Take a 10mm wrench, a plastic/vinyl tablecloth/tarp (to slide around on under the car) and a OBDII reader with you
Look out for corrosion under her belly, particularly the crossmember under the engine
Check if she smokes when starting cold, smoke at start up is a valve seal problem, smoking all the time... she's sick run away
Check the usual
- Odd noises
- Leaks including at the CV joints and rear axles where the axles attach to the differential, the drive shaft at each end. Brakes master cylinder, wheel cylinders at rear and calipers on the front, steering box, and power steering system
- Are the CV joints and axle (if 4x4) boots in good repair, if cracked they will have to be replaced (boots at least and possibly the CV joint/axles.
- All the signals, horns, etc works
- Take a OBDII reader that talks to your phone/tablet/laptop and see if there are ny new or old codes. Although they could have cleared the codes just before you got there.
- Look under her (on a left hand drive, under the driver's side) there is a plastic cover held on with some 10mm plastic fasteners, take the cover off and look at the brake and fuel lines running under there, pay attention to the clips, mine were heavily corroded
- Check the brakes, look at and feel the rotors (don't touch if it's been recently driven)
- Are the tires worn unevenly
- Push down on the fenders, does she bounce or just return to normal/
- Does she list to one side?
- Do you have keys for everything including roof racks if OEM ones
- What do the fluids look like? Does the tranny fluid smell burned?
- Does she have papers like maintenance logs?
- If you live in an inspection state are the inspections current?
- When driving does she pull, is the steering wheel centered
- If it is a 4x4 take her for a little drive off road make sure the 4x4 system locks and unlocks. You have to back up until she unlocks, if you take off on a road and turn the wheel and she starts acting weird she's still locked. Driving her locked on a paved road is BAD!
- Check the A/C and heater, move the fan through all the speeds
- Is she shifting smoothly?
- Does she downshift when you put the pedal to the medal?
- No warning lights popping up
- Keep an eye on the OBDII reader, does the speed on the OBDII match the speedometer, how about GPS speed on your phone?
- Is she running smoothly at idle and at speed?
- Does she pull when applying brakes
- Does she pull to one side when accelerating
Once you buy her:
- Change belts and hoses
- Change all the fluids
-- Engine oil and filter - you should use a quality synthetic oil
-- Coolant (don't use tap or well water if you mix your antifreeze, use distilled water only)
-- If 4x4 rear differential
-- Purge the brake fluid
- If you don't know when the last time the timing belt was changed you may want to consider a timing belt/water pump kit.
- Maybe a tune up
Are you mechanically inclined? Can you do some work on her yourself? She's nearly 20 years old and WILL need maintenance. Don't take her to a dealer for work if you cannot do it yourself, take her to a trusted mom & pop shop, their kids have to go to college too. I don't recommend anyone buy a 20 year old car unless the are able and willing to do a lot of the maintenance on her.
Not trying to scare you away, you just need to be informed.
hey i appreciate you taking the time to respond back with a detailed list of things to look out for. i have a picture and there seems to be something that looks like rust at the bottom, i will be test driving it in a few weeks..debating on finding a 98/99 awd hard top, this 99 fwd soft top or even possibly a 2008 fj but im a small guy 5,6 so i kind of enjoy the smaller first gen ravs.
i favour the 99 fwd soft top because it is black( the colour i dont mind having for now) and km is fairly decent at 191km
i cant post yet but if you shoot me you're email i can send you a picture of what i am talking about.
You are likely to have one or more problems in areas that I have listed, most aren't show stoppers, you just need to be aware for bartering reasons and so that you know that you have something that needs attention. A full time smoker is a no go unless you are buying her with the idea of replacing the engine. Burnt tranny fluid is also a no go as is excessive deep corrosion. I have no idea where you are, if she is a northern or beach car with a lot of corrosion, find something else. Leaking oil from the tranny area (not tranny fluid but oil may mean a main/rear seal is out on the engine and that means pulling the engine and tranny to fix it.
Thanks, I just pulled the engine and tranny to replace a dead tranny, blew a tranny cooling line and she destroyed herself before I could get to safe place to pull over. I got a used tranny, and while everything was out, I cleaned, wire brushed, cleaned, and brushed some more, primed and painted the engine and tranny with high heat paint. I also painted the engine compartment, undercoated the belly. Replaced every seal in her to stop leaks.
I'm making her over the way I want her to be, I would rather put money into her that way rather than to make payments.
Where are you in world?
The AWD models are more fun, these little guys aren't great 4x4s but wth my narrow size, oversized tires, and snorkel I can go places most 4x4s cannot. I do unexploded ordnance work and I have to drive down old narrow jeep trails and a RAV4.1 is great for that.
I haven't seen that many lately, but they are popular, I think the soft tops are a little rarer because most people won't take care of them properly, replacing the top when needed.
The rust in your photos is not on the frame. Technically it doesn't have one because it is unibody, but the "frame" rails are under the car, that is some body cancer, check it out carefully.
seems like you have been taking care of your vehicle, i would like to get mine to look like that someday..and i will take into consideration the things you mentioned when i take a look at the vehicle, they are asking 3200 taxes in
you would be surprised but i saw about 6 list this month one had 175km..not bad but its a manual and i am tired of driving manuals and just want an auto awd lol i may have to settle for this fwd..is the awd conversion something to think about or not at all?