4 Ways To Avoid A Cracked 4Runner Dash




Passenger side 4runner dashboard

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Depending on the climate you live in, a cracked 4Runner dash is a fairly common issue. So common in fact, that Toyota actually did a recall on it. Unfortunately, the window for having the repair done free of charge has closed.

That means it’s more important than ever to do our best to avoid a cracked dash in the first place. Today I’m going to share a few tips to keep your dashboard in the best condition possible. Keep in mind these aren’t necessarily 4Runner specific – any vehicle can benefit from them.

The story of cracked 4Runner dashboards

This all began back in 2012 when a T4R.org forum member shared a problem they were having with their 4Runner’s dash. He had called Toyota Customer Relations to complain and ended up filing a claim. His 4Runner was 9 years old at the time so it was clearly way out of warranty.

Toyota told him that they didn’t have any information on file about a cracked dash being a known problem but if more people came forward and filed claims, they would likely do something about it.

So he turned to his fellow users on the 4Runner forum and asked them to file their own claim if they had a similar problem. The response was huge. That thread is now over 100 pages long and full of people sharing stories of cracked 4Runner dashboards. And guess what Toyota did?

4th gen 4runner passenger side

They took action. Not many auto manufacturers will fix problems on older vehicles for free, at least not unless they’re a part of an NHTSA safety recall. This is one of the reasons I love Toyota as a company. They also did a similar campaign to replace rusty frames on older Tundras and Sequoias.

Vehicles that were included in the goodwill cracked dash recall:

  • 2003-2005 4Runner
  • 2005-2010 Avalon
  • 2007-2011 Camry and Camry Hybrid
  • 2004-2010 Sienna
  • 2004-2008 Solara

As you can see, this only applied for 2003, 2004, and 2005 model year Toyota 4Runners. I can only assume they updated the material used for the dashboards of the later year 4th gens.

Just like the rusty frame recall, Toyota had to end it at some point. The cracked dash recall expired on May 31, 2017. Unfortunately, that means that if you didn’t get yours done before then, you’re now left paying to fix it out of pocket. So how can we keep our dashboards from cracking?

How to keep your 4Runner’s dash from cracking:

There are a few really easy ways to make sure your 4Runner’s dashboard doesn’t crack.

Park in the shade

Shadow Gray 4runner in the shade

UV and infrared from the sun are the biggest enemy when it comes to plastic and vinyl interior parts cracking. It’s best to avoid them as much as possible. Parking in a garage or carport or even under a large tree will minimize the risk of your dash cracking.

This is especially important if you live in a really hot climate. Your dash isn’t the only thing that will be saved by doing this – your paint, leather, rubber, and plastic trim will all thank you for parking in the shade.

Tint your windows

The name of the game is to block the sun’s UV and infrared as much as possible. A high quality window tint can do a great job of that while also keeping a large amount of heat away from your interior too.

There are a lot of options out there for window tint. Higher end ceramic films will cost more but seem to make a noticeable difference in terms of heat reduction.

You also have the choice of how dark you want your windows. I would recommend going as dark as you can while still following state/provincial laws and still being able to see in the dark.

The other thing to consider is tinting your windshield. As far as I know, this is illegal pretty much everywhere in North America. It’s up to you whether you’re willing to risk getting a ticket to save your dash. Many people choose to roll the dice but once again, I recommend following your local laws.

Protect your dash with a high quality vinyl/plastic dressing

Everyone knows you shouldn’t go for long without protecting your paint with a wax or sealant and your interior is no different. It’s important to use some type of dressing that will protect against the sun’s UV rays.

303 Aerospace Protectant and Gtechniq C6 are both great products but there are plenty of others out there too. As long as it protects against UV rays and feels dry to the touch once applied, you should be good to go.

Avoid old school silicon-based dressings – the added gloss from that slime can actually attract heat and even cause the material to dry out and crack.

Pro tip:

Avoid old school silicon-based dressings – the added gloss from that slime can actually attract heat and even cause the material to dry out and crack.

Depending on how much your vehicle is exposed to the sun, you’ll want to stay on top of this often. Stick to the manufacturer’s directions for how often you should reapply your product of choice.

Cover it up

The last tip for avoiding a cracked dash is to simply cover it. This can mean one of two things: covering your windshield or covering the dash itself.

We’ve all seen those sun shades that people put inside their windshields when they’re parked at the beach. Yes, they look silly. But do they work? I’d imagine so.

Sometimes function is more important than form, so you might want to use one if you’ll be parked out in the sun for a long period of time. Maybe choose one in a discrete color rather than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one if you’d rather not draw attention to yourself.

There are also covers available for the dashboard itself. These used to be made out of carpet and made your interior look like a van from the ’70s. Luckily there are new designs available that are much less noticeable.

This cover from Coverlay is designed to fit the contours of the 4Runner dash, making it blend in with the rest of the interior. It can also be used to cover up a dash that’s already cracked, making it less of an eyesore.

Repairing a cracked dashboard

4th gen 4runner drivers side dash

Unfortunately, if you didn’t get your dash fixed by Toyota before May 31, you’re going to have to deal with it yourself. You have a few options for fixing this problem. It’ll depend on how much you’re willing to spend and how mechanically inclined you are.

Buy a DIY repair kit

There are DIY kits available online like this one that claim to be able to fix your cracked dash. Of course, all cracks aren’t created equal so it’s hard to say how well this will work.

Matching the factory color and texture is going to be tough and the chances of a patched area remaining noticeable are pretty likely. This is the cheapest option for repairing a cracked dash though so you get what you pay for.

Take it to a vinyl repair shop

A shop that specializes in automotive interiors and vinyl should be able to fix your dash properly. They’re probably going to need to remove the dash completely in order to work on it, so that labor is going to add up.

You can save some of the cost by removing the dash yourself and bringing it to them to fix, but they’re still going to have to spend time to fix it. The results here will be much better than a DIY fix.

Get a used dash from the junkyard

If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a used dash at either a junkyard or online. And if you’re even luckier, it’ll be in better condition than your own. If you’re able and willing to do the replacement yourself, this could be a very cost-effective fix too.

The downside is that you don’t know what kind of life your new dash has lived up until now. It could be about to crack soon too, so in a way, you’re rolling the dice. Pay close attention to any fading or change in texture that might indicate it has seen high temperatures.

Get a new dash from Toyota and foot the bill

Just because Toyota isn’t offering to fix your dash for free anymore doesn’t mean they won’t fix it – you’ll just have to pay. You’ll have to pay a lot too. I would imagine the price of a brand new dashboard is going to be high, plus the dealership’s labor rate is usually higher than most private garages.

Don’t be surprised if the part is back-ordered as well since they just went through a bunch of them with the warranty program. The good thing is that you’ll have a brand new Toyota dash installed by a Toyota technician.

It’s worth noting that the original problem with 03-05 4Runner dashes cracking was due to the materials Toyota used. These would have likely cracked even if every precaution had been taken. It was a manufacturer defect.

Still, dashboards in newer 4Runners (or nearly every other vehicle) have suffered from cracks due to neglect. It’s a good idea to take these precautions to avoid any issues in the future.

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