FJ62 3FE Rebuild Conundrum (2 Viewers)

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Dec 19, 2019
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First off, I'm so sorry. This was all bottled up inside and I think you guys are the only ones that will understand ...

I own a 1988 FJ62 for about 15 years. I love the thing so much. Moved to Colorado from Florida and began to question the truck. It's unstoppable, but a DOG in the hills. It's borderline dangerous, but no matter what, I can never bring myself to part with it.

It failed emissions here and sat in the garage a few months with limited driving until I found someone that would even look at it (issues were the general emissions fail and a major crankshaft seal leak - about 10 import and Toyo garages turned me away) I brought it to the current shop because it was recommended by the emissions tech. They have an old Toyota mechanic there with 40 years of experience and he has an affinity for the Land Cruisers. What they found first was cylinder 5 was working at 30lbs. The rest were between 100 and 120lbs. They felt strongly that this is what was making it run rich (that was the emissions problem). Head gasket and valves were fine as they had rather recent work. I have to check and see if they looked at the exhaust valves. If you hold a cloth over the piston it looks like it is in a hurricane. They said a full rebuild (sleeving the cylinder or other spot fixes were things they didn't agree with - "throwing good money after bad") . Now this ...

This would be the whole deal (engine kit, gasket kit, .20 pistons, oil pump, fuel pump, surface head, surface block, bore/hone). Their estimate came in at nearly 11k! I understand the value of a mechanic that has an appreciation for the vehicle and a long track record, but $6500 of it was labor and another $1700 was for subletting, which I imagine is the machinist. Reputable cruiser restoration places in the area said it looked fair and they would charge more. Speed shops say it looks suspect, but never get back to me with quotes of their own. I was sort of stunned as I take great care of it and it only has 156k, but I guess 32 years is a long time for something to be in service.

Other than that I have a full gamut of leaks that all sort of sprung at the same time. Fixed a handful, but what remained were the crankshaft seal, speedometer gear o-ring, transfer case gaskets (in and out), transmission pan gasket, and rear main. The crankshaft was the only one that required oil replacement all the others were minor enough that I could just keep an eye on the levels.

Rear main and crankshaft would be part of the rebuild, but the others bring the cost to around 13k for a leak free rig with a rebuilt motor.

So I have a few questions for seasoned owners and mechanics (shade tree or pro):

Is a full rebuild really in order now? Am I taking it in the rear if I go with them considering I would never take this on myself at this point in my life?

For people that have paid for rebuilds (the people that DIY just s*** too many egg rolls to think straight for a moment) was it worth it to find someone that really knew what they were doing? Did you find mechanics at a speed shop that don't understand these trucks and ended up having more problems for the lower price tag? Is this engine just so simple that someone that simply tinkers on small engines and whatnot could actually do a lot of the work?

Is there anyone in the greater Denver area that knows of another shop that could even look at this?

Did someone else get the same work done at a better price and are satisfied with the outcome?

Are my guys going straight for the throat and hoping I bite or does this work make sense at this point?

If you're someone that put your head through the wall when you saw that estimate, would you find someone cheaper or is there a more acute approach to fixing my problem?

Would a rebuilt engine help make it a more acceptable vehicle on steep inclines at highway speeds?

Does anyone know the longevity of the engine following a rebuild? I should keep this thing, right?

The plan was to make it a daily driver again (was my dd about half of the years I owned it) since I can't bear to part with it, don't want to be a 3-car household, and can work from home 3 days a week. I would fix the leaks, do the interior, and possibly look at the H55 upgrade to see if it made trips into the mountains at least manageable, but now this rebuild came out of nowhere and put a damper on other plans
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60Works

60 Series Iron Works
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First off, welcome to Mud!

Secondly, sorry hear about your difficulties and tough decision. You've obviously thought about this a while before bringing it to us. You have a very clean well cared for Cruiser. The tan is one of the best colors.

The good news is that because you haven't been driving it, you've saved exposing it to the magnesium chloride Colorado uses on snowy roads. It's even more corrosive than salt. Regardless of your path forward, I'd recommend not DD it in the winter. Your truck is nice enough to have real value and only a few years in the corrosion could seriously reduce resale.

You have 4 options:

Repair the engine
Overhaul the engine
Replace the engine with a better engine
Sell your Cruiser


Repair:

"Head gasket and valves were fine as they had rather recent work. I have to check and see if they looked at the exhaust valves. If you hold a cloth over the piston it looks like it is in a hurricane."

Could you please describe this in more detail? It could be the key to ascertaining if the engine really does need overhaul.


Overhaul:

$13k does seem high but not crazy high. It's a very labor intensive job and labor is expensive at a good shop. Good, expensive labor is more valuable than bad, cheap labor. An inexperienced mechanic will screw up this job and cost you more in the long run because you will have to pay to do it over.

