Trash truck .... a diary and build thread (1 Viewer)

CruiserTrash

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After reading a whole bunch of build threads I realized I had never done one. Seems like a rite of passage for Mud folks. So I'm gonna start jotting stuff down here, post some pictures, talk about all the ideas I've ripped off from this forum to keep the truck running. I don't know where this is going, but I'm doing it anyway.

Here's the thing .... My truck is kind of a piece of s*** but I still daily drive it anyway. This was somebody else's trash they were throwing away and I picked it up. I don't know if it's worth writing about and nobody asked for this. The repairs and modifications come in fits and starts, when I have the time, when I have the money, when it's an emergency. It doesn't seem very exciting to anybody but me. I become consumed with thinking about vacuum lines or electrical schematics or the air/fuel gauge readings vis-a-vis my latest carb tune. Really, it seems pretty insane to be so committed to something that causes me undue anxiety and that I'll never recoup any money on. I lose sleep over a goddam truck. What have I become? I'm almost 40, is this a midlife crisis? I've wanted one of these since I was about 15 so maybe it's just bad timing.

So why write about it? Maybe I do this rite of passage thing and see what's on the other side. I don't really know. Mostly I think I just need to get it all off my chest. There's such joy - and also fear - in where I've been with this truck, emotionally. If I shout it into the ether maybe I can go back to how I felt in my normal, pre-Cruiser life. Probably not though.

Case in point: I've had this truck since February 2020. I now own two other antiquated Land Cruisers. The money was out the door before I thought about it. "Oops, I have another truck"
(Both are for sale, ask me about them)

So what did I get myself into? I drove a sensible 2002 single cab 2.7/5spd Tacoma for 14 years. It had become far too small for a single dad, two kids, and a dog - and then I met the love of my life. Within 20 hours on Craigslist I dumped it and took the cash directly to a guy's house the next day to buy a Land Cruiser. I had been looking at 2nd or 3rd gen 4Runners because I knew them - I had a 94 when I was married, and aside from my former in-laws absolute disgust at the truck, I loved it and learned things from it. But the Land Cruiser popped up for sale. I saw it on a whim and was sold.

I told myself the rust was fixable, but I didn't know the first thing about rust repair. I didn't look at the frame before I bought it. Power choked out around 1800rpm on the test drive. I didn't care. The bad single stage repaint looked "fine" to me. 3rd gear was notchy, but I figured it would "sort itself out". It was loud and smelly. I didn't know how to turn a wrench beyond basic tune ups and suspension work. The price was right though ... or was it? I'm still not sure.

Here's the first picture I took of it. My son and I had picked it up about 15 minutes prior. I was more innocent then.

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Nice fkin $30 LED lights from the parts store, eh? We'll unravel some previous owner stuff later.....
 

CruiserTrash

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Here is the very sensible Tacoma I sold. I drove it from 40,000 miles to 275,000 miles. That truck saw a lot - some beautiful camp mornings in the mountains and by beaches, and some really ugly times in my life. A nice man from Mexico bought it and was going to trailer it to his ranch in Chihuahua where it would become a ranch truck. It literally got put out to pasture.
 

CruiserTrash

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This has gotten worse over the past 21 months. How could I have looked at this and STILL paid the guy money for it??
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CruiserTrash

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My #1 rule has always been to spend money responsibly first. Of course the first money I spent on the truck was a vanity project. Leaf springs? Oh yeah, no problem I've installed them before.

It took me 7 days, with the first 5 days being 12-16 hours each, all of it on the ground and in 90-100 degree weather with no shade. The original suspension fought me the whole way.

I park my truck in front of our small house in the city because it won't fit in the little garage. So that's where I work on it - right there on the street. My neighbors don't mind too much, but suspension work was too big of a job for that. Through a friend of a friend I secured a disused gravel parking lot.

I came pretty close to selling the truck that week. I had a Craigslist ad typed up and everything....

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(Oops, I forgot the VERY first thing I did was buy an XJ Jeep winch bumper, then spend 8 hours drilling out the rivets for the OEM bumper only to find out the mounting brackets didn't align with the frame. Good thing I had a buddy that could weld. As you can see I've made targeted, money-conscious purchases from the beginning.)

More later.....
 

CruiserTrash

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July 2020, 5 months after buying the truck, my partner and I decided the best thing to do would be to take the kids on a summer road trip to St. Louis. That's 800 miles from Denver, in a truck that I hadn't really baselined at all. Everything seemed to work driving it around town so why not go halfway across the country to places where I could easily get stranded in a truck that could possibly explode?

I had changed the front brake pads and disconnected the vac hose between the EGR modulator and valve because I read that on Mud. It was probably out of context but I did it anyway. I had changed the oil, diff, transmission, and t-case oils. Since I had swapped LED bulbs into the dome light, though, we were definitely ready to go.

