Weekend Warriors: 2000 Toyota 4Runner Edition

It was a quiet afternoon at the Supreme Suspensions fortified compound. I was taking my lunch in the billiards lounge, as usual, when my telephone rang. An old friend was on the other end of the line, a good man that I had met years ago when times were simpler.

“It’s the 4Runner,” he said with a tinge of despair. “It has a squeak. It has a leak.”

“The horror,” I muttered as I inadvertently dropped my phone into my teriyaki bowl. We had to act fast.

Some days later, we met at an undisclosed location along with a colleague of mine who also happened to know my old friend. Also, he owned the garage where the procedure was to take place.

Our friend’s 4Runner is a solid old beast but with 140,000 miles on the clock, it was in need of some attention. The squeak led us to a faulty front wheel bearing and the leak was traced to a worn out valve cover seal. Other concerns included tired front struts, brittle spark plug wires, a vibrating brake pedal, and an ominous rubbing related to the fitment of oversized tires.

Disassembly began immediately as access to the valve covers necessitated the removal of the intake manifold. We also suspected trouble in dismantling the suspension due to corrosion from years of frequent beach visits. Thirty-six hours and several zesty beverages later, our parts count was abundant:

  • 2 pre-loaded strut assemblies
  • 2 front wheel bearings and seals
  • 2 upper ball joints
  • 2 lower ball joints
  • 2 outer tie-rod ends
  • 2 sway bar links
  • 2 valve cover gaskets
  • 1 tube of black RTV silicone
  • 6 spark plugs
  • 3 spark plug wires (the coil packs sit directly over the other three plugs)
  • 2 front brake rotors
  • 1 brake caliper
  • 1 brake pad kit
  • 2 2.5” front leveling spacers
  • 1 Ooga horn

Times became desperate around lunch on the second day when the ball joints refused to unseat. Countless surfing trips had taken their toll on the undercarriage in the form of a thin layer of rust that had effectively adhered the components together. Multiple pickle forks, a hand sledge, a torch, and an air hammer eventually separated the bits. Similar woes occurred later that afternoon while attempting to remove the wheel bearings. Patience and determination eventually persevered but not without damaging a 20-ton press.

The 4Runner finally rolled out of the garage around sunup. In the final hour, a novelty horn was installed for comic relief, since you can’t expect your buddies to spend all weekend working on your car without some sort of prank occurring. My colleague also gave the engine a quick clean for good measure.

The fearless Toyota now rides high and true, free from leaks and menacing noises. Once again, all seems right in the world. Just ask Keller, the dog.

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