So long 4Runner, I hardly knew ye

Last week, I traded my '99 Grand Cherokee Limited V8 in for this '99 4Runner Limited with optional rear locking differential. My hope was the 4Runner would be more reliable than my Jeep. Well...as of today, I'm back to driving my Grand Cherokee.

I test drove the 4Runner a couple weeks ago, and all seemed good. The different 4wd modes engaged fine, there wasn't any rust, the dealer had redone the brakes and changed the oil, there was a documented timing belt & water pump service, and it had almost brand-new Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S all-terrain tires on it, which are supposed to be great in the snow—perfect since this is my winter vehicle here in Madison, WI.

Advertisement

The asking price was a little higher than my budget, so I concentrated on finding cheaper options—mostly other 4Runners, Nissan Pathfinders, and Infiniti QX4s (a.k.a. Nissan Pathfinder with an Infiniti badge). They were mostly down in the Chicago area, but this past weekend I was going to be in Chicago anyway, to help my mom move my grandma into assisted living.

I decided however that I had enough on my plate with my Chicago trip anyway, and I really liked that this 4Runner had the rear locking diff and kickass tires, so I tried to hammer out a deal. Last Thursday I finished haggling over the trade value on my Jeep and purchase price on the 4Runner, and Friday I did the paperwork and took the 4Runner. In what could have turned out to be a huge mistake, I didn't re-test drive it.

Right after I got on the highway leaving the dealer, the check engine light came on. I called the dealership and they said to bring it back right away, but I had work to do so I got back to my office, did what I needed to do, and then headed back to the dealer. They scanned the code, said "it seems like just something random but let us know if it comes back," and sent me on my way.

Advertisement

The light came back, after they closed for the evening. I scanned the code myself, and it was P0773 - Transmission Shift Solenoid 'E'. That didn't sound good to me at all, and I had to drive down to Chicago on Saturday. No way was I going to take it with transmission problems.

Early on Saturday morning, I went to the dealer's service department and explained the situation. They jumped into action, said they'll take care of me, gave me a brand new 4Runner from their rental fleet to drive to Chicago, and were generally very helpful, even though technically they didn't need to do anything, since it was an As-Is, No Warranty sale.

Today, they called me back and told me they finished inspecting the transmission, and somehow a bunch of water had gotten up inside it. They said they could replace the solenoids and valve bodies, and flush the hell out of it, but there was no guaranteeing it wouldn't break again.

But, they gave me another option: they'd void the deal, give me back the check I had written them for a down payment (which they hadn't even cashed yet), and give me back my Jeep. Even though I liked the 4Runner, I didn't want to roll the dice on the transmission. So I went back today, they took out all the deal sheets, voided them, gave me copies, and gave me back my check and my Jeep.

I'm disappointed that I didn't get the 4Runner that I wanted, but at the same time, I'm extremely grateful that the dealership did the right thing without me having to make any kind of fuss. They were awesome throughout the process.

Which means, I would recommend them without hesitation. The dealership is Smart Toyota in Madison, WI. I actually got the 4Runner at their separate Smart Budget Cars lot, but the service department at the main Smart Toyota is who hooked me up with the rental 4Runner since the budget lot's service department isn't open on Saturdays. Still, five stars to everyone there across the board.

Now I've just gotta try to find something else to replace my Jeep with...

EDIT: Wallaby13 suggested that there might be a 30-day warranty on as-is sales. I checked and found the relevant Wisconsin statutes, and it turns out, there sorta-kinda is but isn't a warranty in this case.

The statute in question says:

Unless otherwise agreed to in the purchase contract, the inspection disclosures shall neither create any warranties, express or implied, nor affect warranty coverage provided for in the purchase contract. However, it is an unfair practice for a dealer to not remedy an item improperly reported on the guide that the dealer could have found using reasonable care if the buyer has notified the dealer within a reasonable time after the buyer discovered or should have discovered the improperly reported item and the vehicle is made available to the dealership. The dealer shall reasonably remedy or make a good faith effort to reasonably remedy an item improperly reported within 30 days of the buyer's notification.

So I guess since I notified the dealer within a reasonable amount of time that the check engine light came on, and it turned out to be a significant issue that they hadn't put on their inspection disclosure, this statute probably would apply.

Advertisement

Good to know, but lucky for me, the dealer took care of everything so well that I didn't really even have to go look up the relevant laws.