Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Infernal Combusted engine lives again

 It is a long saga, two and half years to be exact, so grab a cup of coffee.
On December 27, 2012, I loaded up my old Toyota with materials at Home Depot, and when I started the truck, I heard a minor explosion and smoked, or more properly, steamed up the parking lot like a DDT fumigator. As soon as I smelled it I knew I had blown a head gasket on the engine. As I was only about 4 miles from the project, I managed to limp it there, and so long as I kept my foot on the throttle, the pressure in the offending cylinder was sufficient to keep the steam cloud to a marginal VFR level for the cars behind me. Got to the job and unloaded the materials, but when I went to start it again, it was hydro-locked as at least one of the cylinders by now had filled with coolant. Nothing to do but call triple A and have it hauled one mile home.
 Now, the engine is the dreaded three liter 3VZE with aluminum heads on a steel block that Toyota dropped after a couple of years due to persistent problems. The T-100, was Toyota's first foray into the full size truck market. Mine had already been apart twice. Once on a manufacturer recall before I bought it used, and a second time I had to pay out of pocked for the repairs to the tune of about 1500 $. The truck is a 1994 and by now has 206 thousand miles and is not worth a lot, but I really like it as it has a full 8 foot bed, so it makes transporting materials practical. And we had a lot of fun with it driving and camping in it, all the way to Newfoundland and Labrador twice. So I have a soft spot for it. Paying a shop to do the work would surpass the value of the truck at this point. So nothing to do but jump into it and get my hands dirty, and see what I can do about it myself. Now I have done some wrenching before but nothing quite this involved. At this point expectations are quite low, but I figure: what the heck, nothing to lose. Worse that can happen is I call the junk man and have it hauled away for its value in scrap steel.
So it's off with all the peripheral stuff, set it all aside in boxes and cans appropriately labeled, hoping that I can remember how it all goes back together if I ever get that far.
Off with the lower intake manifold
Sort of like open heart surgery, scary stuff indeed!
Upon attempting to remove the camshaft pulleys without the appropriate tool to hold the pulley, I manage to bust one. And it still won't come apart.
With the help of my friend Jonathan, we weld up an appropriate tool to properly grasp the pulley.
And with a breaker bar, manage to break the bolt loose.
Which allows me to remove the cams and allows access to remove the head bolts.
Once the heads are off, we can see spot where the head gasket blew out into number one cylinder, allowing for coolant to enter the cylinder. Note the brown sludge in the cooling galleries. This is radiator Stop-Leak I made the mistake of using once when the radiator sprung a leak. Don't ever use it. It will kill the engine
You can see the clogged up cooling gallery and the blown head gasket. Note also how the perforations for the coolant galleries in the head gasket are simple round quarter inch holes while the actual galleries in the engine are oval in profile. This makes for a choke point and I am certain helped lead to the failure of the head gasket. The new "improved" head gasket has proper oval profiled perforations.
 My friend Marty took the heads to his friend Mike Kondrat in Freedom NH and after a couple months delay due to health issues and weather, and 700$ lighter in the pocket for the machine work, gasket kit, and rebuild, we get them back and they look gorgeous. He did reinstall the cams but unfortunately I had to take them back off to be able to install the heads as the bolts are under the cams, and I was not able to get the bolts in place without taking the cams off.
He did a superb job taking only a couple thousands off to clean and level the mating surface.
A couple of trips to the junkyard in Freeport
Provided me with a pair of new cam pulleys to replace the one I damaged
 And some better looking fuel injectors than mine
 After some delays totaling a year's time and several fits and starts due to other projects, I finally get the heads back on and torqued correctly.
Water pump and pulleys back on. But I am not certain I have the timing set correctly on the cam to crankshaft relation, so things come to a stand still as none of my previous sharpie marks on the belt, which did not change at all on the crank, do not line up. Note the white top dead center mark on the crank is at the 10 degree mark while the cams are at TDC. Not good. So I am at an impasse lasting close to a year until about three weeks ago when Marty came by and looked it over for me and confirmed I had it all set up correctly. Once we crank it over 720 degrees both ways, things line up and nothing binds, so we are good to go.
So finally about two weeks ago I start to make some headway again, and get the exhaust manifolds reinstalled and start looking at other bits and pieces.
When the Toyota dealer did the last head job they managed to bungle up removing the pulley from the power steering pump. Seems the mechanic neglected to break loose the main bolt holding the pulley before removing the belts and used a pair of screw drivers and some Vise-Grips to hold the pulley to loosen the nut, and in the process he mangled the seal and busted the cast rim on the pump. Ever since I got the truck back from the last engine rebuild the pump always wept a bit.
This is what the seal looked like. Note the crushed front face. I can't believe Toyota let it slip over a 5$ part.
And the busted seal housing.
The new seal has no outer shoulder to seat up against.
So I wound up building up the broken outer casting on the pump with JB Weld epoxy after cleaning it properly with carb cleaner. Took two tries before I got it to work right.
