Home » How Fixing And Road Tripping A 230,000 Mile $500 Toyota Minivan Went From Pointless Disaster To Triumph

How Fixing And Road Tripping A 230,000 Mile $500 Toyota Minivan Went From Pointless Disaster To Triumph

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“This trip is totally pointless” I told my friend over the phone as I headed back to my motel after having wrenched all day in a cold St. Louis garage. “What am I even doing here?” I blurted, “I should be helping run the website and not trying to fix this steaming pile that nobody even wants.” I was doubting my decision-making skills; sure, I’d only spent $500 on the 2005 Toyota Sienna, but what was the point of spending all this time trying to fix a 230,000 mile former family-hauler and then driving it 1,000 miles? Where was I even going? I was in a state of mental anguish, but luckily, this would not last, for the high-mileage, totally “uncool” minivan would go on to completely steal my heart, helping me realize that it is perhaps the greatest bargain in all of cars. Here’s how an old van turned an ill-advised trip from a disaster to triumph.

Let’s rewind about a year. I’d just finished an utterly absurd relocation from Detroit to LA involving two cross-country trips, each time hauling a dilapidated junker on a trailer. I’d brought a spare engine, multiple spare Jeep axle assemblies, at least a dozen tires, loads of tools, and on and on — the amount of junk I’d brought was hilarious, and is something I look forward to sharing with you all soon. But for now, let’s talk about my second drive across the country, when I stopped in St. Louis and met a reader named Dave, who had told me he’d sell me his old Toyota Sienna minivan for $500. “I’m interested!” I’d told him before heading to the west coast.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For about a year, David pinged me every now and then to ask if I was still interested, and for a year I told him “Yes, but I need a little time!” You see, $500 for an all-wheel drive Toyota Sienna was far too good of a deal, and as the editor-in-chief of this website, I know there’s at the very least content to be wrung out of it.

Anyway, after a year, the guilt became unbearable, and I knew I had to figure something out, so I contacted my colleague Jason’s wife, Sally, and asked if she wanted a nice, reliable Toyota, since her VW Tiguan kept breaking down and lord knows every car in Jason’s fleet is perpetually problematic. Especially in light of Jason’s recent health scare, the family needed reliable wheels, so that’s how I billed the Sienna: A nice-condition Toyota. And that is what I thought it was!

Flying With My Tools From LA To St. Louis

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With a future home established and Jason’s North Carolina house as a destination, I packed up my tools and hopped on an airplane leaving LAX for St. Louis.

 

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When I arrived, it was nine degrees Fahrenheit, and despite my blood having thinned in California over the prior 12 months, I learned one thing right away when I stepped out of the St. Louis airport into that frozen tundra: I’m a Detroiter, and there’s no taking that away from me. Nine degrees? Bring it on:

 

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I took a shuttle to a rental car agency, and which wheels did the clerk randomly offer me? A dark red Asian minivan, not unlike the one that had brought me there in the first place:

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I drove the rental to the “Pear Tree Inn” in Arnold, Missouri, arriving at 3 A.M. I crashed, and prepared for a full day of wrenching the next morning.

Realizing That Maybe This Was All Pointless

And it would indeed have to be a full day, as my Southwest Airlines flight had been delayed from Monday to Tuesday, and part of the van’s mission in addition acting as a reliable daily-driver for Jason and Sally was to drive around a military installation that The Autopian had been invited to. More on that soon, but the invitation was for Friday, and the facility was 17 hours away in Blackstone, Virginia,, meaning I needed all day Thursday and early Friday to make the journey. This left only Wednesday for wrenching. Things were tight.

 

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Before heading to Dave’s place, I dropped by what has become a major cultural center of the midwest: Walmart (I know this, as I grew up in Kansas). There, I snagged a cheap $70 battery, oil, an oil filter, an air filter, and some other supplies. Then I headed to Dave’s, and when I arrived, swapped in that 12-volt battery, first thing. The vehicle had been sitting for at least a year, and given how cold it was, there was no way in hell the old battery stood a chance, and even if there was a little life left in it, dealing with battery-related concerns wasn’t something I was going to waste my time on.

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With the new lead-acid hooked to the cables, one crank of the key fired up the 3.3-liter V6 under the Sienna’s hood; it ran great!

