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    Thread: Tales of a $1400 4Runner

    1. Member toneloc914's Avatar
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      10-27-2015 11:15 PM #1
      So, I finally have time to post about what I have considered my ongoing "project". Please ignore any spelling mishaps, or otherwise, as I'm deep into a bottle of "Woodbridge" Merlot. Also, warning, super long post below.

      Long story short (as can be), around the beginning of this year, I found myself looking for a "winter beater". I considered all types of cars - a 6th gen accord, an old subaru, mkiv jetta (owned one previously, and it was surprisingly competent in the snow), 2nd gen explorer, etc. I knew that I wanted to buy something that I didnt mind getting dinged, scratched, and potentially, crashed into. I wanted something that could endure the worst of Virginia's winters (which range from incredibly mild to pretty severe), but still remain reliable and usable year-round. I also did not want to spend a lot of money on this vehicle. I wanted something that offered additional utility as well.

      With this in mind, I regularly browsed ebay, craigslist, autotrader, etc. for the earlier half of 2015. I happened to stumble upon an ad on eBay in early June for a 1998 4runner, with no reserve! The title stated "4Runner SR5 WELL MAINTAINED". The car was described as this. I thought to myself "perfect!", but as I examined the pictures and description further, I saw a bunch of red-flags that were a complete turnoff. Mainly, bungy-cords holding the trunk closed, a hood that wasn't shut, a filthy interior, and a rusty/duct-taped rear bumper.

      1998 TOYOTA 4RUNNER SR5 AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION GOOD INTERIOR FOR THE AGE AND MILEAGE GOOD CONDITION OVERALL VERY WELL MAINTAINED THE ENGINE RUNS GOOD. IT HAS THE VERY 6 CYLINDER MOTOR THE TRANSMISSION SHIFTS PERFECTLY AND SMOOTHLY THE POWER ACCESSORIES WORK AS EXPECTED. POWER WINDOWS, POWER LOCKS, SUNROOF... ALL WORKING. CLIMATE CONTROLS ALL WORK, HEAT & A/C DOES NOT WORK, IT NEEDS A CHARGE THE STEREO HAS NO POWER- DOES NOT WORK THE INTERIOR IS GOOD FOR A 267,000 MILE TRUCK. A FULL DETAIL WOULD MAKE IT MUCH NICER LOOKING. THERE ARE NO CHECK ENGINE OR ABS, BRAKE LIGHTS OR ANY OTHER LIGHTS ON THE DASH. ALL THE FLUIDS ARE GOOD. THE CAR DRIVES AS NICE AS SHE LOOKS! THE HEADLIGHTS, TAIL LIGHTS WORK. THE BRAKES ARE EXCELLENT THE STEERING AND SUSPENSION ARE EXCELLENT TIRES ALL HAVE ABOUT %50 OR BETTER TREAD YOU'LL LOVE THIS WELL MAINTAINED 4RUNNER! THE TRUCK DRIVES EXCEPTIONALLY WELL FOR WHAT IT IS. THE TIMING BELT, WATER PUMP, ROLLER AND TENSIONER WERE JUST REPLACED NOT EVEN 100 MILES AGO. STARTING BID IS ONLY $200, A NO RESERVE AUCTION SO GO AHEAD AND BID! THE TRUCK WILL BE SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER SO SOMEONE IS GETTING A FANTASTIC DEAL, DON'T MISS THIS ONE!! LIEN FREE TITLE IN HAND READY TO HAVE YOUR NAME ON IT! VEHICLE OWNED BY A NON SMOKER GOOD LUCK!! I WILL GLADLY LET ANY INTERESTED PARTY VIEW AND CHECK THE CAR, PLEASE MESSAGE ME WITH YOUR PHONE NUMBER AND WE'LL GET BACK TO YOU. IF YOU ARE FLYING IN, I CAN PICK YOU UP AT THE DULLES IAD AIRPORT IN FOR A $125 PICK UP FEE. REGIONAL TRAIN, BUS STATIONS AND OTHER AIRPORTS MAY BE WORKABLE. PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOUR PLANS SHOULD YOU WIN. I WILL DO MY BEST TO ACCOMMODATE YOU. this is a used car. no used car is perfect. here is what is wrong with the car: rear bumper has tape over it to hide the rust holes. minimal surface rust bottom of rear door areaworn driver seata/c does not workstereo has no powerrear tailgate latch does not 'latch' closed FOR WHAT IT IS, IT RUNS & DRIVES PRETTY WELL. OWNERS SON OWNS A MECHANIC SHOP SO IT WAS VERY WELL MAINTAINED BY THAT SHO