Upper intake manifold also needed some work as it was full of sludge and carbon from 20 years of the EGR system, sending unburnt oil back through the intake.
I knocked the freeze plugs out of the plenum ends. Using a large galvanized tub placed on my camp stove, some dish soap and washing soda, along with some vigorous scrubbing with a furnace cleaning brush gets the insides of the manifold spotless. Did have to use my torch to get the pail to come to a proper boil.
A couple of hours of work on the outside with a steel brush and some engine paint pimps it up nicely
Some of the ancillary bits from the vacuum and EGR systems get cleaned on the bench grinder wire wheel, and also get some paint.
Fuel injectors got cleaned with the aid of a home made adapter using a tire valve stem minus the valve, and multiple layers of heat-shrink tubing on the spray can straw. Connect the injector to 12 volt power using one of the plugs saved from the junk yard, and spray through with carburetor cleaner.
Cast aluminum fuel rails were also quite corroded, so they also got cleaned up on the wire wheel and painted. Wiring loom goes back into place and things start to make sense again.
Then a sleepless night trying to remember if I had properly torqued the cam bolts, so off with the timing belt cover and other bits to confirm that I had torqued them to 80 ft/lbs as specified in the manual. Getting good at taking it apart by now.
 Got the upper manifold and throttle body on. Distributor installed, #1 cyl at TDC and rotor pointing at #1 wire. Plug wires, air box, mass airflow sensor go back in to place. Throttle cables hooked up. Fan shroud on. Coolant hoses and larger vacuum hoses on. Most all of it back in place where it belongs. As you see, the throttle body also got pimped up.
Then there is the nightmare of all the little vacuum hoses that control the fuel delivery and the smog stuff on the engine.
Finally, after about two days scratching my head and finding the missing orange check valve and connecting hose inside the cab of the truck, I manage to get it all together in a way that makes sense and aligns with the schematic.
 It is almost ready to start, but I don't have enough coolant so it will have to wait until morning when I can get some more. So I put it to bed with the battery charger with hopes to get it started in the morning.
Then next day, when I top it off with some coolant and . . . . ARRRRGGGHHH wouldn't you know it she starts pissing it out from somewhere around what looks to be the thermostat housing. So once again it is off with the fan, fan shroud, belts, pulleys, timing belt cover, timing belt, timing belt tensioner, and I find it is leaking from the weep hole on the water pump. It means the seal was probably blown when it hydro-locked and I tried to start it way back on  the job-site after I blew the head-gasket. Yes Marty, I should have listened to you and put a new pump on. That is what you call penny wise and pound foolish.
 So 50$ lighter for a new water pump, and 8 hours later I have it all back together again. Getting real good at this monkey business now.
And my first attempt at starting the engine after the rebuild, though not successful, proves there might be some life in it.
Success. It just took some time to get the fuel rails primed and clear of air.
Ran it for about a half hour and drove it around the block a couple of times.
And the mechanic is happy. I can't believe I actually got it together, and it runs better than it has, even before the head gasket blew.
Then next morning I try starting it again and I can smell fuel. A quick check proves the right hand side fuel rail, the one under the intake manifold, is leaking. So off it all comes again, and I pull the offending fuel rail and find . . .
. . .  two mangled O-rings on the fuel injectors that must have gotten munched when I put it all back together again. Fortunately, I have the spare injectors I got from the junkyard, but had not used them as the numbers on them were different than my originals, and I suspected they were for a different flow rate. So I pulled off some of the newer looking O-rings and put them on mine.
This time I use some silicone spray on the O-rings so they don't snag and tear during assembly.
The right hand side cam shaft cap was also leaking some oil, so while I had it all apart to fix the fuel leak, I pulled the valve cover off on that side, pulled the cam end cap, cleaned it, resealed it with hi-temp silicone, and torqued it down to specks . . .
And got it all back together again. So far no more leaks. Took a few tries, two and a half years of fits and false starts. Then, it leaked in every possible way, coolant fuel and oil, but now it has a new lease on life. Considering I was close to calling the junk man several times, all in all I'd say it was a success. It also was a real neat learning experience. In total I have about a thousand dollars in the repairs. Through it all I never lost my cool over the setbacks and busted knuckles, and had fun reassembling it over the last couple of weeks. The key was being able to walk away from it when things weren't going right, and keeping my expectations reasonably low so as not to be too disappointed when things did go wrong. I still can't believe I got it running. Now I know the thing quite well so am not afraid of tearing in to it should I ever need to. Hopefully not any time soon.
Starts and runs real smooth.
I now have four cars that all actually run properly. The 2001 Honda van being the latest acquisition just last week cause it was just too good a deal to pass up. And the Dodge an opportune replacement for the Toyota when my friend Gregg brought it from Florida two years ago. So I probably should sell one of the two trucks. Right now I am leaning towards keeping the Toyota and selling the Dodge. We'll see what they say when I take the Toyota for the state inspection sticker.
The best part is I finally have my garage back.