 

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But the issue with the van wasn’t powertrain related, it had to do with the suspension: Namely, the strut on the passenger’s side had broken apart (see below). This made for a horrible ride that just wasn’t worthy of a cross-country trip. So I drove the Sienna into Dave’s garage, and we got to wrenching.

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The broken strut

Before I continue on, I need to discuss a realization that I had just before that engine fired up: This minivan was in much worse shape than I’d expected, and this was a problem because I’d told Sally that it was actually quite nice. Sally’s no stickler, but she drives a modern VW Tiguan for a reason: She wants a decent cabin and not a junker. Sadly, as I sat there listening to that surprisingly beautifully-idling V6, I looked around at the cracks and the big chunk missing from the dash, at the hideously worn steering wheel and shifter, at the stained carpets, at the cracked seats, and at the cracked windshield: This thing was not “quite nice,” it was a bit of a heap.

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So I called Jason and Sally and told them my revelation. “I appreciate the gesture, but please don’t drive another junker into my yard,” Sally told me, kindly. I understood; Jason had already littered the yard with broken cars, and Sally’s nice Tiguan had started overheating. The last thing Jason and Sally needed was another heap on her hands, and sadly, as I looked around the car, “heap” is exactly what I saw.

At this point, my entire trip was pointless.

Wrenching On The Suspension Was Easy, Except For That Control Arm

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Still, the van belonged to me now, so even if I wasn’t going to Jason’s, I had to get the heck out of St. Louis, so Dave and I “hit the spanners,” so to speak. We jacked the car up, zipped off one of the wheels, then took the windshield wipers off, and unbolted the wiper transmission from the cowl to give us access to the upper strut bolts:

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The driver’s side strut wasn’t a known issue, I just figured I’d replace it since the passenger’s side strut had come apart; better safe than sorry. I figured while I was swapping the struts, I may as well change the wheel bearings, and since those are pressed into the steering knuckle, I just ordered a pair of knuckles with bearings pre-pressed for $183 shipped:

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I also snagged some control arms and inner/outer tie rod ends for $121:

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And of course, I bought a pair of struts (for $176):

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I figured the last thing I needed was to hand Jason and Sally a car that would require significant service, and front-end bits are often the things that go first. So, since I was already swapping struts, I bit the bullet and dropped $500 on suspension bits. At first, everything went well; the St. Louis winters hadn’t led to too much salt-induced rust:

 

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The suspension came apart without a fuss. Well, at least until it came time to remove the control arm.

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This was perhaps the most frustrating wrenching operation I’ve ever had to deal with (well, tied with the Chevy HHR’s front control arms); two out of the control arm’s three bolts are right there, easily accessed. On first glance, removing that arm seems like a breeze. But then you realize that the third bolt is under the engine mount, and to get to it you are expected to “remove engine assembly with transaxle,” per the instructions below.

That is absolutely absurd! You have to remove the engine and transmission just to get a front control arm out?! Come on!

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I spent far more time trying to solve this issue than I’m prepared to admit. It was just one bolt — the frontmost one and I was sure I could get that out by just shifting the engine mount. But no, that wasn’t going to work. I didn’t have the time.

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The good news was that the old control arms looked ok, and more importantly: The ball-joints are bolt-on, meaning I could just take the ones off my new control arms and fasten them to the old arms, so that’s exactly what I did (the old ball joints were on their way out, based on feel).

I Screwed Up So Badly With The Passenger’s Side Axle Shaft

As soon as I made the “reuse old control arm decision,” things came together nicely:

 

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Thanks to a realization that my Google Maps app had been set to “avoid highways,” the trip was going to take 12 hours and not 17, so timing was working out OK. I was on track to have that front suspension put together by the end of the night; I could get an alignment in the morning, and drive eight hours Thursday, and the remaining four hours the morning of that event at the military facility.

But then I made a series of idiotic errors; the first one seemed so innocuous: I just zipped off the axle nut on the passenger’s side:

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It may be hard to tell, but those axle threads shown above are totally ruined. The axle nut features a lip that one is meant to hammer down into a keyway in the axle. The lip deforms so that, if the nut tries backing out, the lip interferes with the axle keyway and keeps the nut in place. The problem is: If you just zip the nut out without bending that lip back, the lip completely ruins the axle’s threads.

