Sunday, December 27, 2009

225 miles and counting

225 miles today. It's going much more slowly than anticipated as I just haven't had time to run it down the road. I may run up to Sun Valley today to look at some 31" tires and stock aluminum wheels, which will get it near time for an oil change.

It's developed a slow oil leak (couple of drops) when parked. Power seems to be getting better, which is cool. But MPG is horrible, last tank pulling around 14.5. Cripes, I do that in my 283hp Suburban. It's been all town and commuting, so the highway run is an opp to see if it's gone down that much since rebuilding it.

I'm going with "it's new and tight" and hope that I'm right. But it's an inauspicious start...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

She is alive!!

More challenges on the DMV front - you can't get a trip permit for more than 1 day if your vehicle is more than 60 days expired. Crap. Going to have to rack up all the miles on one day then so I can smog it. :(

It seems  to be running well.  The turbo actually has an effect now!! I can hear it spooling, which is nice.

I tell you, a good-running motor goes a long way to mitigating any frustrations.

It's not as powerful as I had expected given the head porting, the cam, the larger valves, and the bigger turbo and exhaust. OTOH, I'm still babying it. And I mean babying it. So maybe it is... :)

The Total Chaos motor mounts do pass vibration on. Going to have to find some rubber mounts for those. But it feels good to have a captive motormount instead of the non-captive stockers.

I'd say me likey!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Yaaay, it's ready. Wait, how much??!?!!

I'm kicking myself very hard right now for not buying the turnkey 88 4runner with dual tcases, lockers, SAS, 37s, and the immaculate paint and interior and lots of other goodies. Sure, it wasn't a turbo, but I'd have spent less than I have on this truck and a motor, and this truck still needs a tranny soon, and, except for the hotter motor, is still bone stock.

Last time I checked, "$2400 drive in, drive out" usually meant you drove it in, they did the work, you wrote a check for $2400 plus some tax, maybe some shop supplies (I hate when they're not allocated in the estimate), and you took your truck home with a new motor.

However, I found out over the last couple of weeks that some key items were not included in this original drive-in/out estimate. Like a timing chain. Or an oil pump. Just before the motor is going to go back together is a hard time to find this out, since I'd already put together a budget.

Honestly, I'm choking on the price at the moment. It's more than double the $2400, when I expected we were going to add maybe another $1400-1600 tops! including all the extras I had asked for. I'll post the invoice later, first I want to go over it since the last written estimate I had listed some machine work that they weren't able to explain at the time.

Let me call out very clearly that I don't think they did anything it didn't need, so that's not my concern.

Now, granted, I had them add some stuff - Total Chaos motor mounts, rebuild my turbo, cat-back exhaust, etc. - but those were factored in extra on my end, obviously not part of the $2400.

On top of that, it ended up needing a head, and some other parts. However, from when *I* worked on cars, I expect that kind of interaction to go like this:
  • Shop: Hi Eric, it's James at the Truck Shop. Your 4runner's needs XYZ, which will add $X to your cost, includes blah, blah, blah, bringing your total price to $Y. Is that OK?
  • Eric: Thanks for the call! I was prepared that it might need XYZ. question, question... What was the new total for the engine again? OK, go for it, thanks!
This gets repeated any time there's any significant change to the bottom line. During a rebuild, that might occur 2-3 times depending on how many surprises there are.

Well, we're now at the end, and no use crying over spilled milk, especially since I helped spill some of it by not pushing very hard for am updated bottom line price. While I had asked several times, I only got one - which summarily freaked me out since the price had more than doubled. I thought we had fixed it. I can't imagine what my total price would be if we hadn't had that conversation.

I'll post the invoice after I pick it up and provide more details on how I think it ended up here, and ideas on how to avoid this kind of nasty surprise right before Christmas when $$ is already tight.
And the money flow is not over yet. I'm not told it still needs to be broken in, then a cat installed, then smogged. I had asked for it to be smogged before I picked it up and was told "No problem." and watched him add a note to my file.

