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Manual Transmission Off-Roaders Wanted!

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Old 02-11-2014, 01:10 PM   #1
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Manual Transmission Off-Roaders Wanted!

Hey guys. I'm a new owner of a 2014 manual 4x4 (SR5) Tacoma. I made a monetary descision buying the non-OR version in manual. The price tag without A-TRAC, Alloy wheels, Rear locker and auto transmision saved me over $6000 (including tax). I spent around $31,000 to fit my budget. In my New Memeber introduction I mentioned I mostly needed a truck for work. Carrying supplies to and from work sites is going to be 90% of what the truck for the forseeable future. But lets face it, I went 4x4 because I want to get out into the rugged terrain around Las Vegas. I've been out into the hills with a buddy who has an off-road ready Jeep Wrangler. Massive tires, huge lift, front and rear winches, air compressor etc. The trails were pretty hairy looking to a beginner (me) but the locations we got to were beyond belief. I knew I'd return to the desert on my own some day. And that is the plan. I have the standard cheap Dunlops that came with the vehicle and plan on upgrading those first. Besides a laundry list of modifications that I will do once the $$$ becomes available my main concern is manual transmission off-roading. Mods will come but my main concern is the DRIVING.

There are two main threads that have caught my interest. The first is the Death Valley off-roading trips. DV is really close and omg the views and camping look amazing. However, I also realize a lot of what is posted in that thread are highly technical drives. I won't be running out to the desert with a bottle of water and some sun screen and think my truck or my current skills are up to snuff. DV is just a future goal to aim for.

The other thread I read crushed my balls a little. It was the Manual vs. Auto which ones stronger thread. The 95%+ votes for automatic transmissions was a little more than humbling. I got a little red in the face feeling a little foolish about my purchase. But about 4 seconds later I snapped out of it. It's still a Tacoma. And people have been off-roading in manual transmissions for a lot longer with a lot less truck than what is parked outside my door right now. (If any of you have not watched "Horatio's Drive" about the first guy to drive across the antire country (early 1900's) watch it. You won't be dissapointed) What I gleened from the thread was that manual is not so much inferior to auto (tho it may be???) but more specifically requiring more concentration and skill by the user. Burning your cluth to death hundreds of miles from civilization is not only embaressing and expensive but quite possible deadly.

So here's a little bit about my background. I was born and raised on manual transmissions. When I was 16 and learning to drive my parents owned two manuals. It was a pain in the ass learning and I often thought my folks just didn't love me while I stalled the car at green lights and rolled the Honda Accord into angry drivers behind me on inclines. (only happened once... the guy was cool and there wasn't any damage). But once I got it down and burned out one clutch I was hooked. I've loved driving manuals ever since. My skill level off roading is beginner. I used to own a 2007 FJ Cruiser in auto when I lived in Chicago (we got auto because my wife has never driven a manual and were a one car family). My 4x4 experience was all about the snow. Two days after we bought her it snowed 16". I used to carry a steel shovel around in our old Toyota Avalon. It was a necesity. After we bought the FJ I always carried the shovel around out of habit. I ended up using it about 5 times that winter. Always to help some Civic or other 2x4 out of there parking spot. The FJ taught me the merits of 4x4 and I can't imagine owning a truck or SUV without it. This is where my OR experience ends (at least on the drivers side of the vehicle).

So I'm concerned about driving my manual in 4lo. I've not been on roads yet (tires mostly) that this would be a good idea. I wanted to know about the Do's and Don't from experienced manual drivers out there on the forum. I don't want to kill my truck or myself as I move into the world of off-road, which is honestly why I NEEDED a Tacoma as a work truck. Any advice, links to posts, stories with happy endings or worse would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading this if you got this far.

Mute
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:25 PM   #2
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Welcome to TW

You will fall in love of this forum especially with what seems like you have fallen for the offroad bug.

You are good in a manual it will be tricky on certain terrains like rocks but since you have been driving it most of your life you're probably ok. Don't worry a lot of people drive manuals here so you can PM them.

If anything the biggest loss you incurred about your purchase relative to offroad is losing the locking differential but for 6000 you could just buy an ARB locker for about 1500 installed.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:26 PM   #3
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The main thing is to shift to 4 lo early.