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Luckily I had purchased a pair of axle shafts for $80 apiece (at this point, I was in this vehicle at least $1,200 — still not bad), so I had one sitting by waiting for its moment to shine. And that’s what it did; I pulled the old axle shaft out, shoved the new one in, and bolted everything back together.

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And so that was it; The car was done. I was ready for an alignment the next day, and then I was off to Virginia for that appointment at the undisclosed military facility.

Kidding. Of course I had to make another foolish mistake.

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After torquing both front wheels to spec, and putting the van into reverse so I could back out of the garage, I just heard clicking. The engine revved, and the clicking’s pace increased, but the van wouldn’t move.

“Yo, you’re leaking!” Dave called out.

I shut off the engine, ran to the front, and realized: The damn axle shaft had popped out of the transaxle/transfer case assembly, leaking fluid everywhere. It was late, and I was tired, so I just turned in to the ol’ Pear Tree Inn, and went to sleep realizing that there was a good chance I was not going to make the invitation in Virginia, and thereafter I had no place to take the van because Sally had made it clear that she doesn’t want a heap in her driveway. All the while, the website could use my help.

This trip had become a disaster — a complete waste of my time.

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The next morning I grabbed some automatic transmission fluid and gear oil for the transmission and transfer case, respectively, and headed to Dave’s.

Draining and filling the transmission was easy, but draining the transfer case was a pain in my ass that required a 45 minute tool run to Home Depot, and 20 minutes of strenuous pumping:

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Then around noon on Thursday, with a full transmission and transfer case, with a new axle shaft with shiny new threads firmly shoved in place, with fresh engine oil (I did that for good measure), with a fresh air filter, with new wheel bearings, with new inner and outer tie rods, and with new struts, the van was ready to begin its 1,000 mile trek.

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Dave bid me adieu, and I headed east.

Driving East. The Van Proved Its Mettle In The Icy Hills

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The van cruised beautifully, especially given that I hadn’t had time to get an alignment done (I’d just eyeballed it). The five-speed auto shifted great, the engine — aside from a little serpentine belt squeal on startup — was nice and quiet, and the ride quality was exceptional.

With that said, pretty much every possible type of check-engine-ish light was making itself known on the dashboard — the Vehicle Stability Control light was on, the Maintenance Required light was on, the Check Engine Light was on, and the airbag light was flashing:

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Since I’d left my scanner in LA, I stopped at Autozone, where an employee read off the fact that my O2 sensors were triggering my check engine light:

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I bet the VSC light has to do with the ABS sensors and maybe the new knuckles/the new CV axle on that one side. Not sure what’s going on there. And the Maintenance Required light probably just has to be reset, and the airbag light…well, that’s just a common thing on many old Japanese cars, I’ve found.

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It didn’t matter, because the van cruised beautifully down Interstate 64, where I saw a notification on my Google Maps App. Apparently there was a Winter Weather Warning for that night up ahead, so I did what I always do when I have weather concerns: I call my brother, Ben, who loves weather more than, possibly, anything.

Ben routed me through Bowling Green, to Nashville, then eastwards through Knoxville. “Yeah, you gotta get down south ASAP, as the rain is going to start freezing the farther north you are. And definitely stay out of West Virginia!” he warned, noting the snowy and icy conditions expected in those hills.

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So south I went.

As darkness fell, so did more rain. I kept a watchful eye over the van’s exterior temperature reading in the overhead console; it hovered around freezing, though it seemed like the rain on the road was still in liquid form due to the ground’s thermal mass.

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The Toyota’s HID headlights were a godsend through the hills of Kentucky, as there was no street lighting whatsoever, and I was starting to touch a bit of black ice here and there. Was this a great time to try to stretch the fuel tank well beyond its “0 miles of range left” indicator in order to get to Buck-ee’s? No, definitely not, but I did it anyway:

 

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With a stomach full of brisket, I eventually made it past Bowling Green, where temperatures remained comfortably above freezing. But not for long; as I headed east and approached Knoxville, a combination of higher elevation and the fact that it was now later in the night meant the road became sheet-ice. Like, legitimately scary stuff:

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The van’s tires weren’t amazing. They were less than 10 years old and had plenty of tread, so they were technically safe, but they were still all-seasons, and lightly stabbing the brakes as I like to do to check wintery conditions eventually led the wheels to lock up. When all it took was a touch of the left pedal to get the tires to skid, I knew it was time to hang up the keys for the night and duck into a Best Western.

