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'98 4Runner - Very low power

A relative has a 1998 Toyota 4Runner SR5, manual transmission, purchased used in 2007. It had a clutch problem during the 30-day warrantee period (wouldn’t shift) that was remedied at that time. Since then, other than maybe one oil change, it has had no maintenance whatsoever, due to lack of funds. The owner of this vehicle is intermittently homeless and uses the vehicle both as a mode of transportation and as a roof over her and her 15-year-old son’s heads when there is no other.

Recently, the car has become undriveable because of extremely low power to the wheels when driving. Forward (first gear) seems to be worse than reverse. It barely has enough oomph to get up our minimally sloped driveway without a headstart.

The engine sounds fine while it is running. My husband and I are suspecting a clutch problem (maybe it was the throwout bearing before, and the clutch itself, now) or a transmission problem.

Other obvious issues that the car has: Right front tire is completely bald and has a chip of rubber coming off the wear surface; left front tire needs replacement as well; one of the rear tires has a nail in it but tread wear looks OK. There is an oil leak from the valve cover gasket and possibly another one somewhere else (but the oil dipstick shows the engine is currently overfilled with clean oil). The battery was too low to start without a jump after my husband got it into the driveway - not sure whether it’s the battery or the alternator.

So, now we have an undriveable vehicle in our driveway, and I would like to get it out.

Thoughts about likelihood of clutch vs transmission vs something else being the cause of the low drive power issue?

Thoughts about the merits of investing in clutch repair vs transmission repair on this vehicle, vs cleaning it up and selling it and getting something else?



It sounds like the clutch is slipping.

If in fact as you say the engine runs fine, sounds normal, and will rev up (gain rpm) but not move the car, you almost certainly have a failed clutch which will require replacement.

I’d guess to have a shop do that will run around $800 or so. $600 if it’s 2 wheel drive. There’s no way to patch up a slipping clutch.

As for the other items, get a used tire for $50, the cheapest battery you can find, and keep adding oil.

It really isn’t worth anything other than scrap in the condition it’s in now.

Assuming its a manual transmission its almost certainly the clutch that needs replaced. A $5.00 plug kit will fix the tire with the nail in it. You can probably find a tire for the front for next to nothing if you go to a tire place or to and ask about used tires…(make sure its the same size as the rest) Add to Full on the dip stick is 1 quart. Overfull isnt good depending on how overfull it is. Toyotas are generally hard to kill…meaning its probably worth putting some money into. Hang in there and Good Luck

Battery: I believe with the vehicle running you can unhook the battery and if the vehicle dies the alternator is junk. If it keeps running the battery is junk. If it was parked awhile the battery may come back to life

NO! NO! NO!!!

Disconnecting the battery with the engine running on EFI cars may cause an electrical spike and FRY THE ECM!!! DO NOT DO THIS!!!

Thanks for all of the feedback. The consensus here and on another site I frequent is that it’s the clutch. I found a web site,, that estimates for my zip code, $759-1059 to replace the clutch. A local highly rated local shop estimated, based on symptoms (I haven’t brought the car in yet) $1000-1200 to replace the clutch and the rear main seal and resurface the flywheel. If it doesn’t need the rear main seal or doesn’t need the flywheel resurfacing, the cost would be less. We’ll have to look for a cheap source of tires, and once we get it driveable, I can check the voltage on the battery just after a jump, just after a drive, and after sitting overnight and see if it looks like battery vs alternator.