Some drivers only use 4 lo as an "ultra low" extension for below first gear. It's not - it's an entire range and all the gears in the transmission are available to you in 4 lo -- sorta like the upper and lower chain rings on a 10 speed bike.

Once you're in 4 lo, you'll be surprised at how much easier everything works on the clutch.

Learn to do an "in gear" start with the clutch start cancel if you kill the motor on a hill, but be aware that the thing that's most likely to kill the motor on a hill is a sudden tall bump/step that you need to climb over, and you probably won't be able to crawl over it with just the starter. You'll probably need to roll back and try again.

Be aware that once you kill the motor, you only get one or two applications of power brakes before the pressure reserve in the system is exhausted and the braking effort is like 10x. So if you stall and you need to coast back with just the brakes, restart the engine to keep juice going to the power brakes and steering.

Don't be afraid to kill the motor. The fundamental rule is

"as slow as possible, as fast as necessary." Sometimes, you'll come into an obstacle too slowly and will kill it. No prob - just back up and retry with a tiny bit more momentum.

It's OK to feather the clutch (rarely) on a really tricky section. Just make sure you're not gunning the motor at the same time you're doing that (it's all about the slow at this point) and don't do it too often, or very often.

When you think about putting in a locking differntial (and you will) regear lower at the same time while you have the diff cracked open. Lower gears will help the stick shift.

The engine has torque and will power the truck down into very low RPM without dying. As long as you've got a little tiny bit of momentum going and you add a touch of gas as needed as soon as the wheels are blocked by a "bump" you can drive in 4 lo -1st gear with foot off the clutch down to 600 RPM and very brief (sub-second) intervals at like 400 rpm.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:27 PM   #4
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I have owned two 2nd Gen tacomas. The first was a manual and the second was an automatic both 4x4 V6 Access cabs. Both trucks are equally as capable offroad. 4Lo in the manual felt like a lower gear and could chug along and up anything. 4Lo in the auto is ok but I have stalled it going up a steep incline (probably driver error).

I never felt the manual was a weak transmission however it had its quirks. I bought it new and within 35000 miles the clutch pedal started squeaking badly. It can also suffer from throw out bearing issues. Neither of those problems are catastrophic and have yet to read anyone being stranded because their 6 speed gave out.

The auto gets better gas mileage but it definitely isnt as fun to drive. The A750 was made for Tundra originally so it is a stout transmission for our truck. I like it and have confidence in it when offroading.

All in all if I wanted a Tacoma for offroading it would be the manual. I felt in better control and I personally liked the gearing better. If you know how to drive a manual well (as you do) then you wont be dissapointed.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:40 PM   #5
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Very good technical info here you get to learn something new everyday
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:47 PM   #6
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manual FTW
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:52 PM   #7
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and if you really want to make it easy off roading with a manual, get a crawl box. its made things so much easier and its like driving an auto while offroading. granted, its pricy as hell and not for everyone but i wouldnt trade it for anything
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrmathis View Post
and if you really want to make it easy off roading with a manual, get a crawl box. its made things so much easier and its like driving an auto while offroading. granted, its pricy as hell and not for everyone but i wouldnt trade it for anything
Yeah - they are cool - but there's a *lot* of stuff I'd do before that.

Tires,
lift,
sliders,
skid plates,
high clearance rear bumper
locking differential or differentials

And just get some driving experience first.

My rule for modifications is: don't do any modification until after you've visited a trail where it would have been useful.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:15 PM   #9
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You guys rock. I wasn't expecting replies within 30 minutes of a post. Love this forum already. I feel better about the MT. There's going to be a big learning curve but I'm excited to get there. I gotta ditch these Dunlops! Do you guys think Dunlop AT20 Grandtreks should leave pavement? they Don't look like it to me.

Thanks again for the quick replies.

M
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:25 PM   #10
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Get yourself a nice AT tire.

TW loves the Nitto Terra Grappler.

Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac is a great choice and very popular.

Even though it's a bit dated, I still like the original BF Goodrich AT TA.

