Home » My Coworker’s Heart Exploded Because His Crappy Cars Are Too Stressful, So I Just Bought Him A Toyota (A $500 One With 240,000 Miles, But Still)

My Coworker’s Heart Exploded Because His Crappy Cars Are Too Stressful, So I Just Bought Him A Toyota (A $500 One With 240,000 Miles, But Still)

Jasons Toyota Sienna Ts2
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What people don’t know about our beloved cofounder Jason Torchinsky is that he has been plagued with more car troubles than anyone I know. I mean, it’s truly remarkable how much bullshit this man endures when it comes to automobiles, and yet he totally undersells it, maybe out of embarrassment? It’s not clear to me, but it’s over now, because I’m buying Jason a Toyota. Yes, a vehicle from the brand that promises endless reliability will soon sit in Jason’s driveway, providing him with steady, trouble-free transport. At least, in theory. You see, I bought this thing for $500.

Are Toyotas really that reliable? I don’t know. I’ve only ever owned one, and it was a Lexus LX470 with 265,000 miles; the thing was an absolute tank, and I remain amazed by it to this day. But just as that was a single data point, so too will this 2004 Sienna minivan be another single datapoint. Still, as unscientific as this will be, I’m excited to see if this $500 family-hauler will actually prove what Toyota lovers have been declaring for years.

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You see, Jason needs this. Badly. He basically admits that he’s hopeless in an old post, writing:

I suck. I co-run The World’s Finest Automotive Website (don’t check on that) and yet somehow I’m also incapable of keeping my fleet of miserable shitboxes going.

Let’s do a roundup of his cars real quick, and you’ll understand why I’m convinced his automotive situation contributed to the high blood pressure that may have played a part in his extremely scary aortic dissection late last month.

1973 VW Beetle

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Jason’s Beetle, which he’s owned for decades and which he loves with all his heart, has sadly been dead for well over a year now, and it’s for reasons unknown. Somehow, the engine seized up, and despite my numerous efforts towing his Beetle around as Jason dumped the clutch while in gear, that motor just wouldn’t spin over. I have no clue what’s going on, and neither does Torch.

Jason claims to have slapped some Marvel Mystery Oil into the cylinders to loosen things up, but given that it’s a flat engine, I have my doubts that it did anything (the oil probably just dribbled right out of the spark plug holes, if I had to guess). It’s sad.

2010 VW Tiguan

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I really don’t want to talk about Jason’s Tiguan too much, because it bothers me. It bothers me that Jason, like so many of my other friends over the years, fell victim to VW’s bullshit engineering that has been ruining the lives of so many folks near and dear to my heart. I’m tired of hearing the stories. I’m annoyed. Modern-ish Volkswagens are pathetic, and this Tiguan, which grenaded itself already due to a poor valve timing design, is now overheating. Ugh.

1989 Ford F-150

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I already bought Jason a vehicle to solve these problems (see article “David Tracy Bought Me An ‘Unkillable’ 1989 Ford F-150 But Getting It Home Was A Shitshow“). It’s the most reliable vehicle I’ve even heard of: It’s a Ford F-150 with a stout T-18 four-speed manual transmission and an equally-stout 300 inline-six. In theory, this combination cannot be broken, and yet our beloved Jason managed it. The starter motor died, he replaced it, and shortly thereafter the flywheel teeth broke off. So now the vehicle won’t crank, and the transmission has to be removed. Crap!

1991 Yugo GV Plus

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Screenshot: Jalopnik

Jason’s Yugo works, but I guarantee he hasn’t driven it in a long, long time. That’s not because he doesn’t like it, it’s because it’s just a little… rough around the edges. It’s a car that folks have had in their driveways but never truly owned. It’s a deeply, deeply neglected machine that needs plenty of maintenance, and Jason’s shifter fix (which he wrote about at Jalopnik) is just not really acceptable, nor is his pen fix for the throttle cable.

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Nor is his “permanent” garden hose-based fix:

Gardenhose

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Yikes.