      Yet despite all of this, I decided to gamble....why the hell not, for a $200 starting bid. So I placed my bid for $200. I watched the car closely over the next week, as the bid began to increase in $50 increments. Slowly, the bid's came closer and closer to $1000. I told myself that I would not spend more than $1000 on this vehicle, knowing that it would need work prior to being drive-able. As the end of the bid came, around 7pm on a wednesday night, i found myself both anxious and excited at the same time. Would I win? Would this be one of those last minute lose-outs. As that time came, I told myself that I could make it work for $1500. That would be the max. So with 45 seconds left, I decided to bid at $1425. This would ensure my win, and win I did!

      The next step was to actually inspect the purchase prior to handing over the money. Knowing that the vehicle was only 70 miles away, i arranged a trip to see the truck the day after winning the bid. I didn't want to be a buyer that wouldn't commit to his purchase, but I also wouldn't willingly hand over $1400 for a truck that wasn't honestly represented. So i took the drive out to West Virginia on my day off, and arranged to meet with the seller at 11am. As i got closer, I called the seller and confirmed the 11am time for meeting. I pull up to the "dealership", and was immediately thrown off by what I saw. It was basically a sketchy lot with all types of used cars lined up, and a Wood sign with the name of the "dealership" carved into it. "Whatever", i thought. Let's just see this 4Runner.

      The seller met me at the lot and allowed me to take it on a brief test drive. I was apprehensive of any truth in the description of the ad, but once I started the truck up, I realized that he (the seller) was completely honest in the ad. Despite the 267k+ miles displayed on the odometer, The truck started up immediately, idled beautifully, and didn't smoke or make any strange sounds. Furthermore, I knew that the seller was truthful about the timing belt, as I saw that the old idler pulley, water pump, thermostat, and belt were in the trunk of the truck. I did notice a misfire as I accelerated on the side road that the "dealership" was located on, as well as a pretty severe case of a shimmy around 55, but other than that, the truck drove relatively normal. I had faith that these were easily fixable. Again, taking a gamble, but I knew that I could still easily sell the truck for what I bought it for if I didn't want to pursue it further.

      I handed over the funds on the next day, and arranged to have the car towed home that Friday. I had the car towed towed home, as I did not want to risk a break-down 70 miles from home, and I also did not know the extent of the repairs that would be needed. At this point, I was just excited to have purchased something, even if it was a POS (which it was). The truck arrived late that night, and i took some pictures of it after i had parked it in my parking garage. Pics were taken on a Samsung GS5, so I apologize for the poor quality.







      So what next??? Well, my goal was to get it on the road by the end of the summer, so I started ordering parts for the truck. I had done research previously on the 3rd gen 4Runners, and I knew that I wanted to tackle the "weak points" of the truck first. Namely, avoid the "Pink Milkshake", and avoid the lower ball-joint failure that these were known for. I ordered a slew of parts over the next week. Keep in mind that I have an AmazonPrime Membership, so shipping was free on most of the items below:

      • Denso Radiatior ($97.08)
      • New Drive Belts (Toyota Brand) - part of tune-up kit
      • New Thermostat/gasket (just because) ($10.99)
      • New coolant resevoir ($41.54)
      • New Toyota "Red" Long-Life coolant - 3 Gallons($25.90)
      • Air Filter - part of tune-up kit
      • PCV Valve - part of tune-up kit
      • Oil/Filter - part of tune-up kit
      • B&M Transmission Cooler (to avoid the Pink Milkshake in the future) ($74.36)
      • Genuine Toyota Lower Ball Joints ($177.20)
      • Genuine Toyota Outer Tie-Rod Ends ($106.98)
      • Brand New Toyota rear tailgate latch ($124.62)
      • Radiator Cap (Genuine Toyota) ($13.85)
      • 16 quarts of transmission fluid (Supertech from Wal-Mart)
      • Spark Plugs/Wires - part of tune-up kit
      • Brand New Toyota Upper and Lower Radiator Hoses ($12.02)
      • New Front Brake Rotors and Pads ($87.32)
      • New Rear Brake Shoes and Hardware/Springs ($38.84)
      • Tune-Up kit - $147.38 on ebay


