Toyota Troubles

It has been an interesting couple of months around here. After my trusty Subaru took on the semi truck and lost, I decided to park it until spring or until I could round up the parts to fix it. The plan was to drive the ’89 Toyota pickup the rest of the winter. That was working for about a couple of weeks and I even managed to make it home from work one day in a raging blizzard while driving the one-wheeled wonder, although I did get stuck at the end of our driveway and had to walk the last half mile home. In anticipation of driving it more in the snow and bad road conditions I even went out and bought new front tires for the thing. All was well until one day, leaving work, I stopped at the bank on the way home. Since it was cold out I left the truck run while I was in the bank conducting some business. After getting back in the truck and heading out on the street and as I shifted into third gear I heard a high pitched rapping, rattling sound, like the sound of an engine pinging because of bad gas, except louder. This was not a good sound so I backed off and slowed down. When I stepped lightly on the gas the knocking was back. Confusion reigned at that point. I was quite a ways from home and the noises this engine was making did not give me confidence. After driving on the shoulder for a while at about twenty miles per hour I determined that there was a certain amount of throttle that would make the noise worse, also any kind of a load like going up a hill. A quick call to my wife informing her of the situation and I told her I would to try and limp the truck home on the back roads, at a very slow pace. Off I went, slowly up the hills in first gear. On the down hills I could get the truck into second and third gear without any knocking noises. Sticking to the back roads was a safer, but longer way home. The trip took about an hour and a half and by the time I arrived at the homestead the truck was rattling badly and running on three cylinders, maybe even two sometimes.
So at this point we were down to one running car, my wife’s ’05 Subaru Forester, unless you count the VW Jetta but that was in storage at the neighbors place and the battery had been robbed to be put in the tractor. Things were looking grim for the home team. I did have a spare engine for the Toyota but that needed a head gasket replaced and that would take a week, possibly more to complete. I did some scouting for used trucks to buy and even test drove an older Chevy 3/4 ton with bald tires but nothing seemed to make me want to take the plunge. That’s when my wife suggested that I get the Subaru in running condition again. After all, I did drive it home after the accident and it did run just fine. It really just needed the drivers side door, headlight, fender and mirror to be road worthy. I found a good door, fender and headlight from a guy that my son knows who is somewhat of a Subaru rebuilder in Rochester. The mirror proved to be a little harder to find but an internet search of local salvage yards turned up one in Byron and so we made the trek one Sunday to get it.
After getting all the parts together it was just a matter of getting the car in my shop and setting aside a few hours to work on it. After removing damaged parts and some pounding and tweaking of bent metal, I had the thing road worthy in an afternoon. It looked better but was sporting a maroon left fender and door now while the rest of the car is black. It could still use a new hood as the old one has a wrinkle in the front that I just could not get straight but it still opens and closes just fine so for now I will just leave it as is. Just a fitting reminder of the accident that nearly took my life. It felt good and familiar to be driving the old girl again. Somehow I feel safer in the winter when driving the Subaru. I’m not sure why, maybe because it is all wheel drive and maybe because it sits just a bit lower than my wife’s Forester or the Toyota. Whatever the reason, it was good to have it back on the road.
The next project was the Toyota engine replacement. I ordered the required gasket kit and proceeded to remove the bad engine from the truck. Removing the valve cover did not reveal any cause of the knocking sounds as everything looked good on top. Even the spark plugs offered no clues as they looked like they were firing just fine. The problem must be lower down, probably a spun rod bearing or cracked piston. Whatever the reason, it will have to wait until I have time to dig into it further.
Once the new gaskets arrived it was go time on the spare engine that has been sitting on the shop floor for the better part of four years. Getting the head off and cleaned up was the most time consuming but that went fairly well and then it was time to install the engine in the truck. I had done this little operation four years ago when I first bought the truck as I had a spare engine from old Silversides that ran just fine. Maybe it’s old age getting to me but I just don’t remember the job being as hard as it was this time. After all the adjustments were made, all hoses and belts installed, intake and exhaust systems in place and fluids topped off, it was startup time! The old girl fired right up and settled into a fast idle just like always. A quick test ride was conducted and it seemed to run OK but there was a pesky check engine light that came on. This was something that the truck seldom, if ever has shown. A call to my son informing him of the situation was placed and he instructed me on how to check for engine codes. Since this truck is an older model, there is no serial port for plugging in a scan tool, the truck will “self diagnos” by jumping a connector under the hood and then watching for the number of times the check engine light blinks on and off. The results of this test revealed that the knock sensor was not working properly. I had no idea that the truck even had a knock sensor but it must have one. After robbing one from the bad engine and installing it in the good engine, no more check engine light was lit. Yes! We were good to go.

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