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Rescuing a 4.1

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Hi all. Just picked up a 4 door manual 97 Rav4 awd from my dad. This is the very car that I first learned to drive stick on so it has a special place in my heart.

It's been parked for about a year and was in bad shape. Battery was dead. Clutch cable had snapped. Tires are shot. Struts and shocks are gone. Windshield is cracked from a nasty hail storm a while back and along with that nickle sized dents all over the body. Only plus is very little body rust.

Plan is to turn this little guy into a decent winter beater. I am sick of driving the 335i and 550i with snow tires in the winter. So far we've replaced the clutch cable and put in a new battery to get it running. I've gotten 380km of city driving on the last full tank of gas. Somewhere around 17 liter/100km... Surely this is not normal, right? That's about the same fuel economy as my F150.

I am replacing the following parts:

-Distributor and cap
-Plug wires
-Spark plugs
-Air filter
-Fuel filter
-Front struts and rear shocks
-Ball joints
-Tie rods and various bushings

Planning to change out all the fluid tomorrow. Is synthetic 75w90 is okay for the trans axel, t-case, and rear diff? I know factory calls for 80w90 for the rear diff.

Once the suspension is all installed I'll slap on a set of first gen highlander wheels (same size and offset) with 225/70/16 Hankook Dynapro AT-M's.

Trying to build a reliable winter beater for under $1.5k. Let the journey begin...
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412 Posts
I did everything FACTORY only in my RAV. I had all fluids changed per factory specifications. Having 169k miles on my RAV when I bought it, parts were used to a certain viscosity and I didn't want to mess with that.

My fuel economy went up when I figured out that faster I go with this vehicle, more fuel it consumes. Not much difference in many other cars but RAV is sensitive because of its high revving engine.

RAV is my beater car also because I wanted to save my FJ Cruiser but I do give it the respect it deserves as CREATOR of all mini SUV market. I have all its dings taken out. Plan is to have it mint in a few years where I might be the only one driving a shape like that in mint condition. Will be kinda cool !

I say since you are going to be driving it, make it look nicer than what you are planning. You have PICTURES?? Love to see those. That will help us make more recommendations !! :-D

No matter what you drive, you should be able to show it off proudly.
I LOVE mine even if I have a FJ and a Sequoia parked in the garage.

So glad that you are rescuing it !!!

62 Posts
There's no clutch cable, it should be hydraulic.

Aren't the rear's struts, and not shocks. Isn't the RAV4 a Camry, with a different top-hat?

Believe the t-case runs off the transmission (how Toyota did awd from the S-series trans).

With dedicated (no compromise) snow/ice tires, it should be unstoppable.

Sweet ride. Was looking for someone, for a 4dr 5sp awd, had to settle on a fwd.

Miss my '90 Camry 5sp All-Trac.

25 Posts
Congrats on the rescue! I still wonder where my Cavalier I learned to drive stick has gone off to. Not sure of the conversions or difference in gas from up north but after my tune up I have been getting about 25mpg city or 320 miles on a tank. I drive it old man style. Good luck on the build... winter is coming!

7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Just went through a nasty freezing rain/wet snow session on the highway last night. 4 hours of rain/snow followed by -5 Celsius 100km winds = skating rink. A semi passed me and immediately lost control and jack knifed. Was stuck on the side of highway for 2 hours waiting for clean up.

Anyhow, I am pretty happy with the RAV4 so far.

Update pics:

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