My Toyota pickup

The truck

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

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:

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 of washers).

view of crankshaft from under vehicle, looking up into the crankcase.

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 in place.

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 reduction.

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 the pistons:

Coolant in the cylinders

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

The cause of the trouble - a blown head gasket (hole in gasket at indicated location)

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 temperatures).

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):

In the shop

The truck in my new shop with head removed.

The valve assembly cylinder head

Cylinder head and parts.

top view

The block sitting in the truck (notice how simple, how easy to work on this thing is with all of the space around it).

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.

head gasket

(a) blown gasket between cylinders, (b) separated metal rings, (c) blocked coolant portals.

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.

The End

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

  1. Head resurface and new gasket
  2. New timing chain
  3. New brake cable (I actually had done this job before)
  4. Right front wheel alignment
  5. 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 end

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 LandCruiser FJ60.

If you have any comments, I'd like to hear them: email me at