The Toyota 4runner might not have the same massive aftermarket support as the Jeep Wrangler, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of great upgrades available. Today I’m going to count down my list of the best 4th Gen 4runner mods.
The market for 4runners is actually pretty cool. There aren’t a ton of companies that make parts for these, but the ones that do are awesome. Definitely a quality over quantity situation. The great thing about that is you really can’t go wrong when choosing 4runner parts.
Modifications are one of the first things on a lot of new 4runner owners’ minds. While it’s a very capable vehicle on and off road right from the factory, it can be improved quite a bit with just a few basic upgrades. These are my favorites that I’ve done on mine so far:
Doug Thorley Headers (2UZ V8)
The 4th Gen 4runner isn’t known to have very many common failures but the factory exhaust manifolds are one of them. Long story short, the manifolds will crack over time, developing an exhaust leak.
In most cases, this isn’t an issue that will cause any driveability problems or even a check engine light. What it will do is drive you crazy with a loud, embarrassing ticking noise.
You could replace these manifolds with new Toyota parts but there are a couple of reasons why I don’t recommend that. New OEM manifolds are expensive – and they’ve already been proven to fail eventually. If I’m going to pay to fix a problem, I’d like to do it the best way in hopes of never having to deal with it again.
This is where the short tube headers from Doug Thorley come in. They’re made out of 304 stainless steel and carry a lifetime warranty. Simply put, these things are built way stronger than the factory manifolds. They’re a lot cheaper, too.
For me, the longevity of these headers vs the OEM manifolds is enough to sell me on them. But there are some performance-related bonuses that really seal the deal. They’ll give you an extra 30 horsepower and 30 ft-lbs of torque in the mid range. That’s enough to make a noticeable difference when driving around town.
Due to their efficient flow, the Doug Thorley headers will also bump up your fuel economy. In my case, I regained nearly the whole 2 MPG I lost after adding the lift and tires to my 4runner.
For more info on the problem and my complete review on these headers, check out this post:
I understand that not all 4runners were sold with the V8 so the next one is something that any year or model of 4runner can benefit from – a ceramic coating. No, this isn’t really a modification. But it is something that will improve the ownership experience of your 4runner.
Being a detailer myself might make me biased on this one. The “best color of paint is a new coat of mud” crowd is probably going to disagree. But protecting your paint job with a ceramic coating isn’t just about fancy water beading and bragging at a car show.
The biggest benefit of a ceramic coating is that it makes your vehicle much quicker and easier to clean up. You’re more likely to do something often when it requires less effort. Using a pressure washer on a ceramic coated vehicle will remove the majority of the dirt before you even touch it with a wash mitt. I’m all for making life easier.
Since a proper paint correction is part of the application process, your 4th Gen 4runner is guaranteed to look better than most of the brand new $50,000 rigs in the parking lot. Get used to answering the question “what year is that thing!?” if you go this route.
There are many different options to choose from when it comes to ceramic coatings, from cheap DIY products to high end professional applications. Click here to read my long term review of the coating on my 4runner, Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light:
One of the biggest limiting factors of the 4th Gen 4runner is the OEM suspension. Whether we care to admit it or not, the majority of Toyota 4runners that are sold will never see any off road action. Unfortunately, Toyota had to keep this in mind when designing and tuning the factory suspension.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad. But it could be much better. It’s very soft and smooth which is great for on road driving. Some models are equipped with X-REAS which certainly helps with the handling in corners. To put it bluntly, the factory suspension will do the job off road too, but it won’t do it well.
There are a lot of great options for upgrading your 4runner suspension. Most of the big aftermarket companies offer systems including Bilstein, Icon, Fox, King, and Old Man Emu. To be honest, you can’t go wrong with any of these. It just comes down to what kind of driving you do and how much money you want to spend.
Aftermarket suspension does a much better job of soaking up impacts, making it easier to stay in control. Most of these shocks will ride a bit firmer on the street but do a better job of absorbing sharp hits. This is a bit hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but try to imagine stiffer sports car-like handling combined with a smoother ride over rough roads.
The improved ride quality from upgraded suspension will typically do as good a job or better than the factory X-REAS system. Mine was removed during the install of my Fox 2.0 / OME setup and I’ve never missed it since. You can read more about the Fox 2.0 suspension here:
The absolute best upgrade you can make to your otherwise stock Toyota 4runner is a new set of tires. Not just any tires though – you need to choose ones that are meant for the type of driving you do.
It’s important to take the conditions you drive in into consideration. If you have a lot of sticky mud or clay to deal with, you’ll want to upgrade to a mud terrain tire. The biggest downside to a mud tire is the louder road noise, especially when cruising down the highway.
If you’re doing more of a mix of on and off road driving, an all-terrain tire will be much better suited to you. These will be quieter on the road (although still louder than a car tire) but might have a tendency to pack up with mud easier, causing them to lose traction.
Another big bonus for some all terrain tires is the amount of siping they have. This helps them to perform much better in winter conditions, where a mud tire tends to turn into a racing slick.
While any of these tires in the original size will be an upgrade, switching to a larger size can make an even bigger difference. There isn’t a whole ton of room in the wheel wells at stock ride height for larger tires (you can likely go up a size or two without rubbing) but if you plan to lift it you’ll have many more sizes to choose from.
The size of tire you can get away with gets even larger if you’re bold enough to do a bit of cutting and trimming. I was able to fit 285/70/17 Goodyear Duratracs on mine without doing any major cutting, although it did require some. You can read more on those tires and why I love them for winter driving in this post:
Of course, there are lots of other things you can do to upgrade your 4runner – these are just some that most owners will appreciate the benefits from. It all comes down to what’s important to you.
There are aftermarket lighting setups, audio upgrades, performance exhausts/intakes and off road armor all readily available to you. I would highly suggest spending some time surfing forums like the ones at T4R.org and Expeditionportal.com.
Owen ThompsonAugust 16, 2022 at 8:49 pm
Do you know if doug thorly headers would make a good difference on the V6 4th gen 4Runner? Hp, torque, mpg’s?
Canadian GearheadAugust 17, 2022 at 10:48 am
I don’t think they offer them for the V6 unless they’ve added them recently?
Marc MillerApril 22, 2021 at 11:07 pm
So who did you get to install the Doug Thorley headers and exhaust system? Was it a smooth job and did you have any issues with the install ?
Canadian GearheadApril 23, 2021 at 9:19 am
Had one friend install the headers and then a couple years later I had the exhaust installed at another friend’s shop. Both installs went well – I would have installed the Gibson system myself but a previous owner of my 4runner had one of the OEM flanges cut off and welded so I couldn’t just bolt it on.
VinceFebruary 4, 2021 at 1:16 am
Do you have the specs for the wheels you’re running? trying to find a good fitment.
Canadian GearheadFebruary 4, 2021 at 10:06 am
They’re 17×8.5 Method Standards with 0 offset
michael kingDecember 19, 2020 at 6:32 am
aliMay 4, 2020 at 11:54 am
Do you have wheel spacers on your 4runner?
Canadian GearheadMay 4, 2020 at 3:54 pm
No I don’t.
GlenSeptember 1, 2022 at 1:07 am
Did you buy the DT shorties with the Y pipe?
Canadian GearheadSeptember 2, 2022 at 8:54 am
I’m still running the factory y-pipe. They didn’t offer it at the time.
WilJanuary 29, 2023 at 8:31 pm
I just installed Doug Thorley Shorty Headers and Y-Pipe (with high flow race cats welded onto end of headers) followed by Gibson Cat-Back Black Elite Exhaust. Love the setup and extra power, sounds mean af! Nice throaty growl