Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Shocking Unexpected Trading Of The FJ

When I bought this FJ in May 2014 I had plans of keeping it forever. Even as late as last Friday I had plans to keep it. Things had been changing though and by late Friday night I was searching on for 2007 FJ's for sale within 100 miles from my house .. I also went to a site called to see if their analysis was a good deal and find out how long they had been on the market for sale. 

The story actually starts two days after I bought the FJ in 2014, when those 4 warning lights on the dash blinked on all at once. I called the small family owned car dealer I bought it from, someone I did not know, and asked about the lights and any info they could give me. They said they had never seen them. Sure they hadn't ...

I went to a FJ forum, and found it was a common problem with FJ's that had a lot of miles. There were various ideas, solutions, some worked some didn't. I started by unhooking the battery so the ESC could reboot itself and then find out if the lights came back on. They did but it took over 5 short trips for them to do that.

Possibilities were:
  • O2 sensors were bad
  • Gas cap was not tightened properly or o-ring wore out
  • Gasoline may have ethanol in the mix
  • Catalytic converters were bad
I went to the local Toyota Dealer to talk to their service manager and found out most likely it was the O2 sensors, they could be cleaned and that could be a fix. They tested the car and it coded out as O2 sensors NOT catalytic converters. He told me I could drive the car with those dash lights on but eventually I'd have to replace the converters.

Move forward to the end of May 2015 a year later. After the lights had stayed off once the O2 sensors were clean, about a week before we were headed on the trip to Utah, all four of them came back on. The guys on the forum had said all of those lights were set to come on at once, as a packaged deal.

Flying down I-70 going through Kansas in June 2015 with Heidi riding shotgun, with Winston and Sadie in back ... at about 80mph, those lights clicked off ... never saw them again until a few weeks after we returned home in Indiana.

Was it change in altitude or the difference in octane ... 91/93 here in Indiana but 93/96 out west. So any thought of catalytic converters went out the window of my mind. At this time I did not know the cost of replacing them.

So from June 2015 until December 2015, those lights went on and off intermittently. At no time did the performance of the engine decrease ... ran like new. It was quiet, powerful and with the hood open and then engine idling ... nothing sounded strange.

Sometime last winter in the snow .. January or February the lights come back on to stay on all the time. I am sitting at Dairy Queen drive through, close to the pickup window but right next to the wall of their building, window rolled down ... when I hear some sort of metal vibration or small rattling. I figured I had a loose nut or bolt on one of the skid plates, thinking I would fix it when the days got warmer and I could crawl under the FJ to look around.

It was the same "rattling bb's sound" I heard last week when I am under the FJ trying to find that sound ... catalytic converter ... off to Toyota we went.

By August 2016 I "thought" I was hearing a whine from somewhere, transmission, wheel bearing, u-joints ... what? That is like me trying to figure out if those blog photos are blurry or not or is it just my eyes. Since I am half crazy ... or accused by some people to be 100% nuts ... was I hearing things?

I was almost positive what I was hearing was getting louder by the week although I really don't drive that many miles per month now while retired. Even when I drove to Indy to trade it on Tuesday the sounds had gotten louder and I was concerned a little bit ... if I would make it 70 miles with a breakdown.

Last Friday, the 21st I had gone over to see my friend and stopped by Toyota Dealer to have them plug into my car to see what codes were popping up. A SHOCK!!!!

Catalytic converters were bad PLUS a new one ... something about 'brake lights circuit'. I had brake lights and tail lights so that one was confusing. It was at this time on the drive home for 20+ miles I thought about making a possible trade.

I wasn't going to take ~$5,000 out of my account to fix a car, any car with 146,252 miles on it. I might be wrong on that idea but I won't do it. So I started looking for a possible trade around midnight Friday night and as you know once I start researching it's a non-stop venture and things start moving pretty fast.

One reason I wanted to buy from a Toyota Dealer this time was because I know the car would have been gone over with a fine tooth comb to fix any issues it had before it was put on the lot for sale. Toyota actually pays their mechanics extra for every problem they find and fix during their inspection before putting the used vehicle up for sale.

In the mean time, Saturday morning I called the Toyota Dealership for a cost estimate for replacing the catalytic converters (2 each) and new O2 sensors. Plus I checked with a business I have used in the past that works on all foreign made cars along with the garage in town that works on all kinds of cars and trucks.

Cost estimates were from $4,500 to $5000 with the Toyota Dealership being the cheapest. I did an estimate to compare what it would cost to fix to trading for a new car and financing it. Since I had bought the Z4 in May with cash, I was going to have to finance the FJ if I made a trade. My analysis showed it was very close to the same amount of money if I were to make the trade compared to fixing the problem. I compared total cost left for paying it off and looking at estimated new loan to see it was going to cost me close to $5,000 either way.

One key point in the decision ... I could trade for the same FJ model except for the off road package that included rock rails, extra skid plates and the TRD performance exhaust ... but ... I would have an FJ with only 119,000 miles instead of 146,252. That's a lot of miles to some but with regular preventive maintenance Toyota's are known to go for 200-300,000 miles ... I'm afraid I will not live that long to test that amount of miles out at my current annual mileage rate.

You may be asking why not buy a newer model, less miles???? I like the style of the older models more than the newer ones. I also haven't found a color I like on the newer models. Toyota stopped making them in 2014 but currently there are rumors they are going back into production.

I had found one with a stock look instead of the radical "blacked out" look of the Voodoo Blue one I had. Same size of tires although it looked lower to the ground compared to the one I had. I actually liked what Toyota calls "black cherry" compared to the "voodoo blue".

The new one had a lot less rust on the undercarriage than the one I had. There was one minor body mark that I can get fixed, but it was also cleaner on the inside than mine from the previous owner, not the hounds. I also need to buff up the roof rack.

