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Project Rolla, Just Maintenance Things

Before we can get into doing fun things with this car, I needed to undo some neglect and deferred maintenance.

My inspection the other day showed that there were a few issues, mainly just from either not being maintained for ages or having the bare minimum to scrape along (typical Toyota life, it will put up with it and keep going).

Using my connections in the automotive trade I picked up a big box of parts this morning and set to work.

The first and most important thing I needed to sort was the thermostat. The car ran cold, took ages to warm up and when it did the temp would drop when moving. I’m sure this was causing some of the idle issues too. No good.

The thermostat lives up under the distributor. I tried to drain the radiator via the drain plug, but it was taking too long so I kicked the drain tray further under and just slowly slipped the radiator hose off and drained that way. Got most of it in the tray, which is unusual for me.

Just looking at the neck of that housing doesn’t bode well. A bit crusty.

Excuse the blurry pic, the housing is tucked away in the darkness, but this is the thermostat housing and the two nuts you need to remove. I doused them in CRC first and had no issues undoing them. Undoing the wiring off the distributor and pushing it aside helps, as does removing the top of the airbox.

Eww, this is the old thermostat. The gasket shouldn’t be chewed up like that.

This might be the reason it ran cold; daylight

The thermostat was jammed open, so even when stone cold like it was, it would let coolant flow on by.

This poor gasket. What has someone done to you?

The new genuine replacement thermostat and gasket looked much better. Nice and sealed closed.

Before refitting the housing I took it over to the overly-enthusiastic parts washer and gave it a good scrub. It was covered in old oil outside, and scale on the inside. A wire brush made the neck and mating surface a bit less crusty.

The new thermostat was fitted with the new gasket, making sure the jiggle-pin is located at the top. The nuts got a good lubing to make sure they are easy to bust off in the future.

Since I was in the area I also took the time to swap the distributor cap and rotor. I used a genuine cap and aftermarket rotor, just due to cost. These are the old ones.

Nice shiny new

Next on the hitlist was the spark plugs. The old ones were very worn out, with huge gaps (1.3mm). I’m also unconvinced they were the correct heat range (5).

A set of cheap, but reliable NGK BKR6E gapped to 0.8mm as per the spec went in. The leads look original but are in good visual condition so they will stay for now.

Before the final part, the oil change, I had to run the car up to temp to get the oil hot. This required topping up the coolant I drained and bleeding the system. This was done with the radiator cap off, heater on hot, and squeezing the hoses to burp air until the thermostat opens and the bottom hose gets hot.

Once it was bled I popped the cap back on the radiator, jacked the car up and drained the oil. The oil was jet black, but it had enough to keep it happy and I wasn’t panning for gold. The filter is a pain on these, being tucked up under the exhaust manifold (which is hot), and right next to the alternator and AC pump. I managed to crack it with a three claw tool, a short extension and a ratchet.

With the oil drained, filter replaced and 3.9L of Penrites finest 10W40 semi-synthetic oil in the sump it was time to fire the car up to fill the filter and check for leaks. All was well, and the engine was noticeably quieter already.

The last thing to do was to give the engine a quick clean and degrease. It will get a proper clean later on after I replace the rocker cover gasket, but I ran out of time to do that today.

One does not do all this work and not just take the car for a “road test”, that would be silly. So off I went, making sure to check that WOT and redline both work as expected, which yes, they do. The rolly polly suspension isn’t ideal for the twisty back road I road test on, but it’s still fun to just fang around in. I’m looking forward to driving it in manual form.

The engine is running and driving better than ever, with a nice stable and controlled idle, a smooth progressive rev to redline, and a good stable temp on the gauge. I’m tempted to wind the timing back up to 15 degrees for more power.

A great win overall. I thanked the car for being good by treating it to some LED bulbs in the interior and replacing a blown reversing light bulb.

Hopefully, if the weather plays nice I’ll be able to hit Pick A Part tomorrow and start grabbing bits to replace the broken things on this car, and also start hoarding manual conversion parts.

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