1990 Nissan Pao

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Jason’s Nissan Pao is actually a stout little machine, except for one thing: Torch keeps running into deer. He did it once, the vehicle was out for a long time, then it got repaired, then the car overheated because the repair didn’t include a new radiator hose (so the thing leaked and blew a head gasket), and after being out for more than a year, recently Jason hit another deer. The Pao is a deer magnet, it seems.

Changli

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The Changli, the cheapest electric car in the world, was out of the game for over a year due to swollen batteries, which Jason literally had to chainsaw out. Recently, Torch replaced the batteries with cheap Walmart marine batteries, but they didn’t fit the box, so two are in the rear footwell, wired up so jankily I’m convinced the Magic Smoke will soon fill the vehicle’s cabin and render the beloved little red EV useless. Also, this really isn’t a viable mode of transportation for any trip that requires more than 20 mph or a range of over about 12 miles.

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1977 Dodge Tioga RV

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Jason’s Dodge Tioga is what he used to move to his house about a decade ago. He parked it, and it hasn’t moved since. The engine makes no compression (I suspect a bad timing chain, though that’s surprising given how short that chain is on a Dodge 440), and I saw a feral cat living in it the last time I opened it up. Chapel Hill’s climate can be a bit rain forest-y sometimes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that cabin is musty at this point.

The Savior Is Here

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I believe in my heart of hearts that this Toyota Sienna with 241,000 miles is going to be the most reliable vehicle in Jason’s fleet. I know, I thought that before about the “unkillable” Ford F-150, but I’ve got a good feeling about this all-wheel drive Toyota offered by St. Louis-based Autopian reader David for the low, low price of $500.

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Is it going to be exciting? Maybe not, but Jason isn’t going to be driving for a while anyway due to his recent aortic dissection, so this might be a great way to get him and his walker around. Plus, he does tend to find the joy in everything, and he is pro-minivan.

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Maybe I’ll be wrong. Maybe a 241,000 mile Sienna will be just as crappy as Jason’s other cars, but we’re going to put that Toyota Promise to the test when I bring this van to him in early January.

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I have to fly to St. Louis and fix the front struts before road-tripping to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but hey, you didn’t think a $500 Sienna would be completely trouble-free, did you? I’ll get those struts handled, and knock out any other overdue maintenance items I see. Then we’ll find it out this vehicle can withstand a man known for killing cars.

It’s Toyota vs. Torch.

 

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Box Rocket
Box Rocket
3 months ago

@DavidTracy: I’m in the St. Louis area, let me know if you need help/tools/want a shop to do anything.

Torque
Torque
3 months ago

Good choice David, our ‘family hauler’ also a 2004 Sienna XLS just fwd instead of the awd. I bought it w/100k miles and 12.5 years later it now has 225k miles.
It has been great over all, averaging 20-22 mpg consistently and has many times served as our light duty truck too hauling large items with the rear seats folded in to the floor and the middle captains chairs removed.

Maintenance wise it has been rather routine. I have taken a bit of a proactive approach trying to replace wear items slightly ahead of time. The timing belt, wp, thermostat and accessory belts (and associated pulleys) replaced at 180k. This job also necessitated replacing the passenger side upper motor mount as the bolt on the old mount was frozen in place.
The ac compressor gave up about 200k and so it was replaced, along with the radiator and condenser, since the condenser was still the original and quite tatty and the radiator had developed a small leak in the upper driver side, which apparently is a common issue for Siennas of this age. Also replaced the spark plugs with new iridium ones at this time.
Shocks/struts/springs also replaced w/in the past 20k miles as well as replacing all fluids.
Front brake pads replaced twice, last time I installed new rotors too.
Rear pads replaced twice as well. The last time I replaced the rotor/drum* as well.

*Siennas rear ‘regular’ brakes is a disc and the center for the parking brake is a drum. I replaced all the parking brake (drum) shoes and hardware as well.

FitzmorrisPR
FitzmorrisPR
3 months ago

We got a similar condition Sienna (prior gen) a little bit ago, and in addition to struts it ended up needing a new thermostat pipe, the plastic one had started to split down the seam, and new control arm bushings. Maybe not wyit but to keep an eye on?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

I am looking for the story where DT mentions a fine wine. Has it been erased?