      Along the way, i noticed other issues that needed to be addressed:

      • 1 sway bar link was missing, so I ordered 2 new ones from Amazon ($16.16)
      • Tires were dry rotted, so I order a set of 265/75/16 Hankook Dynapro ATM tires ($116.16/tire + $60 mount & balance)
      • Toyota Head Unit was toast, so I bought a cheapo Kenwood unit from Best Buy for $83 on sale
      • Drivers side window switch was broken, so I bought a chinese switch for cheap on Amazon ($30)
      • After installing the new switch, realized that the regulator/motor was also inoperable, so I bought a new one on Amazon as well
        ($60.94)
      • The exhaust had rusted off right after the muffler where the tailpipe runs over the rear axle ($169.43 + Rear o2 Sensor $48)


      If my math serves me correct, that is around $1900 in parts. All parts were installed by yours truly (except tire mount and balance), so as of now, I'm sitting at roughly $3325 for this 4Runner.

      Here's some pics I took along the way:

      Old Radiator:



      New Drive Belts, along with New Denso Radiator



      Tranny Cooler:



      Old Air Filter vs. New Air Filter



      Old PCV Valve/ New PCV Valve



      Broken Window Switch:



      Spark Plug/Wire Install. You can see the new Radiator Hoses as well in this pic:



      Old Plugs:



      Old Rotor:



      New Rotor/Pads:



      This is the "Old" Thermostat.....proof that the PO did change that when they did the T-Belt


      New Brake Shoes:



      Old Exhaust off the Truck:



      New Exhaust Ready to be put on:



      Beginning of Head-unit install:



      During Head-unit install:


    2. Member toneloc914's Avatar
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      10-27-2015 11:16 PM #2
      I have many more pictures of the work that I did, but I will not bore you with that. Instead, I'll post pics of what is looks like now, and my future plans:

      First, the interior was (and still is) quite frankly, disgusting. The PO most definitely had a dog, but also didn't give a rat's azz about even simple interior maintainance. I've taken a shop vac to the front and rear seat carpet, as well as seats. I spent half a day or so wiping down the hard surfaces, but I still need to have the car professionally detailed to truly clean out all of the old sand, dogs hair, and fishing hooks/line that I'm finding throughout the truck:

      Rear Carpet before:


      After:



      Ripped Drives Seat. Debating Seat Covers or replacing the entire seat with used seats from another Runner



      Front Passenger Carpet Before. You can see one of the many bungee cords that were holding town the tailgate in this pic as well.



      After its first real wash:



      Painted the Center-caps Gunmetal Gray, as a test to see if I would like to have the entire wheel that color.




      Here are some pics of it as of tonight. Not the best quality, but this shows the tires and a very quick attempt at waxing the faded-to-hell single-stage White paint.









      Duct tape fixes everything!!!


      Have put over 2k miles on it since i got it in early June. Most of those have been in the last month and half.



      Interior with Weather-tech floor mats and new head unit



      At this point, the project is not complete, but I feel that I've made enough progress to post on here. I still have a lot of things that I want to do to it. Next priority will be the rear bumper, as well as that drivers seat. I also know that the motor-mounts will need to be replaced soon.

      Overall, I'm very happy with the purchase. I could sell the truck right now and probably fetch at least $3500 for it. I'm seeing similar trucks on autotrader and craigslist going for the same range of prices, without of all of the maintenance being done. However, I've definitely developed a strong tie to it already, and I don't think that I'll be taking that route. My fiance is even on-board now, so I can't let it go quite yet. I'll drive it through the winter (reliably) and will make repairs as necessary.

