The KTJO 4×4 Driver Side Grab Handle – Installation & Review for The 5th Gen 4Runner
Maybe it’s just me, but Toyota seems to have a very odd approach when it comes to features included with certain 4Runner trim levels. My first 5th Gen 4Runner was a 2010 Trail. It came with a number of things that just made sense but still lacked things that it should have had.
With my 2019 TRD Off-Road, I would have assumed this trim level was a step up, so to speak, and it would include more creature comforts. However, that was not the case and it even included less! For example, the 2010 model came with the HomeLink garage door opener, power and heated front seats, cargo sliding tray, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Nine years later and my more recent build comes with none of that. So, I’ve accepted that I’ll need to make some interior modifications in addition to the exterior build plan. Hey, at least the 2019 and 2010 models both have E-lockers, so I can’t complain.
We all know that the 4Runner is known for reliability, durability, and just being badass. It’s also known for not having a modern interior and some key creature comforts. So, I recently swapped my head unit out for a more modern unit with a wider screen and wireless Apple CarPlay.
What wasn’t on the list was adding a driver-side grab handle, mainly because I didn’t know anyone was making them. But as it goes in this world, you immediately justify the need once you see it.
Find it Online:
- Driver-Side Grab Handle A-Pillar (2014 – 2022) – Check Price
Who Is KTJO?
Katie, the owner of KTJO 4×4, and her team are a family-run business that focuses on providing one-of-a-kind custom exterior and interior products for 4Runners, Tundras, and Tacomas. KTJO 4×4 was a company I had heard about on some of the other forums, but not one that popped up regularly on any of my social media feeds.
In fact, KTJO 4×4’s Instagram page doesn’t have a significant presence. That’s kind of surprising to me given that some of the products they offer are pretty unique and nowhere else to be found. They’re currently working on a HUD (heads-up display) for the 5th gen 4Runner that integrates into a replacement speaker panel on the dashboard. I’m pretty sure they designed it themselves as they did here with the driver-side A-pillar grab handle.
Installation of the KTJO 4×4 driver-side grab handle is pretty straightforward. All-in, you’re looking at 10-15 minutes from start to finish with minimal effort and tools required.
- 10mm socket wrench
- Philips head screwdrivers
- (1) Replacement A-pillar (grey or beige)
- (1) Drivers side handle (grey or beige)
- (2) Grip handle hole covers (grey or beige)
- (1) Trim removal tool
- (1) Rivet nut gun
- (1) Bag of all the hardware needed for installation
Step 1. Disconnect Negative Battery Terminal
Using your 10mm socket wrench, remove the negative terminal from your 4Runner’s battery. Why? Since you’ll be removing the driver-side A-pillar, every precaution should be taken so as not to inadvertently deploy the A-pillar airbag. Take the time to perform this step!
Step 2. Remove SRS Curtain Airbag Cover
KTJO 4×4 includes a plastic trim removal tool with the grab handle kit. Simply pry the “SRS Curtain Airbag” bolt cover off to expose the bolt underneath.
Step 3. Remove A-Pillar 10mm Bolt
Once the SRS Curtain Airbag bolt cover is removed (and left hanging), remove the bolt underneath using your 10mm socket wrench.
It goes without saying, but be careful swinging the socket wrench handle around your windshield; you don’t want this simple and straightforward modification to include a replacement windshield.
Step 4. Remove OEM A-Pillar
With the 10mm bolt removed, you can now pry off the OEM A-pillar. The pillar has a few clips underneath holding it into place. Just take your time prying behind the panel with your plastic pry tool and pull it up and away from the windshield.
Step 5. Install Rivet Nut to Accept Bolt
KTJO 4×4 also includes a rivet nut gun specifically for one bolt and one step in the process. I was shocked it was included, but it’s probably one of those tools we’re all less likely to have in the garage. I personally didn’t have one, but now I do!
So you understand what this Jack nut does “behind the scenes”, the rivet nut gun pulls on the screw head and “crushes” the sleeve behind the A-pillar so you have a solid mounting point.
As you remove the OEM A-pillar, you’ll notice that there are some unused bolt holes on the frame. Toyota left the uppermost handle mounting point on the truck for stability in the new front pillar.
Unfortunately, there is no nut welded onto the back like on the top mount, so there’s nothing a new screw/bolt can thread into. This is where the Jack nut needs to be “crushed” into place.
Remove the temporary screw from the Jack nut. With the new Jack nut in place, you now have two mounting points for the new grab handle.
Step 6. Install New A-Pillar
Installing the new A-pillar is fairly straightforward. Just as you removed the OEM pillar, you’ll slide the new one back into place.
Starting from the bottom of the panel, slide it forward as close to the windshield as possible and start working your way up. If you’re forcing the panel onto the clip connection points, you’re doing it wrong. This panel should pop back in just as easily as removing the OEM panel.
Step 7. Add Grab Handle, Bolt Sleeves & New Hardware
Sit the new grab handle in place to prepare for the bolt sleeves included in the pack.
The smaller of the two bolt sleeves will sit in the uppermost spot of the grab handle.
As such, the longer of the two bolt sleeves will sit in the lowermost point of the grab handle.
Using the provided hardware, hand thread the 10mm bolt into the uppermost mounting point on the handle and tighten it down with your wrench.
Next, using the longer Philips head screw and screwdriver, tighten the bottom screw into place.
Step 8. Add Handle Covers
Lastly, pop in the corresponding bolt covers, and you’re all done!
I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with this kit. Between the provided hardware, the provided rivet nut tool, and the 100% color match to the OEM A-pillar (side-by-side pictured above), this was a nice little upgrade.
Of course, I’ve gone out of my way to intentionally use the grab handle to get in and out of the 4Runner. Since this is my second 5th gen build, next up on the docket is a 3″ lift all the way around. So, this added grab handle will get much more use!
As an aside, am I alone in thinking that if Toyota offers a grab handle on the passenger side, it should on the driver side as well? Is the expectation that drivers have the steering wheel to grab onto whilst hoisting themselves into the truck? Interested in your thoughts in the comments below.
Update – 11/30/2022
As a few of you had commented, some installations of the KTJO4x4 A-pillar panel resulted in a slight bevel on the facia with a discolored gray line. This was due to a small tab molded into the back of the A-pillar panel they designed.
While they work on a new design, Katie graciously sent me a replacement panel to test out. The KTJO4x4 team shaved down said tab and it worked like a charm.
As you can see, no more gray line and the fitment is was better. My understanding is that KTJO4x4 is updating their design which may or may not incorporate this tab in the future.
If you’ve purchased a kit from KTJO4x4 and haven’t installed it yet, I highly suggest you shave down the tab similar to the images above. The handle itself holds the panel in tightly and the tab itself isn’t even a push clip; more so just a guide for proper placement.