If I was gonna stay at stock ride height and drive a bunch of gravel roads, I'd leave the mudflaps on, trim about 4" off the bottom of the fronts, and go with a 265/70R16 tire which is the same size as the TRD OR uses.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:43 PM   #11
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seriously lots of good advice in here. I frickin love my 6MT, I came from the wrx world so my truck needed to be a manual. It's a clunky transmission, but it works when it counts. Also +1 on shifting into 4 lo earlier than you think, you'd be surprised how little it takes to stall/start burning your clutch while going up something in 4 hi. Also make sure that all your movements with the clutch pedal are slow in 4 lo, and only shift into 1st gear while stopped or you're gonna grind ze gears.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:59 PM   #12
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I love my manual i have an inherent distrust of automatic transmissions after replacing several of them. Most of the issues with MT are user inflicted (same for auto's but that's a different story). Driving an auto doesn't seem right and you have less of a feel for what your truck is doing.

I would try to find a club or TW guys locally that you can go out offroading with in a group.
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjmoose View Post
Yeah - they are cool - but there's a *lot* of stuff I'd do before that.

Tires,
lift,
sliders,
skid plates,
high clearance rear bumper
locking differential or differentials

And just get some driving experience first.

My rule for modifications is: don't do any modification until after you've visited a trail where it would have been useful.
oh i agree. was locker first. and then after gettin to the top of a hill, my clutch was smoking and pretty much had to wait for it to cool down before moving on. after that, it was a crawl box for me
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:01 PM   #14
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You'll be fine with the manual transmission. Before you dive headlong into mods, I suggest you find a local offroad club and go out on some of the mellow trail runs with them. Get some seat time and get comfortable with when and how to use your 4WD. As you do that you will find what mods are the most important for you to make to the truck to meet your needs.

There is no replacement for seat time. And having a group to go out with just for safety and to give you some instruction is great.

All that being said, if you are ready to tackle mods I would do them in the following order....
recovery gear (straps d-rings and good frame attachments)
1: sliders
2: suspension (non-spacer/block lift)
3: tires
if you still need more....
4: front bumper/winch
5: skid plates
6: rear bumper
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:13 PM   #15
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Welcome to our happy world! Those that have manual transmissions tend to be happy with them. It does require a bit more skill than an automatic. I mean all you have to worry about there is gas and brake! lol. I have wheeled in MT transmissions as much as automatics. I like the challenge and skill of manuals off-road. I like the ease of automatics. Each one has their points. As mentioned the FIRST thing you need to do is learn your truck. How does it respond to lugging? How low can you get your RPMs before it lunges a little? Now do ALL of this in 4low. LEARN YOUR TRUCK is the best advice I think anyone can give you. As for tires, I have learned that having a tire with a tiny bit less grip in a manual has an advantage. I can give a little more throttle and let the tires slip a little, then bite, and I can get over an obstacle easier than having to work the clutch with tires that grip REALLY good. It is easy to stall a manual with tires that grip. Stalling is not a good thing when you are staring into the sky, 30 feet up a rocky hill, with your but cheeks gripping the seat to hold you in place! lmao. I like a little slip in my tires on the rocks. Not a lot, but a little. Hell, look at the buggies. they spin the hell out of their tires and eventually walk right on up. You can do the same in a manual. Good luck!
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:36 PM   #16
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bjmoose's advice to shift to 4L range before you need it is good. I've use 2nd & 3rd low range where I could have used 4H in 1st and 2nd. I was ready to go to 1st low if needed.

Unlike the days when the transfer case had a shift lever (1st gen Tacoma) the climate control shift knob isn't cooperative about shifting to 4L sometimes and if you can't move the truck it doesn't want to shift.
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:59 PM   #17
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Love the advice flowing in. Looking at a local Southern Nevada Landcruisers Club I might try and join. I've had the truck for 4 days and have lots of mod dreams but getting experience "in the seat" is what I'm looking forward to most of all.

Keep the info flowing! Thanks again guys.

M
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:25 AM   #18
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Southern Nevada Land Cruisers is a chapter of the TLCA. That's a good group. You should enjoy them and get lots of good instruction and support.
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:03 PM   #19
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Thanks Boxrocket. I took your earlier advice and found SNLC on the web and was able to join them at their monthly meeting last night. They were really welcoming and with a diverse range of ages and vehicles. I'm planning on getting my truck together to meet up with them on an over night run next month. Thanks again for all the help. I'll post an update on how it went.

TX
M
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:13 PM   #20
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manual FTW
agree ^^^^
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