Project 4Runner

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I didn't get any pictures from the last trip out, had to turn back due to the truck overheating.  I later confirmed I had burnt out another fan control module so the electric fans were only running in the low speed setting. I haven't had much luck with electric fan controllers in the past so made up my mind fairly quickly to remove the electric fans the previous owner had installed in favor of a stock engine driven fan. Not knowing the age of the radiator I also opted for a pre-emptive replacement for that component as well figuring if it had 305,000 miles like the chassis does it was a ticking time bomb.

Once again the used market was a huge let down and I found it cheaper to just get new parts and ended up with the following parts: radiator ($101),  fan ($47), fan clutch ($63), Expansion Tank ($23), upper fan shroud ($38) and lower fan shroud ($11). Installation was a breeze and the truck now runs cooler according to the stock temperature gauge which now stays below the halfway mark as opposed to slightly above it with the electric fans. The fact that the stock shroud forces the fan to pull air thru the entire radiator is probably a big part of the running temperature difference.

While I technically didn't have to replace the expansion tank and radiator, the piece of mind knowing the plastics on those two components was no longer 17 years old was easily worth $124. About the time I was getting ready for a test drive I noticed we had some cords showing on one of the front tires where it had started to chunk.  They must have been more dry rotted than I thought.  The tires in question were BFG AT's (285-70's) on 18" rims and I had been planning to replace them with some shorter tires and a set of 16" rims to improve all around drive-ability on-road. Tires for 16" rims are also way cheaper and available in load ranges more suitable for a lighter SUV like the 4Runner. The 18" BFG's were load range E and were pretty harsh riding at road pressure.

I ended up ordering a set of 16" aluminum wheels from FN wheels, 16 x 8" FN Five Star's in light gunmetal to be exact.  They were a simple, lightweight wheel that matches the character of the 4Runner better than the typical rims available from Tire Rack and Discount tire. Here's a few pictures from the test fit to confirm they cleared my Tundra brake calipers, I have the larger 231mm calipers and there is room to spare.  

For tires I went with a set of 265-75 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac's which have very aggressive looking tread design. These are Load range C which I had to have shipped in from Nevada via Tire Rack after coming up blank for a local source.

I am really impressed with the ride quality improvements of these tires.  They are very smooth riding at all speeds and track especially well at highway speeds.  Other than slight hum starting around 50mph you would think you were riding on a street tire.

The rims have a slight bit of offset (25mm) which makes for a nice stance when combined with the skinny Duratracs.  Using a tape measure I came up with roughly 10.5" wide and 31" in height at 32psi. For reference the previous 285-75's were 32.5" tall and almost 12" wide.  You can definitely feel the difference in weight and diameter when accelerating, this tire size is a much better fit for our stock gearing.

The next thing that needed attention was the dash.  There were two pretty good sized cracks in it when we purchased the 4runner which had swelled up about an inch above the dash surface towards the middle of this summer.  I had been watching the classifieds and E-bay for a used dash with no luck.

Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon a  place that made vacuum formed covers: and after watching a YouTube video showing one installed I decided to give it a try.  I chose the dark brown but I am almost thinking the light brown would have been a better match for our faded interior.

To install the new dash cover we had to trim any high spots in the old cracked dash with a razor blade.  Next, the dash is washed with an ammonia based cleaner.  The coverlay dash cover comes pre-cut so you just have to apply a light bead of silicone around the perimeter of the cover (a tube is supplied with the plastic cover)..  The cover is then dropped onto the old dash and requires a couple hours of drying time.  We put some weights on the cover to hold it down while the silicone dried.  Once done the dash looks much better.

Now it is time for some suspension improvements.  I actually already installed these Icon 3" lift adjustable coilovers in he above tire pictures.  I am not sure what coils are on the Bilstein front struts that came with the truck but they rode very stiff and we couldn't get a good alignment on the front end due to how tall they jacked up the front end of the 4Runner. From the looks of the spacer on top of the Bilstein I am almost wondering if the old shocks give more than 3" of lift?  I set the Icon shocks for approx. 2" of lift which gave the 4runner a slight forward rake and made the front CV angles look much better.

I have only taken the truck off-road once with the new shocks.  We ran some of the familiar roads back behind Lake Pleasant and the change in handling was very noticeable.  With these new shocks the truck can carry quite a bit more speed over the bumps and washboard roads than the Bilsteins.  Most noticeably the Icon's have eliminated the harsh bottoming we experienced with the old shocks.  The rebound of the shocks felt really good, I never got to a point where I felt the front shocks were packing up, in fact I think I was the limiting factor and not the shocks. I can't wait till I can afford to upgrade the rear shocks now.

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