Piston Slap: Re-write Destiny, Re-Love The MR2

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap re write destiny re love the mr2

Tae-Moo writes:

Sajeev! Your bottomless well of knowledge and practical opinions has turned me into a huge fan of TTAC. With all your knowledge I hope you can answer a very broad but basic question of mine:

I have owned my MR2 for the past 7 years, having been my high school love (sadly it has been more bitchy than any teenage girl I dated at the time, yet I still continue to love it more than any set of D cups). Actually all the headaches caused by the car are my own fault as my electrical skills were severely insufficient to properly install any headunit or speakers. Wisely, I let all the mechanical work to be done by professionals. The body of the car has about 200k miles on it while the engine has about 50k. I replaced my N/A with a 94 turbo and has been running beautifully for the few months after.

Unfortunately, after graduation, my life entered the abyss and has succumbed to the life of public finance and spreadsheets in San Francisco. Due to the high costs of keeping a car in SF and not actually needing one like my city of origin, LA, I have left my poor love sitting in the garage of my parents’ home. FOR THE PAST 3 YEARS! I have finally reached puberty and grown some balls so I will be quitting my job in the near future and pursue graduate school in LA. Could you please give me some general advice on what check-ups I should do for my MR2 so I can return it to a daily driver? Thanks Sajeev, keep up the great work!

P.S. True story- My dad’s 1991 Toyota Previa died just under 500k miles. He has since bought a Sienna and I’ll report how long that one lasts.


Sajeev answers:

Think about this, our long-term reactions to life altering stressors fit into three categories: positively, negatively and suicidally. I’ve experienced the first two, and lost one of my best friends to the latter.

Kudos to you, as I know what it’s like to be in your shoes: in a dead end job back in ‘02, saw the writing on the wall and went back for my MBA. After that, a series of unfulfilling jobs, with enough money to buy (among other things) a 6-speed stick in my 1988 Mercury Cougar. Then I quit a particularly brutal job, and it left me a mental basket case. The Cougar sat for a year behind a shop, waiting for someone to install a new dashboard/heater core. As I regained my personal fortitude, the Cougar was reassembled and rejuvenated by me. For me. It was a great feeling, even if I was close to broke at the time.

And you, my good man, have plenty of time to do it right. Restoring the MR2 shall be a nice break from the tortures of grad school. The following list is by no means comprehensive, but it will get your rolling. You’ll find plenty more wrong (electric motors, weatherstrip, heater core, etc) none of which should stop you from attending class: it might keep you from studying as much as you…could. Not that you would.

Now that I’m done rambling, let’s list the things to check after a 3-year hiatus. Best and Brightest: on your marks…

  1. Tires: odds are they weren’t new when the MR2 sat, so they are probably nicely rotted. And flat spotted. If traction is a problem in the wet, or when the turbo hits, get a new set.
  2. Fluids: coolant and engine oil should be changed, brakes should be bled at the bare minimum.
  3. Brakes: once the fluid is addressed, test for proper operation. If something feels grabby or generally “wrong” about your trusted ride, consider getting the rotors turned/replaced and new calipers.
  4. Replace the battery: even if it works now, it doesn’t have the stones to keep up the good work 6 months from now.
  5. Belts, vacuum lines and hoses: same problem as tires, examine or replace.
  6. Gasoline: if the car actually runs on what’s in there (not recommended) dilute it quickly with fresh gas, and stay the hell outta the MR2’s boost until you get all of the old stuff out.
  7. Filters: Fuel filter should be changed when all the old gas is cleared out.
  8. Critters: stored inside or not, you better check inside, outside and underneath for signs of life. I’d hate for you to get a nasty surprise when you turn on the HVAC, or get a nasty short when activating something electrical.

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Join the conversation
2 of 25 comments
  • Pauldun170 Pauldun170 on Feb 22, 2011

    Change all belts Change all hoses Change all fluids (flush the coolant system, brake lines etc ect) Change filters Change wiper blades Change tires Check axle boots.. Grease everything that is greasable Silicone spray all hinges Have a full set of fuses ready in the glovebox for the first couple of drives. Gas starts heading to crap ville not long after you fill the tank. For every month of storage, deduct octane # and add % water retained. After 3 years it is bout the quality of North Korean tap water....still flammable but you can survive on it in case China cuts off economic aid. If you haven't put in fuel stabilizer every couple of months then just drain the tank completely and refill prior to starting the engine. or you can just say to heck with it...bump push start the car...drive it round the block for an hour only to decide that you want another car

  • TM TM on Feb 23, 2011

    OP here. Love all the advice. Hopefully my baby will have a smooth resurrection followed by many successful trackdays.

  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that
  • John Williams Sounds like a Burnout Special you can put together on any 5.0 F150. Whoever said this was Cars and Coffee bait is right on the money.
  • ToolGuy Question: F-150 FP700 (  Bronze or  Black) supercharger kit is legal in 50 states, while the  Mustang supercharger kit is banned in California -- why??
  • Scott "It may not be the ideal hauler to take the clan cross-country to Wally World considering range anxiety "Range Anxiety is a chosen term that conceals as much as it discloses. You don't care about range that much if you can recharge quickly and current BV's (battery vehicles) can't, no matter how good the chargers are. From what I've been reading it is likely that within 5 years there will be batteries in cars, most likely Tesla's, that can charge fast enough with no harm to the batteries to satisfy all of us with no need to increase range beyond a real world 300-ish miles.And that's when I buy one.
  • Charles I had one and loved it . Seated 7 people . Easy to park , great van