To make my appointment in Virginia, I had to leave the next morning at 5 AM. There in the video above you can hear me extol the virtues of the van’s excellent all-wheel drive system, which I’d used to rip some nasty donuts in the hotel parking lot the prior night. Sadly, I have no footage of these donuts, but they happened, and they surprised me.

A minivan that can legitimately rip donuts? Just awesome.

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The drive to Virginia that morning was a bit of a slog given how tired I was, but I was determined. I had to get to the base by noon, and hopefully I’d be able to take the van on the special off-road course.

I Got Turned Away In Virginia

After five hours of driving that morning, I made it to my destination on time, but was immediately turned away at the gate by security because my tags were out of date (I’d just bought the car). Sonova!

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It was at this point that I realized I should have just stayed home and spent those three days running the site and getting you, dear readers, the sweet, sweet content you deserve. This trip was pointless! I’d spent $1200 and multiple days to drive to a Virginia military base that didn’t want the van, and then to North Carolina to a family that didn’t want the van. Should I just sell the machine and call it an L?

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I did get to go on the base (in a different vehicle) and ride in and drive a Toyota Tacoma off-road. Plus I got to hang out with Matt, Parker Kligerman, and my friend and talented cameraperson, Erica. It was honestly a nice pick-me-up, but it didn’t detract from the fact that this van trip was a huge waste.

But then, that night, I drove to Richmond to see my brother and college friends. I stayed the night with a buddy from the Virginia Automotive Club that I had co-founded with my college friend Steven, and then the next morning we — Richard, Richard’s brother, Steven, their families, and I — had breakfast, and the guys asked if I could take them around the block in the minivan. “Sure,” I replied.

Richard took the keys, and drove us around the block.

“Yo, this thing rules!” he said aloud. “It shifts nicely, the engine’s got plenty of power, and it rides great!”

Oh yeah, and see that button right there? That’s adaptive cruise control,” I told him. “And this is a DVD player,” I said as I folded the screen down from the headliner. “Oh, and those are heated seats,” I pointed out.

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I Realized That, Even If The Trip Was Pointless, This Van Was Incredible

My friend’s enthusiasm for this van had me realizing: This thing is actually legit! Sure, the trip may be pointless, but that’s not the van’s fault. The van is an absolute gem of a machine. It had driven over 750 miles without an issue, its engine felt powerful, its all-wheel drive system had proven itself in the snow, the adaptive cruise control had worked beautifully, the heated seats were clutch in freezing weather, and honestly: The thing was filled with luxury features I never would have dreamed one could get for only $500.

Yeah, the interior was a little rough, but this van was worthy of love. And as I made that drive from Virginia to see Jason and Sally in North Carolina, I realized that indeed had fallen in love with this thing. It was so comfortable and practical and not horrible on gas (over 20 MPG) and capable in adverse weather and just lovely. Driving it had been a true joy, even if it had been completely pointless.

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“You know what?” Let me stop by this Walmart and see if I can clean this thing up a little. I bought a steering wheel cover, some floor mats, and some cleaning supplies, and I headed to the nearest car vacuum/wash.

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Vacuuming and then scrubbing the carpets, and installing floor mats had helped, but the biggest game-changer was that steering wheel cover. After doing the best job that I could on the interior and exterior, I drove to Jason’s house. Upon getting there, I couldn’t stop talking about the van.

The Van Has A Loving New Home!

“It’s not pretty, but seriously it’s incredible. The number of features you get in this thing — and they all work!” I told them. “And honestly, the thing drove here flawlessly!” I said, smiling. “I’m blown away. It’s got 230,000 miles on it, it’s filled with luxury features, and it all works. And for $500!”

I think Jason and Sally could tell how smitten I was by the van.  “Let’s have a look at it,” they said.

Sally immediately liked it! “Oh yeah, this thing is great!” she said. “You said it was a junker. No no, it just needs a little bit of love. It’s got tons of potential!”

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WHEW!

What a relief!

This whole trip’s purpose had been to get Jason and Sally a good, reliable vehicle, and the road trip had proven that the Sienna fit that description. But because the van was in worse shape than I’d initially thought, I was convinced it’d be turned away. But who was I to doubt Sally’s vision for true potential? She married Jason, after all!

