So, I finally have time to post about what I have considered my ongoing "project". Please ignore any spelling mishaps, or otherwise, as I'm deep into a bottle of "Woodbridge" Merlot. Also, warning, super long post below.
Long story short (as can be), around the beginning of this year, I found myself looking for a "winter beater". I considered all types of cars - a 6th gen accord, an old subaru, mkiv jetta (owned one previously, and it was surprisingly competent in the snow), 2nd gen explorer, etc. I knew that I wanted to buy something that I didnt mind getting dinged, scratched, and potentially, crashed into. I wanted something that could endure the worst of Virginia's winters (which range from incredibly mild to pretty severe), but still remain reliable and usable year-round. I also did not want to spend a lot of money on this vehicle. I wanted something that offered additional utility as well.
With this in mind, I regularly browsed ebay, craigslist, autotrader, etc. for the earlier half of 2015. I happened to stumble upon an ad on eBay in early June for a 1998 4runner, with no reserve! The title stated "4Runner SR5 WELL MAINTAINED". The car was described as this. I thought to myself "perfect!", but as I examined the pictures and description further, I saw a bunch of red-flags that were a complete turnoff. Mainly, bungy-cords holding the trunk closed, a hood that wasn't shut, a filthy interior, and a rusty/duct-taped rear bumper.
1998 TOYOTA 4RUNNER SR5 AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION GOOD INTERIOR FOR THE AGE AND MILEAGE GOOD CONDITION OVERALL VERY WELL MAINTAINED THE ENGINE RUNS GOOD. IT HAS THE VERY 6 CYLINDER MOTOR THE TRANSMISSION SHIFTS PERFECTLY AND SMOOTHLY THE POWER ACCESSORIES WORK AS EXPECTED. POWER WINDOWS, POWER LOCKS, SUNROOF... ALL WORKING. CLIMATE CONTROLS ALL WORK, HEAT & A/C DOES NOT WORK, IT NEEDS A CHARGE THE STEREO HAS NO POWER- DOES NOT WORK THE INTERIOR IS GOOD FOR A 267,000 MILE TRUCK. A FULL DETAIL WOULD MAKE IT MUCH NICER LOOKING. THERE ARE NO CHECK ENGINE OR ABS, BRAKE LIGHTS OR ANY OTHER LIGHTS ON THE DASH. ALL THE FLUIDS ARE GOOD. THE CAR DRIVES AS NICE AS SHE LOOKS! THE HEADLIGHTS, TAIL LIGHTS WORK. THE BRAKES ARE EXCELLENT THE STEERING AND SUSPENSION ARE EXCELLENT TIRES ALL HAVE ABOUT %50 OR BETTER TREAD YOU'LL LOVE THIS WELL MAINTAINED 4RUNNER! THE TRUCK DRIVES EXCEPTIONALLY WELL FOR WHAT IT IS. THE TIMING BELT, WATER PUMP, ROLLER AND TENSIONER WERE JUST REPLACED NOT EVEN 100 MILES AGO. STARTING BID IS ONLY $200, A NO RESERVE AUCTION SO GO AHEAD AND BID! THE TRUCK WILL BE SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER SO SOMEONE IS GETTING A FANTASTIC DEAL, DON'T MISS THIS ONE!! LIEN FREE TITLE IN HAND READY TO HAVE YOUR NAME ON IT! VEHICLE OWNED BY A NON SMOKER GOOD LUCK!! I WILL GLADLY LET ANY INTERESTED PARTY VIEW AND CHECK THE CAR, PLEASE MESSAGE ME WITH YOUR PHONE NUMBER AND WE'LL GET BACK TO YOU. IF YOU ARE FLYING IN, I CAN PICK YOU UP AT THE DULLES IAD AIRPORT IN FOR A $125 PICK UP FEE. REGIONAL TRAIN, BUS STATIONS AND OTHER AIRPORTS MAY BE WORKABLE. PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOUR PLANS SHOULD YOU WIN. I WILL DO MY BEST TO ACCOMMODATE YOU. this is a used car. no used car is perfect. here is what is wrong with the car: rear bumper has tape over it to hide the rust holes. minimal surface rust bottom of rear door areaworn driver seata/c does not workstereo has no powerrear tailgate latch does not 'latch' closed FOR WHAT IT IS, IT RUNS & DRIVES PRETTY WELL. OWNERS SON OWNS A MECHANIC SHOP SO IT WAS VERY WELL MAINTAINED BY THAT SHO
Yet despite all of this, I decided to gamble....why the hell not, for a $200 starting bid. So I placed my bid for $200. I watched the car closely over the next week, as the bid began to increase in $50 increments. Slowly, the bid's came closer and closer to $1000. I told myself that I would not spend more than $1000 on this vehicle, knowing that it would need work prior to being drive-able. As the end of the bid came, around 7pm on a wednesday night, i found myself both anxious and excited at the same time. Would I win? Would this be one of those last minute lose-outs. As that time came, I told myself that I could make it work for $1500. That would be the max. So with 45 seconds left, I decided to bid at $1425. This would ensure my win, and win I did!
