Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Time Under the Hood

At last I have a free weekend to do some really long overdue service to the Landcruiser. The main purpose of this round of work is to replace the valve cover gasket, which is what I'm convinced is causing all the oil stains on my driveway. Since you have to move a fair amount of stuff to get that off, I decided to also clean out the top half of the intake plenum and the throttle body.

Since this is Thanksgiving weekend, I feel it's appropriate to express some gratitude. I'm thankful for my garage. Since I've started working on cars I've spent lots of time working on them out in the street, under a carport or out in a driveway. It's so much nicer this way.
Here's my temporary work bench.
Let's get down to business. Almost everything in this next picture had to come off. The big silver thing in the middle is the valve cover and it has a gasket that needs to be replaced. Everything on top has to get out of the way first. So here goes.....

That black hose across the middle came off without a fuss. Next was the throttle body. That was a little more fussy because of all the wires, cables, and hoses coming off of it. It looked like something out of a borg ship. Here's what it looks like with the throttle body and spark plug wires removed. The next step is to remove that other big silver thing to the right. That's the intake plenum. This was very fussy.

Here is the throttle body. Note the nice caramel color of the inside. That's undesirable but it's the inevitable result of 200,000 miles. I'll be cleaning that off.

I'm going to spare you the details of the intake plenum, but I'm a little bugged at the way the Toyota people wrote how to do it. If you want the details, just ask. Here is the removed intake plenum. The jumble of hose and wire is indicative of the rest of the job. All in the name of emission control. Note that caramel color on the inside again.

Here is another view of the intake plenum. This is the surface where the throttle body attaches. There's a little channel that goes from that small hole on the left and connects to the small hole right above the big hole in the middle. Over time that little channel tends to fill up with gunk. When this becomes clogged it reeks havoc on the emission system. According to the forums there are some very tricky problems that this can cause. There are a few little quirks in the engine performance that I'm also trying to correct through this work.
Once I got that done, it was pretty easy to get the valve cover off. Here it is. Look at all that gunk in there. The little black part around the edge is the gasket that I'm here to replace. Around each hole is also a little seal. Those holes are for the spark plugs. All of these seals were ridiculous. They should have been replaced 50,000 miles ago. Seals should be flexible, but over time they lose that flexibility and become hard. That's why they start to leak. The valve cover gasket was so hard I could barely get it out. It broke into several pieces when i was removing. All those little oil seals were just as bad. All ridiculously brittle.

Here's what it looks like now. Everything that's coming out is now out. Now the camshafts can be clearly see as well as the valve lifters. Now would be an excellent time to do a valve adjustment, but I don't have the tools, expertise or time for that this time around. All that's left is to clean all the parts and put everything back together. Unfortunately, though, I forgot to order one gasket that I need. I had to head to the dealer today to order it. I won't get it until Tuesday, so I know the car isn't going back together before then. Good thing I bike to work.

Gears are cool.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Wheels!

I took a big step this month. I finally bought a new bike. I've been wanting to do this for a long time, but as you know, bikes are expensive.

This time I was lucky enough that the stars all aligned with a good deal and available resource. One of my favorite websites to buy bike stuff from is They also sell complete bikes, but buying a bike without having ridden it is a crap shoot at best. I found this bike on their site and after thinking on it for some time, I decided to roll the dice.

I make it sound like I'm just leaving it up to chance, but that's really not the case. Bike manufacturers publish detailed charts that outline the dimensions of the bikes and it gives you lots of information to base your guess on. The "roll of the dice" part is the fact that these values for bike geometry aren't always reported the same by all manufacturers. It's not always apples to apples, but you make an educated guess. I spent lots of time researching and measuring my bike and I finally decided on a size.

Remember before how I said this was a good deal? That's the only reason I was willing to chance buying the bike online. If I was going to pay retail, I would definitely go into the local bike shop, but in this case, I was being pretty chincy. I got the bike for almost half of retail price because it was a 2010 model. It was brand new, they were just clearing out the inventory.

I've been riding it now for a little over a week. It took a little tweaking (all bikes do) but I'm very satisfied with the result.

The bike is a Rocky Mountain Metropolis YYZ. It's a commuter. One of the reasons I was looking at bikes in the first place (besides the fact that I do it a lot anyway) is I've been looking to either upgrade or replace the bike I ride to work. I was riding my old Trek 930, which is a vintage 1997 (approximately) steel framed mountain bike which I had outfitted with some decent road tires and some worthless fenders. I say worthless because they never really succeeded in keeping my but dry on those rainy commutes.

Another feature of those rainy commutes: water. I know you're surprised. That old mountain bike ran better than it should have for its age, but notwithstanding, the brakes were old. On my way to work I go down some pretty nice hills, so I rely on the brakes a lot. One hill in particular, if I were to have a brake failure I would fly across a road into the ocean. Two excellent ways to negatively impact my health. So this new bike has disc brakes, which were a requirement for any new commuter or mountain bike that I buy.

Anyway, If you've read this far on this post you're either bored, my wife or my mother. Thanks for reading, and know that I'm very much enjoying my commutes.
I guess you could say I rolled a 7.