COAL: #30 2007 Toyota 4Runner Limited – How the High and Mighty Have Fallen

Alright, this is the post. This is the car that changed it all. So it was late 2017, I had my 2017 Subaru Outback, 1954 Volvo 444, 1962 Volvo P1800, 1971 Volvo 164, and a 1971 Volvo 145. I had just sold my 2008 Toyota 4Runner to buy something with 4WD. I had narrowed down my search to a Limited 4Runner of the same era. I wanted the Limited mainly because I could get factory navigation with a backup camera, which would help hooking up my trailers.

I stumbled on this 07 Limited in Kansas City. It was a 1 owner car being sold at a small used car dealer. The interesting thing was, it had a box full of service records that came with the car. Somehow it managed to survive a trade in and auction with all these records in the back seat. It was a V8 which I did not care either way, but it was nice because that meant it had the factory tow package with transmission cooler, and beefed up alternator. At the time it was the closest 4Runner that I could afford. It had just a touch over 200,000 miles, but like I said was a 1 owner with all the records.

I don’t have many pictures of the FB because it spent so much time in the shop.

I made a deal with the owner of the small dealer, and went to pick it up. When I got in the car, it still smelled new. It drove so nice and solid I could really tell it was well taken care of. On the test drive I was able to dig through the records and find the number of the owner, and gave her a call. She was really nice and explained she bought it new from Jay Wolfe Toyota in St. Louis. She said she drove a lot for work, and that is why the miles were a little high. She was honest and said she had a few issues, like the alternator dying, a few wheel bearings, maintenance stuff. She actually went in and bought another 4Runner, and left our phone conversation as “it’s a nice car, but it’s got a lot of miles”. I can still hear her saying that, and it kind of haunts me.

So, I made the deal, and brought the car home. The next day I was driving it to my parents’ house for my mom’s birthday, and boom, check engine light. I had been through this before with the 2008, and figured it was something emissions related as the traction control light was also on. I made one mistake; I took it into the dealer. Now, at the time I was very pleased with my dealer experience on my 2008, so I thought nothing wrong with it.

The dealer called me the next day saying that there was a bad knock sensor, and it would cost around $300-500 to replace. I went right back to the dealer I bought it from saying I had just bought it, and wondering if they would cover any of the cost. All I got from them was a letter from their lawyer saying to kick rocks. I was out the money for this knock sensor.

They had it ready later that day, and I picked it up, and drove it maybe 10 miles for the light to come back on. This is when the car got its name. Fair warning, my now wife and I called it a not nice name, but it deserved it (before this we actually called it the PDC, which stood for “pimp daddy cruiser” because it had the “gold package” as in gold emblems everywhere to offset the navy blue exterior). It got the name “fickle bitch” (I will just refer to it as FB, so I am not cursing so much through this post).

So, I took FB back to the dealer and told them it was back on. The dealer took another look, and said it might be the next day before it was ready. The next day, they called me saying the news was bleak. It needed a whole new computer/ECU to a tune of $1100. There was only 4-5 ECU’s for a V8 4Runner in the country, and it would take 2 weeks to get it. At this point I should have gotten a second opinion as I really knew better, that dealers take you for a ride. However, I was so invested with this dealer I agreed to have it fixed. Looking back, how we go from knock sensor to a whole new ECU is beyond me, but that service adviser loved me because I was helping his bonus, I am sure. Since this ordeal, I have actually heard from other 4Runner and Highlander owners that have gone through this ECU replacement as well; I guess it is Toyota’s process to go straight to that after several options have been exhausted. Whatever the case might be, I know I probably got taken for a ride.

Anyway, the dealer hooked me up with a loaner for several weeks, and I got the FB back and she was rocking and rolling after that. However, as you would guess, this only lasted for about 1000 miles, and the check engine light came back on. My heart sank, but I knew this time to go ahead and take it to a small repair shop my dad had as a customer. They read the light for free unlike the dealer, and diagnosed it as a bad charcoal canister. The repair shop said that a new canister would cost a whopping $1000, but they would not charge full install since they felt bad for me. They even tried to patch the bad canister that had a crack in it, with no luck. I thanked them, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I bought the part online, and had it delivered to a tune of $900, and put it on myself. All I had to do was remove the spare tire to expose this big black box, and unbolt it.

Now that the FB was back up and running, I had a second to reflect on this. I had bought the FB for a good price, but by now having dropped $2,000 into it there was no room to even get my money back on it. I had decided then and there to just drive it until the wheels just fall off. I was not about to take a loss on selling the car, and the drive-train was solid on it, so the FB was with me for a while.  The check engine light continued to pop on and off for various things like a gas cap, but I think it was just doing it to taunt me. Almost like it was reminding me that it owned me at this point, until one November day.