You will not likely get a significant improvement in sale value even after spending so much. Sucks, but reality. So overhaul is really only an option if you are absolutely committed to owning it forever. These engines are durable and can run 300k miles if treated right. Your mileage is low to have serious problems but sometimes you get unlucky, a ring breaks and scores the cylinder.

Replace with a V8:

Depending on how much of a Toyota purist you are, this is a real and good option. The 3FE will always suck at high altitude. I mean really suck. You can't fix this with overhaul. Even a 5 speed won't help enough to be an enjoyable DD.

There is a well documented path to installing a V8 cleanly and reliably. Costs would be similar to overhaul and you would get more power, better fuel mileage, less emissions, and at least some return on investment. I would only let a Cruiser specialist who has done multiple installs do this work.

Sell:

Values for clean 62's are as high as they've ever been. If you were able to part with your baby, this is a good time to sell.
 

4Cruisers

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If you pull the engine and strip it down to a long block, take a drive south on I-25 to Albuquerque and drop it off with Brian at Empire Engines. He's right across the intersection from American Toyota, just off the Interstate. He rebuilt the 3FE from my '89 FJ62 donor vehicle that's now in my '86 FJ60. Did a great job and good to work with. He's re-built dozens of 2Fs, and maybe some 3FEs, for Brandon at Classic Cruisers in Poncha Springs, so he knows his stuff. The cost for my rebuild, with a new cam, valve job, new OEM timing gears, new oil pump, etc. was ~$2,700 (about three years ago). The cost might be higher depending on whether or not other major components are required.
 

xtremeVA

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You've had that thing for 15 years! These things are getting harder and harder to find....get it rebuilt and drive it another 15 years.

btw...that's a good looking cruiser! You took good care of it.
 
Joined
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For that amount of money, I would be looking closely at a v8 swap. It will simultaneously get rid of that high mileage garbage transmission and double your horsepower over that fresh $11k rebuild. It may even cost a bit more, but that's money well spent if you really like the Land Cruiser.
 

Godwin

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Longevity of the rebuild will depend on quality of the rebuild. I had a 3FE rebuilt > 20 years ago at a shop that had never worked on one before but the guys were familiar with rebuilding engines. I loaned them my 3FE FSM and they did a good job. That engine still runs fine with > 200 k miles on the rebuild. My cost was ca. $3000 or less but I pulled it and dropped it off with them.

If you decide to have the 3FE rebuilt strongly consider going with the H55F for the transmission because a manual behind the 3FE will improve the driveability of the 3FE, IMO. I'm running a H42 behind the 3FE that I mentioned above.
 
Joined
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Morrison, CO
The tan is one of the best colors.

I can't thank all of you enough for humoring my pissin' and moanin'. Tan? Really? It definitely grew on me, but I was upset when I finally landed on this one in 2004. I really wanted the 2-tone gray, but I kept finding ones with 200k and a prices between 10 and 13k. This one ended up being in my mom's neighbor's garage. It had 100k and he sold for 6k.

The good news is that because you haven't been driving it, you've saved exposing it to the magnesium chloride Colorado uses on snowy roads. It's even more corrosive than salt.

I always heard that what Colorado used was far better than either of the sodiums used elsewhere. Everyone marvels at how rust-free it is. In fact I just sold a 2009 4.7L V8 (god I wish I could afford to put that engine in the Cruiser). I bought that thing from Michigan because it only had 64k on it and looked like it was 6 months old ... until you looked underneath. I planned to get the full 400k out of the engine, but the rust paired with other circumstances made it easy to sell. That's what made me stop ignoring my emissions problem. Now look where I am!



Repair:

"Head gasket and valves were fine as they had rather recent work. I have to check and see if they looked at the exhaust valves. If you hold a cloth over the piston it looks like it is in a hurricane."

Could you please describe this in more detail? It could be the key to ascertaining if the engine really does need overhaul.

I replaced a leaky head gasket within the last 5 years and replaced the push rod cover gasket about a year or so ago. This shop was hoping it was a valve problem. They looked good. I read on this forum that a fella was running 3 cylinders at 0 compression and found it to be rusted exhaust valves. I was saying I'm not sure if they looked at the exhaust valves. Seemed like they were referring to the intake valves based on where they looked. I need to confirm. They sent me a grainy video holding a rag over the cylinder in question. I'm assuming the valve cover was off. The rag was whipping around from the air escaping the cylinder.


You will not likely get a significant improvement in sale value even after spending so much.