It seems the shop knows what they're doing technically, and they do come highly recommended, so I'm going to reserve overall judgement for now, but the customer-interaction model is leaving me feeling extremely frustrated and disappointed.

But I am skeert to go back to them for the next set of planned mods (Supra AFM, intercooler, turn up the boost, etc.) if this is the interaction I should expect...

All I have to say is this motor better be the cat's meow, not burn oil, reliable, long lasting, grumble, grumble...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Still waiting...

I called Friday and was told the exhaust manifold had a crack they didn't notice, they needed to weld it and that took most of the day.
What about the 2nd manifold I'd brought?
Oh, that one had a crack too. (???)

I'm confused since welding cast iron is actually pretty straight-forward, and with the new turbo, the manifold should be cake to remove.

The time I built a turbo manifold for my motorhome, I used a Chevy 6.5 diesel manifold (cast) as the base, chopped a hole in the side, and welded on bits to make the turbo fit onto the side of the manifold. I couldn't bolt the turbo to the stock location, the motorhome floor got in the way.

But that took just a couple of hours (you preheat, weld, postheat) and was quite a bit of work compared to a simple crack.

If it weren't so warm in SD, I'd think I was getting snowed...

It's Tuesday morning and no call that the truck is ready yet, plus no commitment on when it would be ready when I called last week.

I'm getting concerned. The truck better run awesome...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Limited progress

No progress in the past week since redoing the list of what needs to be done on the truck.

I should hear more Monday. Either way, I’ll stop by and see where we’re at and get a due date.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Polishing the details

Finally made it out the the Truck Shop yesterday evening. James was cool and stayed a bit later than his usual closing time due to my late arrival. We could have gotten done faster, but he let me pick his brain a bit too.

The turbo's back from getting rebuilt, and he's getting it to me at his cost, which saves me $50. Sweet. I can spend it on the new head the truck needed. Looks like the crack in the last one was fatal.

The tech working on my truck had created laundry list of things the truck needed, but nothing nitty. I used to make the same list for customers when I worked on their cars. Personally, I find that kind of list gratifying. It tells me something about the tech, and the shop I'm at.

Rasmussen BMW in Portland, OR was like that, and that has been the absolute best dealer/customer relationship I've had. Well, apart from Rocky's Shell in Green Valley on Esperanza.

It was a good list, but also long. Going to be spending some more $$, but it's $$ well-spent. They're also cutting me a deal on list prices for factory Toyota parts, gotta love that.

We also decided on Total Chaos motor mounts. I hear 4-cylinder motors transfer more vibes with them, but they're captive mounts for when they break - unlike the stockers, there's nothing keeping it together when the rubber gives. With dual transfercases, we'll want a better mount. If they're too  vibration-y, I'll find a rubber bushing that fits and press it in.

While I was there, he showed me some 3.4L conversions they'd done (start with a V6 truck!). They had some pretty rad rides in the back. Some monsters and some sleepers. Awesome.

We also went over a few suspension options so I can start budgeting. I can only do one major upgrade at a time, and this one's wiping out the budget.

I'll be posting more on that later, as that's one of the upcoming upgrades. Some of the companies he talked about had not shown up in my web search. Some, like Total Chaos, had.

They can also mill a Tacoma 3rd member to fit my truck, so that provides another answer to the locker problem.

I'm pretty excited to be getting it back next week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Well, I'm not picking it up yet

The flu ran through my household, knocking me out of commission Monday and Tuesday. I was able to work from home, but I wasn't going anywhere. Then work conspired to keep me in the office past the Truck Shop's closing time.

Let's try it again this Monday!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Exciting!!! It'll be ready soon!

I spoke with James last week, looks like it may be together this week or next. Again, I'm not in a rush, so don't feel they're dragging their feet!

I'm stopping by the shop Monday to talk about the exhaust. The TEC turbo downpipe is a sewer-pipe compared to the stock exhaust. Which is too bad, since the stock stuff is in good shape. But we're looking to improve power and MPG, so there we go.

