Ultimate Toyota FJ Cruiser Buyer’s Guide & History

If you are looking for a retro-inspired, capable off roader you can’t go far wrong with the Toyota FJ Cruiser. What started out as a design concept turned into one of Toyota’s most interesting cars of the 2000s.

In this buyers guide we are going to be looking at everything you need to know about purchasing an FJ Cruiser. We will also look at the car’s history, specifications and more.

How To Use this Toyota FJ Cruiser Buyer’s Guide

To begin with we will look at the history, different models and specifications of the FJ Cruiser. Following that we will get into the buyer’s guide section of this article, where we will look at common problems to watch out for, how to conduct an inspection, etc. To finish off we will look at more general car purchasing advice and some information on how to import an FJ Cruiser from Japan. You can skip to the main sections of this article by using the table of contents below.

The History of the Toyota FJ Cruiser

Credit: Toyota

Toyota’s original Land Cruiser was born out of the demand for light military vehicles during the Korean War. The United States government asked Toyota to produce 100 vehicles that were based on the Willys Jeep.

By early 1951 the first prototype, the Jeep BJ, was developed. It was bigger than the original Jeep and was powered by a 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine that produced as much as 84 bhp (63 kW). To prove that the car could handle rugged off-road terrain, Toyota’s test driver Ichiro Taira took an updated prototype up the sixth stage of Mount Fuji, a feat that no other car had managed to accomplish at that time.

Climbing Fuji quickly proved to be a stroke of marketing genius. After overseeing the test, the National Police Agency ordered nearly 300 Jeep BJs and over the next two years further orders would roll in. However, during this period the Jeep BJ was never produced like Toyota’s regular models. The car was only available as a special order, but this would all change in 1953 when proper production began at Toyota’s Honsya Plant and Arakawa Bankin Kogyo KK.

1954 would see the introduction of “Land Cruiser” name after the Willys Company, the original producers of the Jeep, filed a trademark violation against Toyota. The new name was decided by technical director Hanji Umehara, who wanted something that would sound similar to one of the most well known off-road utility vehicles at the time, the Land Rover.

The next major update would come in 1955 with the introduction of the second generation 20 Series. However, it wasn’t until 1960 when the 40 Series launched that Toyota would show what they could really do with the Land Cruiser. The short wheelbase FJ40 would be the first to debut in the range and over the next two decades it would develop a large and dedicated following, largely thanks to its fantastic off-road capabilities and reliability.

1984 was the last year of the 40 Series in most markets, however, the car would continue to be produced for the Brazilian market as the Bandeirante until 2001. The end of the 40 Series would mark the end of the short wheelbase Land Cruiser. Further generations would only be produced with medium to longer wheelbases, as Toyota wanted to make the Land Cruiser more spacious and luxurious.

The FJ Cruiser

Credit: Toyota

The end of the FJ40’s production had left a whole in the Land Cruiser Range. There was no small and rugged version of the car and in the mid-1990s Toyota’s product planner Dave Danzer and vice-president of sales and operations Yoshi Inaba, came up with the idea of creating a modern off-roader that was inspired by the old, but extremely popular FJ40.

Danzer teamed up with Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder of Toyota, to develop the idea of a more modern FJ40. The initial concept work was carried out at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, where they combined the underpinnings of the Tacoma with the body of a Bandeirante, the Brazilian version of the FJ40.

Toyoda soon returned to Japan and promoted the idea to Toyota’s board of directors. Impressed, Toyota’s big wigs passed the idea onto Calty Design Research Incorporated, the company’s top design studio in the United States. They started by looking at the car’s intended market. Toyota’s management felt they had been losing popularity with young male buyers and the design team believed that they would be the perfect target for a new, smallish utility vehicle.  

Credit: Toyota

The initial concept quickly developed into the Rugged Youth Utility (RYU) vehicle. Multiple takes on the RYU were created and thrown out before a retro-inspired design by Jin Won Kim was chosen as exterior concept of choice. On the inside it was William Chergosky’s design that would be selected as the concept of choice for the interior design.

Toyota’s California based team would continue to refine and improve the design before the car was eventually unveiled at the North American International Auto Show on the 7th January 2003. The bright blue concept, labelled the FJ Cruiser, immediately impressed attendees with its stylish, yet rugged design.

Boyed by excellent feedback from the show, Toyota began a series of extensive off-road evaluations and tests of the new car the next year. They tortured the FJ Cruiser on some of North America’s most gruelling off-road trails from the Mojave Desert, to Moab Utah, the Angeles National Forest and more. The results of these tests led to changes to the suspension tuning and A-TRAC traction control system of the car, to make it as capable as possible in tricky situations.

Toyota Unveils the Final Production FJ Cruiser

Credit: Toyota

Just over two years after the first concept was unveiled in Detroit, Toyota was ready to launch the production version of the FJ Cruiser at the Chicago Auto Show. While they wouldn’t reveal the price at the show, Toyota officials did state that their target competition for the new FJ Cruiser was other entry-level SUVs such as the Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra, and Ford Escape.

When looking from the outside, the production FJ Cruiser was much the same as the concept car with its retro lines, white roof, round headlights and wide grille. However, the inside received some major design alterations to keep the price to a more reasonable level, so it could compete with the aforementioned competitors. Many of the interesting and unique features such as the removable interior lights which also work as flashlights, the gear shifter that doubles as a shovel handle and the completely flat-folding front seats had to be ditched.  

However, the production car did retain the washable cargo area and all-weather floor mats that were implemented to make it easier to clean up following a muddy outdoor adventure. Oversized controls were also included, along with a special three-gauge cluster that featured an inclinometer, compass, and a temperature gauge.

The final production version of the FJ Cruiser was based on a modified version of the 4Runner’s platform, but 280 mm (11 inches) shorter in length and 101 mm (4 inches) shorter in wheelbase. It was also revealed that the car would have a ground clearance of roughly 240 mm (9.6 inches) and be able to ford a river up to 700 mm (27.5 inches) in depth. The towing capacity was also stated to be as much as 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) for both 4 x 4 and 4 x 2 variants.

Credit: Toyota

The body was attached to the wheels via a high-mounted, double wishbone suspension setup at the front, and a 4-link system at the rear. Stabiliser bars were implemented at the front and back, and much of the suspension components were shared with Toyota’s other off-road vehicles such as the Hilux, Tacoma, 4Runner, and Land Cruiser Prado.

Stopping power is handled by power-assisted four-piston calipers at the front and two-piston calipers at the rear, which were then mated to ventilated discs.

To help improve control on difficult terrain, Toyota’s engineers gave the A-TRAC system the ability to apply the brakes to control the wheels if traction is lost. Other assistive features on the first year FJ Cruiser include ABS, brake assist (BA), vehicle stability control (VSC), and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD).

At launch, the FJ Cruiser was powered by a 4.0-litre V6 single variable valve timing engine that was rated at 239 bhp (178 kW) at 5,200 rpm and 377 Nm (278 lb-ft) of torque at 3,700 rpm. This engine was used for the 2007 to 2009 model years, but from 2010 Toyota introduced a Dual VVT-i power unit that gained an extra 20 bhp (15 kW) at 5,600 rpm and featured slightly better fuel economy. Power was increased again for the 2011 model year to 260 bhp (194 kW) and the car met more stringent emissions regulations.

Buyers had the option of three different transmission options: a five speed A750E automatic on rear-wheel drive models, a five-speed A750F automatic on part-time 4x4 cars, and lastly a six-speed RA61F manual gearbox that was mated to a permanent 4x4 system.

The full-time four-wheel drive system on manual cars uses a centre Torsen differential that has a locking feature. Power distribution under most situations is around 40:60, but it can change as needed.

2010 Updates

From 2010 Toyota introduced a Dual VVT-i power unit that gained an extra 20 bhp (15 kW) over the old single VVT-I engine. Fuel efficiency was improved by about 5 percent from this upgrade.

The engine wasn’t the only thing that received some attention, with Toyota introducing ‘Army Green’ as a new colour option for the car.

Offroad Package

Toyota offered FJ Cruiser buyers the option of an “Offroad Package” that swapped out the standard shocks for front and rear Bilstein ones. Special 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in P265/75R16 mud snow tyres were also included along with the following:

  • Passenger foldable armrest
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Power adjustable exterior mirrors with mirror image maps
  • Cruise control
  • Auto-dimming rear view mirror with integrated back-up camera
  • Multi-information display with floating ball-type compass
  • Thermometer and inclinometer
  • Roof rack
  • Powered mirrors fitted with image lamps and keyless entry
Adventure Package

This package was intended to bring a bit more luxury and refinement to the FJ Cruiser. The biggest addition was the inclusion of an eight-speaker FJammer audio system with six-disc CD changer, rear subwoofer, headliner audio exciters and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. A 115V/400W power outlet in the cargo area, special running boards, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a metallic shift knob on automatic cars were included along with the following:

  • Passenger foldable armrest
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Power adjustable exterior mirrors with mirror image maps
  • Cruise control
  • Auto-dimming rear view mirror with integrated back-up camera
  • Multi-information display with floating ball-type compass
  • Thermometer and inclinometer
  • Roof rack
  • Powered mirrors fitted with image lamps
  • Keyless entry
  • Colour keyed interior door trim

Further Refinements for 2011

Power was once again increased for the 2011 model year, but this time it was only a very small increase of 1-horsepower to 260 bhp (194 kW). Further improvements were also made to the car’s fuel efficiency with Toyota claiming that automatic models could now achieve 11.2-litres per 100 km (21 mpg), while manual models could hit 12.2-litres per 100 km (19.3 mpg).

Another big highlight of the 2011 model year FJ Cruiser was the new six-speaker audio system that featured a CD player with MP3/WMA capability, auxiliary audio input jack, USB audio input, Bluetooth capability, and integrated XM Satellite radio.

Lastly, Toyota introduced new 17-inch aluminium alloy wheels and special outer rear seats with folding headrests.

