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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 07-10-2015, 07:36 PM Thread Starter
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RAV4 Timing Belt Issues

Hi everybody and thanks for allowing me to join your forum. One of our kids owns a 1998 RAV4 with a 3S-FE engine built tor the Australian market. It has been a great car and has about 265,000 K on it. I get the pleasure of fixing it for her.
It broke a timing belt and was towed home for me to fix when I returned from leave. The belt was oily so I am assuming that caused the teeth to shred off it, being a free running engine that should be no problem
I have bought the kit and installed the new belt and pulleys. To do this I found the info on line. So here is the problem.
  • I have aligned all the timing marks up, crank on 0 with keyway at the top and the hole in the cam gear aligned with the notch on the head
  • I even had the valve cover off and could see No 4 valves rocking and No1 valves closed
  • I tried to start it and it will not run at all.
  • Thinking that I may have it 180 deg out I slackened the belt and rotated the cam gear 1 turn, no difference, still not firing.
  • I have done a compression test and the worst is 90 PSI and the best is 130 PSI dry, will do a wet test shortly.
  • Does it matter how it is set up in relation to the ignition system to deliver a spark or is the engine clever enough to know this?
I fear the problem as to why it will not start may be in another area. Any advise will be greatly appreciated, you have a great forum.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 07-10-2015, 09:17 PM
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The compression seems low, but the cylinders might be washed with fuel. The compression should be higher than 130, more like 175 so it might be a tooth off.

If I remember the distributor is driven from the rear of the cam. If the cam is in time with the crank, then the distributor should be also.

Take out #1 spark plug and use a wooden dowel about 16" long into the spark plug hole. Rotate the engine slowly, watch the dowel. When it reaches the top of its travel, that is TDC. You should rotate the engine clockwise and counterclockwise when you think the rod is at TDC. You will notice there is an over center feel to the crank when it is at TDC.

Now that you have found true TDC, make sure the crank mark lines up. If in doubt, reinstall the lower cover that has the timing mark, and then put the balancer on. The timing mark on the balancer should be lined up with the 0 or TDC mark on the timing cover.

Now that true TDC has been verified, recheck the cam mark. I would pull the distributor cap and make sure the rotor is pointing directly at #1 spark plug wire.

If all this doesn't get it running, then there is an underlying problem. The spark plugs could be fouled due to the fuel injectors opening but nothing to get the engine running, so the plugs get wet.

I am only speculating and drawing on my 35+ years in the bay as a diagnostic tech.

Mine : 2009 Avalon XL Magnetic Gray Metallic
Hers : 2010 RAV4 Base 2.5 AWD Pacific Blue Metallic

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 07-10-2015, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advise, found the problem, the crank pulley had spun on the rubber, found TDC the old way, lined up the cam timing marks and away she went, it was out by about 40 degrees.
The compression pressures were a bit higher when done wet but the variation between cylinders is a bit high. Good thing is its running and a crank pulley was available locally(after market) from the REPCO store.
Probably time to replace her with a later RAV...

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 07-20-2015, 05:08 PM
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"the crank pulley had spun on the rubber"

Possibly from improper attachment of a puller ... I came close to doing that.

Be sure to replace the assembly! It's the "harmonic balancer" for the engine.


2000 RAV4.1 L
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turbo exhaust, air temp gauge
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 07:04 AM
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I was going to say... if the engine ran before/when the belt broke, it's a timing issue.

Also, I believe you can time the crank by the key on the harmonic balancer.

I bought the factory SSTs for the harmonic balancer (stabilizer and puller). Not cheap, yet I do timing belts enough for the S-series to make it worth turning that portion in to a 5min job (and protects the isolator's rubber, too).
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