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Before I flew back to LAX, my friend and Autopian contributor Stephen Walter Gossin swung by to help swap the front brakes and the valve cover gasket; the front rotors had been vibrating a bit on the highway, so I figured I’d spend another $80 on new rotors and pads; why not? The valve cover gasket was leaking oil onto the exhaust manifold, causing smoking, so we took care of that for $20 and 20 minutes.

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Jason and I took the van to the airport, but not before making this video, which has garnered over 1000 likes:

 

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Come on, how can you not be convinced? $500 for a power moonroof, power rear vent windows, power seats, heated seats, a DVD player, a CD player with navigation, adaptive cruise control, HID lights, power mirrors, power side doors, a power rear hatch, and so much more. This van was the deal of the century, it had proven itself as unstoppable on that 1,000 mile road trip, and though it wasn’t minty inside, Sally loves it! Just check it out!:

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In fact, after Jason took the vehicle to get an alignment and to swap out the seized slide pins that I should have handled during the brake job, Sally took the van on a trip to Virginia and back, and it was flawless! According to Jason, Sally’s been driving it around all the time, cleaning the interior, enjoying the project.

And I’m just delighted. Thoroughly, thoroughly delighted.

I have no doubt this machine will serve them well for years to come. (As long as that timing belt doesn’t snap before I can swap it next summer. Gulp!).

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Mortalcombatant
Mortalcombatant
2 months ago

Good story. It’s lovely to see how excited they’re about the car.
Also David – the catalyzer thief thumbnail photo is excellent.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
2 months ago

At least he gives the cats he steals a good home … A cat burglar with a heart

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago

Good job DT. Proud of you for being a good guy.
Sincerely hope Torch can find a way to get that timing belt done. After all this work, it’d be a shame to smoke an engine over something like that.

BTW, I like the picture (thumbnail). Since it’s a “Mental Health Monday,” You will be spared any snarky comments…but it’s really tough not to. You haver been warned.
(maybe a tattoo that says “harmless” would work. just not on the forehead.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Last edited 2 months ago by Col Lingus
Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 months ago

Love to see it! I was worried, truly worried that Sally would, to paraphrase Sir Mix-a-Lot, toss it and leave it, so David would have to pull up quick to retrieve it. But in the end, she made the right choice. This van will be running long after the Tiguan has been converted into Hengstenberg sauerkraut cans.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago

Even then, the sauerkraut cans will have wiper motors that fail after 80k miles, inconsistent phone pairing behavior, and worst of all, capacitive buttons.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
2 months ago

Great stuff David!

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
2 months ago

All that and you still found time to hang out with some of us Triangle-area Autopians!

Thanks for bringing us along on your adventure.

I don’t remember adaptive cruise control even existing in 2005.

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
2 months ago
Reply to  TriangleRAD

I had a 2003 Avalon with the feature once. That’s the oldest car I know that has it.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
2 months ago

Lovely article David. This was a rollercoaster ride through highs (Sally’s reaction, pictures of Jason’s smile, your passion for this ridiculous ride), lows (the axel nut lip, the leaks, and icy roads) and the fertile content pastures that feel ripe for plowing,

“…so I did what I always do when I have weather concerns: I call my brother, Ben, who loves weather more than, possibly, anything.”

I’m now very curious if Ben is AMS certified and when you made the discovery his passion for weather makes him the perfect road trip planner. Great job all the way around and I can’t wait to see what misadventures Jason & Co. get in with their new van!

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago

But who was I to doubt Sally’s vision for true potential? She’s married to Jason, after all!”

LOL! Solid point 🙂

Glad it all worked out!

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
2 months ago

Congrats! Love this story! I think I mentioned we had a similar Sienna before we got our Odyssey and it was darn near the perfect vehicle. I especially love how they engineered it to make oil changes super easy. Possibly the only oil change I ever did where not a single drop of oil hit my garage floor thanks to the way the drain plug and filter are positioned and set up.

And hopefully the Torchinskys never have to deal with this, but when my wife got caught up in a wreck on I-264, than van let her walk away injury-free.

