My Toyota pickup
I used to drive a 1986 2WD Toyota pickup truck with a 22R (4 cylinder carburated)
engine. It's a great vehicle, reliable and inexpensive to operate.
I bought it used, but for most of its life it was a fleet truck in the Iowa
State Dept. of Transportation. I do all of the maintenance on it myself.
Table Of Contents
I Need a New Vehicle!
No Thrust Washers
Modern Fuel Is Not My Friend
New Head Gasket
Chains Are Not For Summer Use
Auto Parts From e-bay
Why Did I Do That?
Chapter 0: I Need a New Vehicle!
In 1994 I was driving a 1980 Chevy Citation.
The motor mounts were
rusting/dissolving away causing numerous problems. One evening I took
a wrong turn in town and turned into a driveway to turn around. The
car burst into flames because the engine sag had caused the driveshaft to
eat through an unfused high amperage line I had installed to a dash-mounted
ammeter. I jumped out, and put out the fire as best I could.
Looking around I noticed that the driveway was to a junkyard. So I
left the car there and called the next morning. I asked if they would
pay me anything for the car and they just laughed.
[147,000 miles] I bought my 1986 Toyota Pickup Truck with 147k miles on it
a few days later for $2200 from an ad in the paper, not knowing the true
greatness of this vehicle. I had to fix a few minor things right away:
- New spark plug wires
- Fix clutch fork installation, it was wedged in incorrectly from some
shop work the previous owner had done (this, I hypothesize, is why it was
Chapter 1: No Thrust Washers
[165,000 miles] My truck was leaking oil so I decided to replace the oil
pump/front main seal and the oil pan gasket. When I removed the oil
pan, the 4 thrust washers normally installed on the crankshaft were laying
in the bottom of the pan!
thrust washers found in the oil pan.
Upon inspection, one of the washer halves was badly bent, and both it and
the companion half were worn down on the working face (the oil grooves were
completely ground off). The other set looked brand new. I assume
somebody replaced them, and they spun off almost immediately and have been
off for some time.
Next, I looked at the crankshaft. Both it and the main bearing housing
(cap and crankcase fixtures) were ground down on the front side of the engine.
The crankshaft had a free end-play of about 1/4" (makes sense in the absence
view of crankshaft from under vehicle, looking up into
The problem is, since one side of the crankshaft is ground down to the
point where the thrust washer no longer is held in place, I cannot install
new washers because they will just fall out as the shaft travels end to end
(vertically in the figure above). This will definitely shorten the
life of the engine, but on the other hand this engine has 165,000 miles on
it already, and many of those were probably put on without the thrust washers
main bearing cap, with worn thrust washer groove.
So, the question is, what should I have done? I decided to reassemble
the engine without thrust washers, since it runs great, and as far as I can
tell, the only "real" fix is a rebuild with a new crankshaft and case (i.e.
a new engine).
a good thrust washer installed on the unworn side of
the main bearing cap.
So far, the oil leak is gone and the engine is running well. I was
a bit worried that the crankshaft end travel might degrade the oil seals,
but the machined surface of the shaft, which is in contact with the seal
(at least at the front end) is much longer than the length the crankshaft
can travel. So that seems like it will be OK.
Chapter 2: Modern Fuel Is Not My Friend
[180,000 miles] One day as I was driving to Chicago my truck started
to sputter and make a lot of black smoke when idling. I did some troubleshooting
and decided that the carburator needed a rebuild. I bought the rebuild
kit from JC Whitney.
Now my deal with my wife is that the truck can't cost too much time
or I have to get rid of it. So I knew that I had to rebuild the carburator
in one night. I stayed up until 4AM doing it, and by 5AM I had the
last bolt tightened and was ready to eat breakfast and go to work. During
the process I cleaned lots of gunk, and noticed that the acceleration pump
diaphragm was punctured, as if rotted away. The kit had a new one so
I was unconcerned.
The truck ran great... for one month.
After a month the same symptom re-occurred. I traced it down to
the acceleration pump diaphragm again. It was once again rotted away...
and this causes gas to come from the carburator float chamber right into the
intake manifold above cylinder #1, causing the black smoke and plug fouling.
And this time I read that the modern fuel formulations with alcohol
tend to disintegrate the material that these things were made of. So...
my options were limited. I decided to plug the acceleration pump altogether.
The result? My truck gets 27MPG (up from 24MPG or so) and is
a bit slower in the on ramp to the freeway. I think if I bought a new
truck I'd want the same thing - the fuel economy is well worth the performance
Chapter 3: New Head Gasket
[190,000 miles] My truck started to burn a lot of oil and make white
smoke in the exhaust. Didn't take long to determine that it needed
a new head gasket. Some people consider this a good enough reason to
junk the vehicle, since the shop price to do this would far exceed the "value"
of the truck. I disagree!