  1. ¡Que trabajito Mike! ¡Congrats!

    1. Doug, never before have I ever done any engine work quite as involved as this. But having it run so nice you could stand a coin on edge on the intake manifold sure feels good.

  2. well I've certainly learned a few new things today! filing this away for future use for wheb we finally get a car (the back end of never lol) I'm making it my business to know as much as possible about cars :)

    1. Thanks for visiting. Glad you enjoyed it Diva. When it comes down to it the engine is just another mechanical device. Think of the engine as a giant pump. Someone put it together once, so there has to be a way to mend it when it breaks. I can tell you from having gone through this, it sure feels good to be able to get it fixed. Letting go of expectations was the key to success. There were let downs and disappointments along the way, but it sure feels real good to let them roll of your shoulder, take a deep breath and find a solution.

    2. Hmm, to be honest, me and mechanical things don't together very well,i'm the DIY'er, i put things together, build things, crafts etc but mechanical / electrical things generally get left to my hubby to fix, but saying that, one of the reasons i want to learn is apparently in the UK garages are more likely to charge a woman £100 for a £50 job because they know that the woman is more likely to not know about cars and will just accept that something big was wrong with it, and i refuse to hand over my hard earned money for something i can fix myself haha :)
      I know exactly what you mean about being able to fix it yourself, and that you can take such pride in your work :)

    3. Believe me, they try to pull that one on all of us guys and gals. I've had it done to me, it is best to know your way around the engine a bit so you can have an idea they are trying to fool you. Knowledge is power.

  3. So that's what the dreaded "head gasket" looks like. I never knew exactly what it looked like but I did know from my father's warnings it was quite a job to pay for.
    Lord, you have patience & perseverance! That's not in any way an easy thing to teach yourself as you go along but I know that Toyota means an awful lot to you now. It probably runs better now than most cars on the road...ready for another 100,000 miles...LOL. really deserve it. Drive safe out there.

    1. Hey Leslie, yes that what it looks like, though the one I show here is the old one. The new one was much better looking, it ought to be given that the gasket kit cost 500 $. The head gasket makes a seal between the head of the engine and the block when the heads are bolted down. Kind of like the red rubber ring on the lid of a canning jar, it keeps the inside of the cylinders sealed to the outside world allowing for combustion to take place within the enclosed cylinder. If the gasket fails bad things happen as was the case with my dreaded 3VZE engine. What I have done here is what is called a "Top overhaul", the lower end of the engine, crank shaft, pistons and block remain untouched, so though they are sound they have 200 thousand miles on them. Not sure it will make it another 100 K but if I can get a couple more years out of it I will be happy.

  4. I am vastly impressed. I know little of mechanics, and could never have pulled something like that off. You have several relatively rare and useful skills, and this is certainly one of them.

    1. Hi Harry, I think it is more a case of necessity being the mother of invention. I have some notion on how engines work and an intrinsic mechanical inclination. On my high-school aptitude test I tested in the highest possible percentile for mechanical abilities. Not much good at other stuff. Always been curious how things fit together and work. So though I have done some wrenching in the past this was a real learning experience. I never quite got that deeply in to an engine and put it back together so as it functioned properly. I am amazed myself. The key to it I think, was to take it one small step at a time, a set of separate tasks, and keep the expectations to a bare minimum. It actually was a lot of fun. And hearing the thing come back to life and run smoothly was simply superb.

  5. Being retired, that's way more work than I want to do. I buy $500 vehicles, so far they last 3-5 years or I have a mechanic friend do my work. I don't have the patience.

    1. Hi John, none of my vehicles is worth much and all have over 150 thousand miles on them. Being able to work on them is the key to being able to keep them on the road. I can't justify paying someone to do 3 grand worth of work an a 1500 $ car. And I see no sense in having 30 grand tied up in a car if I can take an older one and make it run nice.

  6. I may have sold a junk Subaru DL to that junkyard in Freeport. It was somewhere around there. I will have to ask the Mrs. Why Toyota ever stopped making the 22re engine will always be beyond me. It is the finest thing they ever did. Good work. I would never tackle a job like that!

    1. Hey Mark, The Allen Range Rd junkyard is one of the few around. So it would not be at all unlikely that's where your old car wound up. It is one of the few places they allow people to pick their own parts of the cars. It will be a great loss when it closes. Sadly Scrap prices are down so there is not a lot of tun over. I have managed to keep my cars alive for 30 plus years due to that place. I think the 22 RE is still available in the smaller 2 wd trucks. Much better engine than mine. Wish I had it in my truck, same 150 hp, way better fuel mileage and more torque than that silly V6 of mine. Doing a top overhaul like this looks scary but really if a mook like me can do it most anybody should be able to. I bet if you put your mind to it you could. It is just a matter of patience and perseverance.