Is my tranny totally shot? (1 Viewer)

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Mar 13, 2011
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Hi all. Sorry to be posting here for the first time and basically begging for help but I'm afraid I'm in a fairly desparate situation...

My 2002 Toyota 4Runner w/4WD and an automatic transmission crapped out on me while I was driving from CT to Denver, CO. I am now holed up in Aurora, IL waiting until someone qualified can look at it. Until that happens I will settle for the diagnoses of anyone who has better knowledge of 4x4 drivetrains than I do. Anyway, here's what happened...

I was happily driving along with the cruise control set at about 75 mph when, all of a sudden, the car red-lined. First, I tapped the brakes to shut off the cruise and get the engine to stop red-lining. Then I pulled over, stopped, and tried to get it back into gear. Nothing doing. Also, whenever I goosed the gas a bit and the RPMs went up, I'd hear a little metallic rattling coming from below and slightly in front of the shifter. The car also seemed to creep a little when idling in Drive. Not as much as it normally would, but a little. Next, when I turned off the car, I could not longer get it started. I could clearly hear the starter spinning but the engine did not turn over. I also heard more metallic grinding and rattling when attempting to restart it. Lastly, the tow truck operator noted that Park would not hold the vehicle in place.

Those symptoms tell me a couple things:

1. Something in my drivetrain between the engine and the rear wheels failed abruptly and catastrophically.
2. Whatever failed made it impossible for the starter to engage the flywheel and turn the engine over.

To me and my minimal drivetrain troubleshooting skills, except for Park not engaging, this seems more like a flywheel/torque converter issue than an actual transmission/transfer case problem (fingers crossed). I just feel like most serious transmission problems show symptoms before the totally break. Mine displayed none. That said, I have zero first hand experience with how either type of problem manifests itself so what do I know.

So, I have a couple questions: Anyone got any ideas about what's wrong with my car? How long will I be stuck in Illinois?

Thanks, and I'd appreciate any and all ideas you guys have.
 

IanB

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Shattered flexplate (what they call a flywheel when the vehicle is an auto)? The starter teeth would mesh with the teeth on the outer edge of the flexplate, so that could explain why it wont' turn the engine over anymore.
 
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Going on IanB's theory, There are six bolts that hold the flex plate to the torque converter. If you shattered the flexplate, it would no longer hold the torque converter- Which would explain the redline- The engine was essentially spinning with no load on it.

If this is the case *essentially your best case scenario*
You'll have to replace;
Flexplate
6bolts to converter
6bolts that hold flex plate on
any parts damaged by flexplate

now, heres where it can get worse...
You couldve damaged your torque converter. $$$
You could have damaged the rear main $$
You could be lucky and just need to replace bolts $

However- If I were in there, or a mechanic was... I would have them replace the rear main seal, at minimum. If you were smart, You'd have them do the torque converter seals.

Now, last time i pulled a tranny it took roughly 6hrs, start to finish. First time it took me 13. I imagine they would charge inbetween those two hourly figures.

Good luck, post up what you find!
 

Duane

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wow that seems hard to believe that your flex plate came loose from the crank... but the inability of the starter to crank it over and the lack of the engine spinning the tranny points to there...
What does the transmission oil look like on the dipstick?? clean or dirty with chunks of brown?? If it is still clean then should be as the guys have directed.
Sorry to hear..what a crappy thing to happen on the road.
 
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I'll bet it's the flexplate. A friend of mine had this exact same thing happen on a 98 he bought for his girlfriend with 100k on it. Fortunately he has a lift in his garage and a transmission jack so he fixed it himself. $30 for a used flexplate and about 8 hours and he had it done. And of course he called me afterwards considering my 00 4Runner has over 200k on it. Certainly not what I wanted in the back of my mind.
 

apeterson

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I'll bet it's the flexplate. A friend of mine had this exact same thing happen on a 98 he bought for his girlfriend with 100k on it. Fortunately he has a lift in his garage and a transmission jack so he fixed it himself. $30 for a used flexplate and about 8 hours and he had it done. And of course he called me afterwards considering my 00 4Runner has over 200k on it. Certainly not what I wanted in the back of my mind.
yea exactly what I am thinking now.. but there really is nothing one can do to prevent it. :bang:
 
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Well, my worst case scenario of a blown tranny was better than what actually happened. Turns out the crankshaft broke between the engine block and the flexplate. In hindsight, that seems like the obvious diagnosis given what happened. I think I would have heard a ton more racket if the tranny blew or even if the flex plate broke. Instead, it was just a sudden snap, the engine revving, and some not too horrible sounding metallic grinding. It also explains the starter not turning the engine over and Park not working. I'm assuming the reason no one considered this is because it seems almost absurd to think this would happen to a 4Runner with 142K miles. I know I was blown away when they told me the verdict.