Option Packages for 2011

Just like the previous year, Toyota offered the FJ Cruiser with the option of the Offroad or Adventure packages. These were largely the same as the 2010 year, however, the Adventure Package received a ten speaker audio system instead of an eight speaker one.

FJ Cruiser Gets Discontinued in Some Markets

By 2014 sales in North America had slowed and Toyota decided to pull the plug on the car in the market. Sales would continue in Japan until January 2018 before it was discontinued there as well. However, this didn’t mean the end of production as Toyota still produces FJ Cruisers for the Middle East, Philippines, Chile, and some southern African nations (at the time of writing this article).

Special Edition Models

TRD Special Edition (2007)

For the 2007 model year (introduced in 2006), Toyota introduced a limited run of 3,200 special edition vehicles known as the FJ Cruiser TRD. At the time the TRD Special Edition added an extra $7,265 to the price of the car and for the added cost buyers got a number of upgrades/extras.

The most immediate visual changes were the monochromatic Black Diamond exterior paint job (no white roof like on standard FJ Cruisers), TRD Special Edition badge above the FJ Cruiser one, and gunmetal 16x7.5-inch TRD wheels wrapped in 265/75 R16 BFGoodrich All-Terrain tyres.

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) also equipped the car with 46mm Bilstein shocks, a TRD catback exhaust system, factory rock rails, TRD quick shifter on manual cars, and mechanical alterations to synchronise the locking differential with the A-TRAC traction control system (this meant that the rear differential no longer overrode the active traction system). The changes to the synchronisation of the locking differential were implemented on all FJ Cruisers by the end of 2006.

All these changes helped to create a car that was more capable both on and off the trail, and the car was designed for those who wanted the best performance from an FJ Cruiser.

On the inside, Toyota essentially loaded the TRD edition with all the bells and whistles from the highest spec standard FJ Cruiser, including the multi-information display with floating ball-type compass and AC outlet in the rear cargo area. In addition to this they added a TRD shift knob, TRD floor mats, TRD door sill plates, a nine-speaker sound system and TRD badging to remind you that you are driving a rather special FJ.

ARB Edition FJ Crawler

Offered as a special order at select Toyota dealerships, this special edition model was created as a result of a collaboration between Dealer Services International (DSI) and Australia-based company ARB, who are known for building off-road products.

The ARB Edition was first introduced for the 2008 model year (production started in 2007) and it was intended to be an even more rugged and capable version of the FJ Cruiser.

Standard features on this special edition model included an Old Man Emu 3-inch suspension lift to provide extra ground clearance, an ARB front bumper bull bar, and 17 x 8-inch Pro Comp wheels wrapped in 33 x 12.50 R17 Comp tyres in various tread patterns depending on the customers requirements. Other standard features included new normal and locking wheel lugs, an ARB keychain, and a load of ARB badging around the car.

Along with the standard features above, buyers could select from additional options to further customise their vehicle. These optional extras included IPF driving lights, ARB fog lights, a Warn winch, a cat-back exhaust system, high flow intake, an ARB roof rack, and even side steps.

Following FJ Crawler model years featured some slight changes to the 2008 model. The ARB badges were swapped out for unique FJ Crawler ones, and DSI offered their own performance parts, which included items such as LRG or Pro Comp alloy wheels with 35-inch Pro Comp off-road tyres, Pro Comp 5″ lift kits, Smittybilt original parts, and an assortment of other custom trim pieces and accessories.

Trail Teams Special Edition (2008, 2010 – 2014)

The TRD Special Edition was replaced with the Trail Teams Special Edition the following year (2008). The new special edition model was essentially the same as the TRD, but with some slight differences.

For the first year of production, the Trail Teams Special Edition was only available in Iceberg White with black trim. Just like the TRD edition from the previous year, the Trail Teams car was equipped with 16x7.5-inch TRD wheels and 265/75 R16 BFGoodrich All-Terrain tyres. However, this time the wheels were finished in black rather than the gunmetal grey colour.

In addition to the upgraded wheels and tyres, the Trail Teams car was given a TRD exhaust system, rear differential lock, colour matched interior trim, a special aluminium shift knob, an aluminium skid plate at the rear, Trail Teams branded floor mats, and bumper-mounted auxiliary lights.

The Trail Teams Special Edition also received Bilstein suspension that was pretty much the same as the TRD model, but with a slightly different “Trail Teams” tune. To differentiate the Trail Team and TRD shocks, Toyota finished the former in a blue and silver paint scheme and the latter in blue and red.

In total, Toyota produced 3,200 Trail Teams Special Editions between January to April 2008. However, unlike the TRD Special Edition, the Trail Teams model would return.

Despite Toyota even advertising a Trail Teams Special Edition for the 2009 model year in the FJ Cruiser’s brochure, the car would never eventuate. Instead, the Trail Teams Special Edition would skip the year and return for 2010.

Toyota equipped the 2010 Trail Teams car with many of the same features as on the 2008 model, however, instead of being finished in the Iceberg White colour it would receive a monochromatic Sandstorm finish (body and roof finished in same colour).

While the TRD wheels were the same size as the ones fitted to the previous Trail Teams Special Edition, they were of a new “Beadlock-lookalike” design. Some other changes included colour matched seats (including the colour matched interior trim pieces like on the 2008 car) and a black hood decal that was claimed to reduce glare when driving.

For the next year (2011), Toyota introduced the Trail Teams Special Edition in a new monochromatic Army Green colour. The wheel design was reverted back to the older TRD ones from the 2008 model, but this time they were finished in black rather than gunmetal grey. Another major change was the introduction of the new 11-speaker JBL sound system.

2012 would see the FJ Cruiser Trail Teams SE finished in its most bold colour yet, Radiant Red. The only other significant change from the 2011 model was the colour matched Radiant Red steering wheel.

The next year would see the Trail Teams Special Edition in a Cement Grey colour (roof and body). The car would also receive the Beadlock-style wheels that were introduced on the 2010 model, a black aluminium shift knob, and new door sill protectors.

Along with the new features above, Toyota also equipped automatic Trail Teams cars with their crawl control feature (also known as CRAWL). This made the car more capable when climbing an navigating difficult terrain.

2014 Trail Teams Ultimate Edition

With sales of the FJ Cruiser in North America ending after 2014, Toyota decided to create one last hurrah model. This final model was labelled the Trail Teams Ultimate Edition and it was finished in a special monochromatic Heritage Blue paint scheme, that harkened back to the car that inspired the FJ Cruiser, the FJ40.

To make the Ultimate Edition stand out from other Trail Teams models, it was fitted with a white grille bezel, Beadlock-style grey wheels, a numbered “Ultimate Edition” badge in the interior, an aluminium TRD front skid plate, and new TRD-tuned Bilstein shocks that provided better high-speed stability and off-road performance.

The 50mm shocks at the rear were equipped with external oil reservoirs that helped maintain dampening performance over tricky terrain. At the front, the 60mm shocks were matched to larger red TRD race coil springs that helped improve the car’s approach angle.

Unlike other Trail Team SEs, the Ultimate Edition’s interior trim was not colour matched to the exterior paint. Instead, the car was given black and silver trim and seats

Trail Teams Special Edition Production Numbers
  • 2008 – 3,200
  • 2010 – 1,500
  • 2011 – 2,500
  • 2012 – 2,500
  • 2013 – 2,500
  • 2014 – 2,500
TRD Package (2009 Onwards)

Not to be confused with the TRD Special Edition above, the TRD package was an optional extra that was made available to buyers from 2009 onwards. Unlike the 2007 TRD SE it did not feature a limited production run and it did not come equipped with nearly the same level of features.

Interestingly, for the 2009 model year Toyota only offered the TRD Package on two-wheel drive FJ Cruisers finished in the Iceberg White colour scheme. Included in the package was a smattering of TRD logos on the exterior, 16-inch silver TRD wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich all-terrain tyres, and TRD Bilstein high-speed tuned shocks.

From 2010 to 2012 Toyota offered the package on both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models. Additionally, buyers could opt for the package on any of the colours provided, not just Iceberg White like the 2009 model.

Upgrade Package #3

FJ Cruisers fitted with the Upgrade Package #3 are essentially the same as the 2011 Trail Teams Special Edition, but without the following:

  • Trails Team Badging
  • TRD Wheels
  • Roof Rack
  • Trail Teams Bilstein Shocks
  • Floating Ball Multi-Information Display
  • 115V/400 Watt Rear AC Power Outlet
  • Rock Rails

Buyers who selected the Upgrade Package #3 could also opt for many of the features above, making it difficult to differentiate these “upgraded” cars from the real Trail Teams Special Edition.

TRD Kit & TRD Limited Edition Packages

While the FJ Cruiser would not return for the 2015 model year in North America, sales did continue for a few years in other markets. Some of these other markets received a special “TRD Kit” during these years that included a number of features such as: TRD black 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres, special TRD mudflaps, a TRD cut out aluminium skid plate, riveted fender extensions, special TRD exhaust tailpipe, TRD logo graphics and more.

The TRD Kit was labelled the “TRD Limited Edition” in some markets and it also came with TRD shocks and coils, a TRD shift knob, and a TRD badge at the back.

FJ Cruiser Final Edition

Only available in Japan, the Final Edition was produced in 2017 and was created to celebrate the FJ Cruiser’s sales life in the country (production would continue for sales in other markets). Contrary to the North American special edition models, the Final Edition was designed to provide a more comfortable, luxurious ride for Japanese based buyers.

All cars were finished in a monochromatic beige colour with black trim pieces. The Toyota alloy wheels were 20 x 7-inches in size, and the car also featured OEM fog lights, OEM side steps, and a blind spot mirror.

On the inside, the Final Edition was given colour matched seat inserts and dashboard trim. Some of the other trim pieces were finished in gloss black, giving the car arguably the most unique looking interior of all the special edition models.

While the Final Edition was equipped with four-wheel drive, it did not come with the rear-locking differential or the ATTRAC system. Additionally, it was missing the triple gauge dash cluster, roof-rack, and rear power outlet that was featured on many special edition models found in North America.

