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View Full Version : Looking to by my first overland SUV - Questions about the 3rd-Gen 4Runner



JeremyT101
12-18-2011, 02:31 AM
Hey guys/girls!

My girlfriend and I have been planning our first overland trip, a 12,000km route across Canada and back for the end of this summer. During that time I'm going to sell my current car (03 ford focus) and I'm looking to buy a capable SUV which can handle the back and gravel roads, as well as some mountain passes and hopefully many future trips. I have long been a fan of Jeeps, and was actually looking into buying a Cherokee (XJ) before stumbling onto this site, where it seems that everyone has a Toyota of some kind. After doing some research and perhaps too many perilously suspicious parking lot walk around of cars, I settled on the 4runner and the XJ as the main contenders.

I'm going to be honest, my budget for this truck is pretty low. Something like 5-6000$ Canadian dollars. I got my current 03 focus 2 years ago for 4700, put 35k on it, and haven't had a single issue so I think cheap cars, if done right, can be fine.

My main questions pertain to, what should I be looking for in a toyota truck of this age? I don't know much about them like I do the Jeeps, and as they arn't a solid axel, what are the main suspension bits to get under the truck and look at/judge when one is buying one. Are there any sort of year specific gremlins I should check out and stay away from?

Overall I guess I should ask, is the 4Runner the best choice for the price range? It has 4x4, and the rear E-locker which is a plus, and I don't see many taco's in this price range.

Sorry for the super open ended questions, still very new here!

Thanks alot!

rickashay
12-18-2011, 08:31 AM
I purchased a 98 4runner last year in February. It had 240kms and no locker when I bought it. (Not all 4runners have the rear locker. Mostly Limited editions come equipped and it was an option on the SR5's. The locker became obsolete in 01, I believe) It has been probably the best vehicle I have ever owned. I have performed a lot of preventative maintenance since I got it, but it still honestly drives like it has 100K on it and not 260K. Tons of aftermarket support too!

Key thing to watch out for:
- rear coil sag. An issue with use and time onthe truck but rePlacing the coils and shocks should probably be looked at for an epic and comfy 12000km journey anyway! There are a ton of coil options available to fix the "sag" and it can be done fairly cheap if you look through the classifieds.
- lower ball joints. An issue after the 200kms marker. They can fail and cause a lot of damage. Replace them with OEM parts and you will be good for another 200kms.
- steering rack. They tend to leak, so have a look at the steering rack and check for PS fluid residue.
- OEM radiator causing transmission failure: the OEM rad. has a internal transmission cooler. There is a failure issue when the barrier between the rad. and the tranny cooler breaks and coolant mixes with your transmission fluid causing big problems. The easiest and cheapest solution is to get an external tranny cooler and bypass the factory system.
- and just check for rust on the undercarriage, not sure where in Canada you are from??

My Runner has taken me some amazing places in the last year, and it holds still, so much more potential. Get some good tires, do some PM, swap in a rear locker like I did (if yours doesn't come with one) and enjoy it!

Theizzardking
12-18-2011, 05:07 PM
I own both , a 91 xj with the inline 6 and a 99 4runner 3.4 l v6 with factory locker , both have similar millage of around 230k miles , given the difference in years I still think the toyota is holding up much better and not as prone to factory defects and strange electrical problems , I love my 4runner more then any jeep I ever owned, much better build.quality even better then the same year zj 5.9 L 1998 I had , personally after 6 jeeps and 1 toyota I'm never going back ... That said their not for everybody and depending on your plans the xj could be the better option for you , here's why.

The xj has solid front and rear axels which will allow more lift and off road abuse plus a wider choice of locker options the draw back to this can be a rougher on road ride compared to ifs on the 4runner, also with the ifs the largest amount of lift reasonable is 3 inches which for the most part is plenty for a vast majority of trails out there.

The xj is stick and the 4runner is auto, given that the xj is still better on gas, also the parts and aftermarket support is better for jeep cheaper and well, the 4runner has choice but of the choices it's all top notch stuff and you do have more then a few options .

the xj is also a bit smaller and feels nimbler on tight trails not that the 4runner is big by any means, but between the two .....

As far as that goes and not trying to climb your truck over boulders the size of a small house the 3 inch lift on the ifs will take you almost anywhere you want to go , with the 4runner the build quality is there and has never, let me down and there are great products and vendors for 4runner offroad stuff, very seldom do you find any crap, honestly I would go with the 4runner if your going to be on road a fair bit and don't plan on being rock crawling champ 2012 , I also find I spend less money fixing things on the 4runner which means more money I get to spend on toys for it , not the story with the xl always something stupid breaking ... Really though it's whatever you feel is best for you , I'm just convinced the 4runner is a much better product and if your just doing mountain passes, logging roads with a few intermediate trails the 4runner is without a doubt the better choice I've done 3 separate 5k mile trips starting with 180k on the clock and never even thought twice about it. Give them both a test drive and see which one feels better to you , it's your money put it where you think the value is ....theres a reason the resale on a 4runner is what it is , lol

Logans91XJ
12-20-2011, 08:07 AM
Funny I own a 91 XJ and also owned a 99 4runner Limited with the Elocker. That 4runner was hands down the best SUV I have ever owned. Wheeled great it was comfy on the highway and loved the leather seats. Big thing for me was the A/C blew so damn cold and the heater would leave you with a tan. I love my XJ as a project but its a DD and it gets old realllllll quick. After 20 mins of being on the highway I'm ready to get out. It's noisy, rides like **** and if you don't have a stereo blasting roll down the windows to drowned out the road vibes and noise. But for around town driving and short trips the XJ is great. The amount of flex and offroad capability is outstanding. I'm on 31's with 3.5" lift and locked in the rear that thing will go anywhere.


