TTAC Commentator MatadorX writes:
I am hoping you and your readership can give me some guidance as to how far to take a vehicle overhaul: mild insanity or full on broke?
The vehicle in question is a 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE.
It has been in the family since grandpa (who else) bought it brand new, finally abandoning Chrysler vans after three successive transmission failures. I inherited it very well used at 140,000 miles as my first car at 17. Since then it has taken me on countless road trips, junkyard parts runs to feed my fleet of 1970s AMC products, camping adventures, and daily commuting duties. It currently sits at 221,000 miles, which is at or slightly below average for one of these vans.
At long last, the Sienna’s reverse clutch gave up the ghost — and I’m tired of Fred-flintstoning it whenever I needed to backup. I pulled her into the garage, picked up the largest jackstands Harbor Freight sells, and dropped the subframe.
The question: Should I look into rebuilding the engine at the same time as the transmission is out? I got very lucky and scored a fresh rebuild from a wrecked Sienna for $150.00.
Before writing this van off as not being worth the effort at 220,000+ miles, I should note that every single system on the car otherwise is freshly replaced within the last 20,000 miles. Shocks, struts, strut mounts, control arms, rear control bushes, ball joints, sway bar bushings and links, axles, entire brake system (Power Slot Cryo-treated rotors/Axxis Ultimate pads), steering pump/rack/lines … the list goes on. The transmission will also be new, leaving just the venerable 1MZ-FE’s internals untouched on the van.
The only mark against the engine really is that it does use some oil, approximately 1.5 quarts every 3,000 miles. However, with the engine out on the garage floor staring me in the face, and otherwise inaccessible short of a 7+ hour job of dropping the subframe, it seems I am doing the car an injustice to just stick it back in there. Then again, this engine is squeaky clean, no sludge build up due to religious 3,000 mile oil changes.
Numbers wise, you can buy a “rebuilt” 1MZ-FE for around $1,500. However, these use pretty terrible parts and questionable machining, likely worse than a Toyota-built engine with 200,000. A better option, I located a new in the crate Toyota short-block for $1,500 (half price), figure another $1,000 into getting the heads done, a set of OEM Toyota HG’s, new head bolts, oil pump, and other assorted gaskets, and I’d have essentially a brand new engine for $2,500.
But, for a multitude of reasons, this is the best Sienna to have, so I am going to stick with it as long as possible.
Quick question: Why not get a low mileage engine and transmission from an online junkyard? I think it will be both a better value, not to mention some rebuilders are rather shady.
I would agree with you, the issue is here in California, concierge junkyard parts come at a desirability and thus huge price premium to elsewhere in the nation. Take a look on car-part.com and the first page of most expensive listings will be mostly from California yards. If I had to ship it in from another state the price would be much higher. The transmission itself is already acquired, as a known good unit from a same year van in a wreck.
The only place likely to find a good, well cared for 1MZ would be a 1997-2001 Lexus ES300, due to more careful Lexus owners. That said, I would still need to source a Lexus ES300 with well under 100,000 miles in SoCal, where 200,000 miles is nothing for most Toyota products of this vintage.
Dude, I totally bow down to your knowledge. That van is soooooo lucky to have you as an owner. Definitely get a rebuilt motor, slam it in there and enjoy the van! This will be your cheapest and easiest route to automotive happiness in the long term.
Best and Brightest?
Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.