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Project Rolla 2.0, Deferred Maintenance (Again)

I swear Deferred Maintenance should be the title of all my posts, because sure enough, here we are again.

It was kind of expected though since the seller didn’t really know or care what he had and was running it on 91, I couldn’t expect he kept up with the maintenance more than just the odd oil change.

I’ve been collecting various bits and pieces for a while now, getting ready for this lot of work. I need to get the car in for a wheel alignment and then a WOF, so this weekend was a perfect chance to get cracking on it.

The first job of the day was to get the car up on stands and drop the engine oil. The oil level was a bit low, so I topped with the finest thin synthetic 5W40, started the car up and ran it for a bit first to get some heat into the oil, and then drained it. It came out fairly dark, but not jet black and there were no chunks. The filter didn’t look too old either, so I suspect it probably had the usual Kiwi “service” of an oil change and nothing else. Better than nothing I guess.

The filter on the 20v is a bit easier to access than the 7AFE as it has a spacer behind it. I’m not sure why, it’s not an oil cooler, it’s just a passthrough shifting the filter away from the block.

I poured in 3L of Penrite semi-synthetic 15W40, started the car up to check for leaks, and when there were none moved onto the next job.

The next fluid to change was the gearbox oil. The gearbox shifts OK, with no grinding or crunching but 2nd gear can be a bit stiff. It turns out this fluid may have been changed somewhat recently too, as it was a clean reddish colour and smelt like clean gear oil. Either way, I drained it and replaced it with Penrite 75W90.

Always open the fill plug first, just in case it’s seized and you find yourself with a drained box and no way to fill it. The fill plug is on the front of the box, covered in filth. The fill and drain are both 24mm.

The drain is under the car, on the very bottom of the gear box, kinda in line with where the filler is. Be aware that when you remove the drain plug the fluid will come out with some considerable gusto, especially if you have completely removed the fill plug, so get ready for it to shoot half way across the floor.

To fill the gearbox I used the flexi pipe that comes with the fluid, and extended it with some extra hose and just let gravity fill the gearbox until it started to dribble out again. Easy.

It took about 2.3L or so. A 2.5L bottle was plenty.

The last fluid I was curious about was the clutch fluid. I replaced the brake fluid when I replaced the brakes, and the fluid was black and very festy. The clutch fluid was no better.

I didn’t want to drain the whole thing and introduce air into the system, so took to doing a few flushes whilst adding new fluid. It’s not so dark now but certainly isn’t as clean as the brake fluid.

One of the main jobs I had to get done was the front control arms, and the RH axle. I wanted to remove the arms and replace the bushes with poly bushes. The axle needed to be replaced as the outer CV had decided it wanted to be heard and was singing the song of its (broken) people, both when turning but also when accelerating, which was novel.

The control arms are really easy to get out. Undo the three nuts/bolts on the lower balljoint, remove the nut for the lower swaybar link, and then it’s a series of bolts holding the swaybar bracket on and one big bolt through the bushing.

With the control arm out it was easy to pull the axle out and have a good look. I pulled it out and assessed its condition from the safety of the bin. Since I was only doing the outer shaft, I just removed the band from the inner CV boot and split the shaft that way, leaving the fixed section in place.

Needless to say the boot was stuffed

But the joint was even worse. All the grease that hadn’t previously ejected its self everywhere, was turned to a hard putty-like substance. There was also noticeable play when twisting the CV on the shaft. I have no idea how this wasn’t identified in the WOF inspection!

The replacement shaft had good boots, so all I did was clean the old grease out, pack new grease into the inner CV and reassembled it with a new clamp on the boot.

Next was the fun task of pressing the old control arm bushes out. Thankfully I have a press, and with some creative use of big sockets, It wasn’t too bad of a job.

One side came out easy enough, the other side got a bit stuck and the inner rubber came away from the outer shell. This left me with a metal sleeve stuck in the arm. The easiest way to sort this was to was a reciprocating saw to cut a notch in it and use a chisel to crush the sleeve slightly and knock it out.

The new poly bush pressed in easy, you just need to make sure its even on both sides when done.

These are a multipart bush, with the main bush, a tube and washers/spacers on each side.

And when completed they should look like this

The front bushing pressed out easily too, but needed some jiggery-pokery to get it into place in the press. I’m not sure this is an officially supported method, so don’t try it at home. I wouldn’t do this to a metal sleeve bush, but these are an easy press fit rubber bush with no outer sleeve. The strap is only to stop the rear of the arm from coming up.

The outers for the polybush press in by hand, but I used the press to push the tube through. You could easily use a vice, or if you are a bit rough, a hammer.

One complete arm.

Refitting the first arm was something of a nightmare and not a job I want to do again in a hurry. Lining everything up was a real ball-ache, and at one point when the pry bar slipped, a face ache.