I own both , a 91 xj with the inline 6 and a 99 4runner 3.4 l v6 with factory locker , both have similar millage of around 230k miles , given the difference in years I still think the toyota is holding up much better and not as prone to factory defects and strange electrical problems , I love my 4runner more then any jeep I ever owned, much better build.quality even better then the same year zj 5.9 L 1998 I had , personally after 6 jeeps and 1 toyota I'm never going back ... That said their not for everybody and depending on your plans the xj could be the better option for you , here's why.

The xj has solid front and rear axels which will allow more lift and off road abuse plus a wider choice of locker options the draw back to this can be a rougher on road ride compared to ifs on the 4runner, also with the ifs the largest amount of lift reasonable is 3 inches which for the most part is plenty for a vast majority of trails out there.

The xj is stick and the 4runner is auto, given that the xj is still better on gas, also the parts and aftermarket support is better for jeep cheaper and well, the 4runner has choice but of the choices it's all top notch stuff and you do have more then a few options .

the xj is also a bit smaller and feels nimbler on tight trails not that the 4runner is big by any means, but between the two .....

As far as that goes and not trying to climb your truck over boulders the size of a small house the 3 inch lift on the ifs will take you almost anywhere you want to go , with the 4runner the build quality is there and has never, let me down and there are great products and vendors for 4runner offroad stuff, very seldom do you find any crap, honestly I would go with the 4runner if your going to be on road a fair bit and don't plan on being rock crawling champ 2012 , I also find I spend less money fixing things on the 4runner which means more money I get to spend on toys for it , not the story with the xl always something stupid breaking ... Really though it's whatever you feel is best for you , I'm just convinced the 4runner is a much better product and if your just doing mountain passes, logging roads with a few intermediate trails the 4runner is without a doubt the better choice I've done 3 separate 5k mile trips starting with 180k on the clock and never even thought twice about it. Give them both a test drive and see which one feels better to you , it's your money put it where you think the value is ....theres a reason the resale on a 4runner is what it is , lol

Logans91XJ
12-20-2011, 08:09 AM
No one mentioned yet but the 3rd gen had issues with reading the incorrect fuel level. If I was doing long trips I would def use a GPS to calculate fuel stops. Also if you are on a budget just go with OME Rear Leafs and Shocks the stock setup is mushy and useless.

rickashay
12-21-2011, 12:21 AM
No one mentioned yet but the 3rd gen had issues with reading the incorrect fuel level. If I was doing long trips I would def use a GPS to calculate fuel stops. Also if you are on a budget just go with OME Rear Leafs and Shocks the stock setup is mushy and useless.

Isn't the fuel gauge problem on 99+ vehicles? I've never had an issue with my 98' but that doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. I swore I read it was a 99+ issue though... Also, the 4Runner uses coils front and rear, no leafs. If you want lift on a budget get OEM Landcruiser FRONT springs and install them on the rear of your 4Runner and pair them with OEM Landcruiser REAR Tokico shocks. Then run some OME coils/struts upfront. Cheap and effective.

Martinjmpr
12-21-2011, 02:51 PM
AFAIK the worst fuel gauge problems are on the 99+ models. Mine will show me as being below "E" and with the fuel light on when I still have 3 gallons in the tank (about 1/6.)

There are a couple of ways to work around this that don't cost much money. The zero cost option is to just use the trip meter. Use a few tanks to calculate MPG and then just reset the trip meter every time you fill up (there are two tripmeters, on mine I use Tripmeter A as my MPG meter.) This is the way motorcycle riders have been doing it for years and it works well, you just have to know your vehicle's approximate range. Of course, for best results, it also means you have to fill your tank to the top with every fillup. I do that anyway so it's not a hassle for me but I guess some people (for whatever reason) don't like to fill their tanks all the way up every time.

Another option is to get something like a Scan Gauge or an Ultra-Gauge (I have the ultra gauge.) These are electronic devices that plug into your OBD-II port and give you information on what is happening with the engine. Once you get them calibrated they're pretty decent at showing your current MPG. They can also be programmed to show DTE - that is Distance To Empty. I have my ultra-gauge set to show both MPG and DTE, and the DTE display is my default "gas gauge." I rarely even look at the factory gauge anymore, I just look at the DTE and it will give me an idea of how many miles I have to go before I need to fill up. These gauges do need a couple of tanks to get calibrated but once calibrated they're accurate enough for the kinds of use most of us would be doing.

The most expensive option is to get a new sending unit and/or gauge. I think the cost for this is close to $1,000 if you have the dealer do it. Not worth it IMO because you can get an ultra-gauge for less than $100.

CA-RJ
12-21-2011, 03:24 PM
My 97 has the fuel gauge issue as well.