Todays picture is from inside my truck because I thought I would let you know what has been going on with my future TOAD. A few weeks ago I wrote about my POS. It is a 1993 Land Cruiser. The plan is to eventually turn this beast into a pull behind for the RV.

Our Land Cruiser has needed major renovations. Our credit card is getting near its upper limit, and 95% of the charges have been emergency repairs. The best part? I could have bought a pristine Land Cruiser with all the $$$ I have spent on this one.

Lucky for us, we found a great mechanic in our town. One mechanic after I bought it flat out refused to work on it. The dealership said it would be no problem to fix it, charged us a fortune, then failed to deliver results. Our current mechanic cursed at it and then said he could fix it.

To his credit he has actually been fixing it, and doing a great job at a reasonable cost.

I will tell you what I have done so far in order of what happened (to the best of my memory):

  • New Front Drive Shaft
  • timing belt cover gasket (failed)
  • all new fluids
  • all new brakes (rotors, calipers, master cylinder) (all failed to be installed correctly)
  • all new brushings, control arms
  • front axle rebuild (failed)
  • all new hoses (I mean ALL of them)
  • new radiator
  • New exhaust headers back
  • more oil leaks sealed up
  • all new brakes
  • new rotors, plugs
  • rewired all injectors
  • new knock sensor
The list is pretty endless 🙁
Anyway this round of repairs included the following:
  • Completely new rebuilt front axle & axle housing
  • rear windshield wiper installed
  • all new brakes and ABS install
  • rebuilt rear axle
  • disable air conditioner
  • fix spare tire rim
  • add front fan shroud
  • fix new oil leak (last one – woot!)
  • fix emergency brake
  • all new fluids everywhere

They had the truck for 3 full days. $1k of labor and 2k of parts. I bought most of the parts my self. 3 guys stayed until 6:30pm hammering it all together. They didn’t finish everything. They did get it all together for our Thanksgiving trip this weekend. I have to bring it in next week for them to finish up a few details.

I won’t go into (in this post) what I learned from buying this car. I am so much $$$ into it that I just refuse to quit. Ok I was willing to quit, but Tracy wanted to push on (and I love this truck) so we pushed on. Anyway I wanted to share what I did with this vehicle that was different then any other car I have ever owned.

I became my own service manager. A service manager is like a contractor for a house. I determine what gets fixed, what parts to use, and what maintenance gets done.

I think this is a new idea that most people don’t ever do, but it can save you tons of work and headaches if you do the work.

Usually a mechanic does the work needed and the front desk makes recommendations for your next visit. What happens if before the work starts you go in and just diagnose the problems?

Then you go online and see what the deal is. Many vehicles need a timing belt change every 80k-120k miles. If you look online you will see people who recommend other things to do while you are inside the engine at that point. Sometimes it is extra pulleys, sometimes it is water pumps, etc.

When I had my hoses done I found out that there were two little tiny hoses that are susceptible to burst. A guy made a special hose replacement that should last for the life of the engine. It had special pressure clamps and was made of a silicone that wouldn’t burst or leak from the extreme pressure or temps. That kit was $20 and now I will not ever have to fix it again.

The mechanic found the front axle rebuild failed because the axle housing was damaged. I could have bought a new one for $600 and then had him rebuild the front axle for another $1000. Instead I found a company that sends an entire rebuilt axle housing in the mail for $1200. The axle rebuilt is a labor monster job. It has a lot of weird greases and torque specs that make the labor a big pain. This company does it all and my mechanic just has to swap it all out. Much easier and cheaper for everyone.

It is sort of like health care. You need to be your own advocate. Start doing the research. You can buy the best parts for the job. I found out the generic brake parts from NAPA are the same as the toyota parts. Only one company ever made them. That means the $60 part is the same as the $300 part from toyota.

I would only learn this stuff if I read up on it. Otherwise I would just be always fixing the same things over and over. I realized that most of my problems from my first two cars was because of this. I didn’t know enough to tell them what to fix. I let them pic what parts to use. They chose between factory or knock offs. And they picked parts that let them profit the most – not parts that were best for me in terms of value and quality!

So that is what I learned. Don’t be a victim with auto shops. Start using the internet and being your own service manager. Its like being a mechanic without getting your hands very dirty!

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