Rus' 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo
The history of my love-hate relationship with this car in 2002 & 2003
r u s s h u l e r @ y a h o o . c o m
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Dec 2003 - Oil Fire

My car caught on fire! On the way to work on I-77 the oil line to the Hayden oil cooler closest to the turbo failed and sprayed oil on the turbo. Flames came up through the engine hood vents as well as plumes of white smoke. I may have caused other accidents behind me. :-( I pulled over and fortunately for me a trucker pulled off with me. He jumped out with a fire extinguisher and put the fire out. Thank you dude! Scott and Brian came and picked me up. Once again I left my car on the side of the road...

I got some braided oil line and fittings from Hutcherson & Pagan Enterprises and that did the trick. They build race cars here in Charlotte and have about everything. I also bought a fire extinguisher. Go figure.

Nov 2003 - Oil Cooler

I did not get the oil cooler from Toyota because they wanted over $500 for it. Woof. So I bought a Hayden oil cooler. It's an external radiator that I mounted under my scoop. I also got the external oil filter kit and mounted the filter under that.

I got the oil pan back on and guess what? It still leaks. I bent the pan getting it off. I thought I had straightened it but one corner was still slightly bent. :-(

Sept 23+ 2003 - Oil Leak Fix & Oil Pan Removal

Went to Home Depot to get something and when I came out there was a pool of coolant surrounding the rear of my car. Can you say disturbed? I drove home carefully and decided it was finally time to fix the oil leaks and figure out why it was now leaking coolant.

Almost every night since then I've worked on the car. Fortunately the weather has been really nice.

Tore the B-pipe off, the primary cat, the oil filter, and finally, the oil pan. Woof! Getting the oil pan off is a major pain. The sealant used is like glue. After bending the pan trying to get it off, I fabricated a special tool similar to the one shown in the BGB. I was able to cut enough of the sealant to pry the pan off.

Tribal knowledge regarding oil pan removal- remove the oil level sensor from the pan before taking the pan off. The BGB doesn't mention this. I broke part of the float trying to get the pan past the oil pickup screen. Removing the sensor first will save you this hassle.

Drained the block of coolant and got the oil cooler off. You will need a 30mm socket for this. Once this was off I tried blowing through one of the water pipes. Guess what? Completely clogged. I'll be getting a new one from Toyota on my next trip.

Aug 10-21 2003 - Car Painted

My car is finally painted! Woohoo!
It was painted by Mr. Don Therrell in Fort Mill, SC. He has a wrecker service and a body shop. He does excellent work and he can be reached at 803-547-2622.

That isn't Don in the picture, btw. That's Mike who did all the prep work.

More pics coming soon...

July 29 2003 - New Pedals

Installed an aluminum pedal set from that I bought locally from a part-time reseller (a side job for him). Steve came over and helped. It took us about 45 minutes to get them in. Drilling the clutch and brake pedals are the most time consuming part. Because the brake pedal doesn't have the travel that the clutch pedal does, we had to take some of the dash out under the steering column to make room for the drill. The aftermarket accelerator pedal was not curved as much as the one on the car. Instead of bending the new pedal I put a spacer under the heel. If you do this make sure you have a vacuum for the cleanup.

I love them. They're awesome.

July 20-26 2003 - FCD, Fog Light Mod, New Tranny Fluid

Got my $8 FCD wired up, rewired the fog lights to the parking lights, and changed the transmission fluid.

Since I used a breadboard, my implementation of the $8 FCD looks a bit different than the original. It uses the same electrical components however and works the same. I tried to calibrate it with a bike pump as suggested but not having a second set of hands made this nearly impossible. In fact, it was so far off what I wanted it to be I ended up tweaking the potentiometer and driving for a bit, tweaking, repeat...

Rewiring the fogs took longer than I thought. Not sure about the instructions posted. I had to remove a lot more under the hood to get the fusebox out. After that it was pretty straight foward. Took me a while to find where the green wires merged. They were on the bottom of the wire loom. I soldered all the connections and wire tied all the wires back. It works like a champ and I like it a lot more than the stock wiring.

Changing the transmission fluid was pretty easy. I was perplexed when fluid started coming out the fill hole near the end of the fourth quart though. Now the BGB says 4.4 quarts so I was confused. I jacked up the front of the car to level it out on the theory the transaxle was at too much of an angle. The rear was on jack stands, which were on the slopping piece of concrete in front of the garage, so the car was angled a bit. Jacking up the front did absolutely no good however. When I climbed back underneath and resumed pumping fluid in, it came out again as before. After browsing around the net a bit I decided it only needed 4. I put in Redline MTL and it definitely shifts better now.

