Started 8.16.2015, finished 8.20.2015
The 4Runner has some miles on it, a little over 180,000, and so I want to make sure that I’m doing some preventive maintenance. This rig was very well taken care of before, but I enjoy knowing everything that has been replaced. Gives me piece of mind. It is recommended to check the timing belt after 60,000, and replace at 90,000. I believe we were pushing the latter on the current belt, so I am replacing it. While in there, might as well take care of some of the other items that tend to have similar life expectancy, such as the water pump, and other belts. It was recommended to change out the thermostat, but I didn’t read that till after tear down begun.
There are a ton of posts on forums (www.t4r.org and www.yotatech.com to name a couple, though I’m sure there are many other forums that have this as well) and plenty of videos on YouTube. I found this post most useful though:
I also referenced this video on YouTube more than the others.
Because there is so much already posted on doing this work, I don’t want to provide a step by step, but did want to mention a few hardships and tricks we figured out.
Getting to the spark plugs and wires.
Before we launched into the timing belt and water pump, we changed out the spark plugs and spark plug wires. This is just part of the maintenance that I wanted to do, and has nothing to do with the other project. I picked up some NGK Iridiums and NGK wires. I’m a bit partial to NGK, but that may have to do with me being an Amsoil dealer and NGK having a past relationship. I’ve also used them in my motorcycles and are pretty happy with their performance. Toyota recommends the use of double electrode plugs, but after reading through a bunch of threads, figured the single Iridium would be fine. There is also a bunch of discussion on using a mix of Denzo and NGK, as that is how it came stock. However, there is a bunch of evidence pushing towards this theory, that the engine each half of the engine was manufactured in a different factory, and each factory had its own preference. I pulled all Denzos out, so obviously the previous spark plug change by a Toyota dealership didn’t warrant a mix. This change was fairly easy, the passenger side especially. The driver side required a little wiggling of parts out of the way, but wasn’t an issue either. We cleaned up the coils and added some dielectric grease.
Plugs and wires all done, nice and clean.
My dad was in town for my son’s first birthday, so I luckily had a helping hand to tackle this. The tear down to get to the timing belt and water pump started easy enough. Drain the radiator, remove fan shroud, fan, hoses, radiator, belts, timing belt covers, etc (the link above has a nice step by step). The part that got us was the crank nut. In posts and videos alike, there is a reference to a specialty tool. I have yet to see a manufactured tool though, and many look like some welded scrap metal put together. This tool is supposed to hold the crank pulley while the nut is loosened. This nut requires 250 pounds of torque, so it’s on there pretty good. We of course didn’t have the tool, or scrap metal and a welder to make our own. My pneumatic impact wrench couldn’t shake it, and we bent many screw drivers and allen wrenches trying to hold the pulley while using the breaker bar. My friend Will came over to see if he could help, but it wasn’t budging. After speaking to another friend of mine Jazz, who was a mechanic back in the day, he recommended isolating the flywheel. I’m chicken when it comes to sticking screwdrivers into flywheels, or many other parts of vehicles that screwdrivers are not supposed to be stuck in. So the project grounded to a halt. Sadly, my dad had to fly back home and couldn’t help me finish this project.
Removing the fan and belts.
Removing the covers and exposing the timing belt.
The next day, Jazz was able to stop by. We first tried to access the flywheel by going through the transmission access plate. However, he wasn’t able to get a good enough angle. So he took the starter off. My shop is a bit limited on tools, so we headed to the auto store to pick up something a bit more substantial. He was able to jam a tie rod separator tool (think hefty tuning fork) into the flywheel. It was amazing how little effort it took now to get the nut loose. With the nut and pulley off, Jazz had to head home. It was already late, and I spent the majority of what little time was left in the evening putting the starter and access plate back. Apparently, putting the rig in 5th gear and e-break on helps loosen it too. I can’t say that it would have worked, as I didn’t see that till later, but worth a shot.
With the nut now off, the following day saw a lot of progress to some degree. With everything off, it was easy to remove the old water pump and replace it with the new one. I changed the o-ring seal for the thermostat and cleaned up the hose connections. I made sure to scrap off the old gasket. It was recommended to use a 400 grit sand paper. I did so, but also used a razor, as it was a pain to get your hand in there to scrap. Carefully putting the water pump back on as to not mess up the gasket and sealant. One note here, when putting the thermostat back in, make sure you have the little whole at the top, in the “noon” position.
Water pump removal.
With the water pump done, it was time for the timing belt. I removed the idyler pulleys, timing belt, and covers. Comparing the timing belts, I realized that the new one didn’t have the marks to align TDC. After I slight freak out and some research, this apparently isn’t an issue. I also noticed that one of my cam pulleys had shifted and was no longer aligned. I was able to adjust it back into place. If you have the “special tool”, you can use it for that adjustment as well, but since I didn’t, I just used a ratchet. I’ve heard that’s not the best thing to do as you can loosen the pulley if you aren’t careful, but I didn’t have many other options. Once aligned, I tried to put the belt on. This was near impossible, as I couldn’t slip it over all of the pulleys. I tried to sneak it through with the top idyler pulley off, but it just wasn’t budging. Looking back at the instructions I posted, I remembered that a bunch of other items needed to be removed to make this easy. I was hesitant, as some of the posts and videos I saw, showed people doing the whole operation without removing all these additional parts and pieces. Looking back, I should have just followed his very thorough instructions. Not sure how some of those other peopled pulled it off, but I’m obviously not them. In order to loosen the tensioner idyler pulley, I had to reduce the tension. In order to get there, I had to unbolt the power steering pulley and the AC pulley, and remove a few other plates to gain access. Using budgee cords to hold some of these parts in place so that tubing and other connections wouldn’t stretch or deform. With the tension low, I was able to get the timing belt on, aligned correctly, and ready to go. After putting all that I just had to take off back on, it was late again and time to call it quits for the day.
Releasing the tension.
Now going into my fifth day of this project, which some say was a three hour job, I was happy that this was just a finishing day. Time to put everything back together. This was the least crazy day, as it was just bolting everything back in, adding coolant, and reconnecting everything. While the radiator was out, we made sure to spray it with water to clean it. There was a significant amount of dirt build up, so a good idea if you wheel with your vehicle. We also used a brillo pad to clean the hose connections, since you want a nice tight seal for those areas. Once all back together, I crossed my fingers and started her up. So far she is running well. I have had a couple of Check Engine Lights (CEL) come and go, but she had that issue before hand (the O2 sensors are playing games with me at the moment, and I’m steadily changing them out as well). The only thing that I have noticed so far is the power steering belt squeaks. It’s pretty tight, so need to look into that a bit more.
All put back together and clean.
It was great to get to know my rig more by doing this process. Luckily I’ve bought myself 90,000 more miles before having to do it again. I’m sure doing it a second time will be easier, but hopefully that will be a while. If you aren’t very handy and haven’t done any work on a vehicle, I would definitely recommend you take this somewhere to be done. There were a few moments where I found myself severely concerned about having messed up the engine (if the timing is off, things can go very bad). I would also do the water pump, thermostat, and belts while in there. Glad that’s done, so now onto the next thing.