FJ Cruiser Xtreme (Adventure X from 2021)

While the FJ Cruiser was discontinued in Japan by the end of January 2018, that didn’t mean production stopped. The car would continue to be sold in other markets such as the Middle East, Philippines, Chile, and some southern African nations. In fact, the FJ Cruiser is still being sold in these markets at the time of writing this guide.

After Toyota and Arctic Trucks formed a partnership in 2014, the UAE would get their own special edition version of the FJ Cruiser in the form of the “Xtreme”. This car would come with a number of distinctive features such as Fox 2.0 3-inch lift suspension, a performance cat-back exhaust system, a bonnet/hood scoop for better cooling performance in the hot climate, and 16-inch Artic Truck black alloy wheels wrapped in 275/70 R16 BFGoodrich KO tyres.

Additional features included Bushwacker fender flares, LED running and fog lights in the bumper smoked rear lights and indicators, and “Xtreme” badging. Some cars also came with Xtreme decals along with the badging, but this depends on the year and what options the buyer selected.

Earlier versions of the Xtreme edition came with silver exterior trim pieces, while later ones come with all black. Other changes to later cars included an Xtreme front grille with LED driving lights, new 17-inch Xtreme alloy wheels finished in back, and 275/70 R17 BFGoodrich All Terrain K02 tyres.

Toyota FJ Cruiser Specifications

ModelFJ Cruiser (standard version)
Country/LocationJapan
Year of production2006 – Present
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel drive Front-engine, four-wheel drive
Engine/Engines4.0-litre 1GR-FE V6
Power242 PS (239 bhp/178 kW) @ 5,200 – 2007 262 PS (259 bhp/193 kW) @ 5,600 – 2010 264 PS (260 bhp/194 kW) @ 5,600 – 2011
Torque377 Nm (278 lb-ft) @ 3,700 rpm – 2007 366 Nm (270 lb-ft) @ 4,400 rpm – 2011 368 Nm (271 lb-ft) @ 4,400 rpm – 2011
Transmission6-speed RA61F manual with VF4B transfer case (permanent 4WD only) 5-speed A750F automatic with VF2A transfer case (part-time 4X4) 5-speed A750E automatic (RWD only)
Brakes FrontVented 320 mm (12.6 inch) discs
Brakes RearVented 312 mm (12.3 inch) discs
Tyres FrontP265/70 R 17
Tyres RearP265/70 R 17
Suspension FrontDouble Wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, 200 mm (8 inch) travel
Suspension RearCoil springs, anti-roll bar, 230 mm (9 inch) travel
Ground Clearance240 mm (9.6 inches)
Approach Angle34 degrees
Departure Angle30 degrees
Breakover Angle27.4 degrees
Towing Capacity2,268 kg (5,000 lb)
Weight1,837–2,015 kg (4,050–4,442 lb)
Top speed180 km/h (112 mph) – limited
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)Around 8 seconds

Toyota FJ Cruiser Buying Guide (2007 – Present)

Credit: Toyota

With the history and specifications out of the way, let’s dive into what you need to know about buying one of these retro-styled off-roaders. Many FJ Cruisers have seen a lot of action and abuse, so don’t rush into any purchase. Additionally, later ones tend to be a bit less trouble as Toyota fixed a number of issues with the FJ during its production run (more on that later in the guide).

Before you start inspecting an FJ Cruiser we recommend that you buy yourself an OBDII scanner such as this one. An OBDII scanner is an invaluable tool when inspecting any modern used car as you can use it to read the codes of the vehicle and find out what is wrong if you notice a warning light.

Setting Up an Inspection of an FJ Cruiser

Here are some things to keep in mind when checking out a particular Toyota FJ Cruiser:

Physically inspect the FJ Cruiser yourself or get a reliable friend or third party to do so for you – While it has become quite common practice to purchase used cars without physically inspecting them first, we still think it is best to view them yourself if possible. This is because a thorough physical inspection may reveal hidden issues that aren’t visible in the photos, video (if the listing has one) or the listing description. Additionally, we wouldn’t guarantee that a seller will divulge all the problems with the car over a phone call or email chat if you get the chance to do so. If it is not possible for you to inspect the FJ Cruiser, try to enlist the help of a friend or third party to do so for you.

Bring a friend or helper with you to an inspection – This can be handy as the second person may be able to spot something you missed, and they can help you test the vehicle. Additionally, they can give you their thoughts on the FJ Cruiser and whether or not they think it is a good purchase.

Try to look at the Toyota FJ Cruiser at the seller’s house or place of business – This isn’t always possible, but it can be a good idea as it will give you the chance to see how and where the FJ Cruiser is stored. If it is kept in a garage or under shelter it is less likely to have bodywork issues than if it is stored out on the street.

Look at the FJ Cruiser in the morning if possible – This isn’t completely necessary, but it will give the seller less time to warm up their Toyota FJ Cruiser and clean up any potential issues such as a big oil leak.

Tell the seller not to drive or pre-warm their Toyota FJ Cruiser prior to your arrival if possible – A warm engine can cover a multitude of sins, so check that the motor is cold when you begin the inspection.

If the FJ Cruiser is being sold at a dealer, don’t let them know you are coming to see it – While this is not always possible depending on how the dealer operates, it can be a good idea. If the dealer knows you are coming it gives them more of a chance to clean up any potential issues and pre-warm the engine.

Try not to inspect a used FJ Cruiser in the rain – Water can cover up a number of different issues with the bodywork and paint. If it does happen to be raining when you inspect/test drive a Toyota FJ Cruiser, try to go back for a second viewing before making a decision on the car.

Be cautious if the seller has just washed the car – This is largely for the same reason as above, but some sellers will also wash the engine bay and underside of a vehicle to hide an issue (or anywhere a leak/issue may occur).

Ask the seller to move their FJ Cruiser outside if it is in a garage or showroom – Garage and especially showroom lighting can make a car appear better than it really is. Ask the seller to move the car out into direct sunlight as it may reveal some hidden bodywork issues.

Buying a Used FJ Cruiser with Problems

In truth no car is perfect. All used FJ Cruisers you go to look at are going to have some sort of issues, but it is up to you to decide whether or not you are happy with the ones that a particular car has.

While many would say that you should 100% walk away from a car with major mechanical and/or bodywork issues, we have a different opinion. We believe that it is okay if you know and understand what is wrong with a particular car, and you are happy with laying down the cash to fix it.

However, we do understand that some vehicles are just a lost cause and if you come across an FJ Cruiser with very, very serious problems it is almost certainly going to be more financially sensible to walk away and buy a good car, even if you can get it at a bargain price.

When looking at any FJ Cruiser, try to find as many problems as possible (this guide should help you with that). Note them down and try to work out how much they will cost to fix before purchasing the car.

When you do find any issues, try to use them to get a discount, especially if they are more serious Be mindful of the fact that the problems you find could be more extensive and expensive to repair than first envisioned, so it can be a good idea to add a bit more to any quote you receive.

Where to Buy a Used Toyota FJ Cruiser

Credit: Toyota

Sites such as AutoTrader, CraigsList, eBay, and other auction/classifieds sites are going to be your best place to start your search for an FJ Cruiser (keep in mind that it will depend on your region. For example, TradeMe is the go to site in our local market of New Zealand). These sorts of sites tend to have the biggest selection of cars for sale and many dealers and private sellers will list their cars on them.

More specialist auction sites such as Bring a Trailer and Cars & Bids is also worth checking out if you are looking for a really clean example of an FJ Cruiser.

We do recommend that you check out Toyota dealers if you are looking for a really good example. Sometimes they will trade-in or source really good examples or they may be able to point you in the direction of somebody who is looking to sell their FJ Cruiser. More general dealers are also worth checking out as well as you may be able to get better protection than buying from a private seller.

Another place to look is owners clubs/forums. Many of these clubs tend to have a “vehicles for sale” section if they have a website or you may just be able to ask around. The good thing with buying from a club member is that they tend to be more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their vehicle (not always though).

FJ Cruiser Owners Clubs & Forums

We definitely recommend that you check to see if there are any Toyota FJ Cruiser clubs or forums in your area. Here are few examples that you should check out:

FJ Cruiser ForumsWith over 110,000 members and nearly 4 million posts, FJ Cruiser Forums is arguably the largest website dedicated to the FJ. There are a ton of very knowledgeable owners on here and there is a “Vehicles For Sale” section that you should check out (Note: most members are based in North America, but there is an international section).

FJ Cruiser Club of AustraliaIf you are based down under this club is worth checking out. It does have “Trading Zone” section for sales, but it isn’t very active. Still, there are lots of knowledgeable owners on here.

How Much Does a Toyota FJ Cruiser Cost to Buy?

Prices can vary quite a bit for FJ Cruisers depending on the condition, specs, mileage, where it is being sold and more. For example, a low mileage Trail Teams Ultimate Edition like this one is going to command a much higher price than a higher mileage, early example like this.

Most FJ Cruisers in the states do tend to sit in between US$20,000 to 50,000 at the time of writing, but they can go higher or lower. In our local market of NZ, similar spec and condition FJ Cruisers tend to be priced a bit lower than in the States, so pricing does depend a lot local markets.

To work out roughly what you need to spend to get a particular spec, condition level and model year, we recommend that you jump on your local auction/classified or dealers’ websites and look for FJ Cruisers for sale. You can then use the prices from the cars currently listed to work out roughly what you need to spend. We always recommend that you add a bit more to your budget to account for any unforeseen costs when you get the vehicle.

We do recommend that you budget a little more and try to purchase a newer, lower mileage FJ Cruiser if possible. Buying the cheapest 2007/08 model possible and then realising you want a better condition, later model is more expensive than just buying a well-cared for FJ Cruiser in the first place.

Will the FJ Cruiser be a Future Classic?

We already think that the FJ Cruiser is a collectable, especially special edition models such as the Ultimate Edition, Trail Teams Edition or TRD Special Edition. Standard FJ Cruisers aren’t as collectable, but they are still in high demand.