The second arm went a bit smoother. There isn’t really any trick to it other than not attaching the balljoint to the arm until the very end, and using a dead blow hammer to get the front bush into place. To get the bolt into the rear bush you need the arm as flat as possible in the horizontal plane, but the front bush is also very sensitive to twist and angles. It’s a lot of trial and error.

With both fitted though, everything got torqued to spec and I moved on.

I had a quick interlude from big work, mainly because I was at the end of my tether after the control arms and small jobs are easy wins.

The RH side fog light was secured in place with zip ties, and neither worked. I wanted to know why.

As it turns out, neither were plugged in. Both actually work once the connectors are… connected. The RH side one has a broken mount and cracked lens though. Thankfully all the bits are there though, so I can fix it and the lens isn’t letting moisture or dirt in.

Someone had tried to fix it before, using what I presume is either a cheap superglue or PVA glue. It didn’t stick at all. They also failed to key the surface, so the glue was sitting on the surface. On the plus side, it was really easy to remove the old glue. I mixed up a batch of super-strong Araldite, and after keying the surface with a wire bush, slathered it on.

And some creative taping kept pressure on the joint overnight.

It seems pretty strong today, but I’ll give it a couple of days to fully cure before refitting.

Another small win was to fix the front plate, which was 90 shades of bent out of shape.

Some swift beating with a plastic hammer made it look somewhat normal again.

It won’t ever look perfect on the car because the mounting points are twisted and bent, but since they are moulded into the bumper cover I’m kinda stuck with it, but it’s better than it was. You can actually read it now.

Whilst fiddling around on the front of the car I decided to cut the tie wire and remove the random gopro mount from behind the grille. This also gave me the chance to realign the grille, which wasn’t hooked in properly at the bottom.

The grille looks better now

It is all in a dire need of a clean, but that will come later.

The next day, before starting the under bonnet work I slid under the back of the car and wire brushed the “surface rust” on the “fuel pipes” that the car failed its WOF on. To be fair, there was a little surface rust under there, but it was on a brake pipe and was minor (less than the fuel pipe on the liftback had). This was followed by some rust convertor, and later in the day, epoxy zinc.

Back in the engine bay, I replaced the ancient fuel filter, which was full of black rubbish. No photos of this because it’s a real bastard of a job. Most of the access is through a cutout in the LH wheel well, and a lot of the work is done blind. Not much fun, but it’s done.

After that, I pulled the shitty pod filter intake out. It was just a pod filter stuck into the end of the standard intake pipe, resting on the bottom of the stock airbox with a foam pad to stop it from rubbing through (which going by the sealant on the top of the filter, it had done already).

The intake air temp sensor had been relocated to a bottle cap with a hole poked through it.

With the intake off, I couldn’t help myself but to check out the reason you buy a 20V… the ITB trumpets.

Very big and trumpety.

Before refitting the standard intake, I removed the bottom of the airbox to clean it and decided it wouldn’t be any easier than now to replace the thermostat (which was sticking open).

It turns out the thermostat housing had also been leaking, as shown by this mess on top of the gearbox.

Removing the housing gave an idea of what was going on. A pinched and torn gasket, and any colour you like as long as it’s orange-brown.

You can see where the housing was leaking once the thermostat is removed. It was just seeping out the side, through the stuffed gasket.

The poor gasket had seen some shit.

Some of it was even stuck in the thermostat, obviously jamming it.

The “coolant” wasn’t just like rusty water, there was something thick and slimy in it. I presume it’s that old bastard Stop Leak. Ugh. I flushed some coolant through the top hose with the thermostat out, and got more brown mud out of the system. I’ll need to run it for a bit and do a couple of flushes I guess. They probably put it in to stop the thermostat housing leaking… instead of, you know, fixing it.

The new thermostat and gasket looking mighty fine. Remember to place the jiggle pin at the top.

And the freshly cleaned housing goes back on.

The old thermostat had a date stamp of 97, so probably original.

Unfortunately this is where it all came a bit unstuck for a bit today. When checking out the hoses and front engine mount I noticed the radiator was looking a bit worse for wear. Sure enough, once removed you can see a whole bunch of fins have rotted away, and there are signs it’s been leaking in the past.

I knew I’d have to replace the radiator eventually, but didn’t think it would be this soon. There was no point in reassembling with that radiator though, so in the bin it went, fan and all. I noticed the fan made a grinding noise when spun by hand, so had no desire to keep that. The car has been running cold for ages so it probably hasn’t needed the fan.

A quick trip to Pick A Part ended with a clean enough radiator and fan from an AE111 liftback (like mine but 4AFE powered). There were remnants of clean red Toyota coolant in the system, and the sticker said it had been changed a few years back, so that’s better than nothing. Some fins are a little out of shape from use, but no signs of leaks and it looks clean inside. I suspect it may have been replaced at some point as it doesn’t have any Toyota logos on it like my original one.

