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Old 02-27-2019, 12:41 AM #1
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Repair head gasket, replace engine, or replace truck?

Hey y'all,

I hate that this is my first post but it took a while to get posting rights. Anyways, I blew the head gasket on my '97 SR5 last night. It has 220,000 miles on it. I bought the truck with 170,000 on it and since then I have done steering rack, calipers and rotors, suspension, transmission, and transfer case. The last two were done about 10,000 miles ago and were replaced with used parts with 65,000 on them. My dilemma is this. I don't currently have the time or space to do the head gasket myself as much as I would like to. I called two local shops today and the quote 3500-4000 for a head gasket replacement which is way to high. The same shops quoted 6000-7000 for an engine "if they could find one". I checked with the shop I trust at home(I am currently away at school) and they quoted me 2000ish to replace the head gasket. I talked to another shop back home which I haven't worked with before who said they could put a JDM engine in it for 2800. If I went with either of those options I would have to ship it home at about 500. I can't decide what to do. The guy who had it before me clearly didn't take as good of care of it as his records claimed. I've lost a lot of faith in the car. That said I have also done a lot of the major repairs on it and know where those components of the truck stand. I welcome any thoughts and opinions y'all might have.
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Old 02-27-2019, 01:30 AM #2
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Do you have a garage and a bunch of tools? If not, I'd say DIY engine swap and HG are off the table. You can find donor motors for ~$500, and then have your local Toyota guy slap it in there for another $800. OTD for $1,300 plus fluids. Swapping motors on these is a piece of cake. Don't worry, the confidence will come back. It's not the truck's fault that the PO didn't maintain properly and is not a good indicator of how reliable these trucks are.

Check our Craigslist and Car-part.com for motors.

Your profile says Yakima, but that you're away...where are you right now?
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:20 AM #3
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You should be able to have the head gaskets replaced for about $3000 which should include having the heads rebuilt and a timing belt kit. If you could do it yourself it would be under a grand. The Yota Shop in Washington sells a re-manufactured 3.4L long block for $3700. You should be able to get a good used one for about $400-$1000. Probably would be around 10-12 hrs labor to install at a shop with air tools and a lift. If you have a good frame and body you should fix the engine.
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Old 02-27-2019, 09:05 AM #4
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Fix it (JDM, used engine, rebuilt heads etc) since you have replaced the trans with a low milage used one


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Old 02-27-2019, 09:29 AM #5
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If you don't have rust issues I would certainly have the head work done. Used motors are fine, just like the used motor you have. And used motors can blow head gaskets, just like yours did. Rebuild what you have.

Now, you can also throw in the towel and spend the same money on a good reliable car for you current needs. Park that 4Runner until you can do it yourself.
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Old 02-27-2019, 10:07 AM #6
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Well, here's my question. If you get rid of your 3rd Gen, what are you going to replace it with? Are you going to get a brand new vehicle or buy another used vehicle? If you get a brand new one, that usually means car payments unless you have a lot of money in the bank. If you get another used one, you run the risk of repeating the same exact situation you're currently in. So, better the Devil you know than the Devil you don't. You've already invested a decent amount of time and money into your current rig so my suggestion is ship it home and do the motor swap.
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Old 02-27-2019, 12:34 PM #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbtim View Post
Well, here's my question. If you get rid of your 3rd Gen, what are you going to replace it with? Are you going to get a brand new vehicle or buy another used vehicle? If you get a brand new one, that usually means car payments unless you have a lot of money in the bank. If you get another used one, you run the risk of repeating the same exact situation you're currently in. So, better the Devil you know than the Devil you don't. You've already invested a decent amount of time and money into your current rig so my suggestion is ship it home and do the motor swap.
This is pretty much the exact reason why I haven't sold my 3rd gen for a 4th gen or a LC/LX470. I really would like the added power and the extra room but unless I can find one with a meticulous documented maintenance history, I'd have to start all over.

My 97 is far from perfect but I know EXACTLY what I got, what it needs and what it doesn't need. I just don't want to start all over again and with two small kids, time is very hard to come by.
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Old 02-27-2019, 01:33 PM #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backcountrylimo View Post
Hey y'all,

I hate that this is my first post but it took a while to get posting rights. Anyways, I blew the head gasket on my '97 SR5 last night. It has 220,000 miles on it. I bought the truck with 170,000 on it and since then I have done steering rack, calipers and rotors, suspension, transmission, and transfer case. The last two were done about 10,000 miles ago and were replaced with used parts with 65,000 on them. My dilemma is this. I don't currently have the time or space to do the head gasket myself as much as I would like to. I called two local shops today and the quote 3500-4000 for a head gasket replacement which is way to high. The same shops quoted 6000-7000 for an engine "if they could find one". I checked with the shop I trust at home(I am currently away at school) and they quoted me 2000ish to replace the head gasket. I talked to another shop back home which I haven't worked with before who said they could put a JDM engine in it for 2800. If I went with either of those options I would have to ship it home at about 500. I can't decide what to do. The guy who had it before me clearly didn't take as good of care of it as his records claimed. I've lost a lot of faith in the car. That said I have also done a lot of the major repairs on it and know where those components of the truck stand. I welcome any thoughts and opinions y'all might have.
$2800 isn't too bad for the labor involved. Engine swaps are straight-forward enough (but take a lot of time using DIY tools) but JDM swaps are not. There's a TON of parts that are not compatible so you have to strip both engines down to a dressed long block, install all the USDM parts, then install the engine. I paid about $1800 ($1300 engine, $500 parts & tools) to do my JDM swap at my house so $2,800 would be a reasonable price. However, JDM engines are in short supply in some parts of the country.
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Old 02-27-2019, 02:48 PM #9
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My wife just did a HG on her '96 at just over 300K miles. Not a matter of neglect or abuse (as far as either of us could tell) - she's owned it since 119K miles and it's always had the proper Toyota red coolant in it (or the emerald Subaru coolant). It's just a matter of time for the older style composite gaskets when they sit between an iron block and an aluminum head (which move relative to each other as they warm up and cool down).

