Proshaft recently got a call from a customer in Ft. Lauderdale with a pretty unique request: they wanted us to build a front drive shaft for a Toyota Tacoma. What made this one different is that they wanted to use the Japanese style setup complete with Matsuba/Matsui u-joints. This would also include the enclosed style slip yoke and spline set up. We knew that the weld-in components would more than likely be metric. Since we didn't have easy access to metric tubing, some machining to our SAE-spec tubing would be required to fit the metric components. After a little research, we decided to move forward with the project and make it happen!
It should be noted that a great quality front drive shaft can actually be made for most Toyota vehicles using American components with 1310 or 1330 series adapter flanges. With those flanges in place, it allows us to use standard Spicer-style components for everything else. I'll admit though, this was a really cool job due to the (mostly) authentic end product.
Here we have all the necessary components to complete the Tacoma front drive shaft build. In the top left we have the weld (tube) yoke for the Matsui/Matsuba universal joints. We can also see the enclose slip and spline set up prior to being fitted to the tubing.
One of the cool things about a lot of Japanese-style Toyota drive shafts is the use of the enclosed slip and spline. In theory, I can see how this design might do a better job at keeping out dirt and grime in an off-road vehicle. Instead of using a pressed or threaded on dust cap, it uses a shroud with a rubber gasket in the end to seal off the spline from the elements.
The original Tacoma front drive shaft uses a really cool slip and spline setup pictured above. The slip is basically enclosed in a shroud with a rubber gasket in the end. This means that any dirt or grime would first have to pass the rubber gasket and make its way all the way down and inside the spline to ever affect the function of the part.
After examining and measuring our components. The next step to completing our Tacoma front shaft build was to machine the SAE-spec tubing to fit the metric components. As can be seen in the photo above, the weld butt on the slip setup is a little bit longer than the one on the weld yoke. So for one end of the tubing we machined it back just a bit further to accommodate this. The original tubing in the actual OEM drive shaft is tapered at both ends. To make sure our Tacoma front drive shaft was sufficiently strong, we opted to use DOM tubing with .083" wall thickness. This would leave enough steel for us to machine as well as provide plenty of strength so the shaft wouldn't twist under stress.
This is the rough cut tubing before machining.
Here, we're doing a nice chamfer and debur before machining the inside of the tubing for the metric components.
Machining the ID of our SAE-spec tubing to accept metric Toyota drive shaft components.
This is our SAE-spec tube machined to accept the Toyota weld yoke. The other end of the tubing was machined just like this (but a bit further back) to accept the spline's weld butt.
With our tubing machined and ready to go, it was time to fir the weld-in components for our Tacoma front drive shaft. With everything machined properly, this went off without a hitch.
This is our Toyota Tacoma front drive shaft prior to installing the universal joints or welding.
For the next step of the build, we decided to go ahead and get the u-joints installed in both the weld yoke and the slip yoke. We've found that this can be pretty tricky with aftermarket universal joints for Toyota aplications. However, the Matsui/Matsuba joints went in smoothly and easily. The trick here is to basically get the bearing caps tapped in place nicely before attempting to press them in all the way. The angled nature of Toyota drive shaft components makes it a little difficult since the underside of the component isn't machined flat. This can cause the part to move around making the use of an arbor press difficult. Having said that, the OEM u-joints pressed into place pretty drama-free.
We installed our Matsui/Matsuba u-joints in the flanges first since it would be easier to ensure that the snap rings were fully seated into their grooves.
Installing the Matsui/Matsuba u-joints into the weld yoke of our Japanese-spec Toyota Tacoma front drive shaft. The reliefs in the edges of the flanges allowed to use to make sure our inside snap rings were fully seated in the weld (tube) yoke.
This is our Japanese-spec Toyota Tacoma front drive shaft prior to having the components welded into place. Looking great!
Now that the metric parts were fitted and universal joints installed, we were ready to weld this baby up. This job was actually made easier due to the fact that we had machined the tube for the Toyota-spec parts. The reason for this is that we dial in the the tube in an independent four jaw chuck prior to machining. Once machined, the outside and inside diameters of the drive shaft tube are perfectly parallel (around .001" to .002) to each other.
In this photo, we've got our "high" spot marked in red where we'll begin welding on the front part of our drive shaft.
Front section welded up nicely.
Just before welding in our spline. Again, we've got the "high" spot marked in red where we'll begin our weld.
Here we have our spline welded in nicely.
Now that the u-joints were installed and the components welded in nice and straight, it was time to balance and paint our Japanese-spec Toyota Tacoma front drive shaft. To do the balancing, we used our 46mm Toyota drive shaft adapters for the balancer. A week or so prior to this build, a customer brought in the complete rear drive shaft for a Tundra. Prior to that, we didn't have the adapters so we machined a pair ourselves. If you read the article about the Tundra drive shaft, you'll have seen that we machined these from aluminum. Since this build worked out nicely, we're going to machine a pair of adapters from cold rolled steel for longer durability.
Tacoma front drive shaft secured to the balancer.
Let's balance this thing!
With the Matsui/Matsuba u-joints in this shaft, it was simply a treat to balance. Now that we had it all balanced nicely, it was time to paint our completed Japanese-spec Toyota Tacoma front shaft and put the phasing arrows on.
Weld yoke end of our Toyota Tacoma front drive shaft.
Slip yoke end of our Tacoma front shaft.
We apply these phasing arrows so that the customer can remove and reinstall the slip yoke if need be and realign the drive shaft the way it was balanced.
Here is our Toyota Tacoma front shaft fully balanced and painted, ready to deliver to the customer.
This was a really cool project and we had a ton of fun doing it. Other than the tapered tubing in the OEM drive shaft, this one is true to the original. One thing that surprised us was just how nice the Matsui/Matsuba u-joints felt. I've bragged a lot about Spicer products in many other articles but these joints really give them a run for their money in overall feel and smoothness. Thanks for reading our article and we hope to hear from you soon!