2003 Toyota 4runner Guide

2003 Toyota 4Runner Guide: Is It Worth Buying?

The 2003 Toyota 4Runner belongs to the 4th gen Toyota 4Runner, which is widely considered as the best generation of all time. After 1995, 4Runners occupied the mid-size SUV category.

The 2003 4Runner model was a whole new generation of Toyota 4Runners. The size grew a couple of inches more than the previous 2002 model, which is why it is one of the larger ones in the mid-size SUV category. 

The third-row seating was introduced at the end of 2003 (for the 2004 model year). 

With the increase in size, the 4Runner was now looking much more intimidating. The new shape was similar to the Toyota Land Cruiser as the base platform was the Land Cruiser Prado. Many aspects are relatable to several other Toyota lineups – which we will discuss in detail in the later section in our 2003 Toyota 4Runner Guide.

2003 Toyota 4Runner Specs

2003 Toyota 4Runner Variants/Trim Levels 

There are 3 trim levels available in the 2003 Toyota 4Runner:

  • SR5
  • Sport Edition
  • Limited

4.0L 1GRFE V6 is standard across all trim levels making 245 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque. The 4.7L 2UZ-FE V8 was available as an option making 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. The later models had the VVT-i, which further increased the output to 268 hp.  

All trim levels are available in a standard rear-wheel-drive configuration and all-wheel drive as an option. The 4-speed automatic is standard, while the 5-speed automatic is an available option. The 4.7L V8 only had the 5-speed automatic paired to it.   


The standard model 4Runner is the SR5. It has the minimum number of features and is also the least expensive. The rear-wheel-drive models without the 4-wheel-drive option are the cheapest ones in the market.

All the bells and whistles are optional for this model. The appearance package was available, which replaced the grey plastic cladding with color-keyed bumpers and added much more. 

Continue reading our full guide to Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium.

Sport Edition

The sport edition, along with the SR5, had grey plastic cladding bumpers. Unlike the SR5, the Sport model had a better suspension which was an extra option on the SR5.

This suspension is known as the X-Relative Absorber System (X-REAS) suspension. This system links the dampers diagonally using a mechanical center valve utilizing hydraulics. Therefore, the system prevents excessive body roll at high-speed cornering. This feature was available as an option in the other two variants.  


The top of the line variant is the Limited. It has all the bells and whistles and is also the most expensive one on the list. It comes with color-keyed bumpers as standard, which were an extra option for the SR5 and Sprot Edition models. The wheels were also an inch larger than the standard SR5 and Sport Edition Trims.

2003 Toyota 4Runner MPG

2003 Toyota 4Runner

2003 Toyota 4Runner Trim Levels

MPG City/Highway:

4.0L V6 RWD 4-Speed Automatic 

  • 16/20

4.0L V6 4WD 4-Speed Automatic 

  • 15/19

4.7L V8 RWD 5-Speed Automatic 

  • 15/18

4.7 L V8 4WD 5-Speed Automatic

  • 14/17

2003 Toyota 4Runner Prices

The 2003 Toyota 4Runner is expensive. Due to the rise in Overlanding’s popularity, hordes of people are looking to buy one of these. 4Runner being a Toyota, is more expensive than the competitors of the same category. You can find a Jeep Grand Cherokee much cheaper than a Toyota 4Runner. 

According to Kelly’s Blue Book, a fair price for the Toyota 4Runner should be $6000-$11000. Here on Autotrader, you can find 4Runners listed for as low as $3000. If you are searching for a reasonably priced 4Runner with all the offroad capability, the 2003 model is the best choice. 

It is the most economical option as it is not overpriced like the 2004 Toyota 4Runner, which is only a little different from the 2003 model 4Runner. The biggest difference in terms of performance is the lack of power in the 2003 model. The V8 did not have the VVt-i in 2003. VVT-i was introduced in 2004.  

2003 Toyota 4Runner Accessories

2003 Toyota 4Runner SR5

The 4th gen Toyota 4Runner is the all-time favorite of car enthusiasts. The Overlanding community has been modifying their 4Runners for quite some time now. Finding the right parts will not be hard. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Bumper 

The 2003 Toyota 4Runner has those grey plastic bumpers if it is not having the performance package. These are the ones that you can find for cheap. After getting yourself a good deal, you can pour some money on some good aftermarket bumpers.