"What about ROI on the MPG increase vs new exhaust costs?" you ask? Maybe, maybe not. But MPG is the gift that keeps giving back, and I hope to have this truck a long, long time - like give it to my grandkids long...

I can't stand loud or buzzy vehicles, so I'm a little nervous about what we put on there (just a little, after all, it's just an exhaust, not a life-threatening operation. :) )

We had a Gibson cat-back on our '93 Suburban that sounded fantastic. Across the empty sections of NV or CA, we'd turn the radio off late at night to hear the motor running. Not too loud, not obnoxious, not tinny, just awesome.

The Remus on the motorcycle is borderline. It sure sounds good. But, with the stock exhaust, I've ridden past officers writing other people tickets, and they never even looked up. With the Remus, I get some glances. I learned long ago - avoid attracting attention, fly under the radar. :)

Even more important is driving it on a cross-country trip and being able to enjoy it.

I'm really picky about this, so here's hoping there's a good solution!!!

The engine build progresses!

I've decided to keep the turbo at stock PSI during the breakin period, then we'll go through and do the intercooler, turn up the turbo, and add a Supra AFM later. If it runs great, maybe much later - the stock AT is still in there and she's a bit tired.

Anyone know where I can pick up a complete R151F/tcase/bellhousing/shifters/salve cylinder/clutch/flywheel/d-shafts/pedals assembly for under $1200 delivered to 92065? :-)

Since I was leaving town and didn't want to be the schmuck holding up the guys at the Truck Shop, I asked him what he recommended for the turbo. He offered to send the turbo to Turbo City for me. I've used Turbo City before on a Spearco turbo I had installed on my normally aspirated diesel motorhome (that turbo was the absolute mostess, bestess upgrade ever), so that worked great for me.

I also told James I wasn't in a hurry when I dropped it off, if that was going to save me any $$.

He buys a used turbo off the internet...

I recently picked up aTEC turbo from a seller onYotaTech at about a 20% savings, plus with a good modd'd exhaust manifold. 

4 months old, blah, blah, motor threw a rod, blah, blah. The guy seemed to know his stuff, and had me feeling warm and fuzzy about the turbo since he's built a few motors for locals in his area, so I didn't ask too many tech questions about it.

Yeah, oops.

When it got here, the exhaust side was full of oil and the impeller had a ton of radial play (but no lateral play, thank goodness). The seller was apparently the guy rebuilding the motor for the owner, and was using the sale to defray the costs on a new 22RE (no turbo). Turns out the owner was using the truck to tow heavy things. Uh, not a good idea with a gasoline turbo engine, your turbo will be unhappy. Like this one. He seemed like a very decent sort, and told me he'd make it right.

Two weeks later, very little progress, but reasonably good response time to my calls or emails, then he fell off the face of the planet. Which really surprised me. Since I was going to be within 60 miles of his hometown in a few weeks for my brother's wedding, and I'd paid by credit card, I wasn't overly stressed. 2 weeks later, I get an email apologizing for not getting back to me, he's been in the hospital with H1N1 flu, give him 2 more weeks. Whoa!

I agreed, but told him I'd have to file a Paypal incident (which is totally useless, but keeps your ducks in a row legally - this was a chunk of change after all). 2 weeks to the day, I got a refund for $350, the cost of a rebuild for the turbo, which is what I had asked for.

Overall my internet purchases have been gone well, I've only been taken advantage of one time. But, as you can see, sometimes you have to work for your savings!

In this case, I figure I saved about $400 or so from buying this turbo from LC Engineering.

However, I think I could have been $ ahead letting the Truck Shop source a turbo for me. In the end, I think it'll be close to a wash, at least that keeps me sleeping easier at night. :)

Hat tip to Brian, thanks for taking care of your buyer, and hope you feel better man!

So, who rebuilds the engine?