FJ Cruiser Vin

It is always a good idea to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of a car prior to purchase. The VIN is a series of 17 characters and numbers that manufacturers such as Toyota assign to a vehicle at production.

It can be used to find out information about a particular car, such as where it was manufactured, the model, year of manufacturer and more. For example, the VIN – JTEBU4BF5CKXXXXXX – is from a 2012 Trail Teams Special Edition, while an earlier 2007 version will look something like this – JTEBU11F270XXXXXX.

The VIN can be entered into Toyota’s online database to find out more about it – Toyota VIN Decoder. Third party VIN checkers can also be used as well. These sorts of websites and services may be able to tell you whether or not there is any money owing on the vehicle or if it has been written off at any point.

Where is the VIN Located on a Toyota FJ Cruiser?

  • Driver’s side door on a sticker
  • Base of the windshield on the driver’s side dash (original windshield)
  • Under the bonnet/hood on the right and left side
  • Frame rail
  • Most of the other panels of the car (not all markets, but definitely in the United States)

It is a good idea to make sure the VINs you find match. If they don’t it could indicate that the vehicle has been in an accident and had some sort of repair work. Alternatively, it may indicate that the vehicle was stolen at some point or it may not be a problem at all.  

Engine

While there have been some complaints about the reliability of the 1GR-FE V6 from some owners, the engine is generally known to be incredibly robust if maintained properly. There are numerous reports of FJs going hundreds of thousands of miles without issue, and that’s not even counting the many other cars that the 1GR-FE is installed in (4Runner, Tacoma, etc.).

Starting Your Engine Inspection

Head to the front of the FJ Cruiser and lift the bonnet/hood. Make sure that it opens smoothly and that there are no problems with the catch or hinges. If you do come across some sort of issue, or if they look new, it could be a sign of past accident damage or some other sort of repair work. Another thing to check is that the bonnet stays up and the struts work as intended (see the video below for more). It is not a major problem to replace the struts, but just another thing to bargain on.

Once you have done the above, do a general check for the following:

  • Cleanliness – Is the FJ Cruiser’s engine bay clean or dirty? A super dirty engine bay it could be a sign of somebody who hasn’t cared much for their FJ. On the other hand, don’t be fooled by a spotless looking engine as this could be a sign of somebody trying to cover something up (oil leak for example).
  • Obvious Issues – Do a quick general check for any immediately noticeable issues such as leaks, broken or missing components and more.
  • Modifications – While engine mods aren’t as popular on FJs as some other cars, there are still plenty of owners who have modified the 1GR-FE in their FJ Cruiser. If you do notice any mods, try to note them down and check if they are suitable for the car (most owners will include modifications in the listing, so you could do that before you even inspect the vehicle). Modifications that have been done poorly and/or are unsuitable for the FJ can lead to reliability problems down the line.

Inspecting the Fluids

Try to check the engine oil and other fluids as if they are in poor condition and have not been changed in a while it can lead to reduced reliability and possibly even total engine/component failure.

Open up the oil filler cap and use a torch/flashlight to look inside. The main thing to watch out for is any black sludge, which indicates that the oil hasn’t been changed frequently enough. If you notice any metallic particles or grit in the engine oil as well it could be a sign of a serious problem such as bearing failure. Metallic particles can also be a sign of other things such as a recent rebuild, so keep that in mind if the car has just had some major engine work.

Make sure you also check for any foam, froth or milky looking oil. If you notice any of these issues it could be a sign of a number of different problems with the Toyota FJ Cruiser’s engine. These issues could range from an engine that has been overfilled with oil, condensation in the oil, or possibly even a blown head gasket.

It can be a good idea to get the oil analysed prior to purchase, especially if you are looking for a mint condition FJ Cruiser. Getting the oil tested can help you determine if there are any unwanted particles in it. Additionally, it can also tell you if the vehicle needs more frequent changes or if it can go further between servicing.

Don’t forget to check the oil level as if it is too low or high it can lead to some very serious issues and suggests that the owner hasn’t cared much for their FJ Cruiser. According to Toyota, the oil and filter should be replaced every 16,000 km (10,000 miles) or so if synthetic oil is used and the car is driven under normal conditions. However, lots of owners like to do it much earlier with many even changing it as early as 5,000 km (3,000 miles). Earlier changes are beneficial if the FJ is regular used for towing and/or driven in harsh environments and conditions.

Oil Leaks from an FJ Cruiser

Here are some places where you may find leaking oil on a 1GR-FE Toyota FJ Cruiser:

Timing chain cover behind the upper-front of the engine – This occurs behind the pullies that guide the engine’s serpentine belt. It is typically very small and usually recommended that you just leave it as the cost to fix it can be surprisingly high (usually quoted in the four figures by dealers but third party mechanics are usually much cheaper). Toyota did issue a TSB (technical service bulletin) for this problem – TSB EG050-07, so it must be a fairly common issue. Other Toyota’s with the 1GR-FE also received their own TSBs as well. We definitely wouldn’t let this leak put you off an FJ Cruiser, but it is always worth using this sort of thing to get a discount.  

Around the spark plugs and bottom of the coil plugs – If you notice some oil around the spark plugs it could be due to a failed spark plug tube gasket/seal (part number 11193-70010) that sits at the bottom of the spark plug well. Alternatively, it could also be used by a leaking valve/timing cover or an incorrect spark plug. Failure to torque the spark plug correctly can also lead to leaks, so keep that in mind. More serious causes of the leak include failing pistons, compression rings and/or valve guides.

Valve/timing cover – Unlike the timing chain cover leak, leaks from the valve cover aren’t actually that common on FJ Cruisers, but they can still occur (especially as mil. A lot of the time a valve cover leak can be confused with the chain cover leak as well. Replacing the valve cover isn’t too expensive, but it is good to check for a leak from this area.

Around the rear of the engine – This is often caused by a rear main seal leak, which is usually very expensive to fix if you take it to a dealer or specialist. It is possible to repair the rear main seal yourself, but it will take a good number of hours to do (hence why it is expensive to get somebody else to do it). Luckily, rear main seal leaks aren’t that common on FJ Cruisers compared to some other cars, but we expect it to become more of a problem as these cars age and get up there in mileage.

PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) Valve Issues

The PCV valve doesn’t tend to cause any issues on FJ Cruisers and Toyota doesn’t actually state a recommended replacement interval for them, but it is always good to be aware of any symptoms a failing PCV valve may cause (especially as these cars are now getting up there in terms of mileage and age). This is because problems with the PCV valve can lead to more serious issues if it is not sorted (rear main seal leaks, etc.). Below we have listed some of the symptoms that a bad PCV may produce.

  • Rough/lumpy idle (this could also be spark plug issues, etc.)
  • Hesitation during acceleration
  • Excessive oil consumption and worse fuel/gas mileage (probably not going to be able to tell during a short test drive)
  • Leaks from the PCV hose assembly

Here are some steps you can take to check the PCV system:

  • Try remove the oil cap with the engine running – the oil cap should be easy to remove
  • Check how the engine is running – with the oil cap off the engine should start stumbling due to there being a vacuum leak. If the engine starts surging immediately it could have a PCV issue.
  • Put a rubber glove, plastic/cling wrap or a post-it-note over the valve cover – If the glove inflates or other item you are using gets blown off forcibly or sucked in, the car probably has a PCV issue. A normal functioning system should provide some light suction against the valve cover.

Once again, PCV valve issues aren’t that common on these cars and the part is cheap to replace, so we wouldn’t be too concerned about this issue (just something to be aware of).

Does the Toyota FJ Cruiser Have a Timing Belt or Chain?

The FJ Cruiser’s 1GR-FE engine uses a timing chain and not a belt, so it doesn’t need to be replaced at a specified interval or probably ever at all on most cars. Unfortunately, while this is the case, a very small number of owners have experienced timing chain stretch.

If this has happened you may notice a bit of a rattling from the timing chain area and the car may throw out a P0016 code (however, this code is often down to the crankshaft position and camshaft position sensor). In more serious cases a stretched timing chain can lead to repeated engine misfires and possibly even metal shavings in the oil. Catastrophic engine damage from a stretched timing chain is unlikely on the 1GR-FE as it is a non-interference engine.

Replacing the timing chain and other related components is very expensive (US$3 – 5,000), so be very cautious if you notice any of the symptoms we just listed. Timing chain issues are more likely to be a problem on FJ Cruisers that have not been serviced and maintained properly. The timing chain is lubricated via the engine oil, so if the oil has not been replaced regularly (leads to sludge build up) or the car has been run low on oil it can lead to increased chain wear and possible stretch.

Crankshaft Position Sensor

We mentioned the crankshaft position sensor and the P0016 code above, but a problem here may also lead to other codes being thrown out such as P0335. If there is a problem with the crankshaft position sensor it can also cause the ATTRAC and traction control systems to malfunction. Replacing the crankshaft sensor can be quite expensive as it is buried behind the AC compressor.

Bad Idler Pulley

The FJ Cruiser’s 1GR-FE engine features three idler pulleys. If there is a problem with the idler pulleys/pulley bearings, you may notice a loud howling noise from the front of the engine that can change depending on the engine rpm (may also be something like the alternator or power steering, but most likely the idler pulley).

Additionally, when the engine is off, give the pulleys a bit of a wiggle and see if they wobble. If they do it is probably a sign that they need to be replaced. While you are checking the pulleys, have a look at the serpentine belt to make sure it is in good condition and there are no cracks.

FJ Cruisers that are regularly taken through mud and water are going to experience premature failure, so keep this in mind if the car is often used for off roading.

Air Intake/Box

Open the air intake if you can and have a good look inside. If it is dirty and full of dust it could be a sign that the FJ Cruiser hasn’t been treated well as it should be clean (or at least cleanish).

Cooling System

It is important to make sure the cooling system is functioning as intended, so check for the following things:

Coolant Condition

The stock expansion tank is transparent so you should be able to see the colour of the coolant without removing the lid. However, if you do want to get a better look at the coolant make sure you only remove the lid when it is cold (do not do this when the engine is warm and/or running)!

