Should I build my 3rd gen or start with a new platform?

annapolis3rdgen

New member
hello! reader here, but I just signed up for the forum today.

I have a 2001 4Runner SR5 with 170k miles on it. I'm debating whether to build it into a weekender/overlander of sorts, or start with a new platform. My wife would like to keep the car as there's some nostalgia with it and that's fine with me, but I don't want to throw good money at bad.

A hard question to answer without seeing it, i'm sure, but what should I be looking for that would give me pause? I'd hate to put new suspension and wheels on something and then find a structural issue.

Here's a short list of some of my concerns:

- p0446 code. it's been on for a decade. If i recall correctly, I replace one of the two O2 sensors and that cleared the light, but one day I had to floor it on the highway and the code came back.

- rust. there is rust underneath but i can't tell how much is too much. I've replaced the front sway bar links as one rusted out and snapped and was just dangling there! I also put a cat back exhaust on as it had rusted and developed a hole. now there's a hole in front of the cat towards the exhaust manifold. i'm worried the cats will need replaced. I don't *think* it's ultra rusty, but maybe a good shop should make an assessment?

- sunroof. it has seized and in very hard rain, water leaks down into the footwell. I can't (easily) get the sunroof out to clear the drain lines.

- oil leak. maybe head gaskets? i haven't diagnosed this yet, but there's oil on the motor. not sure how much is too much.

- the key seems pretty worn and the ignition needs a jiggle to get it to start. i'm afraid i need a new lock cylinder (and i'd need them for all doors if so?)

- this hasn't happened in a bit, but sometimes I'll go to start it and it will act as if the starter is dead. it will light up but not try to turnover. and then it does. i'm wondering if the starter contacts need to be replaced? (as i've read about online)

thanks for reading my rambling. any thoughts are appreciated!
 

bkg

Explorer
Where are you located? Rust would typically be the thing that would deter me from building. Originally from MN - deal with plenty of rust BS over the years... never again.

The oil leak is likely the valve cover gaskets...

if the key is worn, replace it with a new one before messing with the cylinder...

P0446 could be as easy as an airleak between cats... The two bolt flange is likely the culprit. Doesn't take much of a leak to cause codes -doesn't even need to be audible.

Having said that... it sounds like maintenance has been neglected. Before I'd invest in anything, personally, I'd go through any and all maintenance duties - all fluids, all wear items, bushings, etc. Until you get it back to a good baseline, I agree that you're throwing money away.
 

annapolis3rdgen

New member
Where are you located? Rust would typically be the thing that would deter me from building. Originally from MN - deal with plenty of rust BS over the years... never again.

The oil leak is likely the valve cover gaskets...

if the key is worn, replace it with a new one before messing with the cylinder...

P0446 could be as easy as an airleak between cats... The two bolt flange is likely the culprit. Doesn't take much of a leak to cause codes -doesn't even need to be audible.

Having said that... it sounds like maintenance has been neglected. Before I'd invest in anything, personally, I'd go through any and all maintenance duties - all fluids, all wear items, bushings, etc. Until you get it back to a good baseline, I agree that you're throwing money away.
thanks for the reply

I'm in Annapolis, MD. My wife bought the car before we met many years ago. I'm not sure where it was before Maryland.

there's definitely an audible leak in the exhaust now. I thought I'd taken care of it with the cat back but of course, once that quieted down I found another hole closer to the engine.

we don't drive it much. It's our third car. We pretty much use it for lawn/garden and hardware store runs. a couple of years back, I took a tight turn up a (paved) switchback road and the radiator pipe snapped and dumped all the transmission fluid/radiator fluid. I worried that I'd trashed the transmission with the pink milkshake thing but I stopped right there and had it towed. a mechanic put in a new radiator and fluids and it appears to have not damaged the tranny.
 

Tex68w

Beach Bum
Have the rust looked at by a competent shop and if it's just surface rust in most areas that can be cleaned up I'd fix the issues and start your build. 170K miles isn't that bad on that motor, I have a buddy with a 2000 with 378K on the original motor and he still drives it regularly from Houston to El Paso.
 

beef tits

Well-known member
170k is considered low for that truck, but that is all the more reason to sell it if there is any rust at all. You'll get good money for it I bet... then pick one up from out West. We have very little rust out here. Cleanest vehicles I have seen all come from Oregon or Washington. No rust and no sun damage up that way.

My Dad's 3rd Gen had 450k miles on it when the timing belt tensioner broke. Sad part is the truck was tip-top, and the belt only had 30k on it... his mechanic just used ******** parts or f'd up the tensioner install.

I just picked up a SUPER clean 2001 4Runner out of LA for $5k + $800 shipping. 225k miles. Not a spec of rust.
 

4runnerteq

Explorer
Only part of that I'd be concerned with is rust. Leaking VC gasket is standard equipment on 3.4. Do the rear cam seal when you do it or you'll still have a leak. Have a new key cut, if it needs a cylinder thats not a bad job either. It may or may not need to have the key programmed after. If you can find a used sunroof assembly that is the easiest way to go. Remove the headliner and change out the whole assembly. Half a day maybe. Lat one I bought was 50 bucks for glass and everything. BUT, before spending any money for that stuff look for rust in the frame. Could be shes about done. Look in the frame rails on the side between front & rear wheels and I've seen radiators that are just in there on a prayer because the lower radiator support is just gone. Starter contacts are common, 20 year old truck, if I'm taking the starter off for bad contacts I'm replacing the assembly. I have mine at the dealer right now doing rear wheel bearing on one side and both seals. Just recently did one on the front. Had it for 17 years, 228k. Shes getting a little tired, but like you its a 3rd vehicle now 5k - 6k miles per year. No rust though. If it was in the budget I'd be regearing it while the axles are out. No plans to get rid of it, but we do use the 4th gen for most of our traveling now. 3rd gen is my mountain biking, hiking, trail riding, close to town camping rig.
 

4runnerteq

Explorer
I dont see anything there I'd be too concerned with. Front bumper bracket maybe a little rough, but I would worry with that. Rock on.
 

annapolis3rdgen

New member
I dont see anything there I'd be too concerned with. Front bumper bracket maybe a little rough, but I would worry with that. Rock on.
i did a little rust cleaning up with a wire brush when on the sway bar end links when I was installing new ones, but I've never tackled any full frame rust mitigation.

Does this seem like a good tutorial?

 
My son’s 3rd gen just passed 270k miles, and he has no intention of packing it in in the near (or distant) future. His is a Colorado truck, so doesn’t have any rust, but your situation looks pretty manageable. In your case I’d recommend a lot of education, and since it’s a 3rd car in a two driver family, it’s the perfect opportunity for learning. Go for it.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
My wife would like to keep the car as there's some nostalgia with it and that's fine with me, but I don't want to throw good money at bad.
There is your answer, the wife is never wrong.

Depending on what you do, any money invested in "overlanding the 2001 Toyota" can be shifted to a newer vehicle. If you've had the Toyota long enough for it to be nostalgic, leave the truck alone, just add the features needed for extended off grid camping. Four Runners are incredibly capable stock.

- the key seems pretty worn and the ignition needs a jiggle to get it to start. i'm afraid i need a new lock cylinder (and i'd need them for all doors if so?)

No need to replace the door locks, before digital keys every GM came with different keys for the doors/ignition. But often the issue is just a woen out key. A good locksmith can cut you one which will work like new.

- sometimes I'll go to start it and it will act as if the starter is dead. it will light up but not try to turnover. and then it does. i'm wondering if the starter contacts need to be replaced?

It sounds like you have deferred maintenance issues. Quite right, contacts, including the battery posts likely need cleaning, not necessarily replacement tho. Before overlanding I'd recommend getting an inspection done which includes brakes, steering, driveline, electrical including load testing the battery etc. Usually this is a standard item at most garages and + or - $100. Well worth it to let a licensed mechanic check the entire vehicle over rather than reacting. My TJR is 15 years old, 400K kms. I get this done every year and it has never left me broke down or stranded.

You have a real nice Four Runner, well worth the investment.
 
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billiebob

Well-known member
snapped a few photos this morning to show what I'm talking about:







WOW, that looks almost new. You have cosmetic issues, not rust issues.

I tried a Rust Converter product on my trailer this year. Fabulous product. Wire wheel the loose rust off, brush it on, done. It goes on like milk, reacts with the rust, dries black. Expensive but a little goes a long ways.


There are bargain brands out there, half price but the Brand Names work way better. I used Locktite 754.

5cff33e52190d.jpg

ps, it only works on rust, it needs the reaction so no need to waste it on parts of the frame still painted. It won't do anything on clean bare metal either. Just coat rusted metal.
 
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obchristo

Member
Former 3rdGen owner here. Had my 1997 from 1999 at 40K to 2017 at 370K and sold it due to needing a larger rig for fmaily. I ended up with a 2005 Sequoia which is basically a 3rdGen plus 30%.

As noted by others, the frame appears to have surface rust. I would go poking at is with a screwdriver to make sure nothing is worse than is appears, but from the pics it is pretty minor. The issues you are having are completely normal for the age of the vehicle and minor compared to what other makes and models would have.

If it were me, I would take care of the current issues and do some minor addtional work. Those vehicles are very capable as is.

I would probably go with some new shocks, put some air bags in the back, get some more off road oriented tires (5 of them) and spend the rest of your budget on nonvehicle specific gear (Camping gear, Wilderness first aid class, a subscription to Gaia Mapping Software, recovery gear).

Some people feel the need to spend a lot of money "upgrading" their vehicle. I am not one of them.
 
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