2016 Toyota Tacoma: A Better Radio Knob Suggestion
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on May 24, 2016
It isn't perfect, but I generally like the EnTune touchscreen audio system in our 2016 Toyota Tacoma pickup. It's clearly better than the touchscreen systems that the Honda Pilot and Civic use, and one of the main reasons boils down to a feature that the Honda systems lack: physical volume and tune knobs.
But Toyota's knobs are smallish, a bit slippery and — worst of all — they don't project far enough away from the touch-sensitive radio faceplate. In the course of using them your fingers skim the surface of the radio, which often leads to false contact with nearby touch-sensitive areas — especially when a moving car is jostling around. On the volume side, you might accidentally trip the number-six preset. On the tuning side, you'll trigger the fader and balance sub-menu.
This weekend I had an idea that's more of a proof-of-concept design change proposal than a permanent solution. It's a suggestion I'd give to the Toyota radio design team if I ever got five minutes of their time. And there's much to be gained because this is not just a Tacoma issue. Our Prius and Mirai have the same knobs, along with every single current Toyota that's fitted with the EnTune touchscreen audio system.
As you may know, radio knobs usually come off by applying firm and steady pressure, a reversal of how they were installed at the factory to begin with. My plan was simple and probably obvious: pop them free and pull them a bit farther away from the radio faceplate to see it that made any difference.
There was a strong detent to overcome, but after a bit of uncertain wincing I got them moving without breaking anything. As I'd hoped, they're indexed to a stem that extends from the radio and engages the knobs for something like a half-inch. I had room to experiment.
The sweet spot seems to be somewhere between one-eighth and three-sixteenths of an inch (about 4 millimeters) farther out than the standard position. That may not sound like much but it results in a dramatic improvement.
The knobs are much easier to grab onto and use, and I almost no longer care that they're not knurled. Look at the reflection of my fingertips in the before and after pictures and you'll see they're no longer close to brushing up against the glass.
As much as I'd like to, I can't really leave them like this. There's no detent to hold them in this altered position, so an enthusiastic car detailer could knock them free.
What Toyota needs to do is either make the knobs thicker or increase the length of the part that sticks out the back and engages the shaft. Better still, they should do a little of both and add 2 millimeters to each dimension.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,341 miles