Tremek's '97 LX450 Project Thread (1 Viewer)

Tremek

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Apr 19, 2012
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Parker, CO
Hey guys, I have found that I enjoy having a 3rd winter/airport/beater car (especially when my wife needs the 200 and I can't or won't drive the V) so over the past few weeks I began looking at various different vehicles. At first I was thinking a 1st gen 4runner, but their complete lack of power and the money people want for nice examples turned me off.

So I started thinking about older LCs, and after looking at a few, I ended up bringing this beast home:

Truck when I got it:
a0xII6uh.jpg


Truck as of 11/14/16:
x2f0EUah.jpg

(a work in progress)

It's a 1997 LX450 with factory lockers. I tested them before I bought it and got both to lock up. It has 276k miles and just had the head gasket done. It's not beautiful - it has some minor accident damage front and rear (tough to tell from the pic) and someone smoked in it at one point, but for $2300, this seemed like even a wife-acceptable alternative to buying snow tires for the V.

What's nice about it: everything electrical works - all the windows, the retractable antenna, the sunroof, the radio, the diffs, etc. It still needs some work though -

Things I did to it today:

  • Oil change of Mobil 1 High Mileage Full Synthetic 5w30 + Fram high mileage filter
  • Vacuumed everything, cleaned all glass inside and out
  • Pulled codes
  • Ordered hood lift support struts and an oil level sensor (more on that in a minute)
  • Added some DOT4 brake fluid to the reservoir to get the intermittent BRAKE dashlight to go off - success!
  • Degreased the engine bay with Purple Power with moderate success but no effect on the car (or the CELs etc)

So some small but decent progress, but it also has a number of issues I need to deal with. I may update this post periodically to track what I've done and what it needs:

  • 10/28: New exhaust installed!
  • PO sold it with a terrible leaking patched pipe in the exhaust where the catalytic converter was.
    • Solution: Ordered the y-pipe downpipe + cat from RockAuto, should be here at the end of this week.
    • Question: I was tempted to look at ordering the rest of the exhaust, which apparently splits into 4 parts - Front cat, rear cat, muffler, and tail pipe - but that gets considerably more expensive. I looked at the stock system and it's definitely rusty at least on the surface; should I also consider replacing the rest of it? The headers also don't look pretty. Thoughts appreciated here, thanks.
  • 11/6: CEL is off! Resolution: Replaced rear knock sensor and harness connector and P0330 code is gone, CEL is staying off for now.
  • CEL is on:
    • Update 10/28: P0130 and P0133 are gone after install of new exhaust (and +1 O2 sensor - upstream O2 was reused as Denso I ordered from Amazon had wrong plug.
    • multiple codes (P0130, P0133) related to O2 sensors (assuming this is the missing cat)
    • P0330 - Knock sensor 2 Circuit (Bank 2) -
      • I cleared the codes to see what would come back and the knock/misfire code came back very quickly.
  • 10/24: Fixed! Resolution: Reconnect plug to harness.
  • Oil level light comes on 30 seconds after starting the car:
    • Looks as though this may be related to a bad sensor or bad wiring again - ordered the sensor from the parts store for $28 -
  • ABS light is on:
    • Question: After some searching I'm really at a loss as to where to begin here. Where should I begin?
  • 10/29: Fixed! Resolution: Plug was broken off harness but on sender, resoldered.
  • Oil pressure gauge doesn't work
    • Also did some searching on this, also seems to be not-uncommon. Would you guys address this, or not?
  • 10/30: Fixed!: Resolution: PAs many suspected the Heater Control Valve (HCV) was bad and the heat worked immediately after replacing it.
  • 10/17: No heat: When the temp switch is moved all the way to the right I hear blend doors changing, the auto system directs air to different places - but the air is ambient temperature at best. Going to investigate the various potential issues.
Stuff done:
  • 10/23: driver's side headlight installed
  • 10/23: passenger side tail light installed
  • 10/30: Front speakers replaced
  • 10/30: Windshield wipers
  • 11/3: New windshield
  • 11/5: Tires - 315/70/17 Goodyear Duratracs - no rub even at stock height
  • 11/5: Wheels - American Racing Outlaw II 6x139.7/6x5.5 17x8, 4.5" Backspacing
  • 11/6: Rear knock sensor replaced, harness repaired
  • 11/6: Replace rear door speakers
  • 11/6: LED turn signals & relay
  • 11/12: Passed emissions
  • 11/14: Got plates

