1998 4Runner Timing Belt replacement

$800?! That was the quote from an independent mechanic to replace the timing belt and water pump on my 1998 4Runner. $400 of the total was labor and the other $400 was parts. As a certified professional myself, I don’t mind paying someone for their time.

However, I really wanted to tackle this myself and understand how it worked. I’ve pulled rear ends, replaced fuel injectors, installed lift kits, and the like.

Plus I was pretty sure I could do it myself for cheaper than $800.  Although I’ll never forget a friend who said “why pay someone $400 when you can do it yourself for $600”.  I’ve had projects like that and was determined this wasn’t going to be one of them.

Thanks to the internet, I read every article I could find about replacing the timing belt and the problems encountered.  I even found some PDFs of service manuals and printed them.

Course, I wanted to use the right tools and this was the perfect time to upgrade and add some tools to my collection. Here’s what I used:

Timing belt: eBay kit that included; Toyota timing belt, Toyota thermostat, Toyota seals, Koyo bearings and Asin water pump.  Asin and Koyo are the manufactures of the parts for Toyota so it’s the same thing, just doesn’t say Toyota.

Pulley holder:                  to hold the crankshaft pulley while loosening/tightening the crankshaft bolt

Idler tensioner holder:   secures the lower idler so the timing belt can be installed.

Wheel puller:                    removal of the crankshaft pulley.

10mm hex socket:           removal of lower idler.

Torque wrench:                needed to torque crankshaft bolt to 217ft lbs.

Pliers:                                 removal of hose clamps.

Metric sockets                   19mm is the size for the crankshaft bolt

1/2 in breaker bar

Safety goggles

Disassembly isn’t that difficult, just a bit tedious at times. If you’ve replaced the belts and hoses, you’ve done about 50% of it.  Here’s a tip that helps me keep things organized. Each time I take a piece off, I put all the bolts into a plastic bag and label it. This way I can find all the parts later. In this case, I had to wait a week to reassemble so this worked well.

The book says to remove the A/C compressor but fortunately I didn’t need to do that. The hardest part of disassembly was removing the crankshaft pulley bolt. The infamous crankshaft bolt…..it’s torqued to 217ft lbs. so it doesn’t come off easily. And if you don’t torque it back right, it’ll come off easily and that will trash your engine.

Before I removed the crankshaft pulley, I used the ½ in breaker bar to cycle the engine by hand to see how the timing marks lined up. I wanted to get a feel of how it worked before I took it all apart.

When it came time to loosen the infamous crankshaft bolt, I used all the leverage I could, but still couldn’t get it loose. So I resorted to the starter bump method. The engine turns clockwise so I connected the 19mm socket to an old ½ inch drive torque wrench (set to loosen) and laid the wrench on top of the driver’s side frame.   When the engine turns, it pushes the wrench down into the frame which will force the bolt to loosen.

I had visions of my 1/2 in ratchet taking flight at supersonic speeds so I double checked everything. I even did a few test starter bumps so I’d know exactly how to bump the starter. Once I was sure I had a grasp of what was going on, I went for it.  The first bump sounded horrendous as the ratchet tightened against the frame, but everything looked fine. The second bump loosened it. So it was pretty easy to use this method, but be very careful and triple check everything. Especially which way the engine rotates and if you’re having someone bump the starter for you, stand clear.

So the bolt’s off, I’m home free. Not quite….that pulley isn’t coming off with just bare hands, at least not mine anyway. I had to make a store run to grab a wheel puller. Even that tool took some effort, but it did remove the remove the pulley. It’s 11lbs so don’t drop it on your toe. Don’t ask how I know this.

The pulley has a notch for the key on the crankshaft. If the crankshaft bolt isn’t tightened properly, it allows the pulley to wobble and loosen. Guess what I saw inside of my pulley? Not only was the key notch rounded, the pulley itself was cracked. I’m glad I found this now instead of far from civilization! 

A new pulley is over $300 from Toyota and off brands run around $200.  I found a used one for $99 shipped that only had 40K miles on it. That took a week to arrive so it was a good thing I had put everything in bags and labeled them.

If you think the crankshaft pulley is hard to remove, try reinstalling it! I could get it on the end of the crankshaft, but it just would not slide on. I smoothed out the inside with sandpaper and applied a liberal coating of synthetic ATF fluid. It slid right on effortlessly. ATF is the BEST lubricant!!

After that, the hardest part was lining up the belt and marks, but after numerous tries I made it. If you have an extra set of hands, this will be much easier. The water pump and idler pulleys were easy to replace. I had to compress the lower one to get the timing belt back on though.

After double checking and in some cases triple checking, I put everything back together. Now was the real test. I turned the key and the engine roared to life! Whooo Hooo, I did it!!! No pieces went flying, no odd noises. In fact it was much quieter.

So how did I do pricewise?

$264 for the timing belt kit, $99 for a new Craftsman Torque wrench (I’d been wanting a new one!), $25 for a Craftsman 1/2 inch breaker bar, $13 for the wheel puller, $33 for the idler tensioner holder, $50 for the pulley holder, $99 for the used crankshaft pulley, $12 for antifreeze, and $75 for all new belts and hoses.  Total to do it myself, including buying some tools and a crankshaft pulley: $670.  The fact I know how it all works was totally worth it. I hope that I don’t have to go in there for another 90K miles, but if I do, at least I know what to do.

