The Toyota Tacoma’s ECT Power Button: Explained

ECT PWR adjusts shift points to improve power availability, allowing for a sporty driving experience.

Key Points:

  • ECT stands for "Electronically Controlled Transmission."
  • ECT PWR adjusts the shift points, allowing you to reach higher RPM levels before shifting into the next gear.
  • It does not boost engine power itself, but rather takes better advantage of available power.
  • Best used when for going up hills, towing, and sporty driving.
  • Available on 1994-2004 and 2016-2024 Tacomas.

When it comes to today’s vehicles, there are too many acronyms for any driver to understand them all. That’s why so many Toyota owners are confused about the meaning behind the “ECT PWR” button. Where is the ECT power button, and when should it be activated?

In this guide, I show you what the ECT power button means, how to use it, and get into the technical side of things.


What Is ECT PWR?

ECT stands for Electronically Controlled Transmission. It’s a type of automatic transmission with computers that control its function. In most Tacoma vehicles, the ECT button is located below the climate control system, behind the gear shifter.

ect pwr button location

ECT adjusts the shift points, allowing you to reach higher RPM levels before shifting into the next gear. Power is increased when needed most by temporarily manipulating the automatic transmission’s shift points.

For this reason, drivers activate the ECT power button when higher response levels are needed. We will discuss the best situations for ECT power below. 


How It Works

Despite how it sounds, the ECT PWR button has nothing to do with increasing actual power. It’s not the same as having a turbo boost. You aren’t going to get more power to come out of the engine than what it’s set up for. 

The ECT PWR button activates a system of hydraulics that regulate the bands and clutches of the transmission to hold longer shift points. Electronic solenoids control all these functions. 

With more time for the RPM levels to rise before shifting, more power is harnessed by taking advantage of high-RPM torque. What feels like more power coming from the engine is simply just a manipulation of the power band.

Consider this button to be a tow-haul mode or sport mode. It’s ideal for moments when you need the engine to rev higher so the truck can accomplish more. Instead of lagging, the pickup will be able to pull its weight, literally. 

When to Use It

It’s important to know the appropriate times to use ECT power. Here are some common examples of when ECT power is useful.

  • Need Increased Throttle Response: ECT power can give you faster acceleration for a more responsive and quicker feel. If you are merging onto a busy highway or trying to overtake another vehicle to pass it, the ECT power may help you gain speed faster.
  • Towing: If you have a heavy load behind your truck, ECT will help you control it better. You’ll notice better acceleration on inclines and an improved throttle response.
  • Carrying Heavy Loads: For the same reasons as towing, hauling requires more effort from the truck. When you load down the truck bed, turn on ECT power to gain the added acceleration and throttle response that’s demanded. 
  • Going Uphill: Even if you aren’t towing, the Tacoma achieves better acceleration uphill with ECT power. Combine that with the enhanced throttle response, and you shouldn’t lose any power. 
  • Rocky Surfaces: Because the throttle response is controlled better with ECT power, you can handle rocky terrain more easily. It also provides better traction control as you traverse uneven and bumpy surfaces.
  • Increased Traction: If you drive on a slippery surface, ECT power may help you regain some control. The improved throttle response allows you to regain traction. It can be used in conjunction with the other advanced traction control systems on the Tacoma. 
  • Enhanced Driving Experience: If you simply want to have a little fun in your Tacoma, that’s okay too. With the ECT power enabled, you achieve higher performance levels because you can get up to speed faster. Enjoy the added acceleration boost and improved traction control if you just want a better ride. 

With all these possible scenarios, it’s easy to think that ECT power is always beneficial, but it’s not. Just check out this next section.


Can You Leave It On?

Yes, you can leave ECT power on all the time. In fact, many Tacoma owners are fans of doing this. However, there are some other things to consider.

The benefits are that the increased throttle control and smoother transmission shifts make the ride more enjoyable. 

However, leaving the ECT power on may have a couple of downsides. Consider these two cons.

  • Burns More Fuel: Because the ECT pushes the RPMs higher, the engine is working harder. In return, more fuel is needed to keep pumping out the acceleration. You end up spending more on fuel to leave ECT power turned on. Take notice of how often you visit the pump when this function is enabled. 
  • Added Wear and Tear: Some people argue that, with the engine running harder, you can experience more wear on the internal components. On top of that, you may want to add in more regular oil changes to keep the engine running its best. 

Aside from premature mechanical failure, the major downsides equate to a higher cost. If you believe the added acceleration and throttle response is worth the expense, nothing is stopping you from running the ECT power all of the time. 


Not all Toyota Tacoma trucks are equipped with ECT power. In fact, it wasn’t released until the 2016 model year. Ever since then, it has been included with Tacoma models.

Therefore, if you want to find a used or new Tacoma that includes the ECT power button, look for model years 1994 to 2004 and 2016 to 2024.  Tacomas produced between 2005 and 2015 do not have this feature.

Harness the Tacoma’s Power

While you can’t make the Toyota Tacoma include a more powerful engine, you can learn how to harness what it already has. With the help of the ECT power button, you achieve better throttle response and improved acceleration.

Whether you are getting ready to pull out on a busy highway or you need to get your heavy load up a hill, the ECT power button is your best friend. Once you start using it regularly, you’ll see what makes it valuable, but your wallet will also feel it.

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  1. you will probably not be straining your engine using the ECT feature all the time, and you might, as others have pointed out, actually INCREASE your fuel mileage by using the feature. This is because, instead of “lugging” your engine and requiring a heavy foot to gain acceleration when going into a higher gear, the ECT feature will increase both your engine RPM (keeping the engine more in the power band it was made to run in) and also the sensitivity to know when you need to downshift on slowing to also keep the engine more in the power range it is most effective in. This will actually save wear and tear on the engine as most of the wear and tear comes from pulling up the acceleration from lower RPMs and at the same time the sensitivity increase will shift DOWN more in tune with your power band than without the ECT feature. Keeping your engine in the optimum power band allows it to run cooler, less stressed, and using less fuel than otherwise trying to pull out of a low rpm situation caused by the transmission not sensing the need to pre-emptively downshift for you.

  2. Dave Andrews says:

    I’m on my 3rd Tacoma had a 2003,2006, and now a 2023 SR5. Love the trucks! I travel PA 22 in the summer a lot and use the ECT to make it over the mountains, truck climbs a lot better in this mode.

  3. I have the ECT power button on my ’97 Tacoma. So the statement that it was introduced 19 years later is false.

    1. Jonathan Buckley says:

      We listed 1994 to 2004 and 2016 to 2023 as the Tacomas that have the ECT power button, so your ’97 falls within that category.

  4. James Creasy says:

    I’m going to tow a horse trailer 900 miles, empty weighs 2600 pounds should I use the ECT or can I drive in normal drive mode.

    1. Jonathan Buckley says:

      Yes, use ECT, but you can drive in Normal if you want to.