By the way, if you live in Charlotte and have no idea where to find Redline fluids, I got mine at Atlantic Racing. They sell a lot of V8 power parts and have bottles of NOS sitting around on the floor amidst 4 barrel carburetors and intake manifolds.

Related links:
$8 Fuel Cut Defencer
'91-'92 MR2 fog light mod

July 7 2003 - FCD, New Distributor & Cap, Scoop

Mounted a breadboard in the trunk near the ECU so I could implement my own fuel cut defencer. Do you know how hard it is to find a 4.3v zener diode in Charlotte, NC? There are only a few places. (Email if you're in Charlotte and need one.) But since the zener diode FCD doesn't protect from overboost, I'm going to implement another solution, probably the $8 Black Box FCD.

Also removed the distributor cap and rotor. Should have done this earlier. Not sure why I didn't. Anyway, mine is much corroded so I'll be getting one pronto. I sanded up the contacts on mine, but only a short term solution.

Ever since I took the input piping apart I was disturbed with the amount of oil and crap I found in it. I eventually realized it was the work of the PCV (positive control flow valve) on the top of the intake manifold. I purchased several feet of 5/8" ID hose and routed the output of the PCV out the bottom of the car. I capped off the metal fitting back into the input stream before the turbo.

I've been working along on a replica Tom's scoop I got off X-Cars a while back. I did some fiberglass fixes a few weeks ago and have done some Bondo fixes the last few nights. She should be ready to paint now.

Note added Aug. 2004
Don't route the output of the PCV to the atmosphere. The suction from the intake flow pulls the nasty gases out of the block, which can build up and do bad things.

July 4 2003 - Charlotte MR2 Club

Here are some pics from the July 4 get together at Mitch's house.

Here's a link to the Carolinas MR2 Owners Club message board.




June 27 2003

Saw this on the MR2 list and thought it was quite cool.

98,200 miles on her today..
changed the oil, changed plugs, cleaned my air filter, ran out of oil, had
to wait to buy another canister of oil for the air filter (autophysics air
filter, love it :)) cleaned my car, waxed it, washed windows, and just
spent time with my baby...

And it dawned on me.
it's not the speed
not the power
not the trouble
not the heartache
not the worry
not the stress
not worrying if your tranny will hold
not worrying if your clutch is about to go
not worrying about that new ding on your door caused by that stupid SUV
parked beside you
it's about the connection
that you feel
when you're with your car
and you're driving
you go into the corner...brake, slide, gas, catch, squeal, giggle, laugh
and keep on going
and you know why you love your car and
you know why it loves you.

So stop worrying about that new scratch, stop worrying about that 2nd gear
that won't engage easily unless you change tranny fluid or swap it for a
newer model.  Stop worrying that it takes 6 turn overs instead of 5 before
it starts.  Who cares if someone else makes 500 hp and you only make 135 or
200 or somewhere in between.  Who cares if you can't perfectly execute a
heel-toe maneuver to save your life and you constantly brake in the middle
of turns just to see how far you'll swing around.  So what if your ball
joints need changing and your steering wheel shimmies at highway speeds,
they'll be fixed soon enough..

Just get out and drive

Friendly announcement from your neighborhood joy spreader.

91 Turbo
1987 NA Hardtop

May 31 2003 - Subwoofer

Well, the sun finally came out this weekend so I got a chance to clean her up and take some pics.

Also got the subwoofer fixed. Someone had done an extremely poor job of wiring the speaker in the sub box behind the passenger seat. The sub would come on randomly and then cut off again. Very annoying. I pulled it all apart and soldered the wires to the speaker and ran some new wires. Works great now.

Apr. 18 2003 - New Wheels & Tires

Mounted new wheels and tires. Pictures coming when the sun is out and I get a chance to take them.

Wheels: MOMO Sport 16" x 7.5"
Tires: Kumho Supra Ecsta 205/45 (front) 245/45 (rear)

Also found a link to a good page that shows how to set the ignition timing. (It really helps to take off the little panel over the intercooler, by the way.)

Setting Ignition Timing on an MR2 Turbo

Mar. 8-9 2003 - Turbo Swap

Removed the turbo on Saturday. This was an all day affair. I had both the BGB and a page from Joe's MR2 site to help. I broke several bolts/studs and a Craftsman 1/2" drive universal joint.

Here are the basic steps.