If you are looking to modify it to be an overlander and conquer difficult terrains, then having these aftermarket bumpers is a top priority. 

These aftermarket bumpers will give you the leverage to put on recovery points, Hitch receiver, tire mounts, bicycle mounts, winches, etc. The aftermarket bumpers are going to provide plenty of options to work with. If you take the route of installing everything separately, it will soon become a headache. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Camping

The objective of Overlanding boils down to camping in the wild, and having all of that freedom demands some necessities. You can do so much in luxury that the essence of camping can easily be lost. The best way to organize and prepare your camping gear is to pack only the amount of stuff you will require for your survival while trying to keep everything simple.  

You can find plenty of camping gear here on Amazon. You should get those which are neither too cheap nor too expensive. If you go with the most expensive ones, 7 out of 10, will be a rip-off. While on the other hand, if you go with the cheap ones, 9 out of 10, it will be useless. 

Make sure to have the reasonably priced set up, so if you are to change it in the future, it will not hit your budget hard. For the basic setup, you need a solar power generator (to give you enough power for your lights), stove, and propane canisters, fishing gear (if you are traveling along with a water source), a tent, etc. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Roof Rack

Roof racks are extremely useful and probably the most beneficial mod that you can make to your 4Runner. Just like aftermarket bumpers, a roof rack can give you enormous options to work with.

You can mount your tent on it, but all of your camping gear on it, mount your bike on it, etc. Having a rooftop tent instead of a sleeping mattress inside is the best camping experience. There are tons of options for rooftop tents as well for you to choose from. 

Best 2003 Toyota 4Runner Replacement Parts

2003 Toyota 4Runner

More than a hundred thousand units of 2003 Toyota 4Runner have been sold; therefore, finding replacement parts would not be that hard. But as the popularity of Overlanding is increasing day by day, finding parts will keep on getting difficult unless the aftermarket senses the urgency and meets with the demand. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Tires

You can find a plethora of options available for your 2003 4Runner. There are two-wheel sizes available in Toyota 4Runner from the factory. You can either have the standard 16-inch wheel, or the 17-inch wheel – a standard option in the Limited model, and an available option for the SR5 and Sport Edition. 

The all-season tires come from the factory, and if you are traveling in snow-covered regions, then having the snow tires is a must. You can find the right tires here from tirerack.com. The best option, however, is to buy your tires offline from physical stores. The only drawback that you face in these stores is the lack of variety.  

2003 Toyota 4Runner Air Filters

Air filters are one of the regular maintenance items. The best way to go is to have the OEM air filter that is widely available at dealerships, but you can get the same air filter online at a much lower price. Make sure that the product is original as there are lots of counterfeit products circulating the market. You can read the reviews to know for sure if a product is genuine. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Headlights

This is where the aftermarket truly shines. The stock headlights are bland and do not pack much of a punch in terms of aesthetics. You can upgrade your headlights to the aftermarket, which are super good-looking and also equipped with DRLs. With all said and done, your 4Runner will look more futuristic than ever. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Brake Pads

This is the part where you should never compromise. If you have the slightest feeling that your brakes are getting weak, have them inspected and replaced if necessary. Brake inspection should be a part of your routine maintenance – when you are having your oil changed. 

Nothing is better than having that sense of safety that during an emergency maneuver, your brakes will not fail you. Most of the time, loose brakes are caused by worn-out brake pads. There are also other reasons like brake fluid leakage or brake fluid contamination. You can check the brake line to ensure that everything is intact and also the brake fluid is fine. 

Sometimes water gets into the brake lines can cause the brakes to feel smushy. A similar phenomenon is caused by air pockets, which form during extremely high temperatures.

It happens due to prolonged braking and or with a trailer on the back. If everything is in tip-top shape, other than the brake pads, then no worries, we have got you covered. You can find a good set of brake pads for your Toyota 4Runner here at Amazon. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Mods

2003 Toyota 4Runner

Nothing is better than personalizing your 4Runner to be called your own. Each modified 4Runner is unique, just like each person is. To get rid of that same uniform look, personalize your 4Runner to be more esthetically exquisite and more capable offroad. Toyota 4Runner is the best platform to work with when trying to modify a vehicle into an offroad monster. 