Oh, and ours was gold with a tan interior. I don’t think it could look more like a 70’s anachronism without adding wood paneling or something.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

Whats so perfect about the Siennas oil change? Never worked on a Sienna but in my experience most FWD cars and especially minivans are usually worse than my assorted old pickups and jeeps.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The oil drain plug is right up front in a convenient location and really easy to make sure it drains properly. The oil filter isn’t the traditional soda can-style, instead you buy the filter element by itself, and it’s fully contained under the engine. The release the filter, there’s a bottom cap to unscrew (which requires a special tool), but before you do that, there’s a drain plug in the middle of the cap that allows you to drain the filter before removing it. Again, all of this stuff is close to the front of the van and pretty convenient to do without a lift.

JumboG
JumboG
2 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

Until the special cap breaks because it’s plastic. Then you get a metal aftermarket replacement because the local Toyota dealer will only sell you the complete replacement housing, and they don’t have it in stock.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
2 months ago
Reply to  JumboG

Uh, nope. It’s metal. You get a disposable plastic insert with the filter that you stick in the middle to drain the filter through. I’m telling you… as a muscle car guy who has owned a ton of classics with filters and drain plugs always in the same spot… constantly wrestling slicked up filters around my headers… the Sienna is just way better for the guy doing the oil change.

JumboG
JumboG
2 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

So we were both a little wrong, I just looked up an 05 Sienna oil filter and it’s a spin on soda can style!

However, I have worked on several Toyotas (and owned one) with the style you mention, and while theoretically it’s possible to change on in the manner you describe, it’s been my experience that they are prone to overtightening and then the plastic (yes, it’s plastic unless someone has changed it out with a metal one) breaks while trying to remove it.

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
2 months ago

Wahoo!! Glad this worked out!

Is there anyone who can take care of that timing belt? Thats a bit scary at 230k and original belt!

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Is it an interference motor? My 2006 highlander hybrids had belts that never snapped and I took some up to 450k.

They weren’t interference motors though.

Subarus snap belts regularly and trash engines but I believe it’s a lot less common on toyotas.

My toyota tech told me not to worry about the timing belt cause it wasn’t interference.

As long as you have aaa you can just tow it home and write a new article about it

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
2 months ago
Reply to  Taxi maniac

Yes, these are interference engines. No idea how much of a gamble it would be to wait until David can get back to NC with a new timing belt in hand.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Not that every shop would do so, but is there a chance that there is a “timing belt done at ___” sticker under the hood somewhere? It’s probably still needed but maybe would add some piece of mind.

Pappa P
Pappa P
2 months ago

A friend of mine did a timing belt on one of these a few years ago. It took days, and there were very many broken bolts to be extracted.
I don’t know if they salt roads where this came from, but if they do, I would be inclined to give that belt a good eyeballing then put the cover back on if you’re not seeing signs of deterioration.

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

I have a 2004 Sienna XLS (fwd) and the t-belt change interval is 90k miles.
I paid my shop to replace it, along with associated pullys, tentioners and accessory belt, waterpump and thermostat. In my opinion these are automatic “while you’re in there” replacement items.

In order to get the needed access the shop removed the passenger side engine mount, the bolt foe which was frozen in place, so they installed a new passenger engine mount (and new bolt of course). That was the only surprise fix needed.

So FYI @David, if you take on this job yourself plus with Jason looking on and perhaps with VW Charlie the Mechanic helping (or at least leading a bay space)…

In addition to the timing belt, accessory belt, pullies, tensioner, waterpump, thermostat… you may want to proactively order a new passenger side engine mount (and bolt); if not a full engine mount kit and replace all of them.

Pappa P
Pappa P
2 months ago
Reply to  Torque

I’m glad to hear yours wasn’t too bad.
The friend I’m referring to was a mechanic working in a shop, although he was working on his daughter’s van.
Everything was seized, so many bolts broke on removal.
When all was said and done, the job would have been 18 hours straight time.
Obviously some are worse than others.
While I wouldn’t personally bother with this job unless it was a southern car, I think this is right up DT’s alley and would make great content.
I would be more inclined to take the money I would have paid for the job plus the money I get from selling the van, and seek an ’06 or newer with the 2GR instead.
Extra 60hp and no timing belt.

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

Yeah I was pleasantly surprised that well that was the only surprise. Mine has lived its life in MN too, although I think it was garaged all its life which I do think makes a significant difference.