Really? I valued the truck as is (not knowing I had a compression problem at all) somewhere between 12 and 15k with the great shape of the body and frame, original paint, and low miles. I figured with an expertly rebuilt engine it would be the same or even more because buyers would not have to deal with most issues that could pop up from a 32 year old engine. Is that not the case?

Replace with a V8:

Oh man. I've thought about that so much. I reached out to Proffit's and Redline here in CO. The cost is enormous, but I understand the trade-off. What makes an LC special is that incredibly stupid but unstoppable dog of an engine. I felt I would have a big, dumb Frankenchevy that would last about 60k miles.

Sell:

Values for clean 62's are as high as they've ever been. If you were able to part with your baby, this is a good time to sell.

That's what I was thinking BEFORE all this. With an engine that likely needs a rebuild it has plummeted in value. I could maybe get 2k for it now?
 
Joined
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If you pull the engine and strip it down to a long block, take a drive south on I-25 to Albuquerque and drop it off with Brian at Empire Engines. He's right across the intersection from American Toyota, just off the Interstate. He rebuilt the 3FE from my '89 FJ62 donor vehicle that's now in my '86 FJ60. Did a great job and good to work with. He's re-built dozens of 2Fs, and maybe some 3FEs, for Brandon at Classic Cruisers in Poncha Springs, so he knows his stuff. The cost for my rebuild, with a new cam, valve job, new OEM timing gears, new oil pump, etc. was ~$2,700 (about three years ago). The cost might be higher depending on whether or not other major components are required.
Well, that's a fraction of what I'm looking at even though that work would drive me nuts. Thanks for the info!
 
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You've had that thing for 15 years! These things are getting harder and harder to find....get it rebuilt and drive it another 15 years.

btw...that's a good looking cruiser! You took good care of it.

Thank you man! I think that route is the one I will take. Looking at 2006-2007 LCs and LXs seems like the easy route, but it just isn't the same
 

OSS

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Don't let the cruiser control your life (fall out of love with it). It is what it is: a pokey slow antique that has some charm but now has a burned up engine. It's 30 years old, the transmission is the next to go, Toyota no longer has parts for it. The years creep by owning these dinosaurs and before we know it a decade has passed, then 2 then three. At some point you've got to unload it. When that will be is up to you.
If I could sell my FJ60 I owned for 30 years- anyone can. It hurts in the beginning, but once the reality distortion field eventually wears off, reflection reveals the truth- it's not as great as we pretended it to be.
 

NCFJ

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Here is my take, way off the norm. Those of us here on MUD generally view LCs with a very passionate eye, it's emotional. The post just above me by OSS is very much true, these trucks are not for everyone and the longer you own it the more that seems to become truth.

To most of the automotive world a vehicle that is 30 years old and has such a following is in Classic territory or certainly approaching it. The Classic car market is beyond hot currently and what is driving it the hardest is the Resto Mod sector. Classic cars with modern power trains, and modern appointments that can be driven daily. In short, new old vehicles. To further narrow down that segment, "Reachers" are in high demand. A Reacher is an old vehicle resto modded to a degree that you can hop in and drive coast to coast if you so choose.

So, to the OP, you are now at a cross roads. @60Works laid out your basic choices above, you need to be honest with yourself about what you really want out of this truck in the future. I agree that the parts train for the 60 series is falling off, pretty much standard for a 30 year old vehicle. Part of your choice. It all comes down to how much are you willing to invest into a 30 year old truck to make it perform how you wish. How much would it cost for a different vehicle that will give you what you need, can you be comfortable with it over your 60?

I wish you luck making your choice, it is not an easy one.
 
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For that amount of money, I would be looking closely at a v8 swap. It will simultaneously get rid of that high mileage garbage transmission and double your horsepower over that fresh $11k rebuild. It may even cost a bit more, but that's money well spent if you really like the Land Cruiser.
Is it well spent or do I have a Frankenchevy? A V8 is almost imperative in Colorado and I would love to have that Chevy V8 rumble, but it becomes a different truck at that point. It could be argued that it's a better truck, but it wouldn't have that legendary overland status.
 
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Don't let the cruiser control your life (fall out of love with it). It is what it is: a pokey slow antique that has some charm but now has a burned up engine. It's 30 years old, the transmission is the next to go, Toyota no longer has parts for it. The years creep by owning these dinosaurs and before we know it a decade has passed, then 2 then three. At some point you've got to unload it. When that will be is up to you.
If I could sell my FJ60 I owned for 30 years- anyone can. It hurts in the beginning, but once the reality distortion field eventually wears off, reflection reveals the truth- it's not as great as we pretended it to be.
You are what the rational side of my brain says every day. I did have the transmission rebuilt about 12 years ago, but maybe only 50k miles on it now. I had a friend that worked at AAMCO and he had his best dude do a complete rebuild really cheap. As of now, it's rock solid, but of course that will go after I rebuild the engine.