Stuff to do, updated 11/14:
  • Identify whether it has a knock or not at 2000-3000 rpm
  • Decide whether to install 180f thermostat or leave it running at 73-74c
  • Powerwash underside and find and then fix oil leaks
  • Diagnose and fix ABS
  • Identify steering column squeak when cold
  • Identify clicking noise when turning (likely birfs)
  • Front bumper - want a Slee Shortbus, 4x4 Labs, or Bump It Offroad tube bumper, but will likely build front bumper with neighbor
  • Find right-rear fender flare and quarter panel LX450 trim
  • Head unit - Double DIN, probably a new Android 2GB model
  • Seat covers - looking at LSeat.com replacements (perforated? Hell yes!)
  • Replacement carpet or powerwash existing carpet
  • Powerwash headliner
  • Lift - TJM progressive/adjustable 2.5" is the frontrunner
  • Rear bumper - swing-out would be pretty sweet!


Looking forward to getting to know folks in the 80 community - we currently have our '13 200 and I had an '01 100, but this is my first 80. Thanks guys!
 
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Tremek

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Fast edit: upon looking under the truck more carefully and also examining RockAuto's exhaust diagram, it seems the PO removed both the primary and secondary cat. Welp. Guess I should just bite the bullet and order the entire header-back?
 

chap79

Wheel. Break. Fix. Repeat.
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It may be cheaper to buy the cats and have a new custom exhaust muffler back system installed. Not sure what rates are in your area. I haven't read many true exhaust success stories from rockauto. The magnaflow cats seem to be better than the other brands but are still not OEM quality. Replace both your O2 sensors with OEM while you still can

Yes you can change the oil sensor without draining the oil.

Welcome to the 80 series!

I'd be willing to sell you my stock LX450 bumper but I'm sure shipping would be horrific.
 

Tremek

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Parker, CO
Cool...I get to see who purchased that LX! Welcome!

He said he had a lot of interest and I'm not surprised given how strong the CO market is for these. While it's a little rough in places that were tough to tell from his CL post, and it needs not-insignificant exhaust work (and who knows what else) to resolve the ABS, CEL, low oil light, etc. But it does drive alright, so I'm optimistic I can get it to a good baseline and work it up from there.
 
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I agree...I actually watch for these ads religiously and see decent rigs for a decent price disappear within an hour! Pretty crazy around here past couple of months.
 
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I went with the Magnaflow Y pipe/cat and second cat, and then with the Borla cat back. A few years back it cost about CAN$1000. So far it is still looking good. Probably more money than you are willing to spend considering what you paid, but cheaper stuff likely won't last as long.
 

Tremek

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I think for now I'm going to run the Bosal system from the headers back. It seems like there are a lot of positive reviews of the Bosal system on here, and I'll be into the entire setup for about $500 including both cat sections, which seems to be about as reasonable as it's going to get.

Just picked up a temp tag for the truck this morning so now I can run around while I get some of these issues resolved.

re: the P0330 code, I looked and it seems like knock sensors are ~$120 or so - not cheap to just throw a part at it without knowing how to diagnose this. I guess I need to do more searching and more FSM perusal.
 

Tremek

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New issue identified: no heat. AC blows cold but I don't have any heat - looks like a bunch of folks are recommending burping the system on an incline and starting there. Could be a bunch of different issues but will start to diagnose.
 

Walletclan

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I have a 96 LX450 and need a drive head light. See what he will sell you 2 for.

I love this project and will be following along for sure.
 

bajaphile

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New issue identified: no heat. AC blows cold but I don't have any heat - looks like a bunch of folks are recommending burping the system on an incline and starting there. Could be a bunch of different issues but will start to diagnose.

Easy thing to check, if you haven't already: The heater valve is right in the center of the firewall in the engine bay. Turn key so that blower motor/climate control is ON. Put the heat selector to cold, then check the location of the cable and heater valve. Then slide heat control all the way to the right, and go back and check to see that the cable moved and opened the heater valve. Also ensure the plastic heater valve is in good condition. They are known to crack and leak in general, which is unrelated to your issue, but worth stating for the record.
 

Tremek

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Quick update, haven't gotten much done this week other than order the exhaust parts and pick up the brand-new muffler section locally for $70 less than RockAuto (score!) I also picked up the hood struts and the oil level sensor and in passing asked the local Midas what their labor rate was, and they told me $130(!) for customer-supplied parts.

Screw that.

Going to try to get under the truck tomorrow and start looking at what I need to do for the oil level sensor. I also should probably bite the bullet and buy the knock sensor (although it's $120! What gives?)
 

