Can You Convert A 2WD Tacoma To 4WD?

The Toyota Tacoma is an excellent truck with a lot of variants to choose from. This includes the 2wd version that may eventually leave you wanting to convert it to a 4wd. But is that even possible?

Can You Convert A 2WD Tacoma To 4WD?

You can convert a 2wd Tacoma to a 4wd, but it’s going to take some work. First, you have to replace the transmission and front differential. Then, a 4wd transfer case will have to be installed. Finally, the front suspension will have to be completely rebuilt to accommodate the new differential.

In the following guide, I show you the necessary steps to take to convert your Tacoma from 2wd to 4wd. I then give you a rundown on the costs of doing it yourself or hiring someone else to do it for you.

Converting a 2wd Tacoma to 4wd

Before attempting the conversion, it is a good idea to make a list of everything you need. This includes tools as well as parts.

You can easily find the necessary components by shopping online or at your local parts store. But that can get expensive.

The cheaper option is the junkyard. If you can find a wrecked 4wd truck there that will cross over, you’ve hit the jackpot. The rest of the parts are going to have to come from the Toyota dealer.

Here is some of what you’ll need:

  • Transmission
  • Transfer case
  • Front differential
  • Drive hubs
  • Front driveshaft
  • CV axles
  • Rear driveshaft
  • Differential breather kit

Here are the major steps for converting your 2wd Tacoma into a 4wd version:

Step 1. Drop the old transmission

The step that most mechanics forget to do when dropping a transmission is to remove the dipstick bracket. It’s such a simple thing that it’s easy to overlook. So, it’s best to start with that.

Then you will have to remove the center shifter console and disconnect the linkage. Once that’s done, remove the skid plates, trans cooler line brackets, and the trans cool line.

Next, it’s time to remove the torque converter bolts. There are usually six of them.

All that’s left to do now is to remove the bell housing bolts and the cross member. Then you’re ready to pry the transmission out and drop it down. Of course, this is probably not something you want to do alone.

Step 2: Install the new 4wd transmission

If the 4wd transmission is from a junkyard, you will have to swap out a few parts. This could include brackets, fittings, and the dipstick.

Also, during the prep phase, it is a good idea to flush the transmission. This gets all the residual gunk out and helps it to perform better after it’s installed.

Installing the new transmission is pretty much just a reverse order of removal. After it is all bolted in, the cross-member is reinstalled.

Step 3: Install the transfer case.

The older J-shift transfer cases are going to be simpler to put in. They are also easier to find since you can typically use a transfer case off a 4-Runner.

Also, there are no electronics involved with the J-shifts. But if you have a newer model, there’s a pushbutton for the 4wd selector. So, you will have to hook that up as well.

There is some prep work involved before installing the transfer case. It’s best to make sure the splines on both ends are clean and free from debris. This is especially true if you pulled the transfer case from a junkyard.

It’s also a good idea to dab some anti-seize compound on the shifter linkage. Next, grease the universals on both sides of the drive shaft.

You’re also going to encounter some rust, especially around the bolts and the mounting brackets. It’s best to treat it with a rust removal compound while you have easy access to everything.

Now, you’re ready for the install.

Before lifting the transfer case onto the transmission, it’s best to apply some light silicone around the edge. This should give it a better seal. It’s also a good idea to use a small amount of Loc-Tite around the mounting bolts for extra security.

Step 4: Install the center shifter console

You may have to make some modifications to get everything to fit correctly. But it should be reasonably straightforward. If you sourced your parts well, you should have no problem getting everything back in place.

Step 5: Install the differential

This is a pretty straightforward install compared to what you will have to do going forward. However, the very first thing to do is install the differential breather line. You will be glad you did since they are very hard to access once you have the differential in place.

I would also recommend purchasing a drop kit. They’re not very expensive, maybe $20. And they contain the necessary bolts and spacers to complete the install.

Before installation, you want to position the sleeve that locks the differential into the 4wd position. You do this by moving it forward just enough to cover the gear. You will need to do this before reinstalling the actuator.

During installation, it is a good idea to use a light silicone sealant around the attach points. And, since you’re down there, you may as well install the driveshaft.

Step 6:Rebuild the front suspension

This step is often what stops most DIY mechanics in their tracks. It is quite involved. And since there are many steps in the process, I will just brush over the major ones.

First, you have to remove the brakes, ABS actuator (if installed), hubs, and CV axles. Most of this stuff will have to be replaced to be able to work with the new differential.

Probably the most challenging part of the process is rebuilding the hubs. You will have to decide if you want them to be automatic or manual-locking.

And, since most people don’t have access to a press, you will probably need to hire a machinist. They can help you reset the bearings.

Step 7: Top off all fluid levels

Now that everything is put back together, it is time to fill the fluid levels. For the front differential, you’ll need a transfer pump. For the transmission, a simple funnel will do.

How much does it cost to do a conversion?

It’s difficult to put an exact number on the cost of doing a conversion. Even the best professional mechanics have trouble with this. But you probably already guessed that it isn’t going to be cheap.

So, for those reasons, I’ve broken it down into two categories: DIY and hiring someone to do the work for you. Also, I give you some idea of the cost difference between sourcing the new parts and pulling them from a junkyard.


If you’re going to do the conversion yourself, you will save a lot of money on labor. However, there is still the matter of buying all the necessary parts.

It can cost you as much as $4,000. And that’s with most of the major components such as the transmission, differential, and transfer case being refurbished instead of new.

The other option is to buy a donor truck. You may be able to find one that is wrecked or in poor condition for between $800 and $2,000. A junkyard may be an excellent place to start your search.

Having it done for you

The going rate to have someone convert your Tacoma for you is anywhere from $5,000 up to $8,000 or more. If you can convince the shop to use only used or refurbished parts, it could be less. And it depends on the area you live in and the availability of professionals willing to do the work.

Final thoughts

So, by now, you may be asking if a conversion is worth it. And for most Tacoma owners, it isn’t.

But there may be some reasons to push ahead. For example, you may already have a lot invested in your current truck. Or you may have gotten a good enough deal on a used one to offset the cost of converting it to 4wd.

Whatever the case, it should be your decision. So, it’s best not to let anyone dissuade you from making the jump just to save face later on.

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