Here are a few links that are a huge help:



White Lightning Clean Ride chain lube

The chain on my mountain bike takes a beating; sand, mud, dust, grass, water, etc. I’ve tried numerous lubricants with a variety of success. Teflon, bike oil, motor oil and even automatic  transmission fluid. The ATF was really smooth, except it attracted everything and constantly slung off on my legs.

Wandering in my local sport store, I found a product called  White Lightning Clean Lube Wax lubricant that says it’s a wax lube. Something new that I haven’t tried so I bought a small bottle. 

The first thing I did was clean my chain and sprockets with Simple Green and a tooth brush. Who knew my sprockets actually were chrome plated? I hadn’t seen those in awhile.

I cleaned all the dirt, grime, and sand from all the crevices. I usually wash my bike after a ride, but obviously I have been missing a few spots.

Once it was all dry, I applied the wax lube. It says to coat the chain, wipe the excess and let dry. I liberally applied it as I rotated the chain several times. I let it sit for about an hour and headed out for  a 5 mile ride.

I’m not sure if it was because everything was clean or the lube, but pedaling was significantly smoother. The shifting worked properly and didn’t click or miss. I only rode on pavement for the 5 miles, but the difference was significantly better.

My next trip I’ll take it in the dirt and post an update.

Check your ground wires

Everytime I flipped on my driving lights, the fuel gauge would begin dropping. I knew that had to be a ground problem, but wasn’t sure where to start. I noticed the right hand light was dimmer so I started there.

I had grounded my driving lights using the bolts under my chrome bumper. I removed the ground wire from the passenger light and connected it to the horn mount. All I did was unbolt the horn and placed this connector around the mounting bolt.

Wow, the light was significantly brighter than the left one!  I grounded the left light to the other horn mount and now it matched in brightness. Oh and my fuel guage stays put too.

The night time ride was really impressive. The lights really noticeably brighter now! So if you’re experiencing any kind of issues, remember to check your ground points. Grounding through chrome bumpers and paint works okay, but a direct connection yields great results.



Philip Hulitar Sculpture Gardens

What do you do during lunch? Surf the internet? Seriously, you do that all day long anyway.  It’s time to get out of the office and enjoy some fresh air. If you work near the downtown West Palm Beach,  we have the perfect place to enjoy lunch. It’s also open on the weekends so now you have somewhere to go this weekend.

The sculpture gardens are another shining example of preserving the land and yet allowing public enjoyment.  You’ll have to read the interesting history, but some of the contributors included; Mrs. Folger, Mr. and Mrs. F. Warrington Gillet, Jr., and Marjorie Whittemore to name a few.

Located due east of the Society of the Four Arts and surrounded by a fence, it’s not readily visible. An open wrought iron gate is your only clue. Quick side note, can you name the Four Arts? Answer at the end, so no skipping ahead!

As the name implies, the sculpture garden contains an eclectic mix of landscapes and art. Immerse yourself in the tropical plants and pools of the Chinese garden. Stand in wonder at the funky art reaching skyward and wonder just what defines art and why you didn’t think of that.

Step inside the large pavilion with the gigantic fruit art and the fountain flowing from the kids’ statue faces. Sit under one of the trellis areas and enjoy the shade. Or go all the way into the NE corner and sit in the solitude of the trees. Back here you’re also out of view of the general public so it’s like having the place to yourself.

The gardens are free and open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm. Ok, so here’s the answer to the Four Arts: Art, Music, Drama, and Literature.

For more information:


Garmin Handle Bar GPS mount

I’ve had multiple bike computers and none survive past 6 months. If they make it a year, I’m amazed.  I change the batteries and my bike lives in a shed.  I’m not sure if it’s the heat, the humidity, or the occasional rain storm that gets them.

My bike is a mountain bike so all I use the bike computer for is to tell me how far and occasionally how fast.  Nothing too difficult there. When my last bike computer quit, I decided to go a different route.

I purchased a Garming handle bar mount for my handheld GPS. The part number is Garmin 010-10454-00 Handelbar Bike Mount for GPSMAP 60 series.

Having a GPS  would be a perfect because in addition to distance  and speed, it can tell me my location.  Also, I could bike to a geocache  location, grab the GPS and go search for the cache.

One of the easiest installations I’ve done in awhile; just add the base to the handlebars, then snap in the carrier. Click the GPS in and you’re off.

The first test on smooth pavement worked well, but the real test came when I biked down a rough dirt road. The GPS unit stayed secure, even over the washboard ruts and potholes. As a safety measure, I wrap the GPS wrist strap around the handlebars as well. I didn’t jump off anything, but I got the impression the unit would stay secure barring anything except a crash. I try to avoid those….

In addition to the advantages listed above, I found another important one. I could mark where I left the truck!

I’ve been known to get a little “lost” as I explore on my bike. Now I have a little help, provided my batteries last.