The one thing that I really don’t like about the current generation of 4Runners is Toyota’s overwhelming use of tacky chrome trim. The crap is everywhere: on the grill, a strip along each bumper, light surrounds, door handles, roof rack, a strip on the rocker molding, and who knows where else. Not all models have it – the 4Runner Trail Edition never had it and Toyota removed a lot of it from the SR5 in the 2014 facelift, but the Limited got even more chrome in that remake. I don’t think there’s a person on earth who ever said “yea, that plastic chrome trim looks great!”
I decided to do something about it. I looked to have this done right, either by repainting it or vinyl wrap. Some body shops did not even want the job because that kind of work is a pain in the ass for them – little profit and high potential of messing up. Vinyl wrapping was a sound option but at $400-$600 it was not any cheaper or better than a paint job.
In the end I decided to get $10 worth of Plasti Dip from Home Depot and rattle can this myself. The money I saved will go toward other modifications.
The above picture shows how my 4Runner looked stock. Notice the chrome trim around small round fog-lights and the chrome strip along the bottom. And the top grill where the badge is. And the roof rack. And there is a little visible trim along the bottom of the doors. I removed that whole molding and threw it in the trash when I installed my Slee rock sliders.
My first attempt was rather simple. While having new tires put on, my friend at Ace Performance, who was equally bothered by the chrome, masked off the painted grill surround, cleaned off the surface that he was going to dip, and went to town. It came out looking damn good but not perfect.
What I did not like about the end result was that it looked aftermarket. Very few automakers would match the company badge into the grill. The solution to that problem was rather simple. After opening the hood and removing a small radiator cover, the back of the grill is easily accessible from the top. From there, the tabs to remove the badge are easily accessible. I popped the badge off. With a little prying and rubbing the Plasti Dip came right off. I reinstalled the badge, and bam, now it looks the way it should have from the factory.
While playing around with the front off the car I tried removing the fog-light surrounds. Internet forums told me that I’d have to remove the wheel well lining, but the surrounds came out quite easily with some careful and patient prying around from the front of the vehicle. I sprayed them with three layers of Plasti Dip. After 30 minutes of dry time I reinstalled without any drama. The final results are below.
My remaining problem was the fact that the chrome trim along the bottom of the bumper now stood out more because it is the only chrome piece left. I did not remove it at the time because it was not coming out willingly. I was also short on time and I did not want to damage it. My temporary solution to that is less frequent washing of the 4Runner. My plan is to Plasti Dip that, the rear bumper trim, and the roof rack end-caps when it gets warmer outside.
The Plasti Dip on the grill, which was sprayed in April (it’s mid December as of this writing) has held up pretty well despite being done in only two layers and rather quickly. There’s only one small chip in it, probably from a rock or something. I am curious to see how it is going to hold up in the winter months.
The interesting part is that both the grill garnish and the fog-light surrounds are available black from Toyota, as they come on the 4Runner Trail. Each fog-light surround is $20 and the grill comes as a whole assembly for $200, although some people were able to buy just the part I painted.
The real challenge will be the door handles. Since the door handles are constantly being grabbed, I’m not sure how long Plasti Dip will last on them. I’d rather leave them chrome than look half-assed with pealing dip. The door handles are more difficult to paint as they require disassembly of the doors or thorough masking. The ’14+ has factory color-coded door handles, total for which would be about $200, but I am not sure of they can be directly swapped over to the ’10-’13 cars. That would be my best bet in terms of doing it right – they come pre-painted.
The rear also has the tailgate garnish. It is bolted in from the inside of the hatch. Glued onto it is the badge and the 4RUNNER logo. I have not decided what to do with that yet. That part from the dealer is $150, which is just ridiculous, and the black Trail Edition part won’t work with my car as my car has a back-up camera and sonar sensors, which the Trail does not.
Some of you might be asking why I didn’t just buy a 4Runner Trail Edition. The reason is that I needed a third row seat which is not available on the Trail.