Toyota 4Runner and Pickup: Cheap Tricks

Toyota 4Runner and Pickup: Cheap Tricks

"Real Wheelers Are Built, Not Bought"

Here are some cheap tricks and tips I've found for repairing and upgrading my rig. These are simple modifications and repairs that for the most part cost very little and take little time.


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Deck Light Mod:

You know, it is that tiny light behind the factory roll bar on the driver's side, that doesn't seem to work. Took me a while to figure out that you needed to have the parking lights on (it is fed from the main exterior light relay). Kind of useless though, for example if you are camping or sleeping in back and need some light, you have to run around to the front, turn on the parking lights, all to have a puny 3W light in back. Add to that the the deck light is essentially "on the deck", so if you have anything in back, the light will likely be blocked. The only cool thing about the deck light is that it has both front and rear switches, wired up like you would have in a hallway with a switch at each end. Turn the light on with one switch, walk down the hall and turn the light off with the other switch.

So, while this deck light is sort of lame, it has promise. First step is to re-power it off the battery. Pull the lower dash off, disconnect the deck light plug and find the dark green wire (upper left of the connector) - that supplies power to the whole circuit. I cut it, spliced in a male and female spade connector and then tapped into my CB radio power feed. Any source of power could be used, the dome light fuse that powers the dome light is right there in the fuse block. I left the old wire with a mating spade connector in case I ever wanted to revert to stock.

Then, since the light may now actually get used, I replaced the 31mm festoon bulb with a white, 6-LED festoon bulb replacement. This LED puts out more light than the 3W incandescent bulb with 1/4 the current draw (about 60mA). So now there is light available any time, controllable from the front or rear switch. However, one big problem remains, the light is usually blocked with gear in the bed.

So, to address this problem, a different light location is needed. I already have a 12V LED trouble light stick zip tied to the roll bar. It has a 12V plug on it and I have 3 - 12V outlets down the passenger side of the bed rail that I can plug it into when needed. It throws a whole lot of light but it is sometimes inconvenient fumbling around in the dark trying to find the plug and an empty socket to stick it into. So the final solution is to add a switched 12V outlet on the driver's side, right above the deck light, power is tapped off the deck light. This allows the overhead light to be left plugged in all the time and switched on and off with a switch. And the overhead light also doubles as a trouble light, it can be easily unplugged and removed. Being a solid state light, it does not suffer from banging around like a fluorescent light does (I killed a few of those over the years). And the LEDs are very efficient light producers, so no worries about leaving them on for hours at a time while camping.

Wiring to the back of the deck light Let there be light!
Wiring Detail Side and Overhead Lights

In the above-left image, the connections of the wires to the back of the deck light socket is shown. With LED lights, polarity matters, the R-B wire is +12V and the W-B wire is ground. The two wires are run up to a 12V outlet screwed to the side of the bed rail. The LED trouble light plugs into that outlet and can then be turned on (image above-right) or off from either the switch at the deck light or from the deck light switch on the dash. As wired, even the indicator light on the front deck light switch illuminates so you don't forget to leave it on. The lit image above does not do the light output justice (my old digital camera did poorly in low light), but suffice it to say, reading would not be a problem with the amount of light thrown by the overhead LEDs. Also, the trouble light has an on/off switch so it can be shut off to use only the deck light. With the 60 bright LEDs in the trouble light, it does pull a few amps of current, but it puts out about the same light as a 100W incandescent bulb.

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Replacing damaged door handle trim:

After 19 years of California sun, I found the upper edges of the trim rings around the inside door handles was badly damaged by the UV light. The plastic was cracking and chunks were starting to fall off. Attempts to use vinyl cleaners and treatments met with no success. Then if dawned on me that the trim on the passenger side was a perfect fit for the driver's side. Swapping the two trim rings placed the sun-damaged side down and the like-new side up, giving a nice face lift to the look of the doors. Cost nothing, perfect color match and hopefully it'll last another 19 years!

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4Runner B-pillar trim removal/repair:

On the 1st generation 4Runner, there is a plastic trim panel located on the B-pillar, just behind the front doors. One day I decided to see how that piece was held in place, as it seemed to have no visible fasteners.

As you can see image "A" below, there are 5 slots (circled in red) and one of several white plastic pins (circled in green). The upper 4 slots are vertical and the bottom one is horizontal. This is the key to removing (and re-installing the trim panel). What you need to do is to push the bottom rear of the panel forward to slide the bottom pin out of the bottom slot. Then you ideally would push the panel up to release the 4 upper pins from the slots. What I found on my '85 was that the drip edge where the B-pillar meets the roof panel stopped the side trim piece from sliding up high enough to clear the pins. So I pushed it up as high as I could and then pulled the bottom of the panel away from the body until the clips popped out of the slots. If you do this carefully enough, the pins and slots will not get damaged too much.

B-pillar trim B-pillar trim removed B-pillar vent
A: B-pillar Trim B: B-pillar trim removed C: B-pillar vent

Once the trim piece is off, you'll be able to remove the 5 pins that are pressed into the 5 holes visible in image "B" above. Under that trim panel is a small vent in the lower part of the B-pillar. In mine, I found little shriveled up pieces of what looked like rubber or vinyl that once formed little flaps over the vent openings. So I found an old inner tube and cut 6 new little flaps for each side (there are vents on both sides) and the glued the flaps to the back side of the vent, shown in detail in image "C". I guess the idea is the flaps cover the vent to keep out water and dirt that may be behind the trim panel, but yet allow air to get pulled out of the vehicle while driving.

