COAL: #25 2008 Toyota 4Runner – Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

In 2017 I had just gotten rid of my Volvo XC90, and my Volvo XC60. I had just bought my first new car, a 2017 Subaru Outback. I had plans of just going to one car, and driving the Subaru around. Well, as many of you know, things change. I had a 1977 Scamp 13 ft travel trailer that I enjoyed using quite a bit, but I wanted something with AC. I started searching for a newer Scamp with AC, but they were very hard to find. I stumbled on a Casita trailer. While bigger and heavier, it seemed better built than my old Scamp. The only issue was, I needed a car that could tow more than 3,000 pounds.

The only Volvo that can tow would be a XC90, and since I had just gotten rid of one I was not too keen on adding another back to the stable. Especially after the bad taste the other one left in my mouth. This could only mean one thing; I would have to step out of my Volvo comfort zone. I thought a lot about a truck, as the versatility could really come in handy towing a camper. I could not find anything in my price range of under $8,000. I thought a lot about a Toyota Tacoma, or a Honda Ridgeline, but both hold their value so well that if I did find one in my price range it would be really beat up, or high miles.

My girlfriend’s dad, now father-in-law, at the time was a die-hard Toyota guy. He had a Tundra, and drove a lot, and usually drove them very hard. He had mentioned to me in passing that I should look at a 4Runner. I was not too sure, as I had never had a Toyota, and never knew how they drove. My girlfriend had a 4Runner for her first car with well over 200,000 miles, and it looked brand new, and gave them no issues. Her sister also got a 4Runner for her first car, and had 250,000 miles with no issues. I decided to plug it into Craigslist just to see what was out there. I was on the fence about getting 4×4 as the prices were much higher, and I had my Subaru.

I found a one owner 4Runner in the town over from me. It was a single lady who had taken very good care of it. I met her for a test drive, and was blown away. It had 180,000 miles on it, but it drove like a new car. No rattles, no squeaks, it was smooth, and rode very well. It was 2wd and I was alright with that at the time because I would only be using it for towing. I offered her $7500, and she took it on the spot. I gave her the cash, and was on my way with a new car.

This was the first time that I had not had a Volvo in my driving fleet. I still had my 1800, and 444, but those were just my classics. This was a SR5 trim which was the base trim. My car came with leather, and heated seats. This was my first experience with a Toyota, and I got a taste of how odd they came off the line. This car was made for consumers in the gulf states. That means it came with a secondary alarm on it. Why that is, I have no idea, but only gulf state 4Runners have this red button on the dash for a second alarm. 4Runners of that era also come with trailer wiring, and hookup for a brake controller already wired. Even though my car did not come with a hitch from the factory, it still had all the wiring harness tucked under the car. Lastly, my car came with cloth seats, but dealers would often upgrade them to leather for the customer. They use a weird type of leather with a gel memory foam. I have seen several others like this. You can tell because they have a black tag toward the back of the bottom seat cushion.

So this secondary alarm proved to be quite the issue with me. I had accidentally bumped the red button with my knee while getting out of the car one day. The car alarm went off like crazy. I quickly hit my panic button on the key fob, but it did nothing. I ran in and grabbed the spare thinking it might be just this fob, but still nothing. As a last result, I pulled the battery cable just to get it to shut off. I then plugged it back in, and it continued to go off. After several attempts to get the alarm to shut off I finally pulled the fuse, but the lights were still blinking. Thinking there was something more wrong I had it taken to the Toyota dealer, but they were already closed. The dealer called me the next morning asking what was wrong. I told them the alarm kept going off, and the service adviser was quiet. He said he was in the car, and nothing was happening. I came back to pick it up later that day, and it was all fine. No cost to me, but a stressful situation to say the least. I don’t know what made it be quiet, but I made sure never to get anywhere close to that red button again.

Being the SR5 trim it still had a lot of features. I got leather that was added by the dealer, power back window which I loved, sunroof, soft close trunk, and AUX for an Ipod. Mine had the V6 motor which was capable of towing 5,000 pounds, and since it had all the wiring, all I had to do was bolt on a hitch. This was the easiest hitch I had ever installed, 4 bolts drilled into pre-drilled threaded holes in the frame. I got a brake controller for the Casita, and under the dash was a plug-n-play connector that took 2 seconds to install, and I was ready to camp.

Besides the alarm issue, the only other problem I had with the car was a few check engine lights, that were all related to emissions. I had an evap hose pinched from when the fuel pump was replaced, and a bad gas cap. Other than those things the car ran and drove great without any issues. I did resurface the brake rotors, and replace the serpentine belt, but that is all just maintenance.

I drove the car for quite a while, putting almost 200,000 miles on it. The only reason I sold it was because I figured out that I needed 4×4. I had never gotten stuck with it, but there were a few times where it was close. Especially in campsites where there are not always paved roads, or in the times we had snow. I got caught in a snow driving back from Bentonville one time, and had wished I had 4×4.

I really liked this car, and would have kept it longer, but I just needed something different. In the end I sold it to someone local who was born in Sweden. I enjoyed talking to him about Volvos and we were both car guys, so it worked out in the end. I had no real complaints with this car, and can see why there is such a cult following with these. The next car I got to replace it was very close.