3. Replacing the engine

Prepping the car for a heart transplant.

Being that this car is so reliable, many experienced car owners speak out against replacing this engine. We heard comments like, “200k miles is just breaking the car in,”… “My 100 series has over 300k on it and it’s perfect!”, etc.

That all may be true, however the decision to replace the engine was right for us. The manufacturer rates this engine good for 250k miles. I am not an experienced mechanic and although I’m doing the best to learn everything I can, I would feel much safer knowing we have a new engine installed. This would also give me a chance to really get intimate with the mechanics of the car. The cost of a re-manufactured 2UZ-FE engine was $1,500 when all said and done. After much thought, we decided to drop a new engine.

Ripping the heart out of the beast.

The process took us 3 weekends. 1 weekend to remove the engine and transmission, another weekend to transfer all of the components over to the new one and the final weekend to drop it back in. It was a lot of work and at times I hated it, however looking back, it was a blast and I had a great time doing it.

The team included myself, Andy (dad), Kathy (mom), Elijah (cousin), and Raquel (Wife). Our dog Moby said he was going to help, but he ended up chasing grasshoppers instead.

Taking the engine out with the transmission ended up being too heavy for the cherry picker. We had to use the tractor with my mom on the stick. She was an artist with that thing! We had one minor issue, but the whole thing came out with relative ease.

After the engine was out, we sat it side by side the new one. We slowly moved the components over to the new one. We had a gasket/seal kit so we replaced all of the seals and gaskets with new ones.

Old and new, side by side.

This process took 2 full days. We made sure to seal everything extremely well and double check our work. I also took this time to learn everything I could about how the engine worked and where everything went.

We replaced the thermostat, spark plugs, starter, timing belt and serpentine belt. I’ve attached a gallery below of the work being done.

We disconnected the transmission and sent that off to a professional to be inspected and rebuilt.

Once everything was in place, we re-mated the transmission to the engine. We then prepped the whole thing to be dropped back in. Looking at the tiny hole where this massive mixture of metal and tubes is supposed to go didn’t seem to be possible.

Transmission attached, ready to drop it in.
It’s supposed to fit in there?!

Slowly, but surely, it went in. I would say the whole process from lifting it up to dropping it in took about 45 minutes.

With a satisfying “Clunk” it dropped into the motor mounts and everything lined up like a jigsaw puzzle. During the process, we did end up snapping the air filter connector off. Not too bad of an issue.

Reattaching all of the electrical, tubing, bolts, etc. took some time. I have the original repair manuals for this year model and they were a necessary part of this process.

After installing the fluids and double checking and re-checking all of our connections, we decided to start her up. The tension was palpable. We have all been working on this for the last 3 weekends and we all had our own nightmares about this not working. There could be any number of problems ranging from leaks to electrical issues. The worst case scenario would be having to take this monster out again. I turned the key and the sound that followed the starter was perfect! It felt great. No ticking, no clunks, just a smooth 4.7L v8 humming along as it should. Once started, we had to let it run on idle for 3 hours and then replace the oil and filter. So we decided to take a break and cool off in the pool while the car ran its course. This was a good day.

No ticking, no clunks, just a smooth 4.7L v8 humming along as it should.

Starting it up for the first time.

We had to keep our driving to under 60 MPH for the first 1,000 miles to break in the new engine. With southern California traffic, this wasn’t too hard to accomplish. Once we reached the 1,000 mile mark, we did another oil and filter change.

The engine runs great and the transmission is a dream. I am very confident in the install and feel like we have a great platform to last us another 250k+ miles.

Now it’s time to get this baby ready for some off roading and seriously long road trips.


Next page: Electrical