  • Unbolt both ends of the B-pipe.
  • Remove the crossbar.
  • Remove all intake piping from air filter to intercooler to throttle body.
  • Remove the catalytic converter from below.
  • Remove the oil filter and unbolt the dipstick holder.
  • Remove air hoses and water hoses to turbo.
  • Remove the metal water pipes on turbo. This makes access to the 27mm bolt possible.
  • Remove 27mm oil bolt on block.
  • Remove the metal oil pipe to turbo.
  • Loosen the exhaust elbow on side of turbo.
  • Loosen turbo.
  • Remove exhaust elbow.
  • Remove turbo. Whew!

Here's some tribal knowledge regarding this procedure.

  • This procedure is definately way beyond changing your oil, i.e. not for beginning mechanics.
  • You'll need an extensive set of tools, especially sockets and accessories. Do not attempt this if you only have a set of metric wrenches and a 3/8" drive socket set.
  • I broke a 1/2" drive Craftsman universal joint trying to get the 27mm bolt off using a pipe on a large 1/2" drive socket wrench. I tried this w/o removing the metal water pipes on the turbo. Remove the metal water pipes. It makes access to the bolt easier. Make sure you have an assortment of 1/2" drive extensions and accessories for this step. A pipe may be required as well.
  • I recommend having a floor jack and jack stands too. You must switch from working up top to working below many times. A floor jack makes this much easier.
  • I didn't have to mess with the air conditioner compressor or motor mount, but some of my brackets were missing from a previous swap (?). Take this particular advice with a grain of salt.

Sunday morning I made a run to Home Depot and bought bolts. Had to retap a few holes and studs. The installation went much smoother than the removal. Scott came over and helped me.

The new turbo I put on is an upgraded CT-26. See the bored out housing and larger compressor fan in the picture. The old turbo is on the right; the new turbo on the left. The new turbo sounds different and the car is definitely faster. Zoom zoom!

Related links:
Joe's Turbo Removal Page

Feb. 23 2003 - New Exhaust & Plugs

Replaced the spark plugs and stock exhaust today. The new spark plugs are Splitfires. The new exhaust is an HKS sport exhaust.

Feb. 15 2003 - Thermostat

Finally replaced the thermostat. This car wouldn't heat up for anything.

The guy I bought it from said he'd done something to the thermostat to make the car run cooler. No kidding! The car had to be driven 10 miles for the needle on the temperature guage to rise above the 'C' mark. I rarely saw the needle make it 1/3 way up the gauge.

Got the thermostat out and saw what had been done to it. The guy had drilled two holes in it to allow water to pass through all the time, regardless of whether the thermostat was open or not.

Important note for others replacing their thermostats: I had to remove my oil filter to get the bottom nut off the thermostat housing. I could not get a wrench or socket on it with the oil filter in the way. Once the filter was off I could get a 10mm wrench on the bolt.

Feb. 1-2 2003 - FCDs, Boost Controller

Purchased two HKS fuel cut defencers on EBay. It's a long story but suffice to say one was an accident and ended up being an EBay headache. Anyway, I got one installed. See the pics of it mounted on the ECU. I've also included scans of the manuals from both. One was a used JDM model. The other was new with English instructions.

I mounted the older JDM FCD. This variety only has a pot on it to adjust the voltage seen by the ECU (so I assume). I have not adjusted it yet. I have it turned completely counterclockwise. I experienced fuel cut later at the usual place (around 13 psi) so fuel cut is still working.

The next day I installed a used Trust racing twin turbo manual boost controller. This involved removing a lot of the intake plumbing to get at the wastegate hose. Bad news, my turbo is screwed I think. There is a lot of shaft play and very small metal particles are evident in the intake hoses.

I got the MBC installed. I wanted it in the cockpit, so I mounted it in the passenger side dash. (I'm sure my wife will love that.) It's pretty large and I couldn't find any other really good places to put it. I used 12' of 1/4 ID tubing and the 2 6' lengths from the dash to the turbo just reached, thank goodness. If you do this, I recommend buying a few extra feet beyond the 12' I bought. The red circles in the picture of the turbo show where the MBC connects.

I have not adjusted the MBC nor have I used the turbo much since finding out the turbo is spitting metal into my engine. Go figure.

I also changed the oil and oil filter this weekend.

Related links:
HKS FCD Analysis
MkII Fuel Cut Defencer
Cockpit Adjustable Boost Controller
MKIIT: Limits of Stock Turbo


Jan. 10 2003 - Ignition Timing

Set ignition timing again. 2nd gear did not feel strong. After looking at the timing marks carefully, which is extremely hard of course, I think I set the ignition wrong. I don't think the line of sight to the marks is aligned with the angle of the marks. Does that make sense? See the diagram on the left? This is extremely exaggerated, but I think that the red line represents the line of sight you can see the marks on and the green line represents the ideal line of sight.

