"Real Wheelers Are Built, Not Bought"
Here are some cheap tricks and tips I've found for repairing and upgrading my rig. These are simple modifications and repairs that for the most part cost very little and take little time.
Want to replace that inadequate, leaking damper? Well, you'll need to get the rod end out of the tie rod first. If Liquid Wrench and the BFH don't work (never seen it work yet) take out the trust BFT (T=torch, propane that is) and heat the stud until the grease/boot on the other side just starts to smoke. Put down the BFT and grab the BFH and one or two taps and it'll fall right out. You don't want to heat the tie rod itself, just the end of the stud.
Same trick works on tie rod ends and other stubborn tapered studs. The heat causes the stud to expand and it also helps loosen whatever is holding it in, then the brief delay in setting down the torch and picking up the hammer lets the metal cool/shrink a bit and the rest is history.
Next to nothing
I love the power windows in my 4Runner, makes it easy to roll them up in the dust or down to hear the spotter's instructions. One thing that I don't like is that you need the ignition on to operate the windows. If it was just the ACC, I wouldn't mind so much, but the ignition, come on!
A quick look at the wiring schematic for my model, shows there is a relay that is powered by an ignition lead that connects the power window switches through a circuit breaker to the battery. I guess this must be some sort of security or safety feature, but it seems that if you just jumper across the relay contacts, the windows will operate any time you want. Since the power is already fed through a 20A breaker, there is no electrical saftey problems involed. I fashioned a short piece of 12GA wire with a spade lug on each end end that fit into the two contacts where the relay plugs into. Just be sure to jumper across the relay contacts and not the relay coil.
The relay and circuit breaker are behind the kick panel on the driver's side, above the cruise control module. My curcuit breaker was bright yellow and the relay was above it.
Crimp-on wire terminals and wire - under $1
After I bought my 4Runner (used) I noticed the passenger's side wheel well liner was almost ready to fall off. I replaced some of the missing plastic snaps and then noticed the driver's side was missing all together. After doing my 1" body lift, it became obvious that the liners needed to be replaced, since they no longer provided useful protection.
I found a company that makes custom fit "Lift Lips" out of heavy gauge neoprene rubber for Toyota trucks. The rubber is over twice as thick and will not tear like the stock material. They are supposed to fit up to 3" body lift, so I found I needed to trim a bit of rubber around the shock towers to get mine to fit. I also found it necessary to cut a slot for the brake line to fit through.
One thing I did notice, was that the plastic snaps supplied with the kit fit the stock holes very loosely. I found that a #10x24 threaded insert will fit the stock holes (a few needed a pass of a 9/32" drill bit) nicely. I then used brass screws and washers to attach the liners. Now, the liners are very secure, yet easily removed if needed (like changing oil and fuel filters).
Mountain Enterprises P.O. Box 537 Lake Forest, CA. 92630 Toll Free: (888) LIFT-LIP Direct: (714) 859-0504
Lift Lips ................ $50 Threaded inserts (~30) ... 15 Brass screws/washers ..... 10 ------------------------------ Total .................... $75
I've got the driver's side Sport Seat in my 4Runner. I really like its adjustability and comfort. My only real complaint is that its not well suited for off-roading. I'm 5'-11" but feel like I'm sitting down in a hole in the seat. The back is too low and the forward adjustment of the back rest is too far back for my liking if I want to see where I'm going.
Looking around the seat frame, I saw that the frame just bolts to the body floor in back. I pulled a bolt (10-1.25x30mm as I recall) and figured I could get a longer (60mm) bolt and stuff some fender washers under the frame. I used 8 1/8" thick washers to give me about 1" of lift. I basically measured my head clearance (to the roof) and split the difference.
While 1" doesn't sound like much, it makes a world of difference in visibility. Also, the highest setting on the seat back adjustment is now more upright which gives a much better off-road driving position.
16 Fender Washers $2 2 10mm bolts $2 ----------------------- Total $4
I replaced the stock belt-driven fan and clutch with an electric Flex-A-Lite Black Magic Fan. The fan is designed for drop-in replacement of the stock fan. To install it, you remove the air intake tube and the top radiator hose. Remove the 4 bolts holding the fan clutch to the pulley the the stock fan shroud. The new fan brackets mount to the existing shroud mounting holes. A rubber gasket surrounds the new shroud and seals it against the radiator. An thermostat bulb also contacts the radiator and is adjustable. The fan comes with a 40A circuit breaker that is wired to the battery.
