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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I normally hang out on ToyotaNation, but thought I’d share my find here too.

I bought it non-running for $800. 170k miles. Nearly new studded Sumitomo Ice Edge tires. It’s got quite a few dents and dings, which I have no plans to fix. I can’t find any rust anywhere. Windshield is badly cracked. AC is present, but unknown if it works. Cruise doesn’t work, and there’s a couple of wires dangling from the stalk. There’s a rebuilt alternator in the back seat, with the original Denso in place. The PO bought it from his roommate 2 months prior, so he didn’t know much history at all. I trailered it home.

The PO said it just died going down the highway, so I suspected a timing belt failure. This turned out to be correct. I’d guessed it was the original belt, but this was wrong. On tear down I found a GMB pump and a Contitech belt. The pump had seized up tight, taking out the belt. I installed an Aisin TKT003 kit, Timken crank seal, Gates PS & serpentine belts, and removed and resealed the oil pump with Mahle seals. Also put in an OEM thermostat & PCV valve, and a Victor Reinz valve cover gasket. The front of the motor was such an oily, grimy mess, it was hard to know which seals were good, if any. The valve cover was leaking so badly, there’s pools of oil on the intake manifold!

Here she is loaded on the trailer.
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Looks decent under the valve cover.
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The snapped belt and seized pump...
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You can see where the tips of the rotors on the impeller were rubbing.
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The HB didn’t have threaded holes, so I cut M5 threads in two of the four. Aftermarket, maybe? Are OEM HBs marked with a part number?
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When I got done, it started up with a blast of blue smoke, but that cleared shortly and it settled into a nice quiet idle. So my fears of a rod knock from being run low on oil were happily not confirmed!

I went to put the tire back on to find oil streaming out of the oil pump area. I must’ve gotten the “spaghetti gasket” pinched. ARRRGH!... so I gotta take it all apart again! This time I’m also going to replace the valve stem seals.

It also has a leaking radiator, I’ve got a Denso rad on the way. Along with Denso plugs & O2 sensor, and NGK wires.

It took a minute or two of running to barf this much oil!
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You have your hands full, but a good project! And fortunately the 3S-FE is a non-interference engine, otherwise you'd be looking for a full engine. That said ...

At 170K and all the other problems, I'd pull, go-through, and likely do a full rebuild.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yeah, I wouldn’t have touched it if I didn’t know it was non-interference. Since I’m redoing the timing belt and pulling the cams, are there any other “while you’re in there” sorts of jobs? I don’t think these are known for head gasket failures?

If I knew I was gonna keep it, I’d be more inclined to do a full rebuild. But I’ve never even driven one of these Gen1’s, much less a soft top. But I’ve admired the looks of them since they first came out, especially the 3 doors (didn’t know there was a soft top, honestly). For years I’ve been idly looking on Craigslist for them without seeing ANY locally, and this one popped up. So it was a bit of an impulse buy. When I get it running, I’ll drive it for a while and decide. If I don’t like it, I’ll just sell it. If I love it, I’ll probably freshen it up a bit more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So I got it torn back down and got the oil pump out. Sure enough, the gasket snuck out of its groove enough to get pinched. I put heavy grease in a few places to hold it in position, but clearly that was not enough. This time I’ll just grease in the entire groove, all the way around.

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Since I’m pulling the cams to replace the valve stem seals, I’m gonna adjust valve clearances. Here’s the numbers I took, below. There are 10 out of spec, with 3 more at the limit. Strangely, the intakes are too large, and exhausts are too small. So I’m hoping I can shuffle shims between the two to correct them, minimizing the number I need to buy. The 28mm shims Toyota uses are ~$12 each!
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Before pulling the cams, it’s a good idea to take a pic of the alignment dots on the gears. There are often extra dots, which creates confusion, and mine was no exception. I found double dots that don’t align to anything. But I’ve also seen extra single dots, which would REALLY mess with ya! Also, before removing the cams, install a service bolt in the one with split gear so the torsional preload isn’t lost. This pic is from the drivers side. I’ll get to pulling the cams & buckets tomorrow, hopefully.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I got the cams out and valve buckets/shims out. I had problems getting the cam pulley off. After rounding off the hex head bolt, I had to resort to a Dremel with a carbide bit to cut the head off. Took about 20 minutes. I measured the shims and found not many can be reused by moving them to another valve.

This carbide cutter worked well.
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Here’s the bolt head, mostly removed. I covered the valve train with a towel to keep the slivers out. I’ll blow out the area below with compressed air.

