4th Gen Toyota 4runner Modifications

4th gen 4runner side angle

Here is where you’ll find everything you want to know about the Canadian Gearhead 4runner. Since this vehicle pretty much started this whole website, I feel it deserves its own page!

I spent a lot of time researching these parts online before I decided to buy them because this vehicle is my daily driver. I needed it to remain reliable, comfortable, and easy to drive.

I was able to piece this rig together for 1/3 of the cost of a brand new TRD Pro 4runner. In my opinion, it’s just as capable – plus it has a unique appearance along with the power, sound, and towing capacity of a V8 engine.

How it started:

I initially purchased this 2007 Toyota 4runner in Stratford, Ontario with 205,000 km on the clock. It’s a Limited model with the 4.7L 2UZ V8 engine and wears its original Shadow Gray Mica paint.

Being a Limited V8 meant it came equipped with rear air suspension, leather interior, and a few other bells and whistles. Aside from the factory navigation, this was pretty much the highest you could spec a 4runner in 2007.

The previous owner had plasti-dipped the emblems, added a K&N air filter, and a black tip on the factory exhaust. Aside from that, this 4runner was completely stock and as far as I know, I’m the 3rd owner.

This vehicle was sold to me with a fresh safety certificate which I believed was legit at the time… later on I found that it had a cracked exhaust manifold and leaking air suspension. My fault for not finding these things while inspecting it – you live and learn!

Modifications:

As every car guy always promises, I planned to leave this thing pretty much stock. I wanted a smooth and quiet daily driver, with some bigger tires and a mild spacer lift. I even planned on keeping the OEM 18″ wheels at first.

Us car enthusiasts are experts at justifying things though. I could get aftermarket wheels and 17″ tires for close to the price of 18″ A/T tires (not really). The best way to fix a cracked manifold is with a set of headers (true). The leaking air suspension had to be converted to coils, and we might as well use 2″ lift springs (in reality, it was a leaky hose – the system could have stayed).

As you can see, I went beyond what my original plan had in store. I still feel like the end result is a great balance of improvements through modifications while keeping it fairly OEM looking.

Suspension Upgrades

Fox 2.0 adjustable front coilovers (Link to 4wheelparts)

Fox 2.0 Rear Shocks (Link to 4wheelparts)

This is Fox’s entry level suspension offering. At the time I purchased these, they weren’t very well known to the 4runner community. It seems that most 4runner owners either stick with the tried and true Bilstein 5100 shocks, or step up to more expensive adjustable offerings from Fox, King, Dobinson, and Icon.

These Fox 2.0s seemed great on paper which made me really wonder why nobody was running them on 4runners. I took a chance on them and I’m really glad I did. This has been the perfect suspension system for a daily driver on (somewhat) of a budget.

The ride is fantastic both on road and off and durability-wise they’re holding up really well to our Canadian winters. The only downside I’ve seen thus far is the inability to adjust them on the vehicle.

This suspension upgrade is quite possibly my favorite modification I’ve made to my 4runner to this day. It’s been on my 4runner for 7 years and 50,000 kms without a rebuild. From towing a camper across Canada to go offroading in the mountains, to delivering a sleeping baby to Grandma and Grandpa’s, this Fox 2.0 setup feels like the perfect match.

Old Man Emu 895 Rear Springs (Link to 4wheelparts)

The OME 895 springs are designed to give 2″ of lift and be able to handle heavy loads without sagging. This is their medium-stiffness spring that’s rated for vehicles carrying 200-400 extra pounds of payload regularly.

OME also offers the same spring at a slightly lower length (895e – 1.5″ lift) for anyone that prefers a more level ride height.

I was a bit concerned that they would be too stiff when unloaded, but they ride very smooth and match the Fox 2.0 up front very well. The extra stiffness is nice to have when towing or loading the hatch up with gear. With a 3,200lb single axle trailer (and no weight distributing hitch) the rear end only squatted about 3/4″. I share measurements in this video:

Metal Tech Rear Coil Conversion Kit

Because my 4runner is a Canadian Limited V8 model, it comes from the factory with adjustable rear air suspension. It’s actually a pretty nice system and can even be tricked fairly easily to provide a suspension lift to match whatever you upgraded to up front.

Airbags aren’t usually preferred for hardcore off roading due to the chance of tearing the rubber though, and since mine were already leaking, I chose to convert to regular coil springs like most 4runners. Metal Tech advertises this kit as a part for the Lexus GX470, which shares the same suspension design as the 4runner.