The coolant should be pink in colour (you can read more about Toyota coolant here). If it is brown or muddy in colour it is a sign of poor maintenance and it should be replaced as soon as possible.

According to Toyota, their “Pink Coolant” is good for up to 160,000 km (100,000 miles) or 10 years on the factory fill and then it needs to be replaced every 100,000 km (60,000 miles) or 5 years after that. This means that most FJ Cruisers should have had at least one coolant change (at the time of writing) or more. FJ Cruisers used in more demanding conditions may need more frequent changes, so check to see what the owner’s service schedule is like.

Coolant Leaks & Level

The coolant level should sit just below the top raised line on the expansion tank (slightly higher isn’t the end of the world). If it is below the bottom line it indicates it is too low and we would probably walk away from the car as you don’t know how long it has been run low on coolant.

We recommend that you check the coolant level before a test drive and then recheck after. If the coolant level drops noticeably it could be indicative of a leak. You should also check the coolant lines, tank, radiator, etc. for any coolant leaks before a test drive as well. When you come back from testing the FJ Cruiser, let it sit for around 10 to 15 minutes with the engine off and then recheck for any leaks. If you don’t see any coolant but notice a sweet aroma, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is probably leaking from somewhere but it just isn’t visible.

The Toyota water pumps fitted to FJ Cruisers are known to seep a tiny amount of coolant at the drain holes/pocket. This is usually normal according to Toyota (check Toyota Tech Tip number TIP2252), so a slight leak or coolant stains don’t necessarily mean the pump is about to fail. However, Toyota does state that a coolant flush is recommended if you notice some coolant around the drain pockets, so keep that in mind.

Bad Water Pump

If the water pump is failing or has failed you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Coolant leaks & low coolant level – the water pump, coolant lines or expansion tank are probably going to be your most likely cause of a leak. As mentioned above a very small bit of seepage around the drain holes is considered normal according to Toyota.
  • Slight knocking noise at idle
  • Whining and/or chuffing sounds
  • Overheating – It is a good idea to go for a reasonably long test drive as you may not notice the Toyota FJ Cruiser overheating during a short test drive. Note: Overheating could also be a sign of something like a bad thermostat, radiator issues and much more, so keep that in mind.
  • Steam or smoke – Be on the lookout for any steam or smoke from the front of the car. If you notice this problem, it is best to walk away.

The water pumps on FJ Cruisers tend to be very robust and reliable, so they should last a long time. However, if the car has some good mileage on it we would probably budget for a new pump in the near future (if it hasn’t been replaced recently).

No Heat from Heater and Failed Water Pump

Turn on the heater as high as possible to check that hot air comes out. The heater core requires proper function of the water pump for it to work correctly. If the pump isn’t working, fluid won’t be forced through the system.

When you switch on the heater you should feel a blast of hot air. This hot air should continue to come out of the vents if the FJ Cruiser’s water pump is functioning correctly. If the warm air stops/gradually reduces it is a sign that hot fluid is not being cycled through the system, which could indicate a malfunctioning pump.

Note: No heat from the heater can also be caused by other issues as well such as low coolant, a stuck/bad thermostat, extremely low ambient temperatures combined with low engine load, an incorrectly bled cooling system that has too much air in it, some sort of restriction in the heater core or engine block water passages, and more.

Thermostat Failure

If you notice an erratically behaving temperature gauge there is a good chance it is down to the thermostat (but don’t count on it). When the thermostat fails or sticks it often leads to issues such as the temperature gauge reading too cold or taking a long time to get up to temperature. If the temperature gauge is on the hotter end, it is probably due to some other sort of issue such as a failed water pump, low coolant, etc.

Look for Air Bubbles in the Coolant

Have a look for any bubbles in the coolant (once again, do not open the coolant tank when the car is running or when it is hot). Don’t be too concerned if there are a few bubbles when the engine is warming up, but if you find some after a decent length test drive it is not normal. Bubbles indicate that air has entered the system at some point, which can lead to overheating.

Air can get into the cooling system through several different ways from something like a bad radiator cap, to air pockets in the radiator and possibly even a blown head gasket.

Head Gasket/Cooling System Failure

Head gasket failure is a possibility on these cars, especially if the car is getting up there in mileage (240,000 km/150,000 miles upwards) and/or it is an earlier 2007/08 model. Here are some of the symptoms of a blown head gasket:

  • Overheating
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant expansion tank
  • White and milky oil
  • Loss of power
  • Spark plugs that are fouled (if you or a mechanic can get a look at them)
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Low coolant level and/or coolant level drops during a test drive
  • Smell of coolant from the oil
  • Sweet smelling exhaust
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
  • Steam from the front of the FJ Cruiser

Sourcing a new head gasket isn’t expensive, but the labour to repair the issue can be, especially if the car was run for a significant period of time when overheating.

Exhaust System

Credit: Toyota

Check as much of the exhaust system as possible as the OEM parts can rust, especially in areas and countries that are more susceptible to the problem (upper Midwest and parts of the Northeast). Most of the time the rust is just on the surface, but it can be more serious. If the left and right manifold assemblies and pipe assemblies are in a bad way, it will be very costly to replace them with OEM parts from Toyota.

Aftermarket options from the likes of Magnaflow will be much cheaper than using the OEM parts, but you could still be looking at a significant repair cost if a lot of the exhaust needs attention.

Rust problems on exhausts usually occur due to corrosive unburnt fuel or exhaust gases mixed with water vapour in the system. This is why cars that are driven on shorter trips tend to suffer from rusted exhausts more than those that do a lot of highway miles. The moisture and corrosive substances remain in the muffler as they are not burnt off during a short trip, leading to rust formation from the inside out.

It is also important to check for any leaks. Listen out for any tapping or ticking sounds that change with the engine speed. Additionally, listen out for any rumbling, scraping or rattling noises that could indicate that something is loose or damaged.

Another thing to be on the lookout for is any damage to the muffler or rest of the exhaust system, especially if the FJ is regularly used for off roading. Stray rocks and other objects can flick up and cause damage. If you do notice any issues, be on the lookout for any leaks and make sure there are no exhaust fumes in the cabin as that is very dangerous and needs to be sorted immediately.

Catalytic Converter (CAT) Issues

The FJ Cruiser features a total of four catalytic converters; two primary ones that are part of the exhaust manifold and two secondary ones that are further back and connected to the exhaust pipe. Replacing the CATs on an FJ Cruiser is extremely expensive (one CAT is in the four figures), so be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
  • Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
  • Excessive heat under the FJ Cruiser
  • Dark smoke from the car’s exhaust
  • CEL (Check Engine Light) – get the codes read if you notice this
  • Emission test failure
  • Louder sounding exhaust (probably won’t be able to notice this during a test drive)

A lot of the time an emissions test failure or a CEL for the CAT doesn’t necessarily mean it is the CAT. It may simply be a sensor that needs replacing. However, with how expensive the CATs for an FJ Cruiser are we would only purchase the car if you can find out exactly what the problem is before handing over any money.

Dirty/Bad MAF Sensor

A dirty Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor is quite a common problem on FJ Cruisers, so keep an eye out for the following issues:

  • FJ’s engine hesitates under load/acceleration
  • Stalling and/or idle issues
  • Difficulty starting the engine
  • Car runs excessively rich or lean when idling
  • Worse fuel efficiency
  • CEL – codes are usually P0101 and P0102

Most of the time a simple clean is all that is needed to get the MAF working as intended and for the CEL to go away (may have to get it cleared). If cleaning doesn’t work a new MAF sensor may be needed. It is quite easy to damage the MAF when cleaning, so this may have happened if a clean doesn’t work.

Knock Sensors

If you notice that the car feels jerky under load and/or seems to be losing power, it could be down to the knock sensor (use an OBDII scanner to see if any codes relate to the knock sensor – P0333). Most of the time the problem is not actually due to the knock sensor itself, but is instead the wiring harness. However, whether or not it is the sensor or wiring harness it can be expensive to fix.

Toyota will often quote well into the four figures to fix this problem as the labour to fix it can take up to 20 hours. The reason for this is the official way to fix it requires the removal of the head, but some owners have found another way to reduces the time to repair considerably (see the video below).

There is some speculation that low quality fuel/gas can lead to premature failure of the knock sensor in an FJ Cruiser, so check with the owner to see what they use in their vehicle.

Checking for Knocking and Ticking Sounds

A very, very light knocking/tapping noise from an FJ Cruiser when the engine is cold is quite normal and you will notice that most of them do this. However, if the knocking noise is quite loud and seems like it is coming from deep within the engine it could be a sign of a much more serious problem such as a main bearing failure or rod issues. If the knocking does seem to be bad or significantly worse than other FJs you have looked at we would probably walk away.  

What Should the Idle Speed Be on a Toyota FJ Cruiser?

Once the FJ’s 1GR-FE engine is up to temperature you should find that it sits around the 800 – 900 rpm mark. Don’t worry if the idle is higher when the engine is first started and cold, but it should drop was the engine warms.

Misfiring, Hesitation and Stalling

As we mentioned earlier, hesitation, misfiring and stalling could be the result of a bad or dirty MAF, but it could also be caused by some of the other problems listed below (there are more but these are some of the main ones):

  • bad plugs
  • coils
  • injectors
  • transmission torque converter
  • fuel pump
  • Dirty butterfly valve

Misfiring caused by the spark plugs and coil packs usually results in codes P0306 and P0354 being thrown out. If it is the spark plugs, try to find out what plugs have been used as the wrong ones will cause issues. Additionally, the spark plugs need to be tightened correctly, so if they are at the wrong torque it can cause issues.