The last engine I rebuilt was when I was 17. It was a 2.8L Ford V6 in my Cobra Mustang II (yes, a V6 in a Cobra. My, how far Ford sunk). One of the guys I went to high school with had rebuilt it, and the cam bolt backed out through the front timing cover. He was a good enough guy, this just wasn't his thing I guess. Once I got in there, I found a lot of liquid RTV (orange) floating around too. :) Kids...

I was flat broke, so I used some shortcuts. I used oversize rings instead of oversized pistons, etc. But I did it completely on my own in my parent's garage.

That engine went at least 55K miles after the rebuild, and they were very hard miles with many of them spent 1000rpm over the factory redline, sometimes for upwards of an hour. The overbore was 60-thousandths, as I was the second rebuilder of that block. That was apparently too much for that motor since it would get hot on the highway at ultralegal speeds (I was young). I'd have to slow down for a while to cool it off, then back on it as the needle slowly crept higher and higher and higher...

Overall, not a bad experience on the motor. That Mustang ended up experiencing a lot of other issues. Add the other Fords I used to wrench on, and that pretty much set me against Ford ownership in general. Sure, I'll take a GT-40 or an early Bronco, but overall? Nah.

The last motor I R&R'd was in my 88 K5 Blazer after a quicky lube place didn't remember to put oil back in it. The only oil change that truck had that I didn't do, even. Wow, was that a fiasco.22 miles after I left their shop, with 80K miles on the clock, it blew a rod through the side of the block. And no oil leaked out with that rod. I usually get 250K+ out of my small block Chev's, so this really caused me some unhappiness.

The last transmission I did was in our '93 Burb at 176K. I used a Jet Transmission (4L60E) and it was fantastic. Unfortunately, when the Blazer needed one, I listened to a guy who knew a guy... the shop in Molalla, OR really screwed it up and nearly set the truck on fire because they forgot to install a filter, which caused the trans to spit up ATF all over the engine bay while I was driving home in the dark from picking it up). Then that shop blew out the rear end "test driving" it.

4 aborted transmissions later, I took it to 4Wheel Parts Wholesaler in Portland and let them install a Jet transmission (what I should have bought in the first place). After the 5th time the tranny almost fell out, they threatening to void my warranty because they couldn't screw in some bolts right. That really put me over the top with them. I told them to give me back all of my labor $ and took it home and fixed it myself. No more problems until I sold the truck.

Given these experiences with farming out work to others, I really wrestled with what to do on this project. Of course, not all my experiences have been unpleasant.

Rasmussen BMW in Portland, OR was just plain fantastic with my M3. They worked on my car the way I would work on my car, and at reasonable prices for most services (I do my own brakes tho). I can't say enough good things about them. I can see why they've won the national #1 spot in their size dealership year after year.

I also want my kids to have that "I can handle it" perspective. And to be able to do their own work when shops screw it up.

I priced out the parts, found some recommended solution & providers for parts kits, and talked to several different local and national engine rebuilders about what I wanted and what they recommended. What I found is that there isn't a lot of experience with the RTE motors, as I expected since they're not very common.

ToySport gave me a real warm and fuzzy for building a 300hp turbo motor that was reliable. However, the entry price was steeper than I wanted to pay for the long block. Since that didn't include a new R&R, turbo, intercooler, AFM, etc., I was going to spend a bit more to get it completed.

If the economy hadn't nose-dived, I probably would have gone with them. Their price was actually reasonable considering all the goodness they were going to put in it. I recommend checking them out if you need a hot motor. Check out ToySport's tech notes on the 22RTE for more warm-and-fuzziness.

What made my decision for me is that I just don't have any spare time to dedicate to yanking a motor and rebuilding it. I have 3 kids at home (one in college) and we're running from practice to game to practice to friend's house. Many Sundays you can find me and my son at the dirtbike track, etc., the holidays are coming up, the ultra-busy season at work is starting up, and my HOA can be militant about projects like this.

In the end, I decided to go with a local shop calledThe Truck Shop. They came well-recommended by some of the local Toyota guys, and they also apparently do a lot of prep work for many of the desert racers. Hmmm... I'll want to be putting a long travel kit on this anyways, like maybe a Total Chaos Caddy Gen 2 setup...

