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The $4k Toyota 4Runner - Part 3

Gearing & Traction for a Tough Trail Toyota

Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

In the first installment of our $4K 4Runner we added suspension products from 4Crawler, Daystar, and Rancho to stuff 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrains under the fenders (May ’13). The tires fit now, but even with the factory 4.56 gears the “3.slow” engine has trouble turning them. Fifth gear might as well be the tooth fairy; we had heard of it but never actually seen it.

“Fifth gear might as well be the tooth fairy; we had heard of it but never actually seen it”

To remedy this issue, we made a call to JT Parts & Accessories for 5.29 gears and new bearings for our Toyota. The horsepower peak of the 3.0L is at 4,800, and the torque peak is at 3,400, so we wanted to keep the engine in that range on the freeway. With 4.56 gears and the stock 30.5-inch-tall tires, the 4Runner was turning just over 3,000 rpm at 75 mph. 5.29s bump the rpm up to 3,280 at 75 mph, just below the torque peak.

$6K 4Runner?

Our stated goal with this project was to perform $4,000 worth of upgrades to increase the trail prowess while maintaining reliability and good road manners. We met those goals but blew our budget in the process. Looking back, where could we have saved money to stay on budget without making too many compromises?

  • Run Rancho RS5000 shocks instead of RS9000XL shocks ($240 savings but no ability to fine-tune ride).

  • Forfeit fullsize BFGoodrich spare tire ($149 savings but stock spare tire was too small to use on one corner of locked axle).

  • Wait to purchase Trail Gear Rock Defense rear bumper ($299 savings, but stock bumper had no recovery points and poorer ground clearance).

  • Use Smittybilt XRC 8 winch instead of X20 8 winch ($100 savings but not waterproof).

  • Hold off on Budbuilt rear belly pan ($279 savings, but transfer case would be vulnerable off-road).

Our 4Runner uses a 71⁄2-inch differential in the front. We needed to match the gear ratio with the rear, but we refrained from adding a locking differential for two reasons. One, we didn’t have the money in our budget, and two, we were concerned about the strength of the front-end components.