Toyota FJ Cruiser: problems to watch out for, 4WD maintenance, photos

March 24, 2020
Nothing on the road looks like the FJ Cruiser, especially in Magma red, Sun Fusion Yellow or Army Green colors. Just looking at this truck makes you want to pack it up with camping gear and drive somewhere far.
Toyota FJ Cruiser Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Styled after the legendary Land Cruiser FJ40 from the 60s and 70s, the 2007-2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a truck-based SUV with a short wheelbase and wide track.

Inside, the FJ Cruiser offers rugged styling, washable floors and easy to clean waterproof seats. The instruments are simple and easy to read. You won't have trouble using the heater controls even wearing thick gloves, as the knobs are large.

The driver's seat is comfortable, even on long trips. An elevated seating position provides good visibility in the front.
Toyota FJ Cruiser interior Toyota FJ Cruiser interior.
The rear view is obstructed by wide pillars and the spare tire. Large side mirrors do help, and the optional backup camera built into the rearview mirror is useful when backing up.

The FJ has an advanced 4WD system with low-range gearing, and is a capable off-roader. Is it a good choice to buy used? What are the reported problems?

FJ Cruiser problems to watch out for: Several FJ owners mentioned cracks or bulges on the inner front fender, although it seems that only a small number of earlier model year trucks were affected.
Toyota FJ Cruiser cargo area Toyota FJ Cruiser cargo area.
This thread has some images.

The areas around the hinges that hold the rear swing door may also show cracking, possibly because the door holds a heavy spare tire. If you are buying a used FJ Cruiser, these areas must be inspected carefully.

The second problem that owners mention in earlier models (mostly in 2007) is shudder at certain rpms that might be caused by an issue with a torque converter or transmission. This Facebook post discusses the issue.
Some owners said that flushing the transmission with the Toyota recommended fluid took care of the issue; others said that the torque converter or solenoids or transmission had to be replaced.

Toyota FJ Cruiser clamshell doors Toyota FJ Cruiser clamshell doors.
The third issue is a "jolt" or "bump" when coming to a stop. Some owners said that regularly greasing the rear driveshaft slide yoke via grease fittings eliminated the issue, while others mentioned that the drive shaft had to be replaced with an updated part. We found a few YouTube videos on greasing the drive shaft.

When taking a used FJ Cruiser for a pre-purchase inspection, ask a mechanic to check the frame and other components underneath for rust damage. Vehicles from the salt belt are more likely to be rusted. Other underneath items that are known to go bad include lower ball joints, brake calipers (they tend to stick) and front CV axle boots.

A low coolant level, occasional misfiring or white smoke from the exhaust could be signs of a blown head gasket, which is one of the problems in the early 4.0L V6 engines at higher mileage.
Toyota FJ Cruiser rear glass Rear glass opens separately.
Your mechanic can do the cooling system pressure test or check for presence of exhaust gases in the cooling system to check for a leaking head gasket.

If there is a smoke from the exhaust when the engine is started, the vehicle should be avoided. A low oil level could also indicate that the engine consumes oil.

All 4WD system modes must be tested. Watch out for any of the warning lights staying on with the engine running.

Overall: The FJ Cruiser is one of the best trucks of this type. If you maintain it well, it will keep its value for a long time.
Toyota FJ Cruiser rear seat Rear seat space is tight.
Thanks to its unique style and a capable AWD system, it's very possible that in the near future, the FJ Cruiser will be one of the iconic collectible vehicles.

The downside is that the rear seat space is a bit tight and the rear visibility is obstructed. A rear-view camera is a must.

We spoke to one of our friends who drives the FJ and is an expert mechanic. He said he changes the oil every 3,500 miles, greases the drive shaft at every oil change and changes his transmission fluid regularly. So far, he had zero problems with his 2011 FJ Cruiser. Read also: When to change the automatic transmission fluid?. We also found this video about the FJ Cruiser with 382K miles.

Mechanical: Toyota FJ Cruiser is based on the Land Cruiser Prado body-on-frame platform with an independent front suspension and solid rear axle with coil springs. The FJ Cruiser is available as 2WD or 4WD (only 4WD in Canada). The 2WD models were only available with a 5-speed automatic transmission. The 4WD FJ Cruiser comes with a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. All four wheels have disc brakes.
Engine: The only engine choice is a 239-hp (upgraded to 259 hp for 2010) 4.0L DOHC V6, model 1GR-FE.
Toyota FJ Cruiser Toyota FJ Cruiser V6 4.0L engine.
This engine has a timing chain that doesn't need to be replaced in regular intervals and can outlast the engine with proper maintenance. That said, a timing chain (plus the tensioner and other hardware) might need to be replaced at a higher mileage if it's stretched.

Replacing a timing chain is not cheap. Watch these videos about replacing a timing chain in the 1GR-FE engine. Keeping the engine oil clean and topped up helps make the timing chain last longer.

At higher mileage, one of the A/F (air-fuel ratio) sensors can fail. Typically you will get the Check Engine light and the scan will show the trouble code related to the A/F sensor. B1S1 means Bank 1 Sensor 1 (upstream sensor). B2S1 means Bank 2 Sensor 1. The upstream sensor, or Sensor 1 is installed in the exhaust before the catalytic converter. Sensor 2 is the one after the catalytic converter. An aftermarket A/F sensor costs $50-$75 and is not very difficult to replace. See the diagram of the cylinder banks.

Engine oil capacity: The engine oil capacity for the 2007-2009 FJ Cruiser is listed at 5.5 qt. or 5.2 liters (with the oil filter change). The oil capacity for the 2010-2014 FJ Cruiser is specified at 6.4 qt (6.1 liters) with the oil filter change. Check the owner's manual to be sure; you can download it from the Toyota owners website.

At higher mileage, the engine may consume oil, which means that the oil level needs to be inspected regularly and topped up if needed.

Gas mileage: The 2008-2009 4WD automatic FJ Cruiser is rated at 16/20 mpg (14.7/11.8 L/100 km) city/highway on premium gasoline. The EPA rating for the 2012-2014 4WD automatic is 17/20 mpg on regular gasoline, which means you can travel up to 342 miles on one tank, although some owners mention that real-life gas mileage is a bit higher.

4WD maintenance: The 4WD FJ Cruiser has a transfer case and front and rear differentials. The oil in all three units must be checked regularly and changed if dirty or in recommended mileage intervals. The drive (propeller) shaft needs to be greased at least at every other service.

Rustproofing This truck has been sprayed with oil spray.
Other parts of the 4WD system, including front CV axles and boots, need to be inspected periodically for damage. Rustproofing can help preserve the frame and many other components. There are many shops that can rustproof your truck for $89-$200 and it's an investment in your truck's longevity.

This 8-years old Toyota FJ Cruiser in the photo has been regularly driven during winters in the salt belt. As you can see, it has no rust. It has been rustproofed using oil spray and re-sprayed every year. Read more: Should you rustproof your vehicle?