only picture I will add to the mix is the one following. Note the bearing halves on the end of the shaft; I held them there with a bit of needle bearing assy grease (for outboard motors though white grease or vasaline would work too). I just thought there needed to be a better picture of this. Another top tip that I had a bit of trouble with was the gear swap from the AT TC planetary that I discarded to the 6sp TC planetary that I was keeping; the gear in question in the RST post is the one that drives the oil pump! Seems a no brainer now but at the time I couldn't wrap my mind around it.
What I was after in all this was a more OEM result as I am not a hard core off roader, nor am I interested in in having the twin stick mod. I am interested in having the 2wd low option as I move trailers around and I find it hard on the clutch. I addressed this another way. I also wanted a truck that was not confusing for the next person to drive or find my wife unintentionally driving around with the front ADD engaged on the pavement. I would notice such a thing as would most of you but not everyone would know what that felt like. I decided to get a hold of an FJ AT TC "computer" (but that is overstating it's function) and wired it into my tacoma with flawless results (more later). I also used the FJ MT shift boots to seal up the holes.
The FJ MT boot has two layers and as if by majic is the same center distance one needs for this project. I won't lie to you the fit isn't perfect but it is really good enough. Up here in Canada we get rain so sealing this area is really important.
I made a pattern of it then used it to cut the hole in the tunnel. Now to cut the hole despite the array of power tools at my disposal I found the best tool to use was a pair of tin snips (KISS). I did have to drill the four missing holes, square them with a file and used OEM type hardware to fasten the boot. Don't forget to paint. I did have to trim the side of the boot bracket with a belt sander for best fit.
With the hole cut and the paint drying I pulled out the TC and did the mods that RST outlined and reinstalled the TC. Working alone, bench pressing the SOB was a bit of a job but I've been around long enough to remember when they were housed in cast iron and am greatfull that it's now aluminium. The point here for me was to get my truck back on the road so at this point I put the shifter in the hole and came back to it when I found the time. This portion of the job could be tackled in a day.
Moving on to the shifters:
I decided that I wanted the two shifters to share what I thought was a huge hole in the console, but it took a bit of work to make it happen. My TC was from an FJ that burnt and as such had no rubber mounted shifter tube so I made a tube on the lathe at work, as well I threaded a shaft with the needed M12-1.5 thread but a local machinist would not find this a challenge. I also ordered in the OEM FJ knob.
I needed to heat up my trans shifter to move it which meant stripping out the rubber and making a new shifter there as well. but here I scavenged the tapered outer tube and used it again. While I was at it I shortened the height a little. I cut and welded and heated and twisted test fit after test fit. This is where one needs patients and lots of it. There is precious little room there so it's a bit of a battle. In the end THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ROOM TO HAVE BOTH SHIFTERS THERE!!! The best I was able to achieve was good geometry except a console collision going into reverse. But fear not; the URD short shifter kit reduces the size of the shift pattern by 44% and worked perfectly. IMO you must have this kit to do it this way.
When you are taking the TC shifter in and out be aware of the spring and be careful not to pinch it when you bolt it down:
I also asked for an OEM FJ MT outer shift boot with the thought that the upholsterer could re-sew it for the smaller taco but in the end it wasn't possible and he made me a new one. Lucky for me my company has a small upholstery component to it and the fellow did it for me quickly and inexpensively with waste material.
A word about discussions relating to rubber mounted shifters: I think the whole thing is BS. We survived just fine without vibration and noise dampening shifters in the past. What noise and vibration that does come in is barely noticeable IMO. I actually prefer it solid.
Top tip for Toyota:
rather than wasting money on rubber mounting the shifter to reduce cabin noise how about fixing the heater fan noise instead? That would be money well spent.
I wouldn't give it a second thought by making it solid shaft. I was surprised how much it moved on the rubber. For my truck the feel is solid and notchy the way I like it. The pattern small, and yes reverse takes a bit of a push and yes I've messed up a shift or two but I'll get used to it.
The wiring is actually not that complicated. I made a drawing for referance using MS Visio and then scanned a copy of it in case the file type was a problem. If someone would like the Visio file I'm happy to share it; Send me a PM.
Now for those of you who are SUPER observant; YES the pigtail wire colors are incorrect. It took me about an hour to figure out the wrecker actually sent me a stereo plug instead of a TC controller plug. It's the same plug but the TC controller plug is supposed to be green. To prep the wiring I simply identified the wires I needed to work with, hung pigtails on them as needed plugged into the proper ports and tied back the rest.
To remove the pins from the FJ plug lift the locking device just a little then you will see where you push in the tabs to release the pins
What would have been better is if someone could supply the OEM number for these connectors but I didn't have the patience to wait on the dealer to stumble through it. It is the same as the larger Tacoma TC controler pins.
I used the Taco bracket to fasten the controler back into place but needed a hole and a zap strap to hold it as only one tab engages but it works just fine.
My truck doesn't have locking rear diff but after a quick look it seems that for those of you who do have it what you need is a second FJ AT TC controler stacked on top of the first and wire it into that system in a similar way and it seems to me it will work just fine, provided that an OEM result is what you are after. For those with traction control I would think that system would simply need to know when the TC is in 4WD. Find that input and wire it in accordingly. Lucky for us Toyota isn't using a CAN buss to connect all this together or we'd be in a bit of trouble.
For the twin stick crowd that are after 2WD Low for going around corners, or if you are like me and trying to move trailers trying not to ruin the clutch and don't want the ADD engaged, this is for you:
I put in a rocker switch upside down where it is closed in the off position and open when on. It simply interupts the signal through the TC 4WD switch so the controler never knows that the TC was shifted. Presto!
I ordered in the blank faceplate for the 2WD dash
If I could do it again I would have done a better job looking for a TC knob with the right shift pattern and shape. the FJ AT knob doesn't go well with the shape of the 6-sp knob. There are aftermarket knobs for sure but I wanted the OEM look. I'm sure there is a better knob out there; post up if you have it!
When I was making the shifters I noticed that despite the fact that I had the shafts cherry red they would split and crack when bent. when I was done I capped the cracks with weld. I wonder if I wasn't better off cutting them off closer to the ball and bending the steel shafting I bought instead?
I would have liked to have found an appropriate OEM switch for 2-low but couldn't come up with anything so what I have and the labling is the best I could do. Post up with any ideas.
As I said before if I had the correct OEM pins I could have done a neater job of the wiring.
The entire conversion cost pretty much what the electronic TC shift motor costs so that to me was a win as I much prefer the manual case that should have come with the truck from factory. My labor was free.
It was about 16 hours of work all in. I am thrilled to have found a way to side step Toyota's gouging for parts and a "once and for all" solution.
Many thanks to RST for making public the information needed to do this conversion. I applaude their generosity. If you are in need of, and are able to use their services please do and give them a pat on the back from me!
If you are considering this conversion yourself you will need to employ several skill sets to get it done: mechanical, electrical, fabricating and welding, upholstery. While I am a HD/Marine mechanic for a living I am admittedly at an advantage, however I think this is well within the DIY realm. If you can wire in a set of fog lights with a relay and change a clutch without having a nervous breakdown then this is within your skill level. Hand tools are all that's needed for this job, but lots of extensions and a universal would be an asset.
For those of you in my area of SW BC Canada who are not comfortable in doing this work and willing to make the trek to Squamish I'd be happy to help.