Bad/Failed Engine Mounts

The motor mounts can eventually fail/crack, especially if the FJ Cruiser has seen some particularly enthusiastic off-road driving. If there is a problem you may notice one or more of the following:

  • Engine movement – As you rev the engine, check to see how much it moves. If it shakes or rocks excessively there is probably a problem with the mounts. Rev the engine and see if it moves excessively. Also check how the engine is at idle and check for any movement while looking from underneath the car.
  • Excessive vibrations/shaking – This is typically more noticeable at idle and in really bad cases you may notice that the whole car shakes. Note: vibrations/shaking could also be caused by some other sort of issue as well (spark plugs, timing issues and more).
  • Clunking, banging or other impact sounds – Watch out for these sorts of sounds as they could indicate that the engine is moving slightly due to a bad mount.
  • Issues with shifting – If you notice that there is a lot of motion with the shifter (manual) and that it moves during acceleration it could be down to the mounts.

Unfortunately, while sourcing the mounts themselves isn’t too expensive, the labour to install them can be (owners have been quoted over $1,000 by dealers). If you are a bit mechanically minded you can replace the engine mounts yourself to save a good chunk of money. DavidRAGobi on FJ Cruiser Forums has a good guide which you can view here.

Aftermarket mounts are available that are quite a bit cheaper than the OEM ones. Additionally, a few owners have installed solid mounts like this user on FJ Cruiser Forums. While solid mounts are said to improve engine response, they can also lead to increased vibrations throughout the cabin and are probably not the best choice for FJ Cruisers that spend most of their time as a daily driver.

Air Conditioning

Make sure the air conditioning is working as intended and plenty of cold air comes out the vents. If you don’t feel any cold air it could be caused by a range of different factors from a refrigerant leak, a bad clutch relay or clutch relay fuse, a AC bad compressor and more. The clutch relay is a very common fault on Toyotas from the FJ Cruiser’s era, so it is most likely that. However, do try to find out the exact cause before purchasing the vehicle as if it is the compressor you could be up for a wallet wounding experience.

Smoke from a Toyota FJ Cruiser

Ask the seller to start the FJ Cruiser for you for the first time and position yourself at the rear of the vehicle. This way you can see what comes out the back and if the seller revs the car hard you know they probably haven’t treated it well.

Don’t be too concerned by a small amount of vapour when the engine is first started as this is just condensation in the exhaust and will be more noticeable during colder weather. However, if you notice smoke or a lot of steam it indicates a problem. Below we have listed what he different colours of smoke can indicate:

White smoke

As we have already mentioned above, a small amount of white vapour on engine start is usually just condensation in the exhaust.

If you notice lots of white/greyish smoke it is usually a sign that water/coolant has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown or leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant. If the smoke is very thick and doesn’t dissipate quickly it could be sign that the block or cylinder head is cracked/broken.

Blue/Grey smoke

This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things including warn pistons rings, valve seals, and more. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are driving the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back (good chance to see how they drive as well).

Black smoke

This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing, problems with the injectors, and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich. Unburnt fuel being sent through the exhaust system can also lead to premature catalytic converter failure as well, so keep that in mind.

Buying an FJ Cruiser with a Rebuilt or Replaced Engine

While some potential buyers may overlook a vehicle with a rebuilt or replaced engine, we don’t have a problem as long as the work was carried out by a competent Toyota specialist or mechanic who has experience with the 1GR-FE and the FJ Cruiser. It can be a good idea to try and find out who did the rebuild or replacement and check up on any reviews.

Home rebuild jobs are okay, but be extra cautious as many home mechanics have more ambition than skill(however, there are some very good ones out there who put professionals to shame).

Another thing to try and find out is why did the rebuild or replacement occur. Was it simply due to extreme mileage or was it because of poor maintenance that led to some sort of issue? If it was due to poor maintenance you should be asking yourself if the rest of the car has been looked after properly.  

We generally prefer rebuilds over replacements as there is a higher chance of knowing the history of the engine. A swapped engine could have come from any FJ Cruiser and you probably won’t be able to find its history.

We tend to recommend that you avoid fresh rebuilds or engine swaps with only a couple of hundred miles on them. This is because a Toyota FJ Cruiser that has travelled 10,000 km (6,200 miles) on a rebuild or swap is more of a known than one that has only travelled a short distance since the work was carried out.

Transmission

The FJ Cruiser came equipped with one of three different transmissions options. The A750E 5-speed automatic was only used on rear-wheel drive models, while the 5-speed A750F is found on part-time four-wheel drive models and comes with a VF2A transfer case (both are pretty much the same apart from that). The third transmission that was fitted to the FJ Cruiser is a 6-speed RA61F manual transmission that was mated to a VF4B transfer case.

On both manual and automatic FJ Cruisers keep an eye out for any leaks from the transmission. Leaks from any of the three transmissions isn’t that common, but it can still occur, so it is always best to be on the lookout.

Automatic FJ Cruisers

Both the A750E and A750F automatic transmissions are known to be pretty bullet proof as long as they have been maintained correctly. Toyota recommends replacing the fluid every 100,000 km (60,000) miles or every six years for heavy duty use such as towing, regular off-roading, etc.

When it comes to regular use, they don’t actually state a recommended service interval (they claim it is a lifetime fill under normal driving conditions). However, despite this most owners suggest that you stick to the 100,000 km (60,000 mile) service as both automatic transmissions can develop a very nasty shudder problem. In fact, many owners go a step further and change it more frequently than the 100,000 km/6 year mark to be on the safe side.

Most of the time transmission shudder occurs around the 65 to 80 km/h (40 to 50 mph) mark. It feels like the car is vibrating/shaking and occurs during lockup when the transmission is in between gear changes.

Transmission shudder seems to be more of a problem on earlier model years, but this may simply be down to the fact that they have typically done more mileage and that owners of later cars became aware of the problem and serviced their FJ Cruisers more frequently.

If the FJ Cruiser you are looking at does experience transmission shudder, we would probably move onto another car that doesn’t have. However, a lot of the time it can be fixed. The first port of call is to do a transmission fluid change (drain and fill). If that doesn’t work a full flush from a reputable Toyota specialist who uses the correct fluid is often recommended (although not everyone is keen on flushes due to the risk of dislodging particles, etc.).

Another fix is to replace the torque converter. The lockup clutch inside the converter is really the cause of the shuddering problem. It constantly engages and disengages depending on the engine load, position of the throttle, selected gear, etc.

When the friction modifiers in the transmission fluid break down, the engagement characteristics of the lockup clutch can change, which leads to the shuddering. If the transmission fluid is changed early enough, the correct friction modifiers in the new fluid should eliminate the shudder. However, if the lockup clutch is allowed to slip for an extended period of time it can become worn/glazed. If this happens it will need to be replaced along with the torque converter.

If you want to purchase an FJ Cruiser that is experiencing transmission shudder we would try to get a very good discount. Alternatively, another solution may be to get the seller to have the transmission fluid replaced/flushed and then see if it is still shuddering after that. However, keep in mind that the shudder may return after this, so a new torque converter may be needed.

Another problem that some owners have complained about is a slipping transmission. This is usually down to low fluid level, but it is worth getting the FJ Cruiser checked out more thoroughly if you notice this problem as it could be something more serious.

Apart from the above do a general check for any clunking, jolting or strange sounds such as whining. Test all of the transmission positions and see how the car reacts under both light and hard acceleration.

Manual FJ Cruisers

The six-speed manual transmission itself tends to be pretty robust and reliable (although the clutch throw-out bearing causes issues, which we will get to below). Once again, fluid changes should be done every 100,000 km (60,000 miles) with many owners doing it earlier. If transmission servicing has been a bit lacklustre we would definitely be a bit cautious.

Don’t forget to test the transmission at both low and high engine speeds. Make sure that none of the gears pop out under moderate to hard acceleration. If you do notice a problem, it could be caused by something relatively simple like low fluid or a more serious issue like a worn shift fork or slider, or possibly even a problem with the transmission/engine mounts.

If you notice any hard shifting (difficult to get into or change gears) and/or grinding noises when shifting both up and down it could be due to worn synchros. While it doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue on these cars, some owners have experienced the problem.

It is a good idea to see how the clutch and transmission performs during a hill start. Additionally, lift off after accelerating hard in second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. If you notice any strange rattling noises it could be a sign that the gearbox bearings are in a bad way.

Clutch

One of the biggest problems with manual FJ Cruisers is the throw-out bearing (also known as the clutch release bearing). It is a component which disengages a car’s engine from the transmission during gear shifts. When the throw-out bearing does go bad you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Strange noises (often described as chirping or squeaking) when you depress the clutch pedal – The sound will be most noticeable when the clutch pedal is completely depressed. It should go away if you take your foot off the pedal.
  • Shifting issues – Grinding gears and/or difficulty getting into gear could be a sign that the throw-out bearing has gone bad, especially if the noise described above is present.
  • Vibrating clutch pedal – Watch out for vibrations when you press down on the clutch pedal as this is commonly a sign of bearing issues.
  • Stiff pedal – If you notice that the clutch pedal feels particularly stiff it could be a sign that the lubrication properties of the release bearing have worn down, leading to the bearing itself becoming worn.

The throw-out bearing issue was bad enough that Toyota issued a TSB around 2011 to resolve the problem (T-SB-0365-10). Unfortunately, this didn’t fix the problem for everyone. URD made a sleeve kit that seemed to solve the problem for some. In 2019 FJ Cruiser Forums user, 406Cruiser, teamed up with Clutch Masters to create an internal hydraulic slave cylinder upgrade/kit. This upgrade seems to be the best solution to stop or prevent the throw-out bearing issues, and you can read more about it here.

Apart from the throw-out bearing, check for any leaks from the slave cylinder etc. The clutch itself is a wear item and will eventually need to be replaced, so check when this was last done as if it was quite a while ago we would try to use that to get a bit of a discount. Here are some things you can do to test the clutch on a Toyota FJ Cruiser:

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the FJ Cruiser you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.

Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.

Clutch Drag – Get the FJ Cruiser on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.