The conversion is very simple – it includes an OEM style rubber spring isolator to hold the top of the spring (same diameter as the airbags) and a lower spring perch that bolts to the axle. That’s all it takes to switch from airbags to springs.

Wheels and Tires

Method Race Wheels MR301 Standard (Link to TireRack)

These wheels have been a long time favorite of mine for off road trucks so they were a pretty easy choice. I went with a 17×8.5″ size with a 0 offset and 4.75″ backspacing. These fit perfectly in the wheel wells and offer a clean yet rugged look.

These are much lighter than the original 18″ wheels and stepping down to a 17″ size allows me to run a nice tall tire sidewall while still clearing the brake calipers. I ceramic coated these with Gtechniq C5 when they were 1 year old and the finish on them still looks brand new despite the salty Canadian winters.

The finish on the center caps has finally begun to flake off, however. Perhaps that’ll serve as a reason to upgrade to some more flush-style caps.

Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac Tires (Link to TireRack)

I had these tires on my previous Grand Cherokee and was so happy with them that I didn’t need to think twice before ordering a set for the 4runner. I went with a fairly big size (285/70/17 which measures very close to 33″).

These will not fit a stock 4runner and even with my lift and aftermarket wheels, I needed to trim the plastic on the front bumper, relocate the inner fender wells, and remove the factory mud flaps. I didn’t have to chop the body mount due to the caster specs my OEM upper control arms are providing.

The Duratrac is one of the most aggressive all-terrain tires on the market and comes pretty close to a mud-terrain in terms of performance. Unlike mud-terrain tires though, these are fairly quiet on the highway and perform great in winter driving conditions. Mine have become a bit louder as they’ve worn over the years but they still aren’t bad.

I leave them on year round and rarely have trouble finding traction anywhere. They are heavy though and definitely contributed to an MPG loss – especially in the city.

Performance Upgrades:

Doug Thorley Short Tube Headers

I didn’t intend to do any performance upgrades because the Toyota 4runner isn’t exactly a race car. A cracked OEM exhaust manifold made this decision for me. This set of headers costs less than a single OEM manifold, plus they’re made of 304 stainless steel and have a lifetime warranty.

These offer a 30hp and 30 ft-lb increase but it’s important to note that the gains are in the midrange – not at the peak. You’ll really feel a difference around 3000 RPM but this doesn’t mean your 4.7 will magically make 300hp.

I had the original catalytic converters welded to them to keep things legal and allow it to pass emissions tests without any problems. These headers offer pretty sizeable mid-range power gains and nearly made up for the MPG loss from my tires (roughly 2 MPG).

Admittedly, the coating on mine has become pretty stained but they’re still solid structurally. Between the stronger design, cheaper price, increased power, and increased fuel efficiency, these are a no-brainer for any 4.7L 4runner with cracked manifolds. 

Gibson Stainless Catback Exhaust

Much like the headers, my 4runner made this choice for me by having the OEM exhaust rot out and fall off from the muffler back. I went with the upgraded 404 stainless steel version to avoid having to patch up leaks in the future.

My 4runner is the only quiet vehicle I own so I really didn’t want to part ways with the original exhaust. I chose the Gibson because many owners reported that it’s very tame and easy to live with on a daily basis.

I’ve seen a lot of people complain about highway drone with this exhaust and to be honest, I had it too – at first. Once you give the muffler enough time to break in, that seems to go away.

Hewitt Technologies SAIS Bypass Kit

The secondary air injection system is a common failure among Toyota trucks like the 4runner, Tundra, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser. If it happens to fail, you could be looking at a $3,000+ fix to get it out of limp mode. This is a silly system that Toyota was basically forced to use to meet emissions requirements, so shutting it off with this kit doesn’t have any negative impact.

While this kit is able to fix some issues when the system fails, I chose to use it more for preventative maintenance. My system is still working fine and I want to keep it that way – so I bypassed it!

Exterior Upgrades

Sherpa Princeton roof rack

I’ve been wanting to set the 4runner up for more camping and adventuring, especially since my son was born. I felt like a lot of that hinges on having a good roof rack for storage, as well as a way to mount a tent, lighting, and an awning.

