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Hilux Surf/4Runner Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Buying | Interior/Controls | Exterior | 4x4 | Misc.

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this FAQ. If you have something to add then please let me know.

Disclaimer

I have taken a lot of time to ensure the information here is correct but no liability can be accepted for loss, damage or injury caused by any errors in, or omissions from, the information given. If you think any information is incorrect, confusing, misleading or incomplete, please feel free to contact me.

Buying

  • I'm thinking of buying a Surf/4Runner, what should I look out for or check?
  • Things to ask on the phone:

    • What engine does it have?
    • Is it Automatic or Manual transmission?
    • What year model is it?
    • Does it have ABS?
    • Is it constant 4wd or 2H/4H/4L selectable?
    • Are there any panel damages or mechanical/electrical issues?
    • Is it an import or a UK vehicle?
    • What colour is the interior and what factory/aftermarket options are fitted?
    • Does it have a radio or CD?
    • Has it ever been in an accident?
    • Were you the original owner and does it have logbooks and service history?
    • How much life is left in the tyres?
    • How long has it been on the market?
    • Home much MOT and tax is remaining?
    • What is the current mileage (and is this Miles or Kilometres)?
    • What colour is it? What condition is the paint in?
    • Is there any rust?
    • Does it have an immobiliser/alarm?

    Things to check at a test drive:

    • Full steering lock and listen for clunk (steering stops).
    • Check all 4WD transmission operations.
    • Check for smoky engine.
    • Check for rattly engine.
    • Check service record for completeness, including recorded mileage at last service.
    • Check that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) recorded on page one of the Car Inspection Report is identical to the number recorded on the registration document (V5).
    • Check MOT certificate.
    • Check when next cam-belt change is due.
    • Check if airbag and seat-belt pre-tensioners (if fitted) are due for specialist checking or replacement.
    • Check that the cooling fan switch is working OK - i.e. that the cooling fan comes on automatically when hot.
    • Check radio aerial not snapped off.
    • Check blade rubbers for splitting and hardening.
    • Check spare wheel, tyre and tools. If applicable, check if key for locking wheel nuts is present.
    • Lift up rear door = 185 (post '95). swing down = 130 (pre '95).
    • Check rradiator for stains or leaks.
    • Check rear springs for butt sag (standard hight = center of wheels to wheel arches should be about 22 inches).
    • Check all electrics especially the electric back window
    • Check glowplugs dash light.
    • Check tailgate window inc heating element.
    • Check for window rattles and operation.
    • Check for leaks in sunroof
    • Check condition of driveshaft boots - scored? holed?
    • Check all switchgear.
    • Check brake discs for scoring and squeaks.
    • Check for any oil leaks.
    • Check under/behind chrome bumpers for rust (there almost certainly will be some).
    • Check bodywork for corrosion, dents and scratches.
    • Operation and fit/alignment of doors/bonnet/boot-lid/tailgate.
    • Operation of sunroof.
    • Operation of all locks, including child locks in the rear doors.
    • Operation of heating/air-conditioning systems and heated glasses.
    • Operation of rear seat-belts/damage to seat-belts.
    • Operation of all window lifts.
    • Operation of in-car entertainment/trip computer/navigation systems. Ensure details of radio code are passed on to you.
    • Operation of seat adjusters.
    • All glass for cracks/damage/milkyness (de-lamination).
    • All lights, including interior lights, for operation and damage.
    • Check carpets and interior for dampness/damage.
    • Operation of screen wipers and washers, including intermittent function.

    Things to do after purchase:

    • Change all fluids to UK suitable - especially coolant fluid, this is very important.
    • Renew thermostat.
    • Change timing belt (also known as cam-belt).
    • Replace rear coils if vehicle is sagging (standard height seems to be 22" from wheel center to wheel arch).
    • Fuel/oil treatments (Redex etc.).
  • What are the various model spec codes and which are the higher spec?
  • From the top model down:
    • SSR-G
    • SSR-X
    • SSR-V
    • SSR Ltd.
    • SSR

Interior/Controls

  • When should I use the different H2/H4/L4
  • H2: Use this for normal driving on dry hard surfaced roads, this position gives greater economy, quietest ride and least wear.
    H4: Use this position for driving on wet, icy or snow covered roads. This position provides greater traction than two-wheel drive.
    L4: Use this for maximum power and traction. Use L4 for climbing or descendingsteep hills, offroad driving and hard pulling in mud sand or deep snow.

    CAUTION:
    The 4-wheel drive modes should not be used on hard/dry surfaces, especially when manouvering or turning sharply, damage could result (see here).
  • How do I operate the different Manual Transmission options?
  • To shift from H2 to H4, reduce your speed to less than 80kmh/50mph and (for UK models) move the front drive control lever or (for other models) press the 4WD button. No need to depress the clutch. If you have trouble shifting in cold weather, reduce your speed or stop the vehicle and reshift. The 4WD indicator light may not come on even if you shift into H4 if the vehicle is stopped, when you start to move the vehicle will turn it on.

    To shift from H4 to H2, simply (for UK models) move the front drive contol lever or (for other models) press the 4WD button. The vehicle may be moving at any speed. No need to depress the clutch.