4WD System

Make sure you test that the four-wheel drive system operates correctly as this is easily overlooked when doing a simple test drive on paved roads (check the 4WD light illuminates). The four-wheel drive system on manual and automatic FJ Cruisers are quite different as manual cars are permanent 4WD.

When it comes to automatic FJ Cruisers, the most common reason for four-wheel drive not engaging is the range switch on the transfer case. Sulphurous gear oil gets onto the switch contacts. This can then tarnish them or lead to carbon deposits which prevent the switch from operating correctly. If this happens the ADD will not get the signal to engage four-wheel drive.

Sometimes you can get the switch to work properly again by continually switching back and forth between four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive. When doing this you want to check the four-wheel drive indicator light to see if it flashes or illuminates. If this doesn’t work, the switch will probably have to be replaced.

If is often recommended that you engage four-wheel drive once or twice a month, even if you don’t use it. This usually prevents problems with engagement and keeps the 4WD system operating correctly. Manual cars don’t have this problem because they are full-time four-wheel drive.

You can also confirm if four-wheel drive is working on automatic cars by engaging it and then making some sharp turns. If there is no binding it typically indicates that 4WD isn’t engaged (automatic FJ Cruisers).

Rear Differential with E-Locker

The rear differential (E-locker) on 2007 – 2009 models is known to cause issues. Models from 2010 onwards were equipped with a larger 8.2-inch gear which made them pretty much as reliable and strong as FJ Cruisers without E-lockers.

If there is a problem with the rear differential/E-locker, you may notice weird howling or grinding noises at certain rpms. Additionally, a number of owners have found that if the e-locker has failed it will do so in the engaged position. Another thing to keep an eye out for is any strange vibrations that increase in intensity as you speed up.

Bigger tyres and more weight will increase the likelihood of rear differential failure, so keep that in mind if the car is running some big tread. FJ Cruiser Forums member, Iconic_, created a great guide on rear differential failure and replacement, which you can view here.

Body and Exterior

It is always important inspect the body and exterior closely for any issues as a problem here can be quite expensive to fix depending on what it is. Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

Accident Damage

This is always something to watch out for on any used car. FJ Cruisers that have been regularly used off-road are also probably more likely to experience accident damage (contacting boulders, rocks, etc.). Below we have listed some things that indicate the FJ Cruiser you are looking at may have been in an accident:

  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Inspect around the bonnet/hood and make sure everything lines up correctly. Check the door, bumper and boot/trunk panel gaps. If the panel gaps on one side look quite different to the other side, it could be a sign that the Toyota FJ Cruiser has been in an accident. Toyota’s build quality is excellent, so uneven or large panel gaps are always a good sign of accident damage/repairs.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the FJ Cruiser you are looking at may have been in an accident or there may be some other sort of other issue with the door hinges.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust. Once again, Toyota’s build quality is excellent, so this is highly unlikely to be a factory issue.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the FJ Cruiser you are inspecting has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights or surrounds of the taillights – This can be very difficult to fix on any car and is a good place to check for any accident damage.
  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – While inspecting the underside, check to make sure everything is straight. Look at the suspension and steering components as well. If the parts are different on one side compared to the other or much newer, it may be a sign that the FJ Cruiser has been in an accident. Damage to the bottom of the car is more likely to be an issue on FJ Cruisers that have experienced a lot of off-road action.
  • Rust in strange locations – Can be a sign of accident damage.
  • Paint runs or overspray – Very unlikely to be a factory issue on FJ Cruisers and is far more likely to be due to a respray job. Keep in mind that a lot of dealers will do a respray on the front of the car due to stone chips, so this doesn’t always necessary the damage was serious. Check the seller’s shoes as well as we went to look at a used car once and the terrible respray job matched the specks of paint on the owner’s boots (more of a joke, but this happened to us one time).
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).

A lot of sellers will try to cover up accident damage and repairs, so ask plenty of questions and take your time inspecting the vehicle.

If there has been some accident damage and/or repairs, try to get an idea of the severity of the incident. Light to moderate damage that has been repaired by a skilled body shop/panel beater is usually fine. However, if the FJ Cruiser has been in a serious incident and received major damage it is probably best to walk away.

If the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owned the vehicle.

Rust

Unfortunately, rust and rot can be a bit of a problem on these cars, with owners actually filing a class action lawsuit against Toyota due to the issue (you can read more about the lawsuit here). The main problem area is the frame and undercarriage. If this rusts badly enough it can weaken the structure of the frame and lead to safety issues. Surface rust is generally okay, but if you notice any significant rust or rot here we would walk away.

Another problem with undercarriage rust is that the bolts can essentially become fused, which means if you need to do something like service the differential it may make it almost impossible to do (a new diff setup may even be required). This is a major problem and it could add significant cost to owning an FJ Cruiser.

Make sure you also check the doors for rust as well. The main place to check is under the rubber seals at the top. If possible, you should also ask the owner if you can lift the floor covers to check for any rust under the seats, etc. This is recommended as if the FJ has ever been flooded rust can form here.

Apart from that, bodywork rust doesn’t seem to be a problem on FJ Cruisers, so it is really just the underside you need to worry about. However, we would still inspect the whole car for the problem just to make sure.

Rust can often be more serious than it first appears on the surface. If you notice any rust issues and are still keen on the car it is a good idea to get the vehicle properly checked out prior to purchase. Additionally, try to find a quote on how much it will cost to repair the problem (be mindful that the cost could easily expand over the course of the repair).  

Factors That Can Make Rust More Likely on a Toyota FJ Cruiser

  • The FJ Cruiser has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (Upper Midwest, Northeast, UK, Canada, etc.)
  • The vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters (often linked with the above)
  • FJ Cruiser is regularly used off-road
  • Vehicle is often driven, parked or stored by the sea for significant periods of time. If the car has been driven on the beach and not cleaned down it can be a problem.
  • Always kept outside (never garaged)
  • The FJ Cruiser is regularly driven in winter (garaging the car and not driving it in the winter will reduce the likelihood of rust issues)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • Rubbing body parts
  • Old or no underseal

It is a good idea to check with the owner to see if rust protection has been applied at fairly regular intervals, especially if the FJ Cruiser is located in a country with salted roads and/or is regularly taken off-road. Be very cautious of FJ Cruisers with black rubber undercoating as rust can form under it. Additionally, some more dishonest owners get it applied prior to sale to cover up existing rust. Oily/wax-based undercoating is much better and you can still see what the original condition of the frame is like underneath.

We also recommend that you ask the seller/owner if regular washes of the underbody have been carried out during winter if you live in a country with salted roads. Additionally, this should be done after taking the vehicle off-road as well. Cleaning the underside of the car can go a long way to prevent rust formation on the frame/undercarriage and if they have done it, it shows that they probably care quite a bit about preventative maintenance.

Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Other Bodywork Problems to Watch Out for

Make sure you check the front windshield as due to its angle it is extremely prone to chips/cracks. The OEM parts to do this (windshield, moulding and clips) can be surprisingly expensive, but aftermarket windshields are available and the repairer may be able to reuse the moulding. However, if the windshield does look bad, try to get a good discount.

Also check that the rear window operates and opens correctly. Put the key in and turn it to the right and it should click/pop. You should then be able to lift the rear window and open it. If the window seems jammed or doesn’t open for whatever reason it can be quite an expensive fix. While you are doing this, check the rear door hinges, latches, etc.

The inner guards can sometimes crack/tear, so check to see if they are in good condition. Look from within the engine bay and from the outside through the front wheel wells.  

Brakes

The main problem here is the front brake calipers. These like to rust and seize up so check for the following (rear can seize as well, but less likely):

  • Car pulls to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
  • Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on (could also be a sign of diff issues)
  • Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
  • You find that the FJ Cruiser doesn’t want to move at all
  • Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time

There are a number of things that can cause a frozen/seized caliper. Sometimes a rebuild will get them back to normal, but if the calipers are in a really bad way new ones will be required. Replacing all of the calipers is quite expensive, so make sure you check for this problem.

Apart from seizing brakes, watch out for the usual brake related issues. If the standard brakes feel weak or spongy it is a sign of an issue as they should be perfectly adequate for regular road driving and off-roading.

Shuddering or shaking through the FJ Cruiser’s steering wheel while the brakes are in use could indicate that one or more of the discs are warped. This often most noticeable under high-speed braking.

Make sure you physically inspect the brake components as well, looking out for any corrosion or component wear. Additionally, don’t forget to check the brake fluid condition and level. If it is dark it is a sign that it hasn’t been replaced in a long time.

Suspension & Steering

As mentioned earlier, check the underside components for any corrosion as this can be a big problem. Also check for any damage and watch out for leaks/grease. The CV/axle boots are prone to cracking and leaking. This isn’t too much trouble to fix yourself if you have a bit of spare time and are a bit mechanically handy. Some owners install aftermarket axles because of this, but it is generally best to just replace the boots.

The wheel bearings often develop a bit of play and wear out around the 160,000 km (100,000 mile) mark. This is exasperated by running larger tyres and doing lots of technical/hard wheeling. If you can jack the vehicle up, you can check the wheel bearings by moving the wheel side to side. If there is any slop/movement it indicates the bearing is past its used by date and it should be replaced in the near future.  Apart from that, check for the following:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration and rear end wobble over bumps
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability or floaty/nervous feeling through the steering wheel
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive – as mentioned above this is usually the shocks, top mounts and or drop links
  • Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock)

Check the Wheel Alignment

Make sure the wheel alignment is good. Find a nice flat and straight section of road to do this. If the FJ Cruiser pulls to one side there is a problem. Incorrect wheel alignment can lead to excessive tyre wear and more frequent tyre changes. Additionally, it can make an FJ Cruiser’s driving experience less enjoyable and even less safe.

Very poor wheel alignment could be a sign of an owner who doesn’t care much for their FJ Cruiser as they probably should have got it sorted before putting the car on the market.

Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.

Wheels

Inspect the wheels closely for any damage, especially if you are looking at a special edition model with unique wheels as these could be expensive to replace. Curb damage isn’t usually much of an issue due to the height of the tyres, but damage may have occurred off-roading. Most of the time light damage can be repaired, but if it is quite bad the rim may need to be replaced.