I did a bunch of reading on the 4runner Facebook groups and forums and the answer to the question “What’s the best rack out there for the 4th Gen?” was a resounding “SHERPA!!!!” I chose it because of the way it mounts to the factory location without requiring any drilling or silicone. It’s super low profile and Sherpa sells mounts for every accessory you can imagine.

You can choose between a full or half fairing – I went with the latter as I’m planning to add a slim light bar to it very soon. I’m really looking forward to outfitting this rack with some of the must-haves for a rig like my 4runner.

Trail Runner Customs TRD Pro style grille

I really don’t mind the look of the OEM color matched Limited grille on these 4runners. I think it’s a clean, simple look that definitely suits the rest of the 4runner. But these TRD Pro style grilles have become more and more popular lately and I really like how they look.

I took mine a step further and color matched the outer area with Shadow Gray paint that I had mixed up locally. I can’t say it would pass for professional grade work, but it looks pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I installed the Raptor lights that are included so I could get the full effect. After a few months, I’m still undecided. Sometimes I think Raptor lights are a bit cheesy, and yet I can’t be bothered to take them off my own 4runner. Time will tell if I keep them on or not!

Update: I took them off haha.

Hollywood HR1400 bike rack

This is like the cockroach of bike racks – it just won’t die. It might not be the fanciest or the lightest. There are far more expensive options available these days that will practically tune your bike up for you while you drive. Yet this one still does the trick for me. It’s heavy, strong, and the powdercoated finish seems to be holding up well after many years.

It can be a bit of a pain to fumble around with at times but it’s really easy to use and adjust for different types and sizes of bikes. I don’t think I’ll be replacing it any time soon.

BOLT locking hitch pin

I’ve always used locking hitch pins with my bike racks in order to keep them as secure as possible. Racks that hold 4 bikes are expensive and although it’s always possible to cut these off with a sawsall, it keeps the honest people honest. The cool thing about the BOLT lock is that it uses your factory ignition key instead of having a separate one just for the lock.

Toyota bug deflector (Link to similar aftermarket option)

Oddly enough, this is one of the most asked about part on my 4runner! This is an OEM Toyota bug deflector that seems to have been more readily available at dealerships here in Canada. They have become very hard to source now but good news – a company called Form Fit is making one that appears to be nearly identical.

AVS window visors

These are just basic stick on window visors from Auto Vent Shade. I’ve had good luck with this style rather than the in-channel ones on this and past vehicles. The adhesive does a good job of holding them on long term and in the event that it wears out, a little double sided tape should do the trick. I find it quite enjoyable to be able to drive in the pouring rain with the windows cracked.

Lighting Upgrades:

Nilight 32″ Curved LED Light Bar

This black housing light bar is a perfect fit for the 4th Gen 4runner front bumper. These facelifted 2006-2009 model 4runners have a plastic grille that snaps in place that can easily be removed without any cutting required. Older 2003-2005 models will need to have the grille trimmed in order to have the light flush with the bumper.

The black housing design makes this light blend in a little better rather than the chrome housing on many other lights. This might not be on the same level as Rigid or Baja Designs but it’s bright enough for me and seems to be pretty well built. No complaints here.

I find the trick with these inexpensive light bars is to retorque all of the screws holding the lens in place to make sure they’re tight. I haven’t had any issues with moisture getting in with this or my previous light that took its place.

I get lots of questions about the mounts I used for this – I made my own. Don’t copy me, they suck. I’m not happy with the way they wiggle so eventually I’ll replace them with something from Cali Raised.

Nilight 41" light bar on 4runner Sherpa roof rack

41″ Nilight Slim Single Row LED Light Bar

Previously, I had a 40″ Totron light bar mounted to my OEM roof rack and loved it. It was getting a bit old though and when I went to remove the mounts to reconfigure it to mount to the Sherpa rack, it broke. So I decided to replace it with a low profile light from Nilight to match the one in the bumper.

This one sits in front of the sunroof rather than behind it so I no longer have to deal with it lighting up the cabin when the sunroof shade is open. This Nilight light bar has a nice low profile so it fits perfectly – it’s almost flush with the top of the roof rack.

Auxbeam AR-600 Switch Panel

I got sick of the rat’s nest of wiring that connected my light bars directly to the battery. Installing this fuse block and switch panel from Auxbeam really helped to clean things up.

The AR-600 offers lots of cool options like how it controls your lights (momentary, pulse, etc.) and the color of the backlighting. It includes an app that allows you to control everything from your phone which is a nice bonus. This will make it much easier to install new accessories in the future.