Their labor rate for R&R was also reasonable, and they would warranty the whole thing for 12/12, even with the perf mods we were talking about. They were one of 2 rebuilders who would do that, everyone else tossed the warranty as soon as I said "porting?"

When I spoke with James he seemed to have a solid handle on the things an RTE needs, including how to turn it up, what intercooler to use, AFM changes needed to support the power increase, etc. I poked a few questions at him to get his thoughts. He was patient in answering my questions, and took some time going over the truck with me when I dropped it off.

So, it's going to get be ported, balanced, oversize valves, hi flow oil pump, etc.


Engine rebuild goals and objectives

The motor in the 'runner is pretty tired. It'll hold 80 all day long (at 20mpg no less!), but the grade up Grapevine really wore it out.  It's also not what one would call fast to 60. And I'm not sure it can spin a tire in dirt (considering they're 215 street tires, this is a sad, sad day).

Before starting an engine rebuild, you have to decide what's important. All out power? Economy? Cost? Pick any two. Ok, maybe just one!

In my case, I don't need all-out power (I have other vehicles, one of which will pull a sub-3-second 0-60). But it does need to run good. I don't expect 40mpg, but mid-20s would be very nice. I don't want to have to run premium gas, except when I want to (e.g. when I turn the PSI up on the turbo). And I have a lot of expensive things to do to the truck (long travel kit, dual tcases, convert to 5 speed, fix the AC, etc.)

So, in a nutshell I wanted a reliable engine that puts out decent power, over 200hp, and which delivers decent mileage.

Impossible? After all, in the 80s, it took at least 5.0 liters to deliver 200hp (Mustang).

Consider this - My '95 BMW M3 puts out a rated 240hp and gets 28mpg on the highway (23 mixed). The guys with slightly newer automatic and 6-speed versions (overdrives) are seeing 32mpg on the highway. It does, however, need premium. 87 octane reduces the mpg, and power has a big flat spot in the middle. I can live with running premium though (with 125K miles, I certainly have enjoyed living with it!).

The M3 is a 3.0 liter six, the 4Runner a 2.4 liter four. Certainly there are some key design objective differences BMW and Toyota faced, such as one is in a truck designed to make torque, the other is in a sports sedan.

BUT - back in the mid-90s, European companies were scared of US litigation, so we got extremely watered down versions of their sports cars.

How watered down? The Euro M3 3.0 liter engine puts out 321hp vs mine's 240hp. Pretty watered down. Even so, the motor in my M3 is a dream to drive. It pulls all the way through redline, is torquey, and very responsive. And dyno runs show these cars might be underrated a bit. Fun, fun, fun!!

So... rebuild the motor myself, or have someone do it?

Now that's a dilemma. More on that soon!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

About that rear window...

When I picked up the Toy, the seller had indicated the rear window didn't like to go up or down without whapping the panel where the relay sat.

Sure enough, it was recalcitrant at best.

Seeing as I've been getting a lot of input from the Yotatech folks, I shared my solution with them. Far better write-up below.

I managed to get the window down pretty readily, but I couldn't get it to go up for the life of me.

I assumed the problem was related to the "Rear Door" light in the dash being on. That was driving me nuts, it wasn't lit the night I picked the truck up and I couldn't figure out how to make it go off.

Ok, time to pull up the wiring diagram (which you can find online by Googling for the service manual. Most of the Toyota sites have sticky links to them too).

Looking through the Factory Service Manual's wiring diagram, I figured that out right quick.


    LOCK the door (err, tailgate)... deerrrr.

I used to have a fullsize Blazer with an electric window and it didn't have a rear door lock, but the window wouldn't go up if the gate wasn't fully closed. I had assumed it was the door sensor that was acting up. And that's how past experience can get you in trouble! LOL

After that, though, it was still hit and miss - which it had been to go down.