The advantage of this chassis is the body on frame setup. Because of this type of configuration, the 4Runner is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in other words, a truck disguised as an SUV. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Lift Kits 

While offroading, the biggest problem that most vehicles face is the lack of ground clearance. You can increase the ground clearance and get some extra perks on top.

When you put about 2 inches of lift by adding spacers, not only will you get more ground clearance, you will also be able to put bigger tires on it. There are many other options to lift your 4Runner. You can have a lift kit, which will give you 3 inches of lift easily. 

If you want to go bonkers on the lift, you can add aftermarket coil-overs, which can even give about 6 inches of lift without a hitch. The choices are endless. It all boils down to your preference.  

2003 Toyota 4Runner Maintenance Schedule

2003 Toyota 4Runner

To ensure your 4Runner keeps on running without a problem, you need to focus on its maintenance. These SUVs have been in the market for about two decades now, and there is no doubt that they will require maintenance – more than a brand new one. After a few hundred thousand miles, some internal components would require replacement. 

The 4Runner, however, will give you less of a challenge compared to the competitors as Toyota parts are more sturdy and would not give up that easily. With that said, let us look at the components and their respect interval at which you would need to replace them. As this SUV is quite old, you would have to carry out frequent rust prevention treatments as well. 

Miles/Maintenance Schedule

After Every

  • 3,000 miles
  • 9,000 miles
  • 15,000 miles
  • 27,000 miles
  • Examine the brake pipes and lines
  • Examine the air cleaner
  • Examine the chassis body nuts and bolts
  • Examine the cooling system, hoses, and clamps. Inspect exhaust system
  • Change engine oil
  • Change engine oil filter
  • Rotate tires

After Every

  • 6,000 miles
  • Examine the brake pipes and lines.
  • Examine the chassis body nuts and bolts.
  • Examine the cooling system, hoses, and clamps.
  • Examine the exhaust system
  • Keep ball joints lubricated.
  • Change the engine oil
  • Change the engine oil filter.
  • Rotate the tires

After Every

  • 30000 miles
  • Inspect and replace the spark plugs if required
  • Inspect the whole electronics system and see if all the sensors are working right
  • Examine the exhaust system.
  • Lubricate ball joints
  • Change the engine oil.
  • Replace the engine oil filter
  • Rotate tires
  • inspect the PCV valve
  • Replace the spark plugs
  • Drain and replace the transmission oil

After Every

  • 36000 miles
  • Drain and refill front and rear axle oil. thoroughly inspect the suspension components

2003 Toyota 4Runner Recalls

2003 Toyota 4Runner

In this section, we will be looking at all the recalls conducted for the 2003 Toyota 4Runner. When looking for a 2003 4Runner in the market, make sure that it has received all the repairs – carried out in those recalls. 

There have been 3 recalls in total for the 2003 Toyota 4Runner. We will go through all three of them. 

Accelerator Gets Stuck in Wide Open Throttle

This was a common issue in many Toyota vehicles, including the 4Runner. It happened due to an improper design element of the floor mats which caused the pedal to get stuck. The recall was announced to prevent any or all kinds of possible dangers because of the floor mats. 

Fuel Leak

The V6 models were the unlucky victim of this demise. The fuel pulsation damper was the culprit that caused the leaking problem in thousands of 4Runners. Due to a poor assembly of the damper, the diaphragm in it gets damaged, resulting in fuel leaking into the engine bay and potentially causing a fire hazard. 

During the recall process, the dealerships replaced this damper to avoid fire hazards. Ensure while buying your next ride that it has attended the recall and no such problem is present. 

The Spare Tire Problem 

This issue is a result of poor implementation of an extra feature – upgraded wheels, which did not address the fact that the SUV also has a spare tire. 

Now the problem came to the surface when the size of wheel lug nuts did not fit into the spare tire – as the upgraded wheels require a different size lug nut. Using the same wheel nut on the spare could damage the threads and potentially lead to an accident as the nuts would become loose and the tire would come off. 

There were not that many 4Runners equipped with this package; therefore, this is a rare occurrence. Those who did get the wheels were given separate lug nuts and revised caution labels for the lug nuts. The Owner’s manual also received some rectifications in this regard.  

2003 Toyota 4Runner Common Problems

2003 Toyota 4Runner

Cracked Dashboard

This is the biggest problem that haunts every other 4Runner on the planet. The dashboard tends to crack, as many Toyota dashboards would in time – if they are not kept covered. The dashboard material is sensitive to direct sunlight and heat, and if not taken care of, the cracks will appear and ruin the dashboard completely. 

