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Toyota Pickups & 4Runners - Weak Links, Strong Fixes

Front View
Harry Wagner | Writer
Posted July 1, 2005

Part IV: Toyota Pickups And 4runners

Toyota pickups and 4Runners are currently enjoying a popularity that makes them nearly as common on the trail as Jeeps. Their light weight, compact size, and simple engineering make them perfectly suited for remote, technical trails, while their wheelbase helps them scamper up steep climbs. Despite all of these benefits, there are weak links that need to be addressed in order to ensure increased reliability. Beyond lift, lockers, and tires, here are some of the problems unique to Toyotas that should be addressed before you hit the trail.

Weak link: Manual transmission shifter bushings
Models affected: All pickups and 4Runners
What happens: Aisin transmissions used by Toyota employ a ball-and-socket shifting mechanism that pivots on a rubber bushing. Over time, the leverage and exposure to gear oil can cause the bushing to break down, resulting in vague, sloppy shifts and a large amount of movement in the shifter when the vehicle is in gear.
Sturdy fix: Replacing the bushing is as easy as removing the entire shifter assembly from the top of the transmission and disassembling the shift lever. After removing the C-clip that holds the shifter to the base, all of the ground-up pieces of the old bushing can be flushed out so that a new bushing can be lubricated and installed. Reassembly will result in tighter shifting at a fraction of the price to open up the transmission for service.
Contact: Your local Toyota dealer

Weak link: Timing chain guides
Models affected: '84-'95 pickups and 4Runners equipped with the 22R or 22RE engine
What happens: In 1984, Toyota switched from using metal timing guides to plastic guides in its four-cylinder engines. This may have sounded like a good idea at the time to some bean counter, but over time the timing chain tensioner can loosen and the chain can eat through the plastic guides. Once the guides break, the chain begins slapping against the timing chain cover and can eat through a coolant passage.
Sturdy fix: DOA Racing Engines offers metal-backed guides that retrofit in place of the plastic guides and are guaranteed for the life of your motor. These guides can be purchased individually or as part of a kit with a new timing chain and all necessary seals and hardware.
Contact: DOA Racing Engines

Weak link: Push-pull steering system
Models affected: '79-'85 pickups and 4Runners
What happens: The stock push-pull steering works well in stock form, but once a pliant suspension lift and larger, heavier tires are added, the system becomes less reliable.
Sturdy fix: 4x4Labs manufactures a crossover steering system that places the drag link above the axle centerline, along with the tie rod behind the axle and above the springs. This provides less vulnerability, more strength, and more precise steering with the proper Ackerman angle. The kit replaces the stock steering box with a unit from a later model ('86-'95). Each kit is custom made for your vehicle and features billet-steel steering arms, and large 1-ton Chevy or FJ-80 tie-rod ends are used for increased strength.
Contact: 4x4Labs.

Weak link: Idler arm
Models affected: '86-'95 pickups and 4Runners
What happens: When running larger-than-stock tires on the stock IFS, the idler arm becomes stressed to the point that it sometimes fails.
Sturdy fix: To prevent the idler arm from bending during heavy trail use, Downey Off Road offers a bolt-on idler-arm brace that strengthens the steering assembly and offers greater reliability. The part bolts to the frame with handtools and comes cadmium-plated for rust resistance and long-lasting good looks.
Contact: Downey Off Road

Weak link: Independent front suspension
Models affected: '86-'95 pickups and 4Runners
What happens: In 1986 Toyota switched from a solid front axle to independent front suspension. The IFS offers a smooth ride, but it is less durable than the earlier solid axles and can be expensive to lift properly.
Sturdy fix: Due to similarities in frame widths, it is possible to retrofit a solid axle from an '85-or-older pickup into your IFS truck or 4Runner. All-Pro Off-Road offers packages ranging from spring hangers and shackles to steering and all-inclusive kits.
Contact: All-Pro Off-Road


Advance Adapters
Paso Robles, CA 93446
All-Pro Off-Road
Hemet, CA 92543
Marlin Crawler
Fresno, CA 93703
LC Engineering
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403
Off Road Solutions
Longfield Super Axles
BudBuilt Frames and Accessories
Arcade, NY 14009
Doa Racing Engines
4Crawler Off Road
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