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:



4 Replies to “1998 4Runner Timing Belt replacement”

  1. Very good help. I’m in the middle of doing this now. How did you torque the crankshaft bolt to 217ft. Lbs without turning motor. What tools did you use? That’s what I’m worried about when I get there.

    1. Hi,
      I used a pulley holder that fits in the holes of the crankshaft pulley. It has adjustable tips and those tips fit in the little holes on the crankshaft pulley. You’ll need a tool like that to remove the bolt as well. I’ve read where people have taken a 2×4 piece of wood, drilled a hole in the middle for the socket and then added a couple of bolts that go into the holes on the crankshaft pulley. I preferred a tool, although the wood is significantly less expensive.
      Let me know if you have more questions.


  2. Thanks! I’m at that stage now, and can’t find a pulley holder tool in town to save my life. I was already thinking about the piece of wood method but was hoping on finding the correct tool. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one who has thought of doing that. I’m trying to use a strap style wrench right now, but only getting up to about 50 ft.lbs. with that so far. (Not close)

    1. It’s good you found that out before it actually came off and did more damage. This is what I ordered from Amazon and worked with a little effort. http://www.amazon.com/OTC-4754-Universal-Pulley-Holder/dp/B000Q8GVPY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376878247&sr=8-1&keywords=toyota+pulley+holder

      If you can get something to go into the holes in front of the pulley and hold it, that’d be the ticket. The good news is once you get that torqued down, the rest is “easy”. Let me know if you have more questions, I’ll be glad to help as much as possible.

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