I also estimated that if I wanted to go back to a "blacked out FJ" I could do that to the new one for a lot less than spending $5,000 cash to fix the one I had. I didn't see keeping the old one just because of the way it looked.

So after talking to the sales person on Saturday I planned to go up on Tuesday to test drive and look at theirs while they looked at mine. (I also knew if I could go to Indianapolis for most of the day, that would give any strangers that were blog readers enough time to stop by the house and check on the hounds for me while I was gone. j/k)  I sent them all the photos of mine including the dash warning lights that were on ... plus told them the story of O2 sensors and the recent findings of bad catalytic converters. They offered a NADA trade in value sight unseen ... we both agreeing that it could be adjusted after they confirmed exactly what need to be repaired.

I thought at that time they would decrease the trade in value for the cost of catalytic converter replacement of $4,500. Would I still make the trade if that turned out to be true? I decided after more analysis that yes, I would make the trade even if they reduced their trade in value offer. If they had to fix the problem before they could sell it ... that would only be the fair thing to do.

I found out they were going to decrease the offer by "their cost" to replace them for $3,000 not $4,500-$5,000 retail.

While looking the engine over I could see, as these pictures show ... Toyota had replaced the oil cap, new hoses, new switches, along with some new clamps. I knew from the Carfax I would be the 3rd owner but the previous owner had only driven the FJ around 8,000 miles per year for the last 4-1/2.

Both previous owners had it serviced as scheduled at Toyota Dealerships. No accidents or major repairs were reported. On the test drive on I-70 it ran quiet with not a sound from the transmission, transaxle, wheels etc. I still think and thought at the time mine might have had some future repairs in store based on those sounds I was hearing recently. The dealership also took my FJ out for a test drive on the freeway to check it out.

It has running boards instead of rock rails .. that also makes it look lower. Also both driver side and passenger side windows were not tinted like my other ... easy fix if I want to go back to that style.

It also doesn't have the second larger skid plate over the stock skid plate in front like my other did. I'm really not sure how much I would need that since I have no plans to be a 'rock climber' like you see out in Moab. If I changed my mind on that then I'll make the required changes.

Although it does not look like it the tires are the same size as the Bridgestone tires I had on the other one, the Yokohama's are the same size and TireRack has some good reviews for those tires. I will replace them with BF Goodrich AT once these wear out.

So that is the LONG story of what took place and a little bit about why the decision was made.

The hounds have not made their maiden voyage in the 'black cherry' FJ yet, although Stella has left some fresh drool on the rear corners as she was trying to see if there was a way she could open the back door and jump inside. She believes that there isn't a door that she cannot open and get in or get out. Dried bloodhound drool is hard to get off the surface of a car. LOL

There might have been some buyers remorse on the way home because I loved that blue FJ yet by the next morning all was good. By the time I was taking the trip to the lake yesterday I knew I had made the right decision ... it rain quietly ... no whines from anywhere!!

If you made it this far after reading all of that babbling ... you really are an "official blog reader" about the hounds.

Cooler temps today here in 'the tropics' of southern Indiana.


  1. Thanks for the invite. Love your new FJ. Mine now has almost 200k, but all's well so far.

    1. Well the issue with email must be with Apple Mail. I never use the gmail websites for my mail. The invite was sent through the Blogger blog dashboard ... I wondered at the time if that would make a difference. Glad you got it and I apologize for my comment today.

    2. No big deal, but I might delete it if you don't mind so people don't wonder what's going on. Just glad to be able to read what you're up to. 😊

    3. Looks like you were way ahead of me, as usual. Have a great night. I need to get a new computer, Apples not getting any cheaper. ttyl

    4. The hounds are happy for all their readers that stop by ... they like all the attention they can get. Although I would like to follow your path, I don't think they would let me and besides that I am hopeless addicted with no return.

  2. I should have gone ahead and made my guess! lol Love the black cherry color!

    1. Thank you. I wasn't sure about the color at first. After going to Google Images and searching that FJ in that color I saw the possibilities if I wanted to make some changes. They all look good. Would you have guessed right?

    2. Yes, I would have guessed right! :) I just had a feeling you had traded FJs when you posted the pic of your new one in your previous post.

  3. Oh, that’s a nice FJ… Really like the color and haven’t seen any like it. Sheesh, I knew catalytic converters were expensive (and get stolen frequently) but really surprised they were THAT expensive! Could darn near drop a new engine in a vehicle for some of those cost estimates...

    1. Thanks. That color was only used one year, in 2007. They used it this year for the 50th anniversary of the Toyota Corolla. I was told my the salesperson they sell quickly. When I first heard those estimates I was surprised. Both converters are a little different, a different part number and a different price. Basically averaged a $1,000 each wholesale. I was given the printout with what it would cost Toyota to repair and that was $3,000. They do attach to the exhaust manifold, but a new engine would not have done much ... but I understand what you are saying.

  4. Okay, now I get the reason for the big expense ---- dual exhaust. Looks like the new FJ is single.

    1. No, the other one had only one exhaust as all FJ's do. That included 2 catalytic converters, 2 catalytic sensors and 2 O2 sensors, plus labor.

      Funny thought today ... I let them fix it for their cost of $3,000 and than go back and trade for it. LOL

  5. For some "strange reason" I had a "hunch" that you might be making a vehicle trade, when you tossed out your first "teaser". I like the looks of the FJ you got. Happy for you finding one that you really like. (at least for now LOL)

    1. If it had not cost so much to repair and replace the catalytic converters I would not have made the trade. I liked everything about that blue FJ but the cost quoted to me by two dealerships and two private auto repair shops was more than I wanted to pay. Plus that new code found about 'brake light circuits' put some icing on the cake so to speak as I made a decision at the dealership.