Interestingly, the NZDM AE111/AE112s have a nice plastic fan shroud, whilst the Carib had a metal shroud that was starting to look rubbish due to surface rust. The plugs are the same and as tested, it works fine in my car.

While the radiator was out, once again, there wouldn’t be an easier time to replace the front engine mount. I had replaced the rear recently, but there was still quite a bit of shunting coming on and off the throttle.

Hmm, something doesn’t look right

What way should the “forward” arrow be facing? Not backwards? Oh, okay then.

A couple of bolts and out the mount comes, showing the full horror of fitting a mount backwards. Torn to bits. No wonder the engine flopped about.

I made sure to fit mine with the arrow pointing forward.

Now I could refit the radiator and move onto other things, like fitting the intake.

Of course, I couldn’t just fit the stock intake and hide all that intake noise away, so I pulled back the guard liner and whipped the big resonator out. The intake now draws air from inside the guard behind the liner, and from the snorkel behind the headlight.

The K&N panel filter I picked up cheap used, had a clean and oil and then got fitted.

Followed by the rest of the intake, including refitting the diagnostic connector where it should be, and not taped to the charcoal canister.

Spark plugs were next on the list, so off came the cover. The whole valley is coated in old oil that had turned kinda sticky and gooey.

I suspect it’s a mixture of the oil cap leaking due to a very compressed seal, and some hamfisted top-ups.

The spark plugs weren’t as gross as I expected, all the spark plug tubes are bone dry, but the spark plugs are the wrong heat range (BKR5) and the EYA variant isn’t the recommended plug.

Not to mention the HUGE gap due to wear

I measured them at about 1.4mm, when they should be 1.1mm, but thats at the highest point, and the wear slopes away towards the ground strap. They also read quite lean to me, being very white.

The new replacement plugs I used are BKR6E-11. These are the standard version of the recommended platinum plugs. The only real difference is the shorter service interval, which for me is fine, but the previous owner probably could have done with the platinum plugs.

The spark plugs leads are looking very tired. One was rubbing, and possibly arcing, on one of the center nuts (the below photo is after I moved it to the correct location, see photo a couple above for where it was).

Another is wrapped in tape and I’m too scared to find out why

I gave the valley a quick clean down and moved onto one of the sources of the oil leaks; the distributor oil seal.

I marked the starting location with a paint pen, so I can refit it in the same place. Whether that is the right place or not, I’ll find out later when I crack out the timing light.

There is one bolt holding the distributor in place, and with that removed some careful levering will pop the distributor out. I think mine had been leaking a little…

The old O-ring practically broke in half when I tried to cut it with a knife. It’s also very flat. The new O-ring was carefully placed into the groove after some vigorous cleaning (but taking care not to rotate the distributor). Some rubber grease on the O-ring before assembly, and all should be well.

The final job to do before giving it a quick degrease was to fill and bleed the cooling system. I was going to praise this funnel setup I have, which did a really good job of keeping the system topped up…

Until it decided, when it was half full of hot coolant, that it no longer wanted to be part of the cooling system and came out of the filler neck, tipped over, and poured coolant everywhere.

Well, it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t coolant on the ground.

The good news is that it bled up OK, no obvious leaks and the temp came up quickly and held steady. Unfortunately, the heater is a bit average, so I will probably need to flush out the heater core. Another day.

Since there was now coolant over EVERYTHING on the LH side of the engine bay, I had to push forward on getting the car out of the garage so I could clean the coolant off before it dried and stained. This did give me a good opportunity to flood everything with degreaser and make it look a bit better.

Hopefully this will help me identify where leaks are actually coming from, and how old some of the grime was.

I couldn’t help but take it for a quick shakedown around the block. It’s still a work in progress, and I’ll feel more confident in the suspension once it’s been aligned, but the engine does rev out very nicely. Unfortunately the VVT pulley is dead, so there is little to no low/mid-range power, and it feels slow compared to the liftback, but that will be sorted eventually and I’ll have all the power back. The ECU will still be learning again too, since the battery was disconnected.

There is also a difference in driving style between the two cars that I will need to get used to. With the 7AFE it’s all torque, and it runs out of puff quickly, so you use lots of throttle down low and shift early. The 4AGE is all top end and all about revving the engine hard. Even with a new VVT pulley, I expect there will be minimal power down low, it’s just the way it is. It’s a screamer.

I have some more cosmetic and interior work to do, and some more parts are on the way (leads, cap and rotor), but I’ll book an alignment for next weekend and hopefully have it in for a wof that following week. Other than a couple of bulbs, I’ve pretty well nailed the old WOF sheet now.

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Mark Zhu
Mark Zhu
2 years ago

Hey mate. I recently did up and sold a Carib 20v. Awesome car. The spark wire leads and vvti are super expensive, be curious to see what you decide!

I found spraying engine cleaner straight into the trumpets cleaned them out pretty good and made a good smoke show for the neighbours!