A-TRAC Mode on the Toyota Tacoma: Explained


You may have heard of Toyota A-TRAC mode and wondered what it is and what it has to do with your Tacoma. It can be challenging to keep up with all of the advanced features of Toyota trucks.

In this guide, I seek to answer all of your questions about A-TRAC. I show you the basics of how it works and compare it against other features. I also examine what trims include A-TRAC and show you when to use it.

What is A-TRAC?

A-TRAC stands for Active Traction Control System. It’s designed to prevent the wheels from spinning, especially while off-road.

If one or more of the wheels loses traction, the A-TRAC system engages to apply brake pressure to the slipping wheel or wheels. In this way, more power is sent to the wheels with traction, helping you get your Tacoma out of a stuck situation. 

The system works automatically when enabled. You can activate the system and turn it off as you please.

Once it’s turned on, you don’t have to do anything to distribute the extra torque to the wheels that have traction. The system detects the need on its own. 

Not only can it detect wheel spin automatically and distributes the necessary torque between the front and rear wheels, but it can also get you out of a stuck situation. If you are off-road and a wheel is stuck, the A-TRAC will kick in (if enabled) to help you get out.

To review, here are some key points:

  • A-TRAC controls brake fluid pressure and engine torque to distribute power to wheels with traction
  • A-TRAC enhances drivability while traveling along any extreme road or off-road conditions
  • It operates similarly to a Limited Slip Differential (LSD)
  • A-TRAC applies the equivalent of having a locked center differential and LSD on the front and rear axles

After seeing how versatile this system is, hopefully, you will recognize how beneficial it can be. I encourage you to try it out the next time your truck loses traction off-road. 

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A-TRAC vs. Crawl Control

How does crawl control compare to A-TRAC? Crawl control helps when traveling on rough off-road surfaces while driving at a fixed low speed. While using crawl control, there’s no need to press the brake pedal or accelerator.

Crawl control reduces traction loss and prevents vehicle slip while driving on slippery surfaces, providing a stable drive. It’s comparable in many ways to cruise control, but it’s meant for much lower speeds and designed for off-road terrain.

While using crawl control, you remain focused on navigating the obstacles and less on traction. 

So, how does crawl control compare with A-TRAC? Here are a few points to consider.

  • Both A-TRAC and crawl control are designed for off-road situations that require more traction
  • A-TRAC automatically provides traction in slippery situations as long as it’s enabled
  • When using crawl control, the Tacoma travels at a set speed, so you don’t need to touch the accelerator or brake
  • Crawl control is only meant to be used for a short time, across short distances, whereas A-TRAC can remain enabled during the off-road experience

Basically, you activate crawl control if you are navigating a tough portion of a trail and don’t want to focus on acceleration or braking. Otherwise, A-TRAC is best for off-roading when traction is going to be a concern.

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A-TRAC vs. Locking Rear Differential

The locking rear differential (LRD) is a lock system to use when wheel spinning occurs. It is helpful on slippery surfaces and when the truck gets stuck in the mud, snow, rocks, or a ditch.

The locking rear differential provides traction by forcing both tires on an axle to turn.

Here’s how it differs from A-TRAC:

  • With LRD locked, you can’t drive more than five mph, while A-TRAC can be used at any speed appropriate for 4LO
  • LRD only operates on the rear wheels, while A-TRAC is used on all four
  • LRD sends equal power to both rear wheels, so neither is spinning freely
  • A-TRAC only distributes torque where it is needed

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When to Use It

Tacoma A-TRAC has many uses, making it a versatile addition to your truck. Here are just a few of the situations when using A-TRAC is helpful.

  • Off-roading: If you lose traction while heading down a dirt or rocky road, A-TRAC sends torque to the appropriate wheels to regain traction
  • Hill climbing or descending: If the wheels slip while tackling moderate to difficult inclines, A-TRAC provides torque where it’s needed
  • Stuck at a stop: If you are on a slippery surface and can’t get the truck moving, A-TRAC provides better traction
  • Slippery terrain: A-TRAC is helpful on any slippery terrain, whether you have trouble gaining traction because of mud or snow

How to Activate It

How do you activate A-TRAC when it’s time to use it? Here are the steps.

  1. Put your Tacoma in Neutral
  2. Shift into 4LO (four-wheel drive)
  3. Press the A-TRAC button  

To deactivate A-TRAC, push the button again or shift out of 4LO. A-TRAC only runs when the truck is in 4LO, so it automatically shuts down when you resume regular driving. 

If you don’t disable A-TRAC manually, it will also turn back on the next time you shift into 4LO. 

A-TRAC is specifically designed to work with 4LO, which is a four-wheel drive function that should never be used during regular driving. For this reason, you won’t use A-TRAC or 4LO when you head down a dry, paved road. 

Compatible Models

A-TRAC has become a staple with Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road and Pro trucks. It’s on every 2009 to 2015 model. It’s also standard with the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.

A-TRAC may be available for some trim levels between 2009 and 2023, so it’s important to research each model before buying it to ensure it has the equipment you desire. I couldn’t quite find all the details about availabiliy of A-TRAC.

A-TRAC has also been available with other four-wheel drive Toyota models. Some 4Runner and Land Cruiser models also have A-TRAC. 

Traction For Any Situation

Between Tacoma A-TRAC, crawl control, and a locking rear differential, Toyota trucks are equipped with all of the features that keep you exploring. Whether you enjoy off-road adventures or you travel in a climate with precarious weather, these features are sure to help you regain control.

Learn how to use the A-TRAC system to your advantage. Read through the owner’s manual and watch some helpful YouTube videos to become a pro at navigating your Tacoma.

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