Tremek

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So just poked my head under the truck to take a look at the oil level sensor (which I thought I had purchased at Advance - turns out looking in the FSM and other places that the sensor I got for $29 is not, in fact, the $400 sensor I thought I might need...)

Well, wouldn't you know that it looks as though the harness plug that goes into the sensor is there, but the wires are broken off! I can't see where the wires coming from the harness ought to be - where should I be looking for the harness wiring so I can repair? Thanks -
 

Tremek

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Easy thing to check, if you haven't already: The heater valve is right in the center of the firewall in the engine bay. Turn key so that blower motor/climate control is ON. Put the heat selector to cold, then check the location of the cable and heater valve. Then slide heat control all the way to the right, and go back and check to see that the cable moved and opened the heater valve. Also ensure the plastic heater valve is in good condition. They are known to crack and leak in general, which is unrelated to your issue, but worth stating for the record.

@bajaphile - I had my kid sit in the car and move the slider, and I did indeed see cable-actuated movement on the valve right up against the firewall. It looked as though it moved from approximately the 1 o'clock position, to the 3 o'clock position (looking at it from the front of the car) when moved from cold to hot.

In other news I turned a wrench on the car! .... to install new hood struts. At least I can put my head under the hood safely now. Baby steps. :)
 

Tremek

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Got some work done on the LX today:

  • Removed and replaced both the driver's side headlight housing and passenger side taillight. Put Sylvania Silverstar Ultras in for the low beams.
  • Removed and replaced the bulbs in the two rear quarter panel side markers with LED bulbs as one was pushed back into the body cavity, and the other was dim.
  • Found the end of the harness for the oil level sensor warning connector, removed the connector from the sensor and pulled the pins out, soldered new wire to the connectors, replaced the orange weather seal plugs, and used crimp/butt connectors to splice the new wire back into the harness. Result: Oil level light stays off! I count this as a minor but significant victory in the war against the idiot lights.
None of these activities will help me get the truck through emissions but it was the most straightforward thing to tackle today.

I also got eyes on the rear knock sensor - this is what I found:

lTiv5Qjh.jpg


That's not good. Connector on the sensor itself to plug into is broken off. What does the harness plug look like?

kzmqcCIh.jpg


Also not good, kind of mangled and melty. In a prescient moment while waiting for a gate to open at SFO this week (thinking that the connector might be mangled or disconnected much like the oil level sensor), I found two OEM connectors with pigtails and ordered them, and I think they will be here tomorrow. The Advance Auto up the street also said they can have a knock sensor for $85 tomorrow by noon, so I may give that a shot to see if I can get this beast on the road.

If the knock sensor issue can get resolved, the last major unit of work I need to deal with is the exhaust. All the parts are sitting in the Rock Auto shipping-packaging in the back of the LX; just need to spend more time under there.
 

Tremek

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Parker, CO
Not too much progress made on the LX this week but I'm getting good at spending money on the truck. ;/

I ordered the Pioneer low-profile door speakers F&R that everyone seems to use; I like to think will give me both a reason to remove the door panels and tighten various screws to eliminate rattles, fix the passenger side door pocket that's been ripped off, as well as eliminate the terrible sounds coming from the stock stereo. If this is a success then I'll probably replace the head unit next.

Due to a lack of many things - experience, time, a lift, patience for rust, etc - I dropped the LX off this morning at a trusted import shop my dad's been using for 20 years to do the manifold-back exhaust install. I ordered Denso O2s off of Amazon Warehouse this week, so aside from bolts and nuts I handed them everything they should need to do the manifold-back install. At any rate I should have the truck back this afternoon with a working exhaust and cats and hopefully no more O2 sensor codes.

We also discussed doing the rear knock sensor, but again they couldn't find one that wasn't $200+ and needed shipped, so maybe I'll just go beg the DMV to allow me to get a temp extension so I can keep running this thing around while I wait for China Post to deliver the two supposedly Denso knock sensors. TBD.

My wife drove the truck for an errand last night and was unimpressed... The windshield needs replaced (will probably do that next week), the seats are shot, and the truck still smells faintly of smoke (and of course exhaust right now.) I think those are the most noticeable things for her, and it's not helping with WAF.

Re: seats - I'm amazed how expensive leather replacement kits are. I can find beige/tan leather junkyard pulls of both front seats out of cars less than 5 years old, that also have heat and possibly cooling, for $200-400 and I'm tempted to try to adapt new seats versus rebuild the existing seats. Any thoughts here?

Also considering ordering new carpet to see if that helps eliminate the smoker smells. In truth it's probably all in the headliner. Would appreciate any thoughts around how to refresh this thing inside so it's not so offensive.
 
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