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Measuring the shims. Egg cartons make great holders! I can only reuse 4 shims, and I need 9. I’m gonna try this place, Regis. $4 per shim instead of $10 from Toyota.
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thx! I’m anxious to get it running, as I’ve never even driven one of these.

I got all the valve stem seals replaced yesterday. I bought a Lisle 36050 keeper removal/reinstall tool, and it worked a treat! The intake valves are blocked somewhat by the intake plenum, so that presented a bit of a challenge, but once I figured out you don’t have to use the entire tool, it went smoothly.

Here are a couple of pics (because I know people like pics, including me)...

Here’s the two halves of the tool. The silver part is used to remove the keepers. The black part reinstalls them. They fit together, if you have the vertical space for it. Makes it easier to whack it with a hammer to compress the spring.
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Here’s how I used a crowbar on the intake valves to compress the valve spring and get the keepers out. Same technique is used for reinstalling them. To keep the valves from dropping into the cylinder, I used compressed air and a special hose that screws into the spark plug holes. Rags are stuffed into the oil drain ports, just in case I dropped a keeper or something. The needle nose pliers are used to pull the old stem seals out.
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Looks like it will be a nice car. Recently purchased a 96 2 door which I pick up next week. Nothing important to fix initially compared to yours but then it costs a lot more too, no free lunches. Spent this morning at a pick a part buying some missing bits and getting a few critical spares. Just joined the forum and hope to learn what do from a preventative maintenance point of view.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, I got her running tonite, and without a massive oil leak this time! I had to wait for shims to arrive, and temperatures have dropped to single digits (°F), so progress has been slow. I’m working in an attached garage, which helps it be a bit warmer than outside. But still, my hands start getting numb in 30 minutes or so. So I go inside a lot to warm up between spells of work.

I let it idle for a few minutes, and it runs smooth and quiet, and it revs quickly. The battery light was on, so I measured voltage at the battery with it idling: 12.2 Volts. I had already installed new brushes in the original Denso alternator. The old brushes weren’t totally shot. The commutator’s copper looked to be in decent shape. So I ordered a new voltage regulator from here, $20 with free shipping.

With the system not charging, I don’t want to drive it very far, but I’ll probably take it for a spin around my neighborhood tomorrow. One of the things I want to find out on the test drive is if it’s got the 5th gear slipping out problem.

The new Denso radiator has arrived, so that’s next on the agenda. Along with fluid changing: brake, motor oil, power steering, and engine coolant.

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I will be watching BMR's troubleshooting of the charging system. I appreciate the photos of the alternator's brushes and commutator. In my experience, it's rare for the alternator's voltage regulator to fail. I wonder if a cable, somewhere between alternator and battery, or a related ground, is loose or corroded. Or is a fuse blown? Battery old and worn and not capable of holding any charge? I'd be checking the wiring diagrams. The attached 1996 set of diagrams searches nicely. Use the key word "generator" (not "alternator"). The 1999 set of diagrams is not as search-able.

Great work getting it running again. If I acquired a Rav in a non-running condition for under $1000, and then got it running, I'd be thrilled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Are you in MN by chance? If so that’s probably the same rav I looked at a while back.
No, Colorado. This one came from the mountains, so I’m a bit surprised at how rust free it is. Even the troublesome K-member is spotless. I’m down on the front range, where it doesn’t snow nearly as much, so there’s very little salt exposure. It’s a high desert climate.
In my experience, it's rare for the alternator's voltage regulator to fail. I wonder if a cable, somewhere between alternator and battery, or a related ground, is loose or corroded.
You’re right, I should do a more thorough diagnosis. The battery’s ground and positive cables look OK, but looks can be deceiving. Besides checking the charging voltage, I should check if there’s any AC voltage, which would indicate a diode failure in the rectifier. I’ve also read that the 3-pin alternator connector gets damaged easily, so I’ll look at that, too. The PO had a rebuilt alternator in the back seat, so I can always go with that. But I’d much rather keep the Denso, even if it ends up with some non Denso parts in it when I’m done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Charging system diagnostic results:
  • The DC voltage at the battery is 12.6 with the engine off -good.
  • The DC voltage at the battery is 12.0 with the engine running at idle -fail
  • The AC voltage at the battery is 1.25 - fail; should be nearly zero. Probably a bad diode in the rectifier, so I ordered a new one for $25.
  • The DC voltage from battery ground to alternator housing with engine running is 0.3 - OK, but could be better.
I put the battery back on a battery tender after my drive today. I took it for a short ~5 mile drive. This thing’s a hoot! We’ve got a few inches of snow on the ground, so I tore around, taking laps in my driveway. It fun to roost around corners!

