Engine Issues- A spanner in the works (so to speak)

To give a bit of a background for those who are new to our travels (I will keep this short)- Back in November 2013 we decided to upgrade our very trusty, reliable and economical 2003 Holden Rodeo. We simply outgrew it and were after something with a little more power and more capable offroad. Our first thoughts was to buy a new or near-new Isuzu Dmax.

HOWEVER- we came across our new rig when we saw it for sale on the side of the road. We had never really considered a Landcruiser as an option (mainly cause I liked the dual cab utes for space etc). But this one had lots of goodies and was in great nick!

Lots of bells and whistles, lots of accessories and was fairly well priced. We bought it on the spot! (after checking it out etc).

A 2001 Toyota Landcruiser HZJ105R 4.2l with aftermarket DTS turbo.IMG_4305

Click Here to see more info on our Cruiser!

We have been very happy with it and so far it has been a great vehicle to tow with and drive- it certainly turns a lot of heads!

Not knowing a lot about the Toyota diesel engines I starting reading internet forums etc to learn a little about them- that’s just something I like doing. The consensus is that the 1HZ engines are known for their legendary reliability. They are also known for their kinda powerless performance when you start loading it up with a camper, accessories, big tyres etc. Some people have coined the term the 1HZzzzzzz…. implying its a sleepy old motor with very little technology compared to the late common rail, whizz bang computer controlled versions etc. An old reliable workhorse but definitely no racing engine!

Because many people try to squeeze more power out of these engines by upgrading exhausts and adding snorkels with limited success- many turn to adding a turbo charger. A relatively economical solution when it comes to bang for your buck! The power increases are significant. From 96kw to around 120kw and an increase in torque.

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Mitsubishi TD05 Turbo (DTS SYSTEM)

BUT- lets stop and think about this for a minute- the 1HZ engine wasn’t designed to have a turbo…… what about the extra stress on the engine? Well, this goes without saying but I will say it anyway- forcing air into an engine to help combustion (power), of course there is extra strain, extra heat etc on the internal components. Of course if done right a turbo can be added as long as the boost isn’t set to ridiculous levels and the fuel is adjusted to compensate for the extra heat. Adding an intercooler also helps. It can be (and has been) done with much success.

There are thousands of 1HZ’s running around with aftermarket turbos on them with no issues- many of these are the 80 series cruisers!!!

Here is something interesting I have since found out- when the smart cookies at Toyota decided to release the 100 series they changed the front suspension to IFS and were made full time 4×4. There was still a market for the live axle cruiser so basically the 105 series (like ours) was released. The super tough 80 series chassis underneath the new 100 series body. They were kept pretty basic inside but became one of the most capable 4×4’s on the market. For some reason only known to Toyota they didn’t release the 105 series with the new, more powerful and economical 1HD-FTE factory turbo engine. They kept the old 1HZ- but its been rumoured that the pistons and some of the internals of the 1HZ engines released in the 105 series were of lesser quality, thinner etc- these made these engines even more vulnerable once a turbo is added.

So, what does this mean for us? Well we have since put around 10,000kms on the cruiser- many of that towing a heavy camper. Probably putting our poor 1HZ engine through hell.

Here’s where it gets interesting (or for us disappointing)- We roll on into Mackay in North QLD. After being in Mackay for a few days the engine starts idling rough, like its having a fit. Starts blowing a combination of black and white smoke and a strong smell of diesel. Uh Oh……… this is not good!

We were lucky that one of our Facebook followers lives in Mackay and just happens to be a top mechanic. Pedr from Mr Shiny Mechanical. I let him know and he came out to take a look- he knew straight up there was a big problem and diagnosed cylinder no.2 as having issues. This was going to be a job for a diesel mechanic- someone who knows these engines and has all the right gear, a fully equipped workshop and ‘know-how’ to get us back on the road. So we started looking around for someone to take a closer look, to perform some tests and start the ‘repair’ process.

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Off to the workshop

After calling a few places around Mackay out of the phonebook people kept steering us in the direction of David from MSP Engines in Brisbane st, Mackay. With such a strong reputation around the town I would be crazy not to follow the advice given. I gave him a call and he sent a mechanic out that afternoon- 5 minutes later- “You’ve cracked a piston mate”……. dollar sign symbols ran through my mind.

The cruiser was taken to MSP Engine’s workshop the next day…. It proved to be in capable hands. It was confirmed that it was a cracked piston and a complete engine rebuild was required. I knew this wasn’t going to be cheap but it was necessary!

After some consultation with David about the kind of touring we do and the level of performance we require (and of course the reliability we need when we go to remote areas)- we decided on what needed to be done. A course of action and a shopping list of parts were made. Taking advantage of David’s experience we were able to list the components required. Having been in the industry a long time David was pretty clued up on what brand components to use and where the best places to source the equipment from.

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Piston no.2- CRACKED!

Because of the popularity of turbo charging these engines there are a few companies around that manufacture turbo pistons to suit these engines. These pistons have a thicker top and a special piston ring design (ALFIN insert). With David’s experience and time in the business he knew exactly what brand to use. AE- which is an offshoot of Federal Mogul (one of the worlds largest vehicle component/equipment manufacturers). The new pistons were teamed up with genuine Toyota conrods designed for a 1HDT factory turbo engine. Having had issues in the past with inferior pistons being sourced and inaccurately being  sold off as ‘genuine parts’, David was well aware of the ‘cowboys’ out there tricking people and I was glad he was on my side- otherwise id have no idea! (a bit of internet research backed up his advice- not that I didn’t take his word for it).

