The Toyota Tacoma has been a reliable model for decades, but a truck’s performance and longevity really comes down to how well it’s maintained. One of the most important maintenance tasks any truck requires is a regular oil change. While most people leave this job to professional mechanics, changing your own oil is surprising easy and much more cost-effective.
In this article, we’ll take you step by step through the process of changing the oil on a Toyota Tacoma. Whether you’re a first-time do-it-yourselfer or an experienced mechanic, this guide will help you get the job done quickly and easily.
How to Change the Oil on a Toyota Tacoma: Models 2005-2015
The first Toyota Tacoma model might have been released in 1995, but considering that was nearly 30 years ago, it’s likely that most people aren’t changing the oil on models older than 2005.
This is why we’ve decided to provide a guide that is applicable to makes between 2005 and 2021. However, design alterations and improvements have been made over this span, so the oil-changing process will be slightly different between 2005-2015 makes and 2016-2021 makes.
Below are the tools necessary to change the oil in Toyota Tacoma vehicles made within this range, and the steps you must follow to complete the process safely and efficiently.
Gather Your Tools
Changing the oil on your Toyota Tacoma yourself might be easy in theory, but it’ll be unsafe and near impossible without the right tools.
For this process, you’ll need:
- Oil filter wrench (link to Amazon)
- 14mm socket wrench
- New oil filter for 2005-2015
- New oil filter for 2016-2021
- New motor oil (Toyota usually recommends OW-20)
- Drainage pan
- Microfiber cloths
- 12mm socket wrench (2016-2021)
- 3/8in drive ratchet (2016-2021)
- New drain plug gaskets (optional)
- Oil drain hose (2016-2021)
- Filter cap wrench adapter (2016-2021)
Before you purchase any new parts or motor oil for your Toyota Tacoma, make sure you check your model’s provided user manual. Inside, you’ll find vital information regarding what oil types and parts are best for your vehicle. It will also state its engine capacity, so you know how much oil you’ll need to purchase.
Here’s a quick video showing the process with written steps and more info below:
Assess Your Engine Oil Levels and Condition
Start the oil-changing process by popping the hood of your Toyota Tacoma (make sure it is off and parked on level ground) and assessing its current engine oil levels and condition.
To do this, pull out the dipstick (look for a yellow handle to the left of your engine) and wipe it clean using a microfiber towel.
Next, reinsert the dipstick into its tube and push it all the way down. Remove it once again and assess how high the oil level appears on the dipstick and how dark it is in color.
If the oil level is fairly low and/or appears dark amber or black in color, then it’s definitely time for an oil change. Place the dipstick back in its tube and remove the fill cap on the engine before moving to the next step.
Locate the Oil Filter and Drain Bolt
One of the biggest challenges people face when changing their oil for the first time is finding the oil filter and drain bolt amongst the complex system of pipes and parts. Luckily, once you know where they are, you’ll be able to easily spot them every time.
On makes from 2005-2015, you’ll find both parts on the undercarriage of your Toyota Tacoma, directly underneath the engine and towards the front of the vehicle (refer to Figure 1. below.)
In some makes, you’ll find the oil filter under the hood and to the right of the engine (refer to Figure 2.) where the oil fill cap is located in other makes.
If your Toyota Tacoma make is between 2016-2021, you’ll need to remove the skid plate covering the undercarriage before you can access the drain bolt and filter. This can be done with a 12mm socket wrench.
You’ll then find the oil filter towards underneath towards the front of the vehicle, and the drain plug a little further back (refer to Figure 3.).
Drain Engine Oil
Now, the messy part begins. Put on your gloves and place your drainage pan directly underneath the drain bolt. Use your 14mm socket wrench to loosen the drain bolt and then remove both the bolt and the washer/seal underneath manually.
Allow the engine bay to drain completely (will take about 5 minutes). While this is happening, check your drain bolt and washer/seal to determine if they’re in optimal condition for reinstallation or should be replaced.
Once all the old oil is out, use your microfiber towel to wipe down the area and then (re)install the drain bolt and washer/seal. Tighten the bolt again with the 14mm socket wrench (2016-2021 makes will require 30 foot-pounds of torque).
Remove and Drain Filter
If you have enough room in your drainage pan, place it directly underneath the filter. If it’s already over half full, you’ll want to empty some of it into a container (1 gallon milk jug should be fine) until it can be safely disposed of.
With the drainage pan in place, use the filter wrench to loosen the filter cover on a make 2005-2015 and then unscrew it manually and remove completely so it can drain.
On a make 2016-2021, you need to use your 3/8in drive ratchet to remove the filter housing’s bolt. You’ll then need to insert the oil drain hose and leave it in place until all oil has drained.
Replace Filter Parts and Reinstall
After the filter has been completely drained, use a new microfiber towel to wipe the area clean before installing the new filter.
Makes from 2005-2015 require you to install an entirely new filter component (like the PF53F). If the filter you received is not pre-lubricated, you’ll want to apply a layer of engine oil around the filter gasket.
Makes from 2016-2021 feature a series of reusable filter housing pieces, so you only need to swap out the filter itself.
To do this, use the filter cap wrench adapter paired with the appropriate socket wrench to loosen the filter housing. Manually unscrew and remove the housing, then replace the old filter and both O-ring seals (one is found on the exterior underneath the grooves, second is around the cap hole).
Once everything is replaced, reinstall all filter pieces (drain bolt is tightened with 10 foot-pounds of torque and the housing cap is torqued to 18 foot-pounds).
Fill the Engine Bay With New Motor Oil
By this point, both your engine bay and filter should be drained of all old oil and wiped clean. You can now return to the engine bay opening found under the hood.
Place your funnel inside this hole and slowly add your new motor oil. Use your dipstick to check the fill level and keep pouring in new motor oil until the oil level reaches just below the “full” line. Reinsert the engine cap and close the hood when you’re done.
Check for Leaks and Reset Maintenance Light
You’ll want to confirm that your Toyota Tacoma’s engine bay and filter aren’t leaking by turning on the engine and checking both drainage spots while it’s running. If oil is dripping out, tighten the bolt or filter/filter housing using the appropriate tools.
The last thing to do is to turn off that pesky maintenance light that’s flashing on your dashboard. On 2005-2015 makes, press and hold the trip indicator knob while you turn your car on to second/accessory position. Keep holding until the oil indicator resets.
On 2016-2021 makes, turn the car on to second/accessory position and use the D-pad on your steering wheel to select the “Settings” option on your dashboard menu. Next, scroll down and select the “Maintenance Reset” option. Select “Yes” to complete the maintenance reset.
Now you’re an expert on changing the oil in your own Toyota Tacoma. If your vehicle was made between 2005 and 2015, you’ll want to change the oil every 3 months or 3,000 miles, whereas newer makes from 2016-2021 can often wait until 5,000-7,500 or even 10,000 miles.