Anyway, when I heard this news on Monday, I explored a couple options. The first being to replace my motor with a used one. The second being to trade in the crapped out 4Runner plus $1000 for a 1995 Chevy Tahoe w/109K, which I would use to get to Denver, promptly sell, and put the proceeds towards a later-model, lower-mileage 4Runner than my dearly departed one.

The local Toyota dealer referred me to a shop that would put a used 77K motor in for ~$3,000 total (both parts and labor) so I went with option 1.

Here's where the plot thickens... The guy at the shop just called me and said he found a rebuilt 96-00 4Runner motor on eBay for about $300 more than the used one. Apparently, the intake and some other stuff were different for 01-02 so he would be stripping those parts from my motor and putting them on the rebuilt one.

Is this a better option for the money than a used one if I don't plan on keeping the car for too much longer? What if I do keep the car a while?


By the way, the rebuilt motor comes from JIS Engine in Texas. Anyone ever dealt with them? They have just about the best feedback I've ever seen on eBay. Here's a link to the eBay listing.
 

IanB

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I'd spend the $300 on a rebuilt engine, no question. That sucks though, massive fail right there. What's worse is you're away from home, which really limits your options.
 
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Wow that's the first time I have heard of a crankshaft actually shearing off like that in a Toyota. Personally I would prefer to have a 77k mile engine that's never been opened by non-Toyota hands for the right year truck but that may just be me. There also may be a core and significant shipping charges associated with a rebuilt engine too. It would suck to get an older year engine and then learn after it's in that it doesn't have provision in the block for something it may need. Knock sensors, something like that. I used to truck-sit for some friends with a summer house in our area that had a 98 tahoe. What a pig compared to the 4Runner. It did go well over 200k though.
 
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Wow that's the first time I have heard of a crankshaft actually shearing off like that in a Toyota. Personally I would prefer to have a 77k mile engine that's never been opened by non-Toyota hands for the right year truck but that may just be me. There also may be a core and significant shipping charges associated with a rebuilt engine too. It would suck to get an older year engine and then learn after it's in that it doesn't have provision in the block for something it may need. Knock sensors, something like that. I used to truck-sit for some friends with a summer house in our area that had a 98 tahoe. What a pig compared to the 4Runner. It did go well over 200k though.
The extra $300 already accounted for the core (my block was no good) and shipping.

My mechanic did the research and said he was positive the older model year block and heads were identical to mine and that there would be no issues updating it using the intake, etc from my motor. He's not making an extra dime off this so I have no reason to doubt him.

Your first point about non-Toyota hands was really my only hesitation here, but the operation that did the rebuild looks top-notch. It's pretty much all they do, rebuild engines and engine components. If it had come from a local all-purpose machine shop or something I would have gone with the used one.

I figured I'm running a risk either way, and I'd rather take the chance on a rebuild than a used engine that might have been poorly maintained or have some underlying issue waiting to rear it's ugly head.
 

IanB

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What kind of warranty does the rebuilt engine come with? I'm sure that's worth the $300 right there.
 

Duane

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I agree with an engine that has not been taken apart..used if the provider has a warranty although likely just for parts and wouldn't help with the labor bill.
The rebuild sounds perhaps better to me, at least if it is from a reputable place.
The other option if I were on the road..is maybe renting a pickup if possible and a uhaul car trailer and drive your rig home when you are done your business. Maybe you would need to rent a uhaul truck to pull the trailer or I would even buy a pickup after I checked it out and rent the car trailer and get the thing home. At least you can then utilize local labor, local warranty if things go wrong etc.
Can also rent a dolly and drop the rear driveshaft and tow it home that way too.
Hate to pay extra because you are stuck in a hard place on the road.
 

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