      As it sits, it drives very well. The aforementioned shimmy is gone (thanks to the TRE, LBJ's, and new Tires). I forgot to mention that I also replaced the u-joints in the rear drive axle, so it runs very smooth at highway speed. I've been driving it exclusively for the last 3 or so weeks, and have been getting around 18.5-19 mpg. I can't wait to see how the next tank turns out, as the tires were put on a couple of days ago. To-date, the longest trip I have taken it is a 190 mile round trip from Northern VA to Winchester, VA and back. It didn't skip a beat, and I felt very confident that I could drive it further if need be. My next trip will be a semi-long road trip to NY during the holiday season.

      Summary:

      Pros:
      • Love sitting up high/the overall visibility
      • Its an old Toyota - starts up every time
      • Care-free attitude about the exterior, because its old
      • Feel comfortable enough to take it pretty far
      • This is my first SUV. Love the space and utility, which is great for when I have the dog with me as well
      • My Insurance actually dropped when I added this to my policy


      Cons:
      • A/C does not work - which is why I didn't drive it as much in June-August
      • Gas Mileage - I'm used to the 30+ mpg that my VW's have/are giving me, but its undersatandable
      • Filty interior - I still don't feel quite at home knowing that the dirt and grime accumulated from someone else
      • Semi-hard ride. Need to look into the shocks, as they are probably the originals
      • Definitely slow, but its also nice as it forces me to maintain the speed limit
      • Agricultural sounding engine does not necessarily inspire fast/quick driving
      Last edited by toneloc914; 10-27-2015 at 11:50 PM.

    3. Member Crispyfritter's Avatar
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      10-27-2015 11:21 PM #3
      Wow. That's a lot of money for parts, but it looks like you'll have a pretty bullet proof ride when you're done.

      Chris
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    4. Senior Member Iroczgirl's Avatar
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      10-27-2015 11:27 PM #4
      That's a lot of work! But hopefully it will serve you well. It's a Toyota at least.
      Lots of VW stuff|Rare Scirocco parts!
      The family: '55 Ford 351C, '70 TR6 262Olds, '80 Rabbit AAZ, '84 C30 350, '88 Scirocco 9A, '97 Hardbody KA24E, '01 TJ 150AMC.
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      You're always better off with a Citroën.™

    5. 10-27-2015 11:51 PM #5
      I bought a 2wd SR5 with 250,000 on the nose about 6 months back. I need to post an update on it at some point. Even with high mileage it runs and drives great. Have fun!

      edit: I'm blind.
      Last edited by Harrison.; 10-27-2015 at 11:54 PM.

    6. Member toneloc914's Avatar
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      10-27-2015 11:54 PM #6
      Quote Originally Posted by Harrison
      2wd, right?

      I bought a 2wd SR5 with 250,000 on the nose about 6 months back. I need to post an update on it at some point. Even with high mileage it runs and drives great. Have fun!
      Its 4wd. 4Hi and Lo engage quickly and smoothly. Definitely happy about that.

    7. 10-27-2015 11:57 PM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by toneloc914 View Post
      Its 4wd. 4Hi and Lo engage quickly and smoothly. Definitely happy about that.
      yeah, I noticed after I posted. The interior images didn't load the first time around.

    8. 10-28-2015 12:03 AM #8
      Have you checked the steering rack bushings? With the milage being that high there is most likely some play there. Cheap and easy fix for a much better steering feel.
      If it still feels loose, control arm bushings make a big difference. I just replaced all the bushings and it was more noticeable then new tie rods and ball joints. (Replaced 3 months before)

    9. Member toneloc914's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 12:07 AM #9
      Quote Originally Posted by kOnwater
      Have you checked the steering rack bushings? With the milage being that high there is most likely some play there. Cheap and easy fix for a much better steering feel.
      If it still feels loose, control arm bushings make a big difference. I just replaced all the bushings and it was more noticeable then new tie rods and ball joints. (Replaced 3 months before)
      Steering Rack Bushings were next on my list if the tires didn't correct the shimmy between 60-70. Thankfully, they did, and it's smooth sailing at 70 . I'm sure they'll need to be replaced though. Tack that on the list of "before winter" things to do.