To replace the trim panel, I found that if I lightly glued the upper 4 pins into the slots (to hold them in place) and then inserting the lower pin into the body, I could line up the 4 upper pins int he 4 body holes and press the panel into place. Then engage the lower pin by pulling the panel back into position.

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Oil Cooler:

There are a few options for adding oil coolers to an engine. Most require adding an adapter to the oil filter then running hoses to and from an air-oil or water-oil heat exchanger located elsewhere. I found a simpler version that seems to work well to add a bit of cooling effect to the oil filter and also helps protect it from flying road debris:

Cool Collar oil cooler

I used the Cool Collar from JC Whitney to fit over the oil filter, a finned aluminum extrusion held in place with a hose clamp. The regular size exactly fits the stock 22RE oil filter. I took the time to go around the sharp fin corners on the end of the cooler with a set of wire cutters to trim off the sharp ends and also filed them smooth to avoid nasty scrapes in the future. I find the fins make it easy to grip the filter for installation and removal. It just takes a few seconds to move it to the new filter at each oil change. I also added the same filter cooler to my Howe power steering fluid reservoir filter.

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Fuel Pump Tricks:

Here are a few handy tips and tricks for working on the high pressure EFI fuel pumps on Toyota 22RE/22RET and V6 (3VZE) trucks.

Easy Fuel Pump Access:

In the 1st generation Toyota 4Runner, there is a handy access hatch under the rear seat cushions. Remove the screws that hold it in place and the fuel pump is easily accessible. It is held in with some screws and you can remove and replace it without draining and dropping the gas tank.

Fuel Pump Test Jumper:

If you find your engine is hard to start when it has been sitting for a while, but is still warm, you might have a problem with the fuel pump not turning on. I noticed my '85 4Runner would need to be cranked for many seconds before it would start. When I was doing some work on the engine, I decided to install an electronic fuel pressure gauge with a sender in the fuel injector rail. I drilled and tapped a hole in the end of the rail, soldered in a brass pipe elbow (1/8"-1/4" street elbow) and screwed the sender into that. That is when I noticed when the engine is cranking but not starting, my fuel pressure was zero. Then, the fuel pressure would pop up to the normal operating range and the engine would fire. I reasoned that I had to crank the engine fast enough to pull sufficient air into the AFM to trip the fuel pump contacts and pressurize the system (I suspect I have an air leak in the fuel system that is letting the residual pressure bleed off over a few minutes - I see no fuel leaking). Anyway, digging through the handy FSM, I found the following (Fuel Pump Check Connector):

22RE Fuel Pump Circuit

I first found this while going through the engine check out procedure after doing a rebuild procedure, but then it dawned on me that this would help with the starting fuel pressure problem. So I stuck a wire in the check connector (its the rectangular connector just left of center in image A below - circled in red). FYI. That photo was taken looking at the driver's side inner fender, under the hood from the passenger side, for reference. Image B shows a closeup of the RED jumper wire inserted into the test connector, a pair of spade lugs are crimped onto the ends of the wire and its just inserted into the connector terminals (see image A below).

And viola, the engine starts on the first crank almost all the time, hot, cold, no difference. The fuel pump switch in my AFM tests out fine, so I don't think that is the cause of my problem. I imagine this is sort of a safety feature, shuts off the fuel pump if the engine stops. With the jumper installed, the fuel pump runs whenever the ignition is on.

When does the fuel pump run?

So what is this "cheap trick"good for?

If you find this jumper fixes your starting problem, what does this tell you?

So what might be the problem?

Note that the Main Relay is located in the driver's side kick panel, in the lower left hand corner of the relay panel above the fuse block.

Troubleshooting tips (if the above tips don't help):

So, you might ask if I ever found the cause of my hard starting issue? Well, the answer would be no. I actually ran with a switch on the check connector for some time, then one day the system was back to working normally. It has never acted up since that time, so with no problems, there is nothing to fix.


Running with the check jumper installed is not ideal as it defeats a safety feature built into that system. Normally, if the engine ever stops running, so will the fuel pump. If you have the jumper installed, the fuel pump will run any time the key is in the ON position, engine running or not. So when might this matter? If you run out of gas, the engine will stop and so will the fuel pump, this avoids damage to the fuel pump since it relies on the gasoline to cool and lubricate it. Leave the pump running dry and it will fail quickly. The other more serious issue would be in the event of a crash where you might have a damage to a fuel line. If the pump were to stay running, it would cause more gas to leak out under pressure, increasing the risk of fire. So best not to run with the jumper in place. I recall my old '78 VW Rabbit (CIS fuel injection) was set up from the factory that the fuel pump kicked on with ignition. I think all the FWD VWs (A1 platofrm) up though '84 were like this.

To get arounhd this, you could connect the test jumper up to a momentary switch on the dash. The hold that button down while starting then release the button once the engine is running normally. Or you could troubleshoot the cause of the starting problem and fix it.

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Timing and Diagnostic Check Connector location(s)

These are located on the driver's side inner fender on the earlier EFI trucks and 4Runners, later models had an integrated diagnostics box located on the passenger side of the engine bay, near the fuse box.