After installing the fan, I noticed its control module has some auxiliary inputs to allow for some interesting features. I was inspired by my work on my VW pickup where I modified the factory electric radiator fan. With the base installation, the fan will only run when the its thermostat trips. For a reliable off-road vehicle, I felt some functional additions were in order. (Besides I'm an electrical engineer and can't resist tinkering with things electrical:-)
Assuming you already have the electric fan - (mine was $200 on sale at Perf.Prod.) SPDT toggle switch $5 12V indicator light 2 Misc wire/connectors 3 ----------------------- Total $10
- some knowledge for electricity required.
"My blower only works on high speed..."
Where have I heard that one before? Looking in the Haynes book, I see that there are some resistors connected to the blower motor. High speed runs 12V right to the motor and each slower speed runs through more and more resistance to make the blower motor run slower. I'm a EE, so I like schematics. However, they are just that, a schematic, and not a physical wiring locator. So for the life of me, I could not find the silly resistor assembly. All the other vehicles I have worked on have had the blower located behind/underneath the heater controls in the center of the dash. That's where I was looking and I couldn't find it.
Finally, I convinced myself that the motor by the passenger's right foot was the blower motor. Then, it was really easy to follow the wire bundle from the motor to the firewall, about 6" away. Right there, screwed into the firewall was the resistor assembly and connector. Yank it out, see the burned out wire coil, get a new one ($16 at the dealer) and plug it in. Done!
The new resistor I got has three resistors (and 4 pins on the connector) while my old one had only two. It seems that the newer vehicles have a 4-speed fan. Mine only has 3, although the wiring harness seems to have all 4 wires. Next project may be to find a 4-speed fan switch and see if I can make this upgrade. The lowest fan speed (that I now have) is very low. I think one in between low and medium would be great.
1 Blower Resistor $16 ----------------------- Total $16 Rating:
However, all the time I spent looking for the resistor was not wasted. I found that if you pull the two screws attaching the glove box hinges to the dash out, the whole glove box can be taken out, revealing all the guts inside the dash. A real handy way to get to a lot of the stuff back there. And if you look up (w/ head on the floor) where the glove box was, you'll see the little light bulb that is *supposed* to illuminate the box when it is open. Mine didn't, but now it does. It's a mini-bulb, same one that is used behind the heater controls. Is it a coincidence that there are two of these bulbs and they come two to a package?
Speaking of the heater control lamp, mine was also burned out. To get to that gem, you simply have to slide the heater controls to the middle, pull the knobs off and then pry out the plastic face with a small screw driver. The mini lamp socket is behind the face. I found it is not very well supported from the back and when I pushed in the bulb, the socket popped out. It works best if you slide one finger up from behind to hold it in place while pushing in the tiny lamp.
When I bought my 4Runner, the previous owner commented he was having trouble with the passenger side power window. Had taken it to a shop several times, all sorts of checks were done but the problem persisted. It worked fine from the driver's side switch but the passenger side was intermittent.
I pulled off the switch by unscrewing it from the back of the door panel. It turns out that the switch sandwiches the door panel, the front piece has the rocker and the back piece has the electrical contacts. In my case, both of the screw holes were badly stripped and the problem was when the rocker was pushed, the spring force would separate the switch halves, preventing the contacts from mating.
I took off the front piece and filled it up with epoxy and let it cure. Then I used a Dremel tool and drill press holder (forming a simple but effective milling machine) to mill out the epoxy enough to allow the back piece to mate to the front. Then I re-drilled the screw holes and re-attached the switch to the door. Works like a champ now!
Mine was worn out, leaving a tattered cloth backing that allowed the foam to yellow and shred in the sun. Also the front latch was broken off and the hinges were very loose and the whole thing rattled with every bump.
Unscrew the hinge, take off the base plate and the cushion will lift off. Carefully remove the old vinyl, you'll need it for a pattern on the new vinyl. Go to fabric store with the old vinyl and try to find a close match. You'll need six inches or so, but they want to see you a yard. After ripping out the seams on the corners, flatten out the old vinyl on the new and trace a pattern for the new piece. I found it best to iron out the old cloth backing and tape up any tears get the best fit. Also, it works to fold the old vinyl in half lengthwise and take the average between the edges. Be sure to include some index notches when cutting out the vinyl to make it easier to sew.
Sew up the corners, turn the cover right side out and you are ready to install it. I added a piece of 1/4" closed-cell foam over the existing foam after trimming off a like amount to fill in where chunks were missing. Screw everything back together, get a new latch (if required) and you now have a very handy place to rest your arm while driving.
-or- if you don't have a friend that sews :-)