    10. Member 92VR6C's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 12:28 AM #10
      Nice work.


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    11. Moderator 03_uni-B's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 07:43 AM #11
      I love this generation of 4runners, good work

    12. Member Rattlesnake's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 08:21 AM #12
      Cool post...

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      10-28-2015 08:38 AM #13
      Ok, I can admit it...I'm jealous of a few things here. I'd never be brave enough to buy a $1400 let alone $2000 in parts to maintain it...followed by installing all of the parts yourself. I have no such skill. Also, love that gen 4-Runner.

      j

    14. 10-28-2015 08:40 AM #14
      Nice. I had a 2000 Sport 4WD and it was one of the best trucks I've ever owned. I sold it with 200k miles for $6k.

    15. Member Heffernan's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 08:41 AM #15
      Thanks for sharing Kinda makes me miss my old '02 4Runner
      Quote Originally Posted by l88m22vette View Post
      I cannot begin to imagine the amount of gas that has gone through both the engine and those seats.
      IG: rynschwz

    16. Member
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      10-28-2015 09:04 AM #16
      Great, now I regret not buying one instead of my Camry. Awesome post and thanks for sharing.

    17. Global Moderator Paul@VWvortex's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 10:06 AM #17
      Awesome work. I have a buddy who is a mechanic that I utilize for my Volkswagens and he has a 1993 4Runner with the V6 and a five speed manual. The truck has similar mileage but being an Arizona truck it has completely fried green paint. It runs perfectly and when I drive it I can actually feel the mechanical lineage between that 4Runner and my Brocoma.. they just seem to be easily repaired and run forever.

    18. Member KingUnderpants's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 10:36 AM #18
      Nice... there's a certain freedom you get driving a reliable POS. Good amount of work, hopefully you'll get a few years out of it!

    19. Member MRVW00's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 09:02 PM #19
      I grew up with these as a teenager of the 90's.

      Nearly all of the my friend's parents had a cheap lease on a new 4Runner. With many hours of seat time, I really appreciate them. In fact, in the spring I bought a 2003 (Gen4) and I couldn't be any happier.

      The 4's do ride better than the 3's. But I prefer the look of the 3's better.

      Congrats on a great purchase!
      RIP Cosmic TDI

    20. Member tip's Avatar
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      10-28-2015 10:15 PM #20
      Awesome thread, nice work. I love seeing someone dumping money into a car someone else would throw away.

      Just turned 200K on mine, still plugging along nicely

    21. Member toneloc914's Avatar
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      11-28-2015 02:45 PM #21


      She rolled 270k, and is driving better than ever. Since replacing the exhaust, the CEL has cleared itself and never returned. I'm still getting around 18 mpg (18.3 to be exact), with a 30/70 mix of city/highway. I truly have no complaints about this truck at all, and even my fiancé is loving it (and she was disgusted by it at first). Thinking of getting a vanity plate of some sort (I live in Virginia, it's kind of a known thing to do here). Any thoughts on plates?


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    22. Member J2G's Avatar
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      11-28-2015 03:23 PM #22
      Car looks great. I wish I had the lifestyle to justify one of these.

      Also, I swear you live in my aunt's subdivision.
      Quote Originally Posted by compy222 View Post
      every on ramp was full of the sound of evil thunder consuming the spent souls of thousands of dinosaurs a minute.

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      11-28-2015 03:58 PM #23
      Quote Originally Posted by toneloc914 View Post
      thinking of getting a vanity plate of some sort (i live in virginia, it's kind of a known thing to do here). Any thoughts on plates?
      1234run
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    24. Banned ManualMirrors's Avatar
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      11-28-2015 09:37 PM #24
      Congrats OP. Love the 3rd gens.

    25. Member toneloc914's Avatar
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      03-12-2016 08:13 PM #25
      It's been a while since I've updated this, but i've still been steadily at work with this 4Runner.

      First, she just rolled 274k on the way home last night. It really has been smooth sailing with this truck, and I'm happy I took the chance on her. I've taken it on a skiing trip to Liberty Mountain in PA, and a longer trip to Long Island NY (from Northern VA) and Back (both trips with 4 adults + luggage), and she has been incredibly reliable. I regularly drive it throughout the week as well. It's absolutely gratifying to be able to feel confident taking it on longer trips and seeing that there are no issues. I would say, if anything, that the trips have made the truck drive better as well, as it glides along quite well now.