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Cylinder Head- notice the numerous cracks due to strain and heat

David mentioned to me that he knew our engine was working hard- he could tell by the numerous cracks in the cylinder head- it was up for a replacement too.

As a part of the engine rebuild we had the fuel injector pump fully serviced, new injectors installed and had a timing belt kit and new water pump fitted. We also opted for a new Exedy Extreme Heavy Duty clutch. All was coming together nicely- like a well oiled machine!!

MSP Engines had all the gear onsite (with the exception of the gear to do the injector pump which was sent to a diesel specialist in town). David had ‘State of the art’ machining systems, computer controlled head reconditioning equipment and more tools than you could poke  a stick at. They do a great deal of work for the mines and the agricultural industry around the region and has built up a name for reliability and great work. It was for this reason we chose them over other places in town- if in doubt, ask a local!

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The engine went back into place nicely and all the bits and pieces were connected back up- all except the turbo. Like any forward thinking mechanic he decided to test out the turbo to see what the boost was set at- We hit another problem! It appears the turbo actuator valve (that controls the boost level to the engine) had failed- potentially sending far too much boost to the engine possibly causing the damage. Finding one of these proved to be a headache but David managed to get it sorted through his contacts.

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Lowering the newly rebuilt 1HZ back into the Cruiser

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The new lifter pump- the old one was causing many headaches trying to diagnose the fault.

With the new actuator installed it was time to set the air/fuel ratios- another snag! The engine ran fine under power and acceleration but when you backed off the throttle it had a severe miss. Air was getting into the fuel somewhere…. not much but enough to be a big problem. The mechanics checked and double checked the fuel lines, clamps, injector nuts etc- couldn’t find the problem. A brainsnap- perhaps it was the lifter pump assembly on top of the fuel filter??? With clever ingenuity David bypassed that and got it running perfect. A new assembly was ordered and installed within a few days. These things apparently wear out over time and I guess seeming as though everything else was getting replaced it decided it wanted to pack it in too!

We are so thrilled to have it back. Its been a long process, an expensive process but we know that the engine was done properly and with a high level of care and detail.

So why did it blow up?

Well, that could be a number of things- perhaps the engine was just not up to the task of taking the turbo and prematurely wore out? Perhaps the turbo psi was set too high? Perhaps the turbo actuator valve failed allowing massive amounts of boost in to kill the piston? Perhaps I was driving it too hard? Perhaps it got too hot and the cracks in the head got too much for it? Perhaps the fuel ratios weren’t set correctly and it finally decided it had had enough?……… it was always going to be a risk touring in this vehicle and after learning about the vulnerabilities of these engines with an aftermarket turbo it was always in the back of my mind.

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So, what did we achieve? (a part from lightening the bank balance).

We didn’t achieve any more power or performance but we now know our whole engine has been rebuilt to do the job we require it to do. We have gained confidence that the work was carried out with quality, we have a warranty and to be honest a lot of the cost formed a large part of the standard servicing that was due. Such as timing belt, injector pump, injectors and a new clutch that was needed. I wont need to worry about this engine for another 15 years other than regular servicing. Well, lets hope so. A good lesson with our experience is to be aware of the engine and its health- that’s why im installing a top of the range engine monitoring system from EngineSafe to keep an eye on the temperatures (both coolant and block). This will flag any issues with rapid changes of temperatures or low coolant. So much better than the unreliable temp gauge on the dash. Once that needle moves it could possibly be too late! (I will do a post about this install separately). It really is a great bit of gear and I would recommend one to anyone, especially those towing or touring.

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We may even install a pyro gauge to keep an eye on exhaust temperatures and a boost gauge to keep an eye the boost levels. There is a good chance that the failed turbo actuator valve (a $200 part) was responsible for our issue. A boost gauge will let me know about any issues of overboosting. We don’t want this happening again!

I have already noticed the engine is more responsive and the fuel gauge isn’t moving as fast- so perhaps the injector pump reconditioning has done wonders for us!

This has definitely been an experience for us- to be without our vehicle in a strange town and not being able to continue our travels north as planned has been a little depressing- not to mention the costs involved.

We are so thankful for NRMA Roadside Ultimate cover. They were fantastic in looking after us. A hire car for a week and up to $700 in accommodation costs covered. Even a few taxi fares and follow-up courtesy calls. Our advice is to have this cover with NRMA or your state equivalent- It has well and truly paid for itself.

We are also thankful that we managed to keep an emergency fund for these kinds of incidents. Without that, we would have had little choice other than sell the car for parts! To have it towed home would not have been an option. ALWAYS have a plan B or an emergency fund when travelling. Trust me, it helps you sleep at night and you never know when you might need it.

We can not recommend MSP Engines in Mackay enough- we are very impressed with their work.

Address :

8-10 Brisbane Street Mackay QLD 4740

Email: workshop@mackayspareparts.com.au

Phone :(07) 4953 1844

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