Piston Slap: There Once Was a Mark X in Myanmar...

Tamar writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Hailing from Myanmar, I have a first-gen Toyota Mark X. Forbidden in the U.S., and of interest to many JDM enthusiasts, I happen to think it’s just a stretched Lexus IS 250 (but not quite a GS). It’s got the 2.5-liter 4GR-FSE engine, and I’ve had this cold start rattle for a few seconds every morning, and sometimes during the day as well. The issue’s well known and attributed to the cam gears in the VVTI system. Mine is a 2005 model with more than 100,000 miles on it, so I wouldn’t want to spend a substantial amount of money if it’s not necessary.

So, if there are makeshift fixes that’ll hold it up until I let it go in a year or so, I’d like to know. If it is a real issue that threatens engine failure, I’ll get it fixed. What would you do?

Another problem: I think the Mark X is well made and mostly a nice car, but I have gripes with its (surprise!) steering feel. So I swapped out the steering rack bushes with aluminum ones (pretty hardcore, huh?). The on-center feel improved a whole lot, and I now have this hands-on-asphalt feel in a Toyota midsize sedan. The problem is, once I start to turn the steering wheel (this being electric steering), it’s floaty and I still can’t feel how far I’ve turned the wheels! I never thought a car with so much feedback on center would have problems with feel while off-center. For better steering feedback for the EPS system, I’m thinking of pulling the fuse for the electric steering. I looked for the answer on the interwebs but couldn’t find any — would running the electric power steering system without power assist harm the innards of the system or not? I find a lot of people encouraging it as an enthusiast’s option, but no mention of possible harm to the steering system or not.

What say you?

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