The stock OEM headgaskets have gone through 4 revisions (at least). Her '96 was built in Dec 95, so probably would have originally had the first revision. But what was in it when it failed was the second revision, possibly replaced in a recall for the early 96 production 5VZs(?).

Anyhow, on the plus side, at 304K miles, practically no ridge at the top of the piston ring travel, and crosshatching was still present on *most* of the bores, with just some small shiny areas on the 'rod throw' sides of the bores near the top. So... looking good for a long time to come. It was put together with the 4th revision MLS style HG's.

I'd say it probably worth having HG's put in.
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Old 12-12-2019, 10:44 AM #10
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I'm in the middle of replacing the head on the passenger side. Spark plug blew out of the hole and took the threads with it. Bought a parts 3rd gen for $350 with new timing set and swapping the head and timing set over to mine. Having some issues with cleaning and rebuilding the head though. Never done OHV work before and can't find anything on YouTube for reference. Not even sure what valve spring compressor I need. Any advice would be great. But, definition feel like if you can invest the time, repair over replacing. It teaches you so much about your engine.

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Old 12-12-2019, 11:06 AM #11
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I've never done an OHV head before I did the HG on my 92 corolla.

Get the complete head job done (with valve seals, seat, guides, etc) at a proper machine shop and they will get all the valves done right. When you get back the head, with care, take two cams off the head to tighten the head bolts and reinstall the cams with proper timing marks. It was very simple.

I paid $200 for the complete head job on a 4 cylinder corolla (I delivered the head with unremoved cams to the shop) back in 2013.

The repair was done at 220K miles and now I am at 276K miles.... It WORKED!!

I will do it again at anytime.... Make sure to take pictures along the way in case you forget something.

Now that I have "experience" I will not be worried when any HG fails in my 97 4runner or 2000 Land Cruiser.

Good Luck!

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Old 12-12-2019, 11:58 AM #12
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i went with a yotashop reman 3.4 when my pickup's swapped-in 3.4 threw a rod. apart from a couple hours of teardown that i did, the time spent doing the second swap (yotashop engine in) was 10.5 hours by two of us. as @absalom said, swapping these engines (read: like for like) is straightforward.
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Old 12-12-2019, 12:07 PM #13
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Current progress. These are the donors. Once the heads and covers are cleaned I will start disassembly of my engine. Then I plan to rebuild this one as a spare. So far, I've got about $500 &24 hours labor invested. That includes donor vehicle and parts ordered to date (gaskets, head bolts & washers, cleaning solvents, etc).

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Old 12-12-2019, 12:07 PM #14
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If you got money....maybe 2k all you need. for donor engine, hand tools, and 2 ton hoist (170sih at HF)

If your in college, if you have any friends that live in apartments ask them if their complex leases or rents out single car garage units.

Then give your buddy the rent for the garage unit. Tow the truck there and get to work. store all the tools you get there and just work out of the garage.

swapping engines is easy, if you invest in the RIGHT tools, and have some mechanical aptitude on fixing vehicles.

Outside of garage units, maybe check out local storage areas and see if any of the units offer power outlets in proximity.
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Old 12-12-2019, 05:19 PM #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backcountrylimo View Post
Hey y'all,

I hate that this is my first post but it took a while to get posting rights. Anyways, I blew the head gasket on my '97 SR5 last night. It has 220,000 miles on it. I bought the truck with 170,000 on it and since then I have done steering rack, calipers and rotors, suspension, transmission, and transfer case. The last two were done about 10,000 miles ago and were replaced with used parts with 65,000 on them. My dilemma is this. I don't currently have the time or space to do the head gasket myself as much as I would like to. I called two local shops today and the quote 3500-4000 for a head gasket replacement which is way to high. The same shops quoted 6000-7000 for an engine "if they could find one". I checked with the shop I trust at home(I am currently away at school) and they quoted me 2000ish to replace the head gasket. I talked to another shop back home which I haven't worked with before who said they could put a JDM engine in it for 2800. If I went with either of those options I would have to ship it home at about 500. I can't decide what to do. The guy who had it before me clearly didn't take as good of care of it as his records claimed. I've lost a lot of faith in the car. That said I have also done a lot of the major repairs on it and know where those components of the truck stand. I welcome any thoughts and opinions y'all might have.

$2800 was what the JDM shop in Gresham quoted me. They had decent enough reviews and I have a neighbor who used them for the swap a few years back and is happy.
I bought my JDM engine at the Gresham shop. It was a rough and tumble type shop, but the folks were nice, honest, and let me take my time picking my engine.
There is a guy on Craigslist in Vancouver who advertises $1600 installed for one of his rebuilds. I spoke with him on the phone, he used aftermarket parts, rebuilt the bottom end, swapped on good used heads as needed, and kept your stuff as cores. He seemed straight forward, fair and honest about what he offered. I didn't go that route, but its an option.

I paid $1300 for my engine. I'll just shy of $2k finished assuming no issues finishing it up this weekend. I have a shop, cherry picker, engine stand (2 would be nice), and all the tools and experience with this type work.
I've spent far more time cleaning parts than anything else. Everything on the JDM needs cleaned as well as everything on the original, engine bay, ect...

I had a blown head gasket. Rig started disappearing coolant a few months back. I kept driving adding coolant (gallon lasted about a month) till I started to see tan oil residue inside the fill cap and on the dipstick above the oil level. Shut her down at that point so as not to completely run her into the ground.
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