This problem can also help you find a clean 4Runner. If the owner has taken care of her 4Runner, the dashboard will not have cracks. On the other hand, if the dashboard is cracked, it shows that the owner did not give much attention to her SUV. You should also be cautious of the repaired dash. 

A telltale sign of a repaired dash is the sticky material that becomes apparent when you wipe the surface with any dashboard cleaner – specially made for dashboards. The sticky substance will appear and would not come off without putting in a lot of work. 

4WD Actuator Gets Stuck

This is a common issue that happens when the transfer case is not in use for quite some time. This is one of those things – use it or lose it. Once the actuator gets stuck, you will have to spend a lot of bucks to have it back in working shape. If you are planning to offroad, then make sure that all the settings work without any struggle. 

Make a routine to use the 4 low every once a month, even when you are not offroading, to ensure that the components are moving and are not stuck stationery into one place. Also, use the lock and unlock transfer case – again to have that free movement. 

X-REAS Suspension Problem 

The X-REAS suspension that comes as standard in sport models and as an option in Limited is a marvel no doubt. But the marvel remains only until it no longer does. The hydraulic suspension is a marvel known to fail. 

If you come across a working example, then it is great, the suspension is wonderful, but most of the time, they do not last, and most owners have already shifted to other brands as the replacement cost is the same as the cost for high-end aftermarket ones. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Resale Value

The resale value of these 2003 Toyota 4Runners is surprisingly good. Due to covid, a lot of sectors have been disrupted, and long story short, the used vehicle prices have gone up, and the highest in resale are Toyotas. The 2003 Toyota 4Runner is a better choice as it is a little less than its immediate model years, and that price will remain according to the foreseeable future. 

2003 Toyota 4Runner Competitors

2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee

There are plenty of competitors thriving in the market to give the 4Runner a tough time. The most challenging rival is none other than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which competes with the 4Runner in every aspect of this segment. Both are offering offroad capability with luxury incorporated. Other than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, here is a list of competitors:

  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Toyota Sequoia
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser
  • Nissan X-Terra 
  • Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 
  • Lexus GX470
  • Honda Pilot 
  • Ford Explorer
  • Hummer H3

2003 Toyota 4Runner FAQs

Question: 2003 Toyota 4Runner vs Sequoia

Answer: When comparing both of these models, there are several things to consider. Firstly, the 4Runner is not a full-size SUV like Sequoia, rather it is a mid-size SUV having a capacity of 5 instead of 8 as in Sequoia. The luxury aspect is prominent in Sequoia, while the 4Runner takes the win in the offroad battle. 

Both of these SUVs are great. The choice, however, depends on your requirements. If you need a full-size SUV, then go for Sequoia, and if you want the offroad capability, then 4Runner it is. 

Question: Do 4Runners Rust A Lot?

Answer: In general, all vehicles rust – does the 4Runner rust more, you may ask? No, not really. The reason why you will see a lot of them accumulating rust is that it has been almost decade-s with an “S” since the 2003 model hit the market. Spending that much time will put a toll on it. 

It is not uncommon to see them rusted. And because these are capable offroaders, the battering from all the moisture that comes from dirt is exasperating. If rust prevention treatment has not been implemented in routine maintenance, the rust will inevitably eat away the frame.  

Question: 2003 Toyota 4Runner Has Timing Belt or Timing Chain?

Answer: The 4th gen Toyota 4Runner, including the 2003 Toyota 4Runner has a timing chain setup instead of a timing belt. Both the 4.0L 1GRFE V6 and 4.7L 2UZ-FE V8 are equipped with timing chains. 

Final Thoughts

The 4th gen Toyota 4Runner is one of those gems in the automotive industry that have set the pace for future models. These were the benchmarks that the companies followed.

With no fuel injector system, the driver feels more connected to the SUV, and the experience is not numb, as in fuel-injected engines. It is truly something that we are happy to have and sorrowful, at the same, for knowing that we may not find something like this again.

Another reason to buy the 2003 model is the price difference. The same gen – 2004 model is fetching a much higher price than the 2003 model, which makes it a better bargain if you are on the buying side. Research has shown that they are also very good at retaining their value. 

Research Citations

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top