While you are checking for curb damage, be on the lookout for any dents, cracking or buckling as these sorts of problems often require a new wheel.

If you notice that the FJ Cruiser is fitted with aftermarket wheels, ask the owner if they have the originals (especially if the car is a special edition model). Having the original wheels will only add

Tyres

Good tyres can be expensive, so check for the following issues:

  • Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future.
  • Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres of the FJ Cruiser. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – In terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance, increased wear, reliability issues and may even be dangerous.
  • Pressure – It can be a good idea to check tyre pressures when conducting an inspection. If the tyre pressures are wrong it can cause the car to pull to the left or right during acceleration. Incorrect tyre pressures can also lead to increased wear and fuel consumption as well.

Interior

The interior is known to be tough and durable, so there isn’t much to worry about here. Check the seats for any rips, tears, stains, etc. and make sure they have not collapsed. If the seats move during acceleration or braking it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure.

Ask the seller if they wash the interior. While it was a selling point it can lead to mould, bad smells, corrosion and issues with the electronics. If you do ever wash the interior you need to pull all the linings and let it air out.

Make sure you check the carpets and rest of the cabin for any dampness or signs of a leak. Water can play havoc with the electronics if it gets in the wrong place and can lead to a nasty smell as well. Feel around the carpets and turn over the floor mats. If you see water residue on the bottom of the floor mats it could be a sign of a past or present leak. Dampness in the interior could also be a sign that the vehicle has been flooded, so keep that in mind.

If the vehicle is a special edition model, make sure it has the right trim pieces (colour matching seats, etc.) as these can be expensive to replace if they are missing or damaged.

Electrics and Other Things

Credit: Toyota

You shouldn’t have too many issues when it comes to the electrical components. However, it is important to make sure the multi-info display is working correctly, especially if it has been fitted retrospectively.

Another thing to check is the antenna as lots of them break when going through car washes, etc. Lots of owners fit aftermarket ones to solve this issue.

The lights on the mirrors can also cause trouble and not work. Replacing them is a bit of a nightmare as you need to remove the delicate mirror glass. A lot of owners don’t bother replacing the light because of this, but it is always worth keeping this problem as a bargaining point.

If no warning lights appear during start-up it may be a sign of an issue or that they have been disconnected. Alternatively, if they stay on you need to investigate the issue further and possibly take the car to a Toyota specialist or mechanic to find out what is causing the warning light before purchase.

General Car Buying Advice for an FJ Cruiser

Credit: Toyota

How to Get the Best Deal on a Toyota FJ Cruiser

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.  

1. Research heavily –  Prior to starting your search for an FJ Cruiser, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage, late model Trail Teams or do you not mind an older 2007 FJ Cruiser that has travelled a bit further.

2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. While good FJ Cruisers will become harder to source over time, Toyota did sell a fair few of these cars, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.

3. Go look at and test drive multiple FJ Cruiser – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad Toyota FJ Cruiser.

4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for an FJ Cruiser for sale and only go for promising looking cars (unless you are looking for a project).

5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage –  Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.  

6. Don’t trust the owner –  While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.

7. Go between sellers/dealers –  If you are looking at multiple FJ Cruisers, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.  

8. Be prepared to walk away –  If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.  

Mileage vs Condition  

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.  

Service History and Other Documentation 

Credit: Toyota

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Toyota specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). Home mechanic work is okay, but it is much harder to gauge the competence of a home mechanic than checking reviews for established businesses.

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Toyota FJ Cruiser you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.  

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.  

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them. 

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner  

  • How often do you drive the car? 
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by? 
  • How much oil does it use? 
  • What oil do you use in the car? 
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle? 
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed? 
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made? 
  • Is there any money owing on the car? 
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle? 
  • Is there any rust? 
  • Has rust been removed at any point? 
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time? 
  • Where do you store/park the car usually? 

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important. 

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Toyota FJ Cruiser

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.  

  • Overheating problems or significant past overheating problems
  • Poor compression
  • Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof 
  • Money owing on the car  
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner  
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad resprays 
  • Significant rust problems  
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines  
  • Significant track use
  • Major engine or transmission issues  
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something) 

Notes on the Owner  

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Toyota FJ Cruiser (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.  

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well. 
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away. 
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer. 
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump? 
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions? 
  • Do they know anything about the FJ Cruiser and the model they are selling (TTSE, TRD, etc.)
  • What can they tell you about previous owners? 
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer. 
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond. 
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?  
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car? 

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another FJ Cruiser.

Importing a Toyota FJ Cruiser from Japan

Credit: Toyota

How to Import an FJ Cruiser from Japan

While importing a Toyota FJ Cruiser from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually relatively simple. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search something like “import FJ Cruiser”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.  

Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.  

Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:  

JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.  

Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.

Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.

Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!

Use a Private Importer

While the websites above are a handy way to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing an FJ Cruiser, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find a suitable Toyota FJ Cruiser for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle. 

You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.

How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work?  

The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles 

They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.  

Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.  

While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.  

Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.  

Use the grade to reduce the number of FJ Cruisers you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).

The Auction Check Sheet  

Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a Toyota FJ Cruiser and where any problems are located.  

Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.  

What Does the Number Grade Mean?  
  • Grade 7 to 9 or S – New car with delivery miles. 
  • Grade 6 – Same as above but with a few more miles. 
  • Grade 5 – Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles. 
  • Grade 4.5 – Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock. 
  • Grade 4 – Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles. 
  • Grade 3.5 – Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles. 
  • Grade 3 – Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work. 
  • Grade 2 – Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these. 
  • Grade 1 – Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple). 
  • Grade 0, A, R, RA – Some repair history that can be major or minor. 
The Letter Grade 

As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.  

The Car Map  

The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide. 

Our Guidelines for Importing a Mazda MX-5 from Japan

  • Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase  
  • If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.  
  • Try to go through a private importer
  • Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame  
  • Cross reference the check sheet with other websites  
  • Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)  
  • Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)  
  • Be careful of heavily modified vehicles  
  • Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.  
  • Avoid cars with unknown mileages  
  • Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true  
  • Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents 
  • Keep in mind that Japan drives on the left-side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right of the car 
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws  

Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example,some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age. 

Summary of Buying a Toyota FJ Cruiser

Credit: Toyota

The FJ Cruiser is a fantastic car. It is reliable, capable and we think it is great looking. However, a bad one can be expensive to own, so it is important to make sure you look for one that has been maintained well. We would probably avoid 2007/08 models if possible, but if you are on a budget a good one from those years should still provide plenty of miles of trouble free motoring.

We hope this guide has covered most of what you need to know and if you have anything to add, leave a comment below.

References

TCT Magazine – Toyota FJ Cruiser History – Toyota FJ Cruiser History – Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine | Land Cruiser, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Tacoma, Toyota Trucks (tctmagazine.net)

The FJ Company – History of the Toyota FJ Series – History of the Toyota FJ Series – The FJ Company Blog

Auto123 – 2003 TOYOTA FJ CRUISER CONCEPT – 2003 Toyota FJ Cruiser Concept | Car News | Auto123

Motortrend (23/02/2005) – 2005 Chicago Auto Show: 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Photo Gallery – 2005 Chicago Auto Show: 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Photo Gallery (motortrend.com)

Dale Jewett (08/02/2005) – 2005 Chicago: Toyota shows it can go retro with heritage-steeped FJ Cruiser – 2005 Chicago: Toyota shows it can go retro with heritage-steeped FJ Cruiser (autoweek.com)

Toyota Canada – The 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser delivers more power, less fuel: An upgraded engine and new technologies that continue to prove its off-roading heritage – The 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser delivers more power, less fuel: An upgraded engine and new technologies that continue to prove its off-roading heritage | Toyota Canada

Toyota Canada – The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser: Rugged off-roader now features even more standard equipment and new adventure packages for both manual and automatic models – The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser: Rugged off-roader now features even more standard equipment and new adventure packages for both manual and automatic models | Toyota Canada

Toyota Canada – The 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser: New audio system and wheels highlight upgrades to the powerful off-road-ready SUV inspired by Toyota’s legendary FJ40 Landcruiser – The 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser: New audio system and wheels highlight upgrades to the powerful off-road-ready SUV inspired by Toyota’s legendary FJ40 Landcruiser | Toyota Canada

Toyota USA Newsroom (12/09/2012) – 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser Adds New Cement Grey Trail Teams Special Edition Model – 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser Adds New Cement Grey Trail Teams Special Edition Model – Toyota USA Newsroom

Toyota USA Newsroom (16/09/2013) – 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Continues A Long Tradition of Off-Road Capability – 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Continues A Long Tradition of Off-Road Capability – Toyota USA Newsroom

Sean P. Holman (01/06/2008) – 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD Review – Long-Term Report – 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD Review – Long-Term Report (motortrend.com)

FoxtrotJuliet (01/09/2014) – What were the TRD Package FJs about? – What were the TRD Package FJs about? | Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum (fjcruiserforums.com)

Fourby4Diesel (25/05/2021) – THE MIGHTY V6 1gr-fe 4.0lt what to look out for – 90% similar to DIESEL Toyota Land Cruiser – bonus – THE MIGHTY V6 1gr-fe 4.0lt what to look out for – 90% similar to DIESEL Toyota Land Cruiser – bonus – YouTube

SmoothCriminal (19/04/2014) – Maintenance Schedule – Maintenance Schedule | Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum (fjcruiserforums.com)

ScottL (3/12/2021) – PCV Valve replacement – PCV Valve replacement | Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum (fjcruiserforums.com)

FJtest (02/06/2017) – Why Torque Converters Shudder (Just had mine replaced) – Why Torque Converters Shudder (Just had mine replaced) | Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum (fjcruiserforums.com)

FJtest (28/01/2021) – Four Wheel Drive Not Working – Four Wheel Drive Not Working | Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum (fjcruiserforums.com)

Leave a Comment