I had just left my parents’ house, and was driving back to my apartment in Fayetteville. I was almost to my exit on I-49, when I approached construction. If anyone knows I-49 in northwest Arkansas they know that there is ever growing construction. When I was in high school they had decided to construct a wire barrier in the grass median to prevent head on collisions. When I was in college they decided to throw away all the money they had just spent, and three lane the entire stretch from Bella Vista to Fayetteville, or about a 30 mile stretch. I can’t explain to you the headaches this caused because of slowdowns, and bottlenecks, for a while I avoided I-49 altogether. At this time though, the 3 lane project was just about over except for this small stretch in Fayetteville.

I was in the middle lane and approaching a semi truck to my left, or fast lane. There were a few cars to my right, or the slow lane. They had just repainted the lines on the road, but you could still see the old stripes. I had driven this often so I knew where I was supposed to go, and so did the cars next to me. Because the new lines required us to slightly turn, so I slowed down a little bit. At this point the semi to my left was about even with me, and I saw him getting closer and closer to me. I realized he was following the old lines on the road, and not the new lines like me and the other cars to my right were following.

I laid on the horn to alert the truck because I could not get over anymore. I braked to maybe avoid the accident altogether, but his trailer was a tanker, and as I braked his tandems on his trailer swiped the entire side of my car pushing me across the right lane almost hitting the car to my right (thankfully she saw this coming, and braked at the right time), and off the road into a construction barrel. Once I got stopped, I saw that the truck was continuing on down the interstate at full speed not stopping. I threw the car back in drive and started to chase after the truck. Luckily traffic behind us had stopped and I was able to jump back on to chase him. For over a mile I followed behind him flashing my lights and honking, but he would not stop. I then decided to pull aside him and get his attention, and pull in front of him off the side of the road. He finally got the hint, and stopped.

At this point as you can imagine I was fuming mad. I got out of my car, and lost my temper a little bit. If you know me, you know I never raise my voice, or even get mad, but this case I could not help it. The driver, shocked, looked at me and said “you hit me”. I stood their stunned. At this point I saw another car pull up behind us, and thinking she might also be involved we went up to the car. She got met with angry me, and looked at the truck driver and said “sir you ran him off the road, I was behind it the entire time”. Relieved I got back in my car to cool off, and call the police. When I got back to my car, I had not realized that the giant construction barrel wedged under my car had started to burn. I immediately removed it just in time. It took the highway patrol 2 hours to get onsite, and in the meantime some very weird things happened.

I got to talking to the witness, who thankfully was not involved, and she actually works for the trucking company the driver drives for. She explained how he probably did not hear me, or really see me. While we were talking, the truck driver’s manager, and the company’s “investigator” showed up. Mind you this is 9pm on a weeknight. Both the manager and investigator wanted to talk to me, and even asked if they could film our conversation. By this time my girlfriend had gotten there, and said “do not say a word to either of them”. Looking back she was right, and her dad writes my insurance later said the same thing. I told them that they can get the police report when it comes out, and thank you.

After the police wrapped up everything, and they tow off the FB, I went home to sleep this ordeal off. The next day, I get a call, and it’s the company’s investigator. He wanted to offer me $10,000 for my 4Runner if I signed something saying I won’t sue. Perplexed I said, I have not even had a chance to file this under insurance yet, so please lose my number (not my exact words, but basically). This ordeal went on for months.

I had full coverage on the FB so my insurance took no time on getting the repairs started on the FB. The trucking company would not admit fault, even with a police report, and a witness stating he hit me. In the meantime, my insurance company was wanting to fork over $9,000 in repairs for this car, and not total it. I was livid, of course I wanted it to be fixed no matter how much I hated the FB, but I wanted it to be right.

Every panel on the driver side was damaged, including the hood, and trunk, and yet they still wanted to spend this money to repair it. Come on, the car can’t be worth that much! I even got a check in the mail from my insurance for the final repairs on the car. Still, I went to the shop it was towed to that was doing the repairs, and asked them had they checked under the car, because I did leave the roadway, and hit a barrel. They looked at me, and said “we had not gotten under the car yet, but we will check on it”. Later that day, they added some more parts to the car which pushed it over the edge of repairable.

I got a check in the mail from my insurance company for $13,000 minus a $500 deductible because the trucking company had still not admitted fault. This was even a profit for me with the repairs made! After almost a year later, I finally got a $500 check in the mail and a letter saying the trucking company had admitted fault. Now, I never for a second thought about suing the driver or the company. I realized after a few days that the driver honestly did not see me, and thought he was in the right. I am just not pleased with how it was all handled, but these large companies have to cover their assets somehow.

This was the only damage done to the trailer

This entire ownership with the FB taught me a ton, probably the most of any car I have owned to this day. I had a love hate relationship with it, and honestly, it spent more time in the shop, I really did not get a chance to drive it. Regardless of her name, I really did not want her fate to be this way. I actually found her on Copart a month later, with a winning bid of close to $5,000. That alleviated some of the pain I saw it go through. I am thankful for the time I had with her, and in a way she paid back the favor for me throwing money to fix her, she saved my life. After the FB, things had changed in my car life, and had to make some changes.