Looks can most definitely be deceiving.
Friends, this could get interesting. There's certainly some shock-and-awe with this deceptively clean Toyota 4Runner, but honestly, we're more interested to hear from you, dear readers. That's because those in northern latitudes with snowy, salty winters will likely have a very different opinion versus those in the warm, salt-free south. And we're very keen to hear about these different assessments so by all means, jump into the comments below.
Before we get to that, we need to talk about this SUV. It's a 2003 model that, according to this video from Toyota Maintenance, lived much of its life in New York before transitioning to the West Coast. For the record, this isn't an official Toyota channel but one simply devoted to taking care of Toyotas. And since it's based in California, the mechanic apparently hasn't had much experience working on vehicles from the American rustbelt.
In his defense, this Toyota is quite the machine. Usually, such corrosion comes with at least some clues on the exterior, be it rusty fenders or bubbles around the fuel door. Looking at it from the outside, the SUV looks like a well-kept machine, but underneath is a very different story as it's literally falling apart in areas. The front core support is completely rotted away on one side, and the other would've probably rotted out too if additional metal hadn't been welded in at some point. There's also extra metal welded to the frame in spots, but overall it looks like the freaking Titanic under that silver body.
With many Motor1.com staffers based in the rust belt, we have some experience with such things and this could be the result of more than just salt-covered roads in winter. There's considerable corrosion under the hood, even on the top of the engine where you wouldn't expect to find much salt spray. Furthermore, the video says this 17-year-old 4Runner shows just 130,000 miles, which breaks down to 7,647 miles per year on average.
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Mileage that low suggests this SUV has spent considerable time sitting still. Water evaporation from the ground can wreak all kinds of rusty-undercarriage havoc on vehicles parked outside, notably on dirt or grass. That can also lead to the kind of corrosion we see under the hood, all while leaving the body relatively intact. We obviously don't know the history of this 4Runner, but given the mileage and the excessive underbody rust, it's at least a sound theory.
Regardless of how it happened, this SUV is a perfect example of why you should give used vehicles a thorough inspection no matter how good they look on the outside. This California-based mechanic isn't sure if the Toyota is even worth keeping around, but we know folks in the north have seen worse. What say you, Motor1.com reader? Is this a rolling deathtrap, or just another rust belt machine requiring penetrating oil and torches to properly work on?