      On to the work done since my last post. First things first, I noticed that the steering still had a little bit of play at highway speeds, so after doing the tie rods and ball joints, the next step was to take a look at the steering rack bushings. I purchased a set of Energy Suspensions Poly-Urethane bushings on Amazon for around $23 in early December, and spent a couple of hours throwing those on the truck. I'm realizing now that I didn't take pics of the install. The bushings really tightened up the steering and made the steering feel much more stable and "solid". HUGE difference for a $23 set of parts.

      The next thing i tackled was the lighting. Realizing that I'd be spending a lot of time night-time driving, I had to do something about the horrendous headlights. I purchased a pair of Sylvania Silverstar Ultra bulbs at Advance Auto, and a set of clear corner and turn-signal lenses on eBay. The silverstars made a huge difference in night-time visibility, and I do believe that the original Toyota bulbs from 1998 were in there when I replaced them. I picked up the clear corners to modernize the front, as the amber lights really made the truck look even older than it is. I like the relative subtle change at the front.

      Before:





      After:





      I also took on the rear bumper. If you recall before, I picked up the truck with the rear bumper duct taped together. It's well-known that these bumpers rust out on the center piece, and I figured that was the case with mine, but I had NO idea how bad it actually would be. I intially purchased just the center piece for $84 on Amazon, but quickly realized as I began prepping to remove the old bumper that I would have to replace the left "end-piece" as well, so I purchased the left and right sides on eBay as well for another $110.

      Here's a pic of the bumper as I bought it:



      And a pic of the bumper with the black step piece taken off......



      Let me start off by saying that this entire bumper project was an absolute bitch, and I hope to never have to deal with issues like that again. Nearly every bolt that attached the bumper to the frame was rusted, and even after liberal application of various penetrating liquids (Kroil and PB Blaster), I managed to snap roughly 1/3 of the bolts off at the head due to them rusting through. I had to use a reciprocating saw and several drill bits to get the rest of those broken bolts off. The project took me two days to complete (as I did not expect to run into issues with the bolts and wasn't prepared to have to run to Harbor Freight to purchase the saw). Pic's below of the rest of that process









      Bumper off:



      This was the remainder of the bumper ripped off the truck:



      Test fitting new center piece:



      And the finished project:




      And last but not least, the latest project has been tackling the inoperative A/C issue. I thought it'd be difficult to pin-point the exact issue with the system, but after a quick inspection, I realized that there was hope. I'm fairly comfortable tackling most issues on a car, but A/C is not my forte. Back when I replaced the drive belts for the power steering and alternator, I purposefully did not replace the A/C belt, as it was missing on the truck when I bought it. I figured the compressor had seized and the previous owner removed the belt to keep it from causing additional damage.

      I initially tested whether or not it would be a smart idea of installing a new drive belt by spinning the compressor pulley by hand. I know that with a seized compressor, typically you cannot rotate the pulley by hand, but I was surprised to see that the compressor did in fact spin freely. I ran to advance auto and picked up a Gates V-Belt (super cheap, maybe $10) and threw it on in record time, thinking that this would clearly solve the issue.

      It didn't. The actual issue was even simpler than that......my guess is that when the truck was apart to replace the timing belt, someone inadvertently knocked off the power feed line to the compressor, as it was simply dangling on the side of the motor. I had never noticed this before, and simply plugged it back in. I then started the truck, and still could not get the compressor clutch to engage, so I figured next that the freon level was low. I had picked up a can of R134a, along with a gauge, at Advance Auto when i picked up the belt, so I used the gauge to measure the pressure at the low side. The pressure was at 0, so naturally, the compressor was not going to engage, as there was no "freon" for the system to compress. After emptying that can of R134a, I now have an operating A/C system. I still need to buy another small can to get it up to the correct pressure, but the compressor engages and disengages freely, and the A/C is nearly as cold as the A/C in my GTI now. This alone has made me much happier with the decision to buy the truck, as I cannot afford to drive a car without A/C in VA during the summer months. Thankfully, this is a "second" vehicle, but now I can use it in the summer and rack on more miles if need be.

      So what I have now is an even more solid 4x4 that's an absolute beast in the snow, can carry basically anything i want it to, and runs reliably in the summer and the winter! Next up is the shocks/struts/springs Front and Rear. I'm considering a slight lift (1.5") to accommodate the slightly larger size tires that I'm running now.






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