I've driven it for 15 years and it has never once left me stranded. There's been lot's of things to fix, but it's been with me through so much. In fact, I would have never known there was a compression problem if I didn't go down the emissions rabbit hole. There is literally no difference in performance. That's crazy. I just drove it home from the shop a little while ago in traffic and on the highway at 70mph. It rode great (FJ62 great). If I didn't live in an emissions state I probably would have driven it another year or two before total failure. I feel like you can't get that anywhere.
 
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Longevity of the rebuild will depend on quality of the rebuild. I had a 3FE rebuilt > 20 years ago at a shop that had never worked on one before but the guys were familiar with rebuilding engines. I loaned them my 3FE FSM and they did a good job. That engine still runs fine with > 200 k miles on the rebuild. My cost was ca. $3000 or less but I pulled it and dropped it off with them.

If you decide to have the 3FE rebuilt strongly consider going with the H55F for the transmission because a manual behind the 3FE will improve the driveability of the 3FE, IMO. I'm running a H42 behind the 3FE that I mentioned above.
That's good to hear. I thought about the V8 swap pretty hard, but in the end, if I keep it I think I want it all Toyota. One of the resto places here said the real value is in keeping it original (I guess a rebuilt motor and H55 nullifies that although the improvement in daily driving with manual seems to make them pretty sought after) - he said to not even paint it.
 
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If anyone has a good idea of the marketplace, what would be the value of the truck if it were sold? It runs like a champ despite the issues I outlined above. If you live in a non-emissions state you could drive it for a while, but what would be the average price for one in great condition, but in need of a rebuild?
 
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That's good to hear. I thought about the V8 swap pretty hard, but in the end, if I keep it I think I want it all Toyota. One of the resto places here said the real value is in keeping it original (I guess a rebuilt motor and H55 nullifies that although the improvement in daily driving with manual seems to make them pretty sought after) - he said to not even paint it.

Being a purist is a noble endeavor......I got over that years ago. These motors have their “charm” but If I could do it, the 300k 3FE in my wagon would be at the bottom of the Mariana Trench leaching its iron back into the earth. I would modernize it in a heartbeat but cost may dictate what is realistic. The 3FE is also a monumental pain in the a$$ to work on.
Unless your going to put it in a glass case and sell it at Mecom’s in 10 years, build what works good for you. If you do it right it will still hold plenty of value.
Whatever you do, feel zero remorse about swapping in a H55F, it is a piece of Toyota purity, the auto trans is a tragedy in these things.
 
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Being a purist is a noble endeavor......I got over that years ago. These motors have their “charm” but If I could do it, the 300k 3FE in my wagon would be at the bottom of the Mariana Trench leaching its iron back into the earth. I would modernize it in a heartbeat but cost may dictate what is realistic. The 3FE is also a monumental pain in the a$$ to work on.
Unless your going to put it in a glass case and sell it at Mecom’s in 10 years, build what works good for you. If you do it right it will still hold plenty of value.
Whatever you do, feel zero remorse about swapping in a H55F, it is a piece of Toyota purity, the auto trans is a tragedy in these things.
Hahahaha! Now is that engine a pain? I hear conflicting reports and seems like there are a few pain points, but isn't what makes them cool is it is essentially a Japanese version of a 1950s Chevy tractor motor that sits in a bay with some space aka easy to work on?
 
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To further narrow down that segment, "Reachers" are in high demand. A Reacher is an old vehicle resto modded to a degree that you can hop in and drive coast to coast if you so choose.

I wish you luck making your choice, it is not an easy one.

Thank you, man. I thought I could be getting into Reacher territory with a fresh rebuild, upgraded interior and an H55.
 
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Is it well spent or do I have a Frankenchevy? A V8 is almost imperative in Colorado and I would love to have that Chevy V8 rumble, but it becomes a different truck at that point. It could be argued that it's a better truck, but it wouldn't have that legendary overland status.

Legendary overland status? Come on, that's not from a 30+ year old efi system and automatic trans. If anything, that reputation is from having solid axles, leaf springs and a room for cargo. There is no argument that an LS based engine is a better, more economical performer with a practically endless amount of parts support and availability. That's coming from a guy with a 3fe/auto powered FJ62 just like yours.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping the stock engine, just be sure you do it for the right reasons. Keeping them original doesn't seem add value vs clean engine swap from my (albeit limited) observations of the used market. If anything, the clean swaps seem to bring a lot more money.
 
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There is no argument that an LS based engine is a better, more economical performer with a practically endless amount of parts support and availability.

How is the engine/trans set-up from a longevity standpoint? Is that something that starts having issues at 60k? Is it a typical American car situation at that point?
 

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