Pappa P
Pappa P
2 months ago
Reply to  Torque

I agree, being garage kept would certainly extend the life of the vehicle.
This one had a hard life of Canadian commuting.

Gardenbolt
Gardenbolt
2 months ago

good job, you got a lot done in a short amount of time.

i only drive used toyotas, i am on my 5th one. every one of them has gone 270k before it has major issues. 40 years of toyota driving. they are a bargain because they are reliable with only maintaining the worn bits.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago

That DVD player video is adorable. What an adventure! Congratulations to everyone, especially for getting QA approval from Sally. Elevating a $500 anything out from junker status is impressive!

Question though: how ready was Torch with the physical Firefly DVD? Was it already in his pocket or did he have to go back in the house for it?

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

“On David’s next wrenching rescue, he temporarily takes over as chief engineer for the Firefly as Kaylee takes a much-needed vacation. David realizes the ship is a flying OSHA violation, and Kaylee discovers there truly is ‘no place like home.'”

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Rust In Space!

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
2 months ago

Good on a ya DT! A silly adventure, a reasonable amount of money spent, and real help provided to a friend in need. Even if it only has a year of life left in it, its obviously worth it for that year. Hopefully its got quite a bit more than though!

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
2 months ago

Well done! quick side note; Always replace struts, springs in pairs, to only do one would be super wonky in every sense.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
2 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Instructions unclear. Replaced left side springs & struts, front & rear. Still wonky, but different wonky than previous. Pls advise.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
2 months ago

You’re Dead to me now.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago

I’ve been waiting for this article, and I am not disappointed!

Great job DT!

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
2 months ago

looking at the google map, you should have diverted south and tried the tail of the dragon.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

But who was I to doubt Sally’s vision for true potential? She’s married to Jason, after all!

LOL. Dick move, man.
Glad to see another David Tracy wrenchfest, though.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Giving DT the benefit of the doubt (though your interpretation is the clearest one) I assumed he meant that she shares that ability with her husband, as opposed to needing that ability just to have married Jason.

James Kohler
James Kohler
2 months ago

What an excellent adventure that ended up being. Thanks for sharing all the details David! This is the stuff I love to read about. Just do us a favor and don’t do anything so crazy it puts you in Jason’s position ok? We don’t want any roasting articles to turn into an obituary.

Framed
Framed
2 months ago
Reply to  James Kohler

At least David didn’t remove the old battery with a chainsaw

James Kohler
James Kohler
2 months ago
Reply to  Framed

That was part of the reason I said that XD

Óscar Morales Vivó
Óscar Morales Vivó
2 months ago

David Tracy’s life is like a shonen fight anime but with wrenching challenges. Every season a new, more bizarrely powerful/rusted out/derelict adversary shows up, every season the Protagonist defeats it through a strong will and the power of friendship just in time for the season finale.

The only real difference is that the speech about the power of friendship shows up in article form, on the Internet, after the inevitable victory instead of filling up half the episode leading to the final attack.

DEcarTrouble
DEcarTrouble
2 months ago

I haven’t even read the article yet, but wanted to simply say I have been waiting for this one to come out. I love Dave’s super hero vehicle revivals.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

You’re a good friend to have. Congrats on a successful mission

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
2 months ago

Right? David is such a sweetheart, and his and Jason’s friendship is wholesome as h*ck.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
2 months ago

Read that headline and expected to read that you traded it for a broken Spitfire at the last minute.

Thatmiataguy
Thatmiataguy
2 months ago

Hey David, just so you know the “Toyota FJ Bruiser” video that autoplays on this article has absolutely atrocious compression artifacts; its super blocky and pixelated and completely detracts from the otherwise A+ experience of this site.

Perhaps whoever is responsible for rendering these videos before posting them online could do so at a higher bit rate?

Just my $0.02, but I really think it would make a difference.

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

It may be hard to tell, but those axle threads shown above are totally ruined.

Narrator: it was not hard to tell. 😮

I’m glad there was an overall positive result 🙂

Side note: “it’s better than it was” is my motto around the house and shop.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

Power rear vent windows you say??? That’s pretty sweet.

These Siennas are great. Glad to see it all worked out!

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
2 months ago

Glad to see that it did, in fact, have adaptive cruise.

Bonus points that the system worked!

I’m currently in the market for a used AWD sienna, glad to hear how well this one held up.

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