The relay is behind the trim panel on the driver's side, and behind the driver's seat - about where a rear passenger's knee would go. Being a West-coast truck, it had zero external corrosion.

However, the [very thick] blue/black strip wire's relay-side connector was corroded, so I had to scrape that clean. The connector in the chassis-side looked fine, but a little blued from heat. Poor connections get hot.

After that, when I left the key on and twisted the relay 90 degrees each way, some of the sub-relays in it clicked on and off. The connection was still not solid.

Pulling/pushing the individual wires didn't help me narrow it down. But taking apart the relay and tracing the leads to the single relay clicking tracked down the wires I needed to pay attention to).

The ends of the connectors in the chassis side looked like they tend to connect with the spring-sides, not the broad flat sides, so I tweaked the ends of the connectors on the chassis connector to give them a slight bow at the front. Now the connection is decent and I can't make the relay click on and off.

Next time I get in there (when I do the front seatbelts), I'll add some dielectric grease to help it long-term.

It beats some of the solutions I saw with cutting open the relays, or creating your own relay array (the big relay box really contains 3-4 smaller relays).

3 weeks later and the rear window is working fine. Eeep! Did I jinx it?!?!

Let's start fixing things!

Ok, what's the first thing you do with a used car you bought?

Change the oil, the fan belts, maybe? Nope! This truck's going to get an engine first.
My thought process goes like this. If I put a new turbo on, the head gasket will leak. Or, worse, a rod will find a new home outside the block. It's a decent running motor (220K), and a head gasket will take most of a Saturday to do and I'll be much of the way into the motor... Let's just do it right!

Ok, that leaves... Wash it?

That's right!! This thing needed a bath in the worst way, inside and out. The outside was very grimy from its environment. It looked like it had been parked in an industrial yard for the past few months and the white was dingy through the accumulated grime.

We spent $10 at the local self-serve car wash hosing away the grime. The underside was pretty clean though. It's not spotless, but it's much cleaner.

The interior, as you saw from previous pics, was in a world of hurt. Cleaning was not going to help that rear carpet.

I started casting about for sources for interior parts. My local yards had little, and the ones that had stuff were pretty proud of what they did have.

So I started casting about on Yotatech, Pirates, and other sites. And Google.

And then I completely, totally lucked out. I turned out to be the 2nd poster for a guy who had a clean 89 (2 years new than mine) with the same paint scheme and interior color. Sadly, it was not power windows.

BUT! He was parting out whatever he could before he took advantage of the US Grubbimint's Cash4clunkers program. (The USG spent $3B of our money for about $380M in benefit. And a lot of new Japanese cars on the road. You decide of that was good for US citizens as a whole...).

Personally, I support people taking advantage of the program. It's a business decision, not a moral value.

This worked out to my incredible benefit as I got new seatbelts (all 5), headrests (my driver's seat looked like it had yellow dandruff), new REAR carpet (woo-hoo!!!), some rear topper trim, his radio, and some other goodies we'll be installing later.

Here's the detritus from the original headrest on the driver's side and why I really, really wanted new headrests. Not shown is that the design in the fabric is sewn in opposite of the direction of the fabric on the seat. I'll likely swap covers later. Much later.

Andrew is quite mechanical and I frequently find him swapping trucks on his skateboards when I'm pulling the motorcycle into the garage after a day at work.

Here he is pulling the driver's door apart so we could see how clean we could get the door panel. It came out pretty clean, but I didn't take a picture as it was dark by the time I put it back on after Andrew had headed off to bed since it was a school night. Dawn is amazing stuff (hey, they use it to clean oil spills).
Can you tell the new rear fender carpet from the old?

One other part I got was the rear trim for the topper. Someone had cracked both of the originals. Look at the dust/grime on it. That's all over the rest of the interior, and is much worse on the dash (the dash is clean in the original sales pics, so I'm guessing it's from the guy I bought it from).

