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Building A Daily Drivable Toyota 4Runner That's Ready For Off-Road Trails

Our friend Tim caught the overlanding bug when he first purchased his Subaru Crosstrek back in 2021. He immediately lifted it and began modifying it heavily. However, as he continued building it and pushing it to its limits, he found that he wanted an even bigger rig to handle his off-road and travel demands.

Tim is a photographer/videographer by trade that has worked with Tokina Lenses, Diamond Supply Co. and folks like Ed Bolian (VinWiki), Freddie Tavarish, and Tyler Hoover on the set of Car Trek. As such, he’s traveled countless miles to and from various filming locations. So after researching multiple vehicles and educating himself on what mods he would need, he landed on a 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road. It was exactly what he needed for long-distance traveling with serious off-road capability.

We sat down with Tim and talked over his entire build so far. He was kind enough to give us a full rundown of what he’s done and his upcoming plans for the car. In this interview you’ll learn what tires, lift kit, under body protection, and accessories he selected for his Toyota to build a fully functional daily driver that he can take anywhere, at any time.

2018 lifted Toyota 4Runner in the snow mountains

First things first….

2018 4Runner Mod List:

  • Ironman 4×4 FC S2 Suspension Lift Set At 3 Inches
  • Black Rhino Aliso 17 Inch Wheels
  • Toyo Open Country AT3 285/70R17 Tires
  • Diode Dynamics SS3 Fog Lights
  • Ironman 4×4 Skid Plates
  • Ironman 4×4 Diff Breathers
  • Dobinson Snorkel
  • Cali Raised Rock Sliders
  • Cali Raised Molle Panels
  • Rago Fabrication Lower Shock Guard and Dash Mount

What turned you into a "car guy" and an offroader?

It was my roommate. He had a little Jeep Trailhawk and one day he was like ‘hey I’m gonna go camping’ and he had just got the car. So he leaves for a week in this brand new car. When he comes back home, he’s got branch marks and paint damage all over the car. I asked him what happened to the Jeep and pulls out his phone and starts showing me footage of their trip. They spent a week cruising through the Ozarks on forest roads – barely touching any pavement. They just lived in the woods for a whole week out of their vehicles.

I grew up in the country and everyone just had their “yeet yeet” truck and I never found that exciting. But now you realize that these days people are building their rigs for functionality and I think that’s what caught my eye. Essentially being able to build my own “zombie apocalypse vehicle” seemed really interesting and fun. So I started out with a Subaru Crosstrek that I built. But I pushed it to its full potential and decided to move up to something even bigger with true 4 wheel drive since I felt limited by the Subaru’s CVT.

2018 lifted Toyota 4Runner in the fall

Why did you ultimately decide to move up to a true 4 wheel drive SUV like your 4Runner?

I was headed back home from work in California and I saw this sand park in Nevada. I saw all these trucks cruising through the park and having fun. So I pulled 10 feet into the sand and “boooop!’ I high centered the body straight to the floor. I could move forward or reverse. I had tracks and it still took an hour to get it out. At that point I realized I might want something bigger.

How hard was it to fit your 33's (285/70R17 tires) on the 4Runner?

Not hard at all honestly. Even just with the mild lift on the 4Runner, I didn’t have to do anything extra to fit them on the car. I do have some slight rubbing on the fender liner at full lock in reverse. If that’s something that bothers someone, they can easily massage the liner with a heat gun in about 30 minutes.

2018 lifted Toyota 4Runner in the snow

Are you planning to run a bigger tire on the 4Runner? What all would you have to do to safely run something bigger than your 33's?

It’s a daily driver and I already only get 15mpg. So the idea of going bigger isn’t as attractive to me since I do a ton of driving for my film work. Yes I could do some rock crawling and some more crazy off-road stuff in the 4Runner if I was on 40’s or something. But I just don’t think it’s the vehicle I’m going to do that with. I’d rather have a dedicated wheeler that I can break without having it affect my life. If I break the 4Runner, now I don’t have a way to get to my jobs.

Upgrading to a tire much bigger than 33-35 inches would require a lot of supporting mods, such as re-geared differentials (easily $2500), beefed up steering, and possibly a transmission cooler.

2018 lifted Toyota 4Runner in the desert

What are some major pros and cons when comparing your lifted Crosstrek to your new 4Runner?

Number one is gas mileage. My Crosstrek got 27mpg when stock. By the time I was done with it, it got about 19mpg with all the added weight from the gear and mods I had done to it. But even with the lowered mpg it was still more fuel efficient than a stock 4Runner. 

Also, having 4 low in the 4Runner really allows you to move bigger tires and harness the engine’s full power in a wide range of situations. With an AWD car like a RAV4 or Subaru you are really limited on gearing.

I also really like the ability to take my dog with me out on the trails. She loves getting out and playing in the snow. The 4Runner is quite a bit bigger than the Subaru and once I have rooftop storage, there’s going to be even more room for her in the back.

Why did you choose the TRD Off-Road instead of the "Fancier" TRD Pro?

The biggest upgrades that are included with the TRD Pro are better suspension and special wheels/tires. Since I was already planning to put a suspension lift and aftermarket wheels and tires, I didn’t want to waste the money on the Pro trim. The Off-Road package already came with every accessory and feature that I needed: leather, heated seats, etc.

What mods do you want to do next?

There’s a company called Lil B that makes a full prerunner style bumper for the car. I’d love to install one of those. It’s got spots for lights and a winch. I also want to install an aftermarket roof rack. I use my roof to store a lot of my camera gear for work – lights, tripods etc. and I also really want to get a rooftop tent. Me and my girl do a lot of traveling and it would be the most convenient way to get out and adventure without worrying about where we’re going to stay. They also help a lot with keeping you warm and up off the ground away from any wild animals that might be around in places like Colorado where we’ve camped before.

I also need to get a set of Apex Designs rapid valves. They’re a valve stem system that allows you to deflate the tires instantly with the turn of a dial.

2018 lifted Toyota 4Runner in the snow

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