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The 5 Best Bang for the Buck Toyota 4Runner Mods

The Toyota 4Runner is one of the most popular SUVs on the market, and it’s been that way for a very long time. Reliable, reasonably simple to work on, and capable when the going gets rough, there are hundreds of thousands of 4Runners out on the trail on any given weekend.

Toyota 4runner with rooftop tent and Nitto Ridge Grappler tires

Naturally, with so many examples in play the list of aftermarket upgrades aimed at the Toyota is considerable. Here’s a look at the best bang for your buck when trying to decide which mods will lead to more fun on the trail without breaking the bank.

Toyota 4Runner fording water on Nittos

Off-Road Rubber

The most cost-effective upgrade anyone can make to their vehicle is installing the right set of tires, and the story is no different for the Toyota 4Runner. Whether you’re looking for hardcore off-road capability or a good mix between asphalt comfort and quiet and trail-ready ruggedness, there are a number of aftermarket tire options out there that will get the job done and which represent a huge upgrade over the factory tire.

Toyota 4Runner on Nitto tires

Consider a brand like Nitto, which offers a range of toughened up tires in 4Runner-friendly sizes. For more focused adventures far off the beaten path, something like the Trail Grappler or Ridge Grappler delivers the kind of aggressive tread pattern, strong sidewall, and larger diameter that are key to overcoming all types of obstacles.

Toyota 4Runner on Nitto tires in red, climbing berm

If you want to balance daily driving with weekend excursions into the wilderness, then an all terrain tire like the Recon Grappler is a better bet, as they ask drivers to make fewer sacrifices in terms of noise and handling capability on dry pavement.

Auxiliary Lighting

You can’t always get back to the trailhead before darkness falls, and you of course can’t count on streetlights to guide you back to civilization. When you’re out exploring, the only lighting you’ll have is what you bring with you, which makes auxiliary illumination a key upgrade for all-day excursions.

Toyota 4Runner with intense auxiliary lighting

Recent years have created a boom in LED lighting options, which has been a huge boon to Toyota 4Runner fans. With their small footprint and modest power demands, it’s possible to mount LED off-road lights nearly anywhere on your rig, with only a simple wiring job and bracket installation required. This makes it even easier to add lights well out of the way, such as on the roof or the tops of the fenders, rather than on bumpers or in the grille, to protect them from potential impacts while negotiating tricky sections.

Toyota 4Runner with rear auxiliary lighting

The best thing about lights? You can start as small as your budget allows, and then build over time to include illumination at the front, rear, and sides. It’s the kind of iterative 4Runner mod that allows you to position lighting first where you need most and expand from there.


A caveat here: you can certainly spend a lot of money on a winch if you want to, with higher end examples priced between $1,500 and $3,000. That being said, there are also more affordable options from brands like Harbor Freight and Summit that will keep you comfortably under the $1000 mark.

Toyota 4Runner with winch

Why would you want a winch? Attaching this tech to your bumper is like always having a friend ready to tug you out of trouble when you get in over your head, whether it’s mud pit too deep, a slope too slippery, or a snowbank that can’t be conquered using four-wheel drive alone.

Toyota 4Runner with winch and Nitto banner on windshield

As an added bonus, a winch automatically makes you everyone else’s best friend as soon as they have trouble on the trail, as you can safely extract them from their own predicament.

Skid Plates

Skid plates are the kind of Toyota 4Runner mod you don’t fully appreciate until you experience the kind of off-road incident that their presence would have made much less dramatic. All that rubbing and scraping can take its toll on the more delicate components sitting under your chassis, and even if you have already installed a significant lift on your rig, there’s always a sharp rock or a stump out there somewhere that’s exactly the same height as your gas tank.

Toyota 4Runner with TRD skid plates installed

Installing skid plates to cover up said tank, along with you oil pan and other vulnerable areas, can mean the difference between making it home at the end of the day and having to pay for an expensive tow and clean-up because you just dumped all of your fuel in the creek. Although they’re not that pricy to buy, if you’re at all handing with a welder you can also fabricate your own. Remember, no one’s going to see these, and over a long enough timeline even the nicest skid plates get badly banged up if you’re doing it right.


Bumpers are another item you can make yourself, although the much more public nature of their installation means you’ll probably want to be confident in your esthetic skills as a fabricator. That being said, tube bumpers or steel bumpers are a definite asset on the trail, regardless of whether you order them from a catalog or build them in your garage, as they can seriously improve the approach and departure angles of your 4Runner.

Toyota 4Runner rock crawling with tube bumpers installed

They’ll also likely take abuse a lot better than the factory bumpers, which means you won’t have to drive around with gnarly battle scars from any weekend activities that involved an intimate encounter with a rock or a tree.

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