The bed looked really good (eat your heart out, East-coasters! )
The seat-backs had a light dusting of rust, so I cleaned them off and painted them. I had some bronze I have no idea how I got, so I used that color! LOL
Rear carpet before
Rear carpet after. The new carpet was in awesome shape for being in a truck with 190K, but still benefited from a good cleaning (with the help of some Dawn, a scrub brush, and a hose!).

And, finally, here's the tail end of this relatively easy project - the tailgate!

Here's the original tailgate
Here's the new tailgate carpet. FYI, the ugly one above cleaned up pretty well with Dawn, a brush, and a hose, but the vinyl surround was still pretty hacked... and the new one was still prettier.
In the week since doing this, I've decided a carpeted tailgate isn't something I'm in love with. I expect an alternative solution to eventually find its way here. It's too hard to keep remembering not to put dirty stuff on the tailgate.
There's nothing like the satisfaction of doing something so easy, so cheap, that is so effective. I really got lucky on the carpet deal, but I'm quite pleased with the outcome, especially given it was not work I was expecting to have to do when I originally flew out to pick up the truck.
It's great to have another truck, and another insured 4-wheeler in the family. It makes it real easy to for SWMBO and I to be in different places with different #s of kids at the same time!

Next up (probably, none of this is hard and fast)- rip out the seats and front carpet, clean the rear seats (yes, more oil stains), swap seat belts, and keep doing my homework on what to do with the engine.

So there I am, waiting at the airport

I sent the seller a PM and he called me up and we talked. He provided a lot of detail, I shared  a story about my 600 mile round trip (driving) from San Diego to Visalia to pick up a 4Runner that was neither as described, nor had a clear title (How does "Do you have a clear title?" "Yes, I do." become "I have paperwork so *you* can get a title."?!?!?).

He gave a detailed description of the dents, the dings, what worked, what didn't.

I get to the airport in San Diego, and the security line is the longest I have ever seen. I haven't missed a flight in many, many years (and fly about every 2 weeks for work).

Wholly mackerel!! It's easy to tell there is no way I'm making it. I check and there are 2 more flights out. I end up with the 2nd-to-last standby seat on the next flight. I am a very frequent flier on, and a fan of, Southwest and I like to think that helped! Since the original flight was delayed anyways, I'm only about 15 minutes later than I would have been anyways. As it is, this flight lands 1 hour after the earlier flight was scheduled. Whew!

At the airport in Sacramento, I quickly recognized the 4Runner chugging up to meet me. No smoke, good. Looked like the pics from the outside. Good.

Dude (name with-held to protect the not-quite-so-innocent) looked like my kind of guy. Bald, tats, working guy. He shook my hand when I got in and we introduced ourselves.

Now I used to work on cars for a living, but I always washed my hands and arms before getting into my ride home (well, any ride, actually). This fellow had just gotten out of work and I now had elevator hydraulic oil on my hands from the handshake. As you can imagine, this kinda got around on the interior too...

Lesson 1 - "Does the interior still look like it does in the pictures you posted?" Answer: You decide

Yes, that's from his tool bag.

Lesson 2 - "What's missing that should be there?" When I got there, I found out that the driver's window/door lock switch was missing. This part is turning out to be particularly troublesome to find (it lays in the door). And it's $225 at the dealer, I found out later. Yes, I'm still looking for one, that's a lot of green! For now I'm using jumper wires to move the windows up and down. What a pain! LOL

Story? "It was broken and I was trying to fix it in my wife's car, laid it on the seat, went somewhere, came back and someone stole it." Or your buddy has it, maybe?

Lesson 3 - "Do all the key locks work?" I knew the rear window had issues going up and down, so I didn't try it. But I did ask "Can I make the window go up and down with tailgate switch?" Answer: "No"

Is that a lie? Why, you ask? Because the key I was given only worked in the driver's door and ignition. Nice.

Excluding these tidbits, though, it was as described, it ran OK, and it didn't leak. We did the deal and I was ready for my drive home!!

A known issue was that the gas gauge wasn't working as expected, so I'd have to go off mileage. Looks like a sending unit problem as it reads fine to 3/4 tank, then thinks it's empty. I can deal with this (I think!).