About 2 hours from home we stopped at an interstate rest area. The truck was having a tough time getting over 2300 rpm. I stared at the sticker on the passenger fender well in the engine bay for a while - the one with the crudely drawn vacuum routing diagram, which was smeared with grease and half rubbed off - and decided that swapping the vacuum lines on the distributor diaphragms seemed like a good idea. I didn't have any other ideas so I did it.

The suspension was a days-long battle with a victory at the end, but swapping those two vacuum hoses was this revelation that I was involved in a much, much longer war with the engine itself. "Oh .... it's gonna be like this? Oh boy...." It was a philosophical awakening, a realization that my family needed me to make this insane vehicle choice work.

Without having grown up working on vehicles, I didn't really know any of the following: what are valves and how do they work? What is smog equipment, and why does Denver make me keep it? How do I make sure it's all working? Where the hell are all these leaks coming from and why is the entire engine and front undercarriage sopping wet and dirty with sludge? The gravity of the situation hit me at that rest stop when I swapped those two hoses.

I'm not a rich guy. I have to do most of vehicle maintenance myself in order to afford it. Back then I didn't understand that in 2020 a vintage Land Cruiser had become a rich guy's plaything that one sent off to the most knowledgable mechanics with an open checkbook. Silly me. That day with the family in the truck asking if it was going to be ok, if we were going to make it, and when we were going to leave was a reckoning. I either had to commit to this thing or get it out of my life and buy .... I don't know, a Subaru?

We made it to St. Louis, and back. We camped in the foothills of the Ozarks, and rambled through small towns. We met a Hipcamp host who was drunk, standing chest-deep in the Meremac River (or was it the Niangua?), who asked us if we "liked to party". His wife, who was prancing around on shore in a thong, kept telling us how beautiful we all were and touching our hair (LSD?). We got outta there pretty quick. It ended up being pretty fun.

* * *

I had done some miscellaneous "improvements", mainly because I felt like the truck needed lots of work but I was scared to dive in. I bought a cheap roof rack. I bought a winch for who-knows-why. I had changed the headlights to the Koito H4 housings. I kept reading Mud and kept chipping away at little things. I also met a couple localLand Cruiser guys and had talked to them a little. The parts store $30 LED aux lights were still along for the ride though. Thanks PO for those.

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CruiserTrash

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It's days like today that make me feel discouraged and like an idiot for owning this thing. My truck always starts with the 1st key turn in any weather, but today I experienced the following on a cold start:
Difficult to start
Low vacuum
Bad noise
Choke didn't seem to be doing much

I know my vacuum system pretty well at this point and I don't have a leak. I was able to get it warmed up by holding the gas pedal down, the noise went away and vacuum came up to normal (14 @ 5200'). No smoke from the tailpipe during any of this. I was down 3 quarts of oil so I filled that up. Two days ago I was maybe down one quart. I used to think the loss was just due to leaks - it leaks everywhere - but now I'm not so sure.
 

CruiserTrash

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I think I hear an exhaust leak?
You hear about four exhaust leaks. The ticking sound is new though. Sometimes I get that under load, but never at idle. It sounds like the engine is gargling marbles.

The sound under load (not in video obviously) is a whole other scary thing. I swear it's death knock but two knowledgable people have told me it's just an exhaust leak ticking. I guess I should redo the manifold gasket for a third time 🙄
 

CruiserTrash

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I had a terrible tick one day after spending some time on some trails...it was an exhaust leak. Would of never imagines an EL would sound like that.
You're the 4th person to say that and it makes me feel better. It's so much up and down with this f***ing thing.
 

CruiserTrash

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So did switching the vac hoses on the advance help?
It did help on that trip. PO definitely had the HAC and vac advance hoses switched at the dizzy diaphragms, which I confirmed later. I had other "classic stumbling" issues I've worked out since last year though.

In a similar, and not so surprising, turn of events, I later found the fuel tank send & return lines switched at the fuel pump. It worked, but since the return line is probably up off the bottom of the tank I bet I was unable to use the last couple gallons of gas.
 

CruiserTrash

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I’ll bet a share of that exhaust noise is coming from a blown out EGR gasket on the bottom side of the exhaust manifold horn for cylinder #6.
I've done the entire manifold fasket job twice in the past 12 months. A plugged cat blew out every gasket after the first time, hence the second go around. Both times I did all the different gaskets when I was in there - including the j-pipe off cylinder 6. The flange wasn't in great shape so I bent and beat it back into shape.

I do have a couple spares I picked up that have better flanges, but I've never been able to get the j-pipe in or out without removing the manifold. It never seems to have enough wiggle room unless everythinf is loose (last time I even hacked 3/4" off the EGR cooler side of the pipe). I plan on a full DIY exhaust rebuild this winter and am going to add weld to the j-pipe-to-flange joint for reinforcement.

It was just alarming that the noise was not only happening at idle, but also louder than I've ever heard it. I know my truck's noises and I'm very aware of changes.
 

CruiserTrash

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Do you have a new catalyst on it now?
Not yet. Colorado just adopted CARB regulations which require cats that are >$1000. Still trying to puzzle what to do about that. It'll probably be part of my exhaust overhaul.
 

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