Dear Car Talk:
I have an '87 4Runner that I bought new. Yes, that makes me older than dirt. But my love is still true.
When I put the truck into reverse, the backup light doesn't come on.
I had a mechanic fixing something else who said he could fix it for about $400. I think he said it had something to do with the mechanism in the shifter.
It's been a while since then, and he's not around now. Any ideas how I could figure this out myself? Thanks. -- Paul
Well, lucky for you, Paul, I'm old enough to be dirt's father, so I've worked on plenty of 1987 4Runners.
But whether it's going to cost you $40 or $400 depends on what type of transmission you have.
If your 4Runner has a stick shift, there's a $40 switch that controls the backup lights. You can find one online and it's a piece of cake to replace. It just screws into the outside of the transmission.
If it's an automatic transmission, the switch is also easy to replace since it bolts to the outside of the transmission, but, unfortunately, it's a lot more expensive. On automatics, the backup light switch is built into the neutral safety switch -- which prevents you from starting the truck unless the transmission is safely in park or neutral.
Before you replace the neutral safety switch, it's a good idea to check the wiring. You'd hate to replace the whole switch only to find out you had a broken wire somewhere.
But if the wiring is good, it's almost certainly the switch. Don't even bother shopping for a new one. The price will give you heart palpitations. It gave me heart palpitations, and I don't even own a 4Runner.
So, my advice would be to spend some time looking for a used one. Try your local automotive recycling centers (aka junkyards), and look online, at places like eBay. If you're lucky, you can find one for a few hundred bucks.
Or, for four bucks, you could Velcro two plastic flashlights to either side of the rear quarter panels. Before you back up, get out and turn them both on. Just giving you options, Paul. Good luck.