The good:
  • No signs of the 5th gear popping out problem. I saw no movement of the shifter getting on & off the gas in 5th.
  • All the synchros work great.
  • This thing likes to rev! I couldn’t get too aggressive with it due to snow on the roads. But I took the RPMs up to redline a few times, and it’s no slug!
The bad (and questions):
  • The clutch pedal engages rather deep in the stroke, just barely off the floor. Is that bad? Adjustable? Normal?
  • It’s a bit noisy, but I kinda suspected that. But still way better than the Suzuki Samurai a friend of mine had.
  • After driving it in my garage, I got out to move a few things, and the radiator fan kicked on a couple times. It wasn’t even close to overheating. Is this normal? Needs a new fan thermal switch, the one in the radiator?
A few gratuitous pics...
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The good:
  • No signs of the 5th gear popping out problem. I saw no movement of the shifter getting on & off the gas in 5th.
  • All the synchros work great.
  • This thing likes to rev! I couldn’t get too aggressive with it due to snow on the roads. But I took the RPMs up to redline a few times, and it’s no slug!
The bad (and questions):
  • The clutch pedal engages rather deep in the stroke, just barely off the floor. Is that bad? Adjustable? Normal?
  • It’s a bit noisy, but I kinda suspected that. But still way better than the Suzuki Samurai a friend of mine had.
  • After driving it in my garage, I got out to move a few things, and the radiator fan kicked on a couple times. It wasn’t even close to overheating. Is this normal? Needs a new fan thermal switch, the one in the radiator?
It is fantastic that you are rescuing a Rav4 convertible. There are so few of these left and they are so much fun.

I think that all the oil leaks keep the K-member from rusting. The K-member in mine looks good too, the oil pan leak keeps it oiled :(. If you aren't afraid to use the right hand side of the tachometer, the little 2-door models go pretty good. Yeah it's a bit noisy, but its not a luxury car even though they are nice.

I've attached the instructions for adjusting the clutch pedal. The take-up point should be at least 25mm (about 1") from the bottom and you should be pushing the pedal firmly into the carpet with each shift. The take-up is normally a bit low compared to other cars but your pedal may still be out of adjustment, making it worse (mine was). With a ruler or tape measure, you can check it easily. If adjusting the pedal back to spec doesn't correct it, you may have to bleed the clutch line. You probably should anyway just to get fresh brake fluid in there. I got a few little air bubbles out of mine. It is really easy on these cars with the clutch cylinder being on the upper front of the bell-housing. With the clutch line bled and the pedal adjusted, the pedal feel and throw is much improved.

The radiator fan comes on from time to time when the engine is fully warmed up, gauge near middle, if the car is sitting. the fan doesn't wait until the engine is too hot. Your experience looks normal there. The fan thermal switch seems to be set near the normal operating point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Cool, thx for answering my questions. Without actually measuring it, it sounds like my clutch pedal is adjusted about right. Something I’ll look at closer when it’s warmer out and I have more important things sorted. I haven’t owned anything with a manual transmission for a long time, but I remember the engage point being much higher off the floor. So I’ll just have to get used to this one. No biggie.
 

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The AC voltage at the battery is 1.25 - fail; should be nearly zero. Probably a bad diode in the rectifier, so I ordered a new one for $25.
I googled after I saw the above and now see what you are doing. Cool testing. For the archives, here is info from axleaddict.com/auto-repair/Alternator-Voltage-Regulator-Test that helped me understand what BMR was up to:
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If voltage seems to fluctuate during your [check of voltage at the battery with the engine revving steady at 1500 RPM], switch your voltmeter to the AC voltage scale and take another output voltage reading with the engine still running.

This time, connect your meter's red lead to the B+ terminal on the back of the alternator, and the meter's black lead to battery negative (-).
[Elle's note: The B+ terminal on the Rav4.1 alternator is wired ultimately to the battery positive terminal. For the run of wire from the alternator B+ terminal to the battery positive terminal, there is only the 100 Amp fuse. Ideally there is only DC voltage from the B+ terminal to ground. BMR found some rather significant AC voltage.]

Usually, the presence of 0.25 AC volts means a leaking diode that requires replacing the alternator. But some manufacturers recommend replacing the alternator if 0.50 AC volts is detected.

However, if you have noticed engine performance issues, this might be the problem. Consult your vehicle repair manual for acceptable diode leak rate, if necessary.

