Surfs in the Canadian winter..

Apr 9, 2008
Calgary, AB
Thanks to all who helped me with my last post here regarding a '93 Surf that I am considering.
I did some online detective work and came to the conclusion that it is quite likely that this particular vehicle had the 3L head installed from the factory on the 2LT-E engine, which makes me a little bit less worried about it cracking in the very immediate future, but who knows for sure!!, I am really new to the Surfs. I guess I will take my chances and keep a good eye on the engine vital statistics.

Now, a few more concerns that I had and appreciate your help:
1- How good are those engines in the cold Canadian winter? I mean Calgary weather with -30c and such. Diesels are notorious for not starting in cold weather due to one reason or the other. I really would like to hear some first hand experience from Canadian members who may have tried their Surfs in such conditions.
2- What about spare parts that are specific to the Surfs, is there any good place to get them from? Preferably in Canada. If in Calgary would be even better.
3- If the dreaded head bit the dust, where to get another and how about auto repair shops who can assist with the repairs, any advice?

I am really looking at using it for:
- Daily driver back and forth from work, mostly in the city with a small stretch of highway.
- Day to day errands, groceries, dropping kids to schools or library..etc
- Camping and family summer activities. Serious off-roading is very unlikely, but I consider winter driving in Calgary an ongoing off-roading experience. Look at the streets today. 35cm of snow in two days, and it is still coming down!!

I currently own a 2004 Dodge Dakota and it sucks. I mean BIG TIME. I bought it new in the hope of having peace of mind with a new truck but it has been nothing but problems even though I babysit it real well but it is really an ungrateful piece of junk. What makes me real mad is that all the problems started immediately after the warranty expired. I really admire Chrysler for their excellent prediction of parts lifetime!!..Sorry for the rant. I had to vent. I would take a Toyota anytime and I think it was a big mistake not getting one in the first place. I am really glad that JDM's are now availble here..

Sorry for the long post. Your help is very much appreciated

Calgary, AB
May 16, 2007
Tromsoe, Norway
1- How good are those engines in the cold Canadian winter? I mean Calgary weather with -30c and such. Diesels are notorious for not starting in cold weather due to one reason or the other. I really would like to hear some first hand experience from Canadian members who may have tried their Surfs in such conditions.

Calgary, AB

Hi! I have no Canadian experience but the conditions here are similar. So I will answer the first of your questions. There is absolutely no problem with seriously low temps. When its below -20c I normally glow a few times before starting. Also turning of heaters and other things that consume electricity before starting. No problem really!!! But worn batteries don`t last long. I have newer had trouble starting my truck. I have the 2LT-II engine in mine.

There is only one thing I really hate about my runner, and its the stupid rear-window. Especially in the winter.

Good luck! You won`t need it:cheers:


Feb 14, 2008
On the farm
Sorry, don't know anything about Toyota diesels.

In general for diesels:

  1. Each year before winter make sure the glow plugs are all working properly. Test their resistances. If starting gets harder, check the glow plugs and the wiring circuits to them. Some diesels like ford's powerstroke are notorious for not starting in cold weather if even one of the glow plugs fails.
  2. Engine coolant heater of some sort to warm up that puppy to make starting much easier.
    1. 120VAC Plug in type.
    2. Fuel fired boiler. Espar and Webasto are two manufacturers I know of off the top of my head. They either burn gas or diesel plus use a bit of electricity from the battery and heat up the coolant and engine. Typically takes from 10 to 20 minutes. Some can be remote started. All I've looked at have timers.
  3. Keep a can of ether for emergencies.

DanS HJ-45

Apr 26, 2007
Dumont, CO
My truck only has the single battery setup. I think I found one of the very few LN130 Surfs that only shipped with one batter. Accordingly, I've got a red-top Optima in it to give it all the help I can.

I have had ZERO problems starting in the cold. I've started it as low as -40C without plugging the block heater in. I'd hardly bat an eye at -20C. :)

But a block heater is a definitely good thing to install, even if they are a pain. You have to remove the starter on the 2LT-E to install it, but it sure is nice to know that your engine is already somewhat warm before you crank it--just for the sake of the oil seals and stuff.

As to the other questions.... I'm not sure about in Canada or Calgary, but I'd guess that any local importer would have a good answer. I use CDan, and if he can't get it, I go to Castle Hill Toyota in Australia. They've been great to deal with.

If/when the head fails, I'll order mine from Castle Hill Toyota if CDan can't get one here in the U.S. Any competent shop should be able to do the work of replacing the head, as it's no different than any other head replacement out there. I'll replace mine myself though, as long as I can get the truck back to my shop.

Your mostly city driving seems like it should help out the head longevity issue a bit--as you aren't going to be driving with the turbo spooled up for long periods getting the engine real hot. If you've never driven a third generation mini in the snow, then you don't know how sure footed they are. Decent tires and you're in fantastic shape. I've never, ever been stuck in mine (and I see a LOT more mountains than most).

The stock surf you're looking at isn't good for hardcore off roading. But it is excellent for an awful lot of really rough trails, if it comes to it. So while you won't be doing the Rubicon in it that way, you will also be able to go just about anywhere than the average *eep goes.


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