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 months ago

Is this where we show up out of the blue and thrash-rebuild a Beetle engine?

Strangek
Strangek
3 months ago

I like all of Torch’s cars except that stupid Tiguan. I hope that minivan works out, but that family seems like they need the best RAV4, Forester, etc. that they can afford. The key to successful car enthusiasm is to have one that just runs and does all the normal life stuff.

Andy Hoodward
Andy Hoodward
3 months ago

Oh that poor freaking Sienna and its impending doom.

Parsko
Parsko
3 months ago

I’m getting too confused around here nowadays. But, thanks to David’s for helping out.

Does his walker have tennis balls or wheels? I must have wheels, right??

VermonsterDad
VermonsterDad
3 months ago

Sound like a good wrenching story idea. . .autopians car rescue/challenge. . .can you get all of torches vehicles working?

Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
3 months ago

Well, the 3 Clowns ( we all know which ones ) proved that a Toyota Hilux couldn’t be destroyed ( outside of Namibia ) so we can hope that some of that indestructability ( does it exist as a word ? ) rubbed off into the Sienna.

Drunken Master Paul
Drunken Master Paul
3 months ago

Good choice. I am firmly in the “Minivans are awesome and I am quite comfortable with my masculinity thank you very much” camp and have been rocking a 2006 Grand Caravan for many years now. I just sold my company’s 2009 Sienna and it served us very well considering it’s 250k miles until the transmission let go, and I still drove it for 100 miles in 2nd to various shops. So it’s got good bones and if maintained it should go for many years to come. Not unlike Torch.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
3 months ago

He’s going to need rehab. A van for Sally to schlep him to and fro is a perfect choice.

You are a good man, Mr. Tracy.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
3 months ago

Something kinda/sorta interesting about the AWD system in these 2nd gen Siennas (and the same as first gen Highlanders and Lexus RX’s)

It’s one of the few examples of a transverse engine that has an AWD system that actually has a center differential, instead of a fixed output shaft feeding an on-demand type system.

I’ve been eyeballing a not horribly abused example to put some larger tires on and make in to a shitty camper/hauling vehicle.

Ford_Timelord
Ford_Timelord
3 months ago

Sounds like it’s related to the all-trac system in my 1988 4wd Corolla Wagon and first gen RAV4. does it have the centre diff lock?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
3 months ago
Reply to  Ford_Timelord

It was similar, but none of the siennas came with a center diff lock. That would have been very good though.

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
3 months ago

I don’t know about this. If I personally had a major medical issue that almost killed me the last thing I would do is buy a high mileage used car to stress over. I would get rid of all the junkers and get one brand new car to lower my stress level.

EPGCivic
EPGCivic
3 months ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

Think of the lost clicks from doing something rational!

Oldskool
Oldskool
3 months ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

Having something reliable for a daily is important. But I would keep at least the VW. Having something beloved to tinker on is something that brings a lot of us joy and keeps us going. And keeps our mind off the medical stuff. The VW is small and parts are easy to handle and reach, or at least should be (having never owned one).

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
3 months ago
Reply to  Oldskool

No, tiguans (at least the first generation) are awful money pits, and there’s no lasting fix for bad design. If I were in charge of his fleet that’d be the first vehicle to go, and good riddance.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
3 months ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

Yeah but they sort of tried that, and they bought one of the worst options they could with the tiguan.

P Hans
P Hans
3 months ago

I can see Jason taking on a successful career in vehicle testing consultant for OEMs developing new cars. Few bring the gremlins out like Jason!

Ncbrit
Ncbrit
3 months ago

David. I live right off I-40. If that road trip turns sour and you need some wrenching around western NC, give me a shout.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
3 months ago
Reply to  Ncbrit

Ditto for me, but at the end of the trip. From my home in Raleigh I can be in Chapel Hill in under 30 minutes.

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
3 months ago
Reply to  TriangleRAD

Right in between both of you in the Triad! I-40 is a 15 min walk from my front door.

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