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I am attaching the charging section for the 5S-FE engine. The 5S-FE engine's alternator uses the same rectifier and I believe often or always, the same brush set as the 3S-FE engine. (While the 5S-FE and 3S-FE share some of the same alternator parts, they do not use the same alternator overall.) A few easy tests for the rectifier appear on page 17 of the attachment. The rectifier part number is 27357-55080:
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The rectifier costs $50 to $100+ at eBay and online Toyota parts sites. Per toyodiy.com/parts, this rectifier is used on a lot of 1990s Toyota models. If the rectifier failed the tests in the attachment, I would be off to a salvage yard to get one.

The brass-colored threaded stud in the photo of the rectifier is the alternator's B+ terminal.

I have started adding BMR's saga with the alternator to my web site, under alternators yada.

Edit: In mid-2016, a prior owner of my Rav4 installed an Autozone Duralast re-manned alternator. In late 2018, the charge warning light on the instrument cluster was flickering now and then. My Rav was starting with a bit of difficulty on account of a low battery voltage. It was clear to me from experience the battery was not charging. I installed new alternator brushes. This fixed the problem. With the alternator apart, I found the voltage regulator was an aftermarket made by Rand, part number 7460-263. All has seemed fine with the alternator output ever since.

Like BMR, of course I too am a fan of Denso, but I am enjoying watching the longevity of this aftermarket alternator. I also think I could replace the brushes (and maybe more) with the alternator left installed.

I expect the rectifier BMR bought from the online aftermarket, alternator specialized company will be fine and maybe more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Thanks for that detailed info on the charging system. I’ve got a complete set of PDFs on the Camry with the 5S-FE, which as you say shares a lot with this 3S-FE, but I forget that sometimes. It’ll be interesting to do a post mortem on the rectifier when I get it out.

I’ll report back on how that cheapie $25 rectifier I got from here performs.

Edit: I’ve never had to fix a charging problem, so the details I’m learning here are new to me. But as an engineer, it’s kinda fun in a weird way! My DD is a ‘96 Avalon with 417k miles, and its still got its original alternator. And I had a ‘92 Camry that went to its grave at 384k with its original as well! These Denso alt’s are reliable as an anvil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I got the Denso alt removed tonight. I tried to install the rebuilt one, but it wouldn’t fit in the pivot yoke. Argh! So I gave up on that.

I tore down the Denso to test the components. It’s very easy to disassemble. The short story is that the rectifier does have a bad diode. Testing the regulator requires a very expensive piece of test gear, so I couldn’t test that part.

I followed the detailed instructions in this YT video. He’s a bit wordy, but very thorough. For the rectifier testing, he doesn’t mention until afterwards that your meter needs to be on the diode setting. That had me scratching my head until then.

Here are my detailed results
  • The rotor winding resistance from each slip ring to the ferrite core was infinite (no shorts to ground), and the resistance across the slip rings was 2.4 ohms. Pass.
  • The stator winding’s resistances to the housing were all infinite (no shorts to ground), and the resistance thru them was less than 0.2 ohms. Pass.
  • The rectifier had one test with voltage passing thru where there shouldn’t be. Fail.
Some pics follow. You’ll need 8 & 10mm sockets, and a JIS screwdriver. JIS looks like Phillips, but it’s not. I strongly recommend getting a JIS driver for working on anything from Japan. You can tell JIS screws by the presence of a dot stamped into the head near the drive recess. They come in sizes 1, 2, & 3, just like Phillips. A #2 will fit most of the screws.

Disassembly: There are three 8mm hex nuts, one 8mm hex screw, and one 10mm nut on the output post to remove the cover. One of the 8mm nuts has a little ground strap under it, with the 8mm screw thru it. Then lift the cover off and remove the 2 JIS screws holding in the brushes, 3 for the regulator, and 4 around the edge holding the rectifier’s terminals to the stator’s windings.

On reassembly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to clean all the electrical contact faces with a little fine sandpaper.
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There’s a bunch of white schmutz in the regulator’s connector socket. Maybe just dried up dielectric grease? That had to get really hot to do that! I may try to clean that out of there if I decide to reuse it.
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Here’s my meter’s diode setting. It’ll beep if there’s a short circuit (zero resistance).
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There were a couple of diodes with cracks where they’re potted. This was the worst one. You can see one of the stator winding terminals just to the right of the red circle. There are four of them.
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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
I found what I think is a troubleshooting/training document for technicians for these older Toyota alternators, here. It’s pretty much the same info as in the YT video, but there are some good diagrams and explanations. The testing I did starts on page 14, although it doesn’t mention testing for AC voltage output.

So my rectifier has an “open” diode. On pg 18 it shows the waveform that would cause; see waveform D. Basically, it’s “missing” one voltage peak, so the average voltage would be lowered. That might be why I measured 12VDC with the engine running. My regulator might be fine.
 
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