The next step was to actually inspect the purchase prior to handing over the money. Knowing that the vehicle was only 70 miles away, i arranged a trip to see the truck the day after winning the bid. I didn't want to be a buyer that wouldn't commit to his purchase, but I also wouldn't willingly hand over $1400 for a truck that wasn't honestly represented. So i took the drive out to West Virginia on my day off, and arranged to meet with the seller at 11am. As i got closer, I called the seller and confirmed the 11am time for meeting. I pull up to the "dealership", and was immediately thrown off by what I saw. It was basically a sketchy lot with all types of used cars lined up, and a Wood sign with the name of the "dealership" carved into it. "Whatever", i thought. Let's just see this 4Runner.
The seller met me at the lot and allowed me to take it on a brief test drive. I was apprehensive of any truth in the description of the ad, but once I started the truck up, I realized that he (the seller) was completely honest in the ad. Despite the 267k+ miles displayed on the odometer, The truck started up immediately, idled beautifully, and didn't smoke or make any strange sounds. Furthermore, I knew that the seller was truthful about the timing belt, as I saw that the old idler pulley, water pump, thermostat, and belt were in the trunk of the truck. I did notice a misfire as I accelerated on the side road that the "dealership" was located on, as well as a pretty severe case of a shimmy around 55, but other than that, the truck drove relatively normal. I had faith that these were easily fixable. Again, taking a gamble, but I knew that I could still easily sell the truck for what I bought it for if I didn't want to pursue it further.
I handed over the funds on the next day, and arranged to have the car towed home that Friday. I had the car towed towed home, as I did not want to risk a break-down 70 miles from home, and I also did not know the extent of the repairs that would be needed. At this point, I was just excited to have purchased something, even if it was a POS (which it was). The truck arrived late that night, and i took some pictures of it after i had parked it in my parking garage. Pics were taken on a Samsung GS5, so I apologize for the poor quality.
So what next??? Well, my goal was to get it on the road by the end of the summer, so I started ordering parts for the truck. I had done research previously on the 3rd gen 4Runners, and I knew that I wanted to tackle the "weak points" of the truck first. Namely, avoid the "Pink Milkshake", and avoid the lower ball-joint failure that these were known for. I ordered a slew of parts over the next week. Keep in mind that I have an AmazonPrime Membership, so shipping was free on most of the items below:
- Denso Radiatior ($97.08)
- New Drive Belts (Toyota Brand) - part of tune-up kit
- New Thermostat/gasket (just because) ($10.99)
- New coolant resevoir ($41.54)
- New Toyota "Red" Long-Life coolant - 3 Gallons($25.90)
- Air Filter - part of tune-up kit
- PCV Valve - part of tune-up kit
- Oil/Filter - part of tune-up kit
- B&M Transmission Cooler (to avoid the Pink Milkshake in the future) ($74.36)
- Genuine Toyota Lower Ball Joints ($177.20)
- Genuine Toyota Outer Tie-Rod Ends ($106.98)
- Brand New Toyota rear tailgate latch ($124.62)
- Radiator Cap (Genuine Toyota) ($13.85)
- 16 quarts of transmission fluid (Supertech from Wal-Mart)
- Spark Plugs/Wires - part of tune-up kit
- Brand New Toyota Upper and Lower Radiator Hoses ($12.02)
- New Front Brake Rotors and Pads ($87.32)
- New Rear Brake Shoes and Hardware/Springs ($38.84)
- Tune-Up kit - $147.38 on ebay
Along the way, i noticed other issues that needed to be addressed:
- 1 sway bar link was missing, so I ordered 2 new ones from Amazon ($16.16)
- Tires were dry rotted, so I order a set of 265/75/16 Hankook Dynapro ATM tires ($116.16/tire + $60 mount & balance)
- Toyota Head Unit was toast, so I bought a cheapo Kenwood unit from Best Buy for $83 on sale
- Drivers side window switch was broken, so I bought a chinese switch for cheap on Amazon ($30)
- After installing the new switch, realized that the regulator/motor was also inoperable, so I bought a new one on Amazon as well
- The exhaust had rusted off right after the muffler where the tailpipe runs over the rear axle ($169.43 + Rear o2 Sensor $48)
If my math serves me correct, that is around $1900 in parts. All parts were installed by yours truly (except tire mount and balance), so as of now, I'm sitting at roughly $3325 for this 4Runner.
Here's some pics I took along the way:
New Drive Belts, along with New Denso Radiator
Old Air Filter vs. New Air Filter
Old PCV Valve/ New PCV Valve
Broken Window Switch:
Spark Plug/Wire Install. You can see the new Radiator Hoses as well in this pic:
This is the "Old" Thermostat.....proof that the PO did change that when they did the T-Belt
New Brake Shoes:
Old Exhaust off the Truck:
New Exhaust Ready to be put on:
Beginning of Head-unit install:
During Head-unit install: