Know Before You Buy: How to Inspect a Used Toyota 4Runner

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The Toyota 4Runner is very different from most of the crossover SUVs that populate suburban streets and mall parking lots. A lot of this has to do with the way this model is constructed. Like many of the earliest SUVs, the 4Runner uses a platform that’s based on the chassis of a truck. This sets it apart from today’s crossover SUVs, which use architecture based on a car’s platform.

Thanks in large part to its truck-based platform, the 4Runner has a ruggedness that makes it a natural fit for off-roading. This is a key selling point for many buyers, and the 4Runner is a popular choice for those who enjoy venturing off the paved path.

This means it’s likely that the used 4Runner you’re thinking about buying has spent some time off-road. This kind of activity can cause wear, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for certain types of damage when evaluating the vehicle.

Below, we’ve offered some tips on how to inspect a used Toyota 4Runner. We cover the problems commonly seen in 4Runners that have been taken off-road. Our tips also address an issue that has nothing to do with off-roading, and it’s one you should be aware of when evaluating a used 4Runner.

Check for Tire Problems


Off-roading can put stress on a 4Runner’s tires. There are special off-roading tires designed to handle this task, and these offer greater durability. However, even these extremely sturdy tires can experience damage during life on the trail.

Tires can be expensive to replace. All-season SUV tires can cost anywhere from $60 to $350 each. If you want to avoid dealing with this expense, do a careful tire check before purchasing a used 4Runner. Inspect the tread to make sure it isn’t worn, and check the sidewalls for damage.

Look for inconsistencies in tread depth across each tire. This type of damage could indicate a problem with the vehicle’s alignment, suspension or steering.

Look for Body Damage

Toyota 4Runner Off Road

Certain types of body damage are common in vehicles that are regularly used for off-roading. Tree branches and rocks can cause scratches and dents.

Inspect your 4Runner carefully for body damage before making a purchase. Pay special attention to the lower part of the vehicle, since this is the area that’s most likely to suffer wear during off-roading.

Inspect the Undercarriage

Off-roading usually involves driving over rocks and loose terrain. Vehicles used for this purpose often suffer damage to the undercarriage. This can range from minor to major.

If you’re considering a used 4Runner, check its undercarriage for the following issues:

  • Dented gas tank. Take a look at the gas tank to see if it’s dented. If the tank is damaged in this way, it can throw off the sensors and result in incorrect fuel readings. A large dent may also reduce the amount of fuel the tank can hold.
  • Damaged mufflers or exhaust pipes. Mufflers and exhaust pipes can suffer serious damage when a vehicle travels on paths or trails. Keep an eye out for bent pipes. It’s also not uncommon for pipes to rip off completely during off-roading, so watch out for that as well.
  • Cracks or dents to the chassis. If a vehicle takes a large hit during off-roading, it can cause the chassis to crack or dent. This problem can impact the vehicle’s handling and lead to costly repairs. Keep an eye out for chassis damage when evaluating a used 4Runner.

Check the Dashboard for Cracks

Toyota 4Runner Dash

Certain older 4Runner models experienced dashboard problems that caused this component to crack or melt. This wasn’t a widespread problem in the otherwise very dependable 4Runner, and it was observed only in a relatively small number of vehicles produced between 2003 and 2009.  In many cases, getting the problem fixed meant that the dashboard had to be completely replaced.

Toyota issued a recall a couple of years ago to correct this problem, so many of the 4Runners that experienced it have been repaired. Still, keep an eye out for cracks or melts if you’re buying a 4Runner made between 2003 and 2009.

Tough Customer

The 4Runner has a well-earned reputation for being competent and sturdy. Those qualities make it a good choice for used-car shoppers.

Nevertheless, problems can crop up due largely to the way the vehicle has been used. Consider the tips listed above when inspecting pre-owned 4Runner SUVs.

By | 2018-10-10T16:33:10+00:00 October 23rd, 2018|Inspecting a Vehicle|0 Comments

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