    To shift from H4 to L4, stop the vehicle or reduce speed to less than 8kmh/5mph. With your foot off the accelorator pedal, depress the clutch pedal and move the front drive control lever.

    To shift from L4 to H4, depress the clutch pedal and move the front drive control lever. The vehicle may be moving at any speed.

    CAUTION:
    Never move the front drive lever if the wheels are slipping. Stop the slipping or spinning before shifting.
  • How do I operate the different Automatic Transmission options?
  • To shift from H2 to H4, move the front lever with the lock release button depressed. The indicator light may not come on even if you shift into H4 if the vehicle is stopped, starting out the vehicle will turn it on. If the vehilce is moving depress or release the accerator pedal slightly.

    To shift from H4 to H2, simply move the front drive contol lever with the lock release button depressed. The vehicle may be moving at any speed. If you shift while conering, you may feel a slight shock, This is not abnormal.

    To shift from H4 to L4, reduce your speed to less than 30kph/18mpg and move the front drive control lever with the lock release button depressed.

    To shift from L4 to H4, simply move the front drive control lever. The vehicle may be moving at any speed.

    CAUTION:
    Never move the front wheel lever if the wheels are slipping. Stop the slipping or spinning before shifting.
  • What is the red button on the automatic transmission panel?
  • This allows you to relese the gear shift out of park when the engine is not running.
  • What is the Overdrive button on the automatic transmission?
  • With the overdrive off the transmission will not use the highest gear. This is useful for towing and keeping up your speed up on hills.
  • What is the ECT button on the automatic transmission panel?
  • The ECT button stands for Electronically Controlled Transmission and it changes the gear change points. It will let the engine rev higher before changing to the next highest gear. This is useful for faster acceleration and climbing steep hills.
  • My trip counter and mileometer seem to be counting up too fast - why?
  • If you have an imported vehicle then your counters will be displaying Kilometers (1 mile = 1.69 Kilometers).
  • My timing belt warning light (T-BELT) is on - what does it mean and what do I do?
  • The warning light comes on at 100,000km intervals to indicate that the timing belt (also called a cam belt) needs to be renewed.
    Once the timing belt has been changed the warning light (on some models) can be reset by removing the small rubber bung on the clear dash panel by the speedo and inserting a small screwdriver or pencil and pressing the tiny reset switch below (see here for picture).
  • What is the "Hard" suspension button?
  • This stiffens the rear suspension - can be useful if you are carrying or towing a heavy load.
  • What is the "Idle Up" button?
  • Some surfs have this button and it increases the engine idle speed (tickover) but only when the heater blower is on. The idea being that it can be used to warm the vehicle up quicker in cold conditions.
  • What is the knob below the ignition that looks a bit like a choke lever?
  • It's a hand-throttle used to control the revs (similar to the "Idle Up" button - see above) - can be useful for warming the vehicle up quicker in cold conditions or if you have a power take-off or winch attached to your vehicle that needs extra revs while in use.
  • Where is the interior fuse box located?
  • Under a panel in the side of the drivers footwell, nearest the door.
  • What are the two plastic loops in the passenger footwell?
  • These are to hold an emergency flare as required by Japanese law (kind of an alternative to a warning triangle).
  • I have a large interior light/air-conditioning unit mounted in the middle of the roof. Whats that all about?
  • This is the SE Asian market "auto climate control" type of aircon unit. This aircon is a lot more powerful than the standard type.
  • I have an alarm that comes on when I reach a certain speed. What is it and how do I stop it?
  • This is a speed warning alarm that is fitted to Middle East models. If you want to disable it, the alarm is located behind the dashboard clocks.

Exterior

  • What size is the rear number plate on an import vehicle?
  • Second generation Surf (1990 - 1995): 370mm x 175mm
    (other generations may be the same but not confirmed at this time).
  • What size wheels/tyres can I fit?
  • For narrow-body Surfs without the optional wheel arches without any suspension modifications: 7" wide wheels, 10.50"/265mm width tyres and overall diameter of 31".
    For wide-bodied surfs without any suspension modifications: 8" wide wheels, 11.50"/295mm width tyres overall diameter of 31".
    Larger diameter wheels/tyres will require suspension/body lifts.

4x4

  • Why can't I use 4x4 mode all the time or on the roads?
  • There's drive to both axles and the front and rear axles have different turning circles. On hard/dry surfaces like tarmac there's no give on the road surface so you'll end up with windup on the transmission which can destroy it.
    Permanent 4WD vehicles like Range Rovers have a differential in the transfer case to allow it to slip as you turn in circles. The Surf is not intended as a permanent 4WD vehicle.

Misc.

  • Where are they built?
  • All 4Runners are built at the Tahara Plant in Tahara, Japan.
  • What does "4Runner" mean?
  • Combine "4-wheel drive" and "off-road Runner", and you have 4Runner.
  • What does "Hilux" mean?
  • Aparrently it means "High Luxury", although the name was first given to the Hilux pickup - I own one of these and I find it hard to believe the term "Luxury" could ever have been used to descibe it! :-)

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