Project 4Runner

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It has been a while since my last update.  Other than a burnt out starter relay the 4runner has been running surprisingly well mechanically speaking so it was time to address some of the minor issues.

The first order of business was to eliminate the quadraphonic door rattles.  Best I could tell there was no way to adjust the door catches and the movement of the door was coming from play in the plastic parts of the latch mechanism buried in the door.  I then confirmed there was no adjustment at the latch either.  The idea of replacing all the latches was quickly dismissed once I found out how much they cost (and I needed one for each door).  After some more contemplating I realized that even though the door catches were held on by flathead bolts that there was still clearance between the bolt head surface and the front/rear doors.  A quick check with my calipers confirmed I could change out the hardware for button head cap screws and still clear the door with the addition of a shallow counter bore to the door catch.  This hardware change opened up the possibility for making the catch adjustable by slotting the mounting holes (not possible with the original flathead bolts). With the catch mounting holes slotted .100" and reinstalled we were treated to golden silence. Success!

Next up was addressing the lack of interior lighting, something we discovered the first time we drove the runner at night on a dark road. We found ourselves fumbling for the heater controls and when the light bulb went off: where the heck were all the lights?  Initially I thought a fuse had blown but after various checks and poking around under the dash I came to the realization that nearly every bulb in the 4runner was burned out. A Google search turned up various places selling replacement LED's so I ordered about a dozen from Here's the 96 4 Runner light list. One the arrived it took the better part of an afternoon to root out all the bad bulbs; eventually had lights in the dash again along with courtesy lights.

The first off-road modification was a set of nerf bars to protect the rocker panels. This was going to be a home fabrication project but really good X-mas sale convinced me the effort wasn't worth it.

Installation was straightforward.  Once the frame was cleaned up we clamped the nerf bars to the frame and welded them on. Most of the day was actually spent prepping the vehicle to spray the nerf bars.

Next up was addressing the terrible state of the interior. I went with a complete carpet kit from Stock Interiors.  You can almost smell the improvement by just looking at the before picture above. Installation took a while mostly because we went with the optional sound deadening layer which made the carpet stiff and difficult to cut.

We had taken the 4Runner off-road a few times but never on a full day trip so technically this was the maiden voyage. We hadn't been up to Crown King since I sold the Jeep almost 2 years back so we decided to head up the day after a big winter storm had rolled thru the valley.

About 5 miles into the trail the 4Runner hit 300k miles, followed shortly by a check engine light.  We all wondered if it was really a "time for a new 4Runner light" set to go off at a certain mileage because after pulling the battery cable for a few minutes it has not come back.

The snow level was the lowest I had ever seen with a good 6 inches still setting around at the base of the switchbacks. I have driven 4 different vehicles on this trail (King Cab Nissan, Samurai, LJ) and the 4runner seemed as sure footed as any of them.  I was actually expecting BFG All-Terrains to clog up with mud but I could count how many times I felt the car lose traction in the mud on two fingers.

The 4Runner felt a little more skittish on the hard packed snow but I was expecting that with the rear locker.  All in all the truck did good and felt smaller than the Jeep while at the same time being much more spacious on the inside.

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