Auxito H11 LED headlight bulbs in 4th gen 4runner

Auxito LED Headlight bulbs Low Beam and High Beam

The OEM projectors on these facelifted 4th Gens are pretty decent, so I decided to upgrade to LED bulbs in both the low beam and high beam locations. These were a nice way to modernize the appearance of the front end and also produce some brighter light.

The H11 low beam bulbs come as close to the beam pattern of halogen bulbs as possible to avoid glare. They’re 6500k temp and produce 24000 lumens. The high beams are the same idea but in a 9005 size.

Before you headlight nerds have a hissy fit, I’ve been in front of this 4runner at night with it driving behind me and there was no extra glare in my mirrors at all. I have no interest in driving around blinding people so if these were bad, I’d get rid of them.

Auxito H11 LED headlight bulbs in 4th gen 4runner

Boslla Bullet B4 LED Fog Light Bulbs

To round out the lighting setup, I went with a set of color-changing LED bulbs in the factory fog lights. The best part about these is that you can switch between 6500k white, 4300k yellow, and 3000k yellow by cycling the OEM fog light switch. With these, you can have a nice clean white look on a clear evening but switch to yellow for bad weather like rain, snow, and fog.

Oznium Camping LED Camping Lights

I put these in my previous Grand Cherokee and decided to recreate the same setup in the 4runner. These require some work to install – I cut holes into the plastic trim inside the hatch to mount them, then ran the wiring through the factory grommet into the body.

I actually used the light bar wiring harness for a constant power source so I don’t need to have the key on to use these lights. I’ve had them on for hours and they use very little battery power. As you can see, they’re plenty bright too.

These come in really handy when you’re working out of the cargo area or hooking up a trailer at night time.

Interior Upgrades:

Pioneer DMH-2660NEX Head Unit

I waited way too long to upgrade the head unit in my 4runner. I chose the Pioneer DMH-2660NEX because it offered Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, and more for a very reasonable price.

Installation was simple and I was able to retain the entire factory JBL Synthesis system as well as full function of the steering wheel controls. The sound quality was improved as well, even with the OEM speakers. This really updated the vehicle and made it much more liveable day to day.

I added a USB port to the dash to make it easier to plug a phone in – if I had to come up with any downsides of this head unit it would be the lack of wireless Android Auto or Carplay.

MIC Tuning OEM Style Light Bar Buttons

I wanted to get a little creative with the switches for my light bars and these OEM style buttons were perfect. Since I deleted my rear air suspension, the 2 buttons in the center console that controlled it were rendered useless. This was the perfect place to mount these buttons.

I could have just kept the generic switches that came on the harnesses I got for the lights, but I’m really glad I took this extra step. These blend in perfectly with my otherwise completely stock interior.

Setpower USA PT45 12v Refrigerator

I think having a 12v refrigerator in your rig is one of those things you don’t think you need, but once you have it you can’t imagine life without it. Going on an extended camping trip and don’t want to be hunting for ice every day? This will hold all your cooled and frozen food. Just want to bring some ice cream to your picnic date? This thing makes that possible too.

I have a larger 60L Setpower fridge as well but this 45L one feels like the perfect size for the 4runner. It’s a good combination of storage space without taking up that majority of your cargo area. It also has 2 separate compartments that you can set to different temperatures.

The battery saver feature is helpful to avoid a no-start situation but I think I’d want a secondary power source for longer trips. Maybe I’ll look into an Anker power bank or something similar in the future.

Setpower USA Fridge Slider

This fridge slider serves 2 purposes for me. 1) The obvious benefit of being able to slide the fridge out toward you instead of having to lean and reach into the cargo area and 2) A secure mounting point to keep it strapped in.

These fridges are big and heavy and I wouldn’t want one smacking me in the back of the head in the event of a car crash! I drilled through the false floor and bolted this in place using nice big washers. The weight pulls up the front of the floor slightly when it’s fully extended but aside from that, it’s pretty sturdy.

OEM Toyota Cargo Matt

This was in the 4runner when I bought it and I’m glad the previous owner spent the money on it. I still don’t know why Toyota decided to put light gray carpet in SUVs that are designed for off-roading but this is certainly much more robust and easier to clean up. I cut small holes in it for the fridge slider bolts for a clean looking install.

I’m not sure where you would find one of these OEM mats but luckily there seems to be plenty of good aftermarket options available.

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