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!