I gassed it up, threw Flat-Face-Gary on the windscreen and asked him to get me home the fastest way possible.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring my multi-outlet cigarette lighter, so I had to alternate between the V1 (radar detector, world's best, get one!) and FlatFace when his battery tired.

After about 120 miles, I stopped for gas. At 80, I was pulling slightly better than 20mpg. Rock. On.

Turbo boost would not exceed about 30%, but that was probably due to the exhaust leak. And the 220K on the truck. :) Since a new turbo was in the plans, this really didn't bother me. And it was no surprise, obviously.

The ride was relatively uneventful. Relatively excludes:

  1. FlatFace rerouted me due to an accident in LA. At the whatever/I-10 interchange in LA, I completely launched that poor truck well into the air. The shocks are "a bit" worn, so it pogos a bit over bumps, and, with the worn shocks, it compressed fully into the dip, and then LAUNCHED. I just about hit my head on the roof, which is hard to do with a shoulder belt on. Semis must hate that junction.
  2. Right after that I got gas, and then proceeded to, like a dork, drive past 2 officers with my headlights off (at 11pm). I'm too used to my newer cars which turn on the lights FOR you! D'oh!
  3. For the finale to the detour, FlatFace routed me into what appeared to have been some gang violence. Cops everywhere, roads blocked off, body under a sheet in the road behind a car with holes in it. Garmin might want to consider an "Avoid high crime areas" feature!! =8-O Right about then, I was pretty bummed California makes it so hard to get a CCW.

A lot of the route was familar since I had just driven most of it to get to Visalia for that title-less 4Runner.

The long slog up Grapevine did stretch the truck's abilities, but I was able to pull 55ish over most of it without working the truck too hard. MPG dropped to 16.7 for that tank. We did bounce down the south side of Grapevine a bit, as a precursor the the I10 incident.

Most of the ride was done at 8-9mph over with few issues, just cruising with the flow. I got home about 3AM. Much to SWMBO's chagrin. She had wanted me to pull over and sleep. I like long drives (1000 miles on the motorcycle in a day is a good start!), and wasn't tired, so I just drove on through. Much longer though and I would have pulled off for a nap.

Ahhhhh, it was great to be home!!! Though I'd only left at 6pm the night before!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

After months of searching, I found my truck!

You know how it is. You want to find the right vehicle to start your project with.

After watching more than one Toyota climb up torturous, rocky hills with all 4 tires spinning like crazy while I was stuck at the bottom with a broken axleshaft (well, 3wd), I've wanted a Toyota. And I always wanted one with a removable top too.

So I started hunting for them several months ago. My friends were also on the lookout for me, generally sending me good hits.

While it would have been more economical to start with a fully built truck, I wanted something that the kids and I could work on together. While money is certainly tight thanks to learning the hard way about Alt-A loans and refi'ing into a fixed rate, losing our the options that come with "first money down", I'm looking at this as part of my kid's education. We're fortunate, the rest of our vehicles are in pretty good shape.

I'd been watching several trucks which were having a hard time selling, while using to keep looking for new postings.

The one at Pirate4x4 had been posted for many months, had a blown exhaust gasket, and was gradually coming down in price, but was still too much. It turned out to be like my motorhome. Watch them long enough, eventually the price becomes right. Or someone snaps it up before you do!

I'd about given up on it when my buddy Brendan re-sent this one to me. And this time, it was within striking range of my budget for a foundation. Even better, it had the cleanest interior of just about any sub-$5000  4Runner I'd seen so far.

So I called the owner up, asked the relevant questions (do you have a clear title in hand? Really? Does the rear window work?), and made arrangements to fly to Sacramento to get it.

Here are the pictures from his ad. Why is it so many people cut off parts of the truck? Is there something wrong with the front end? How about the rear end?

Sweet looking ride!

As sometimes happens when you get on a plane to buy something, I was in for a bit of a surprise. AKA, more questions I learned I need to ask.