Tech: Tacoma Front Bumper Trimming Short Cuts

| Toyota Section | Reviews | 4Runner | Maintenance | Minute Mods |

By: Mark Griese - 11/2003

Shortly after I started wheeling in the Tacoma, the lack of approach angle became an issue. Not that the Tacoma has an overly long front end, but the turn signal lights are mounted below the bumper in the plastic front valance. While observing other Tacomas with more trail time than mine, it was obvious the turn signals would get smashed and/or eventually fall out of the mounts.

I knew the sides of the plastic had to be trimmed away as much as possible. This would allow the tire to climb up and over rocks with less damage to the front end. The center section of plastic can also be removed, but that will expose more of the frame rails and cross brace. With the changes Toyota made to the front end on 2001 and later models, the turn signals matched the curve of the front bumper, and I knew with enough determination I could make them fit into the bumper.

2001 & later models

Photo by Rick Cabral
Partial Trim Full Trim

I started by removing the complete front bumper from the truck. The location of the bumper mounting bracket determines where the turn signal must be placed. An existing hole is used for one of the mounting points after a little trimming of the lens housing. The other side of the housing mounts to a 1/2" x 1/2" x 1/8" thick custom aluminum bracket. The top of this bracket is bolted into an existing hole in the bumper. I just wedged the bottom of the bracket into the bumper, but in retrospect, the bottom of the bracket should be drilled and bolted into an existing hole in the bumper also.

Before any cutting or drilling is done, remember the old saying...measure twice, cut once. To prepare the bumper for cutting, cover the front of the lens with masking tape so it won't get scratched, then modify/trim the back of the housing to sit flat against the bumper and just underneath the frame mount (on the inside of the bumper), then draw an outline on the inside of the bumper. Now take the housing, lens down on a piece of paper, and draw a template. Remember, the template has to be smaller than the lens so that the hole you cut is smaller than the lens. Trim the template until you have an exact match with the curvature of the front of the lens. Now place this template inside the bumper and line it up with the previous outline you made of the housing. Once the template is lined up, draw around it. Put 3-4 layers of masking tape on the outside of the bumper, then drill four small holes around the outline (about 1/4" inside the outline), two on top, two on bottom. Now you'll be able to see exactly where the template goes on the outside of the bumper. Line up the template on the outside and draw around it. Make sure the corners of the openings are rounded because any moldings you use to cover the cut edge will not adhere to a sharp inside corner! Now drill a large hole which will let the jigsaw blade enter, and cut the opening. The several layers of masking tape you applied earlier are necessary to keep the bottom of the saw from marring the bumper's finish. I bolted the end of the bumper to be sawed to a milk crate to help keep it steady while using the jigsaw. Finish off the opening with door edge molding (the one with the glue inside of it) from the auto parts store. The door edge molding also gives the cut plastic valance a nice, finished look.

Installed Inside mount Using an existing hole Bracket wedged in Finished view

1998 - 2000 models

Photo by Tim Ryan Photo by Tim Ryan
1998 - 2000 Side marker lens

The front plastic can also be trimmed on 1998 - 2000 models. Of course, the amount to be trimmed is up to the owner, but on these models relocating the turn signal requires something a little different.

A simpler way to relocate

If you have the 1998 - 2000 model, or are not ready to cut in to your 2001 & later steel bumper, the easy way to relocate the turn signal is to remove the side marker lens assembly and install a dual filament bulb (#1157) and socket that can be purchased at an auto supply store. I finally did one of these relocations in July 2004, and the detailed instructions are in the Tacoma Turn Signal Relocation article.

The benefits

Less worries about... ...which lines you pick

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