Update, May 2003

Haha, remove the panel over the intercooler. It makes the timing marks soooo much easier to see. Disregard all the stuff above; the timing marks are right over the crankshaft pulley. Visit this page for some good info.

Jan. 9 2003 - Ignition Timing

Set ignition timing. The marks are hard to see because you can only see them from one vantage point looking down a certain way. Timing was 15BTDC versus spec 10BTDC. Car sounds much better now and generates more power. Fuel cut will occur now around 14 psi boost. This never happened before because the boost never got that high with the timing out of whack.

Time to invest in a fuel cut defencer...

Jan. 7 2003 - Alternator

Well, I didn't want to take the exhaust apart but that's what I did. . .only to find out the 100 amp alternator doesn't fit in the 70 amp bracket. Doh. Should have listened to wise people on the MR2 forums.

Returned the 100 amp and got my money back. Found one at Mac's on South for $96 + $40 core. Turns out the alt off my car had 5 grooves not 4, only put out 60 amps, and was from a Corolla. Hmm. The guy at Mac's wouldn't give me $40 for a non-matching core and only offered me $10. I kept the stupid, burned up Corolla alt on principle. Put 'new' alt in last night and car runs good, maybe better.

Anyone know what can be done with a burned up Corolla alternator? Paperweight only?

Jan. 1 2003 - Alternator, Column Combo Switch

The alternator doesn't appear to be providing any power so I removed it today.

I was referred to from the MR2 forum but the instructions on this page say that you have to take part of the exhaust system apart to get the alternator out. This is not necessary.

You can remove the cruise control actuator, a hose running to the intake manifold, and the boost pressure sensor and it's bracket. The alternator will fit through the corner of the engine compartment and can be brought up by grasping it by the pulley. See the 3rd picture down.

The 4th pic was shot below the car and shows where the alternator was. The entire operation took less than an hour. Now I need to find someone to rebuild it...

I turned my attention to the faulty dim/bright switch and wiper switch. Both are part of the large combination switch in the steering column. I don't know how much these are but I bet they're not cheap. Anyway, I removed the wheel without setting off the airbag. This necessitated a trip to the hardware store to get two bolts for my steering wheel puller because it didn't come with any metric bolts that fit. (They are 8mm x 1.25 btw.)

After getting the wheel off I pulled the combo switch out. After tinkering about with it and testing with a multimeter I found that both problems were the result of broken solder connections. The light problem was caused by a busted solder connection of a wire to the light switch. The wiper problem was due to a wire breaking at the connection point to the circuit board.

Dec. 2002 - Boost Gauge

I finally got the boost gauge hooked up that came with the car. What a pain this turned out to be! I had to run a vacuum line down the A pillar from the gauge pod, behind the instrument panel, under the center console, through the firewall, and back to the vacuum line to the fuel cut sensor. I also had to wire the light to the console lighting circuit.

After getting the gauge working it turns out the turbo does boost to 11-12 psi. I think the compression is shot and the engine needs rebuilding. Wish I had a compression tester.

I got the tint removed from the windows. It was so dark it was a safety hazard.

I've received the factory service manuals a.k.a. the big green book.

Nov. 24 2002 - My New MR2

I purchased the car Sunday Nov. 24th, 2002 with approximately 160,000 miles on it. It was in Jacksonville, FL. Nelson and I left early Sunday morning and arrived in Jacksonville after lunch. After a short test drive, I bought the car and we headed home. We got back to Charlotte at about 8:30 that night.

The car blows smoke under heavy acceleration and leaks a small amount of oil. I don't think the turbo works correctly, i.e. doesn't boost to full pressure. The low/high beam switch has a problem. The low beams usually go out and you have to switch to high beams. Fortunately (?) one of the previous owners aimed the lights downward to account for driving around with the high beams on. The wiper switch has a problem as well. The wipers stop wherever you return the switch to off; they do not return to the bottom of the windshield. The intermittent setting doesn't work either. The interior of the car is in great shape except for the giant hole in the driver's seat. The paint is faded and peeling.

These pictures are from a previous owner. Consider these the 'before' pictures. I'll shoot some of my own eventually.

After I order and receive the Toyota factory service manuals, it's headed to our local mechanic to thoroughly inspect. The engine will be repaired and possibly rebuilt. If I have any money left (haha) I'll have the car painted, preferably bright yellow.



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