The Mystery of the 4-Runner

bob4Sirius radio antenna_formatI recently got an email from Kim Speer at Binswanger Branch 53 in Liburn, Ga., concerning the windshield options on a 2007 Toyota 4-Runner. With the exception of the Toyota Sienna, with its practically invisible wiper park heaters, picking out correct windshields on Toyotas are usually pretty straightforward.

The 2007 Toyota 4-Runner has two windshield options that are not that difficult to differentiate; the FW2372 is green tint green shade and the FW2371 has an electro-chromatic mirror. There are no attachments on either of them and those two windshields are the only options. So it’s not that hard to pick the correct part, right?

Well, here is the story of the mystery of the 4-Runner.

The customer says that they bought the vehicle new and there is a device attached to the right side of the windshield-mounted rearview mirror. Kim got the VIN and called it into the local dealer. The dealer’s parts department said there are only two windshield options and neither have a device attached. Walter Bonds, the technician, called me and I suggested that they visit the vehicle and take pictures of the device. The pictures indicated that it wasn’t a light or rain sensor, nor was it a lane departure camera because there was no window in the frit, it was a solid black frit. It could only be a transmitter or antenna of some sort.

I took the VIN and contacted my local Toyota dealer as well. They gave me the same information Kim got from theirs.

We had a dilemma that no one was able to solve. The customer wants a windshield that doesn’t exist. How do we find a windshield that doesn’t exist? Do we paint our own frit? Do we explain to the customer that they have to give up a device that they have had since they purchased the vehicle? We didn’t even know what it does.

bobradioI love a challenge, so I set out to find the solution. Some of you may have heard that Toyota likes to do experiments on selected vehicles and not tell anyone (eg. hydrophobic windshields on the Camry). I contacted my Toyota insider and he said he knows of no special test conducted by Toyota on that model vehicle.

Then I called my insider at NAGS and he said there were no other manufacturer changes in windshields for that particular vehicle. His guess was that this was probably an aftermarket device added at the dealer. So we have another dead end, but a clue. Could this be a dealer added device? I turned to Google next. I Googled every device I could think of, from remote starts to GPS antennas, and hit “images” so I could try to match up the same configuration of the device I saw in the pictures sent to me. No luck.

What was throwing me off were those pictures. The device looked like it was original-equipment. The decorative cover was color coordinated, the wiring looked factory and the frit looked like it was applied by the glass manufacturer. But if this wasn’t an experiment from Toyota, what was the answer?

I decided to ask for assistance from my friends on LinkedIn. I composed a “Help” post and requested any knowledge as to what this thing was. I belong to 17 groups and joined another one just to get the most coverage. It took two days of many suggestions and theories but sure enough a person came through with the answer and proof.

bobSirius radio antenna 3_formatShelby Simes, ARG product line engineer at Creative Extruded Products, came up with the answer. It is a Sirius Radio Antenna. Mystery solved. What he offered for proof was this picture.

Does the red pad in the lower left corner look familiar? Shelby said that it is a factory installed Sirius radio add-on and the red adhesive pad is how the antenna is applied to the glass surface. The pad appears to be a black frit in the pictures and the cover is perfectly coordinates to the interior color of the vehicle.

Mystery solved with a little perseverance and, to quote an old Beatles’ song, a little help from my friends. Wow, was that fun. Keep those challenges coming, I love detective work.