Once again it had to be a quick job. I got it done in one night
and part of the next morning. Part way through a friend of mine looked
at the engine compartment and was aghast at the coolant and crud soaking
Coolant in the cylinders
Of course, I mopped up some of that coolant before reassembling
the engine. But this is a simple machine and if it gets fuel, air,
and spark it's going to run OK. Doesn't have to be clean.
In the end I was right, the head gasket was blown (see picture below).
Once replaced I had no trouble, the engine started right up and runs
great. It does sound a bit different mainly due to the fact that the
exhaust manifold got tightened differently; some rusted bolts sheared off
so I had to tap some new holes into the block and use new bolts in some places.
The cause of the trouble - a blown head gasket (hole in gasket at indicated
Chapter 4: Chains Are Not For Summer Use
[195,000 miles] While I was using my truck to build my house, I was dragging
a very large wood chipper with the truck. The chipper was heavier
than the truck. Do not ask me how I convinced the tool rental place to let
me tow it. I had to drag the chipper to the top of a small dirt hill.
The tires were spinning so I attached chains to the rear tires to get
more traction. With smoke coming from the clutch, I ran the thing
full throttle in 1st gear trying to get up that hill.
The chains broke, whipped around the axle and slashed the metal brake
line open. So I had to replace the brake line.
Chapter 5: Auto Parts From e-bay
[202,000 miles] I took my truck for emissions testing and it failed!
I had put off going until I only had one week left! What would
I do? It ended up being a bad EGR valve (which the test suggested
since it was the Nox levels only that were high, indicating high combustion
I ordered a used EGR valve for $15 from somebody parting out a less well-loved
Toyota Truck on e-bay, installed it with one day left to go, and passed
with flying colors.
Chapter 6: Why Did I Do That?
[215,000 miles] One day I noticed my truck was knocking pretty badly - sounded
like the vacuum advance was broken and timing was way off (in retrospect,
it could also have been a timing chain jump). I was on my way to work.
I drove gently and arrived at the office about 10 miles away. Then
I discovered that I had to make a bee-line for another building some 20 miles
from there. I ran to my truck, jumped in and started. On the
entrance ramp to the highway, I floored it and at 45mph it was knocking like
a hammer hitting steel. But I HAD to get to the meeting - right?
So I stomped on it, got about 1/2 mile, then the knocking stopped.
Did the distributor vacuum advance jiggle back into position? Oh no
- white smoke in a big cloud behind me - I blew the head gasket again.
I stopped at a light and could not start the engine again.
So, back to the shop (A new one in my new house):
The truck in my new shop with head removed.
Head bolts, distributor, valve cover, and
valve guide assembly (left).
Here's an image of the block sitting in the truck (notice how simple, how
easy to work on this thing is with all of the space around it):
Cylinder head with intake manifold attached (right).
The head gasket that I had put in 3 years back was mangled. It had
(a) a complete break through between cylinders 1 & 2, (b) completely
separated and shredded metal inserts around the cylinder holes, and (c) almost
complete blockage of coolant due to head gunk getting in the coolant passageway:
(a) blown gasket between cylinders, (b) separated metal rings, (c) blocked
I installed a new head gasket and reinstalled the timing chain and distributor
to the correct timing. (During this process one of the exhaust gasket
bolts sheared off so I installed a temporary c-clamp to hold it.) The timing
chain had about 10deg of slack at the crankshaft, which is the service cutoff.
The truck started right up and ran, but there was still some white smoke,
just a bit. Probably the head was warped, or I did not scrape the old
gasket material off the head and block sufficiently. After about 20 minutes
of run time the smoke dissipated but it came back on the next cold start,
dissipated again, etc.
I drove the truck into the garage, got in, reached for the parking brake
handle and pulled. It came loose in my hand - the cable snapped.
I sat, pondering the truck. It probably needs
- Head resurface and new gasket
- New timing chain
- New brake cable (I actually had done this job before)
- Right front wheel alignment
- Soon, a new engine
All of these are easily do-able, if you have the time. But I just spent
too many hours working on the truck instead of playing with my kids, so the
truck is going to have to go. It's been a happy 10 years for about
$3000 plus gas, and I am sorry to have to let it go!
The best vehicle I will ever have owned.
I ended up buying a new Chevy truck. I soon realized my
mistake, and returned to Toyota, this time upgrading to a 1985
If you have any comments, I'd like to hear them: email me at email@example.com.