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What's your diagnosis? I need help please :)

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Old 06-29-2013, 09:53 AM   #1
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Thumbs up What's your diagnosis? I need help please :)

Hey Team,

So bear with me here because I feel as though I have to give the full story just to make sure I don't miss anything in the diagnosis.

About 5 years ago I bought a '96 toyota tacoma 4x4 extended cab with the 3.4L V6. I hardly did any maintenance to it for these first 4 or 5 years because I was finishing my undergrad. Well, now I got a garage and house so I got time to put a little effort into it. For the most part I got more time than money so I'm a heavy do it your-selfer.

Phase 1 - About a month ago I was driving around getting some oil for an oil change and on my way back from the house I saw a flicker on my dash but then it was gone...I decided it was something on the road instead but then looked again a second later and saw that my water temperature gauge was through the roof. On full red. So I through on the heater and boogied back to my house about 2 minutes away and the temperature fell below the red. Upon arrival at home I found that I was bone dry on water so I filled her up but still it overheated. I decided it was the thermostat. (Let me preface this with the fact that I have not kept a good eye on my coolant over the last 5 years, but I've driven my truck across the country from here to washington state 3 times...and that needle never moves from normal temperature once it gets there-so I knew something was wrong)

Phase 2 - I was about to turn 185XXX miles and the timing belt was last changed at 85XXX so I decided I would go ahead and replace the timing belt, water pump/thermostat, and belt tensioners and pulleys and all fan belts. (I parked my truck immediately after the overheat and didn't drive it again until I had replaced all this stuff). This all went great, I had no problem installing everything and I said a little prayer and cranked 'er up and everything ran smooth, no overheating, the repair job went great.

Phase 3 - I'm at the vet school parking lot getting ready to go home and my GF says "gosh, there sure is an awful lot of white smoke coming from your tailpipe...(me not wanting to acknowledge another problem I'm like ahh thats nothin...) Well let me tell you upon investigation this did not seem like normal exhaust. And it wasn't like it was a cold day either. It definitely appeared like I had a water vapor coming out of my exhaust. After about 5 minutes of driving however it would clear right up. (Side note here if you are tracking with me - I had been regularly monitoring my water volume...I think I have been slowly losing some, and I had been heavily monitoring my oil...it had remained the same level)...I continued to drive my vehicle and all of a sudden I began to have issues after it sat for a while with starting it, kind of acted like a bad battery, but I got out my voltmeter and it said that my battery and alternator was good.

Phase 4 - Well, I'm almost 95% sure I know what my problem is, and I'm really hoping it isn't what I think it is, but its parked in the garage ready for some long labor --- and I'm beginning to think that that flicker of light I mentioned in the beginning of my entire story was the oil temperature (Oh **** light!) and my block got heated for longer than I thought it did.

So whats your diagnosis? I want to leave you unbiased for now, but look I love the occasional maintenance job that's a bit of a challenge like a timing belt, but when I have to spend to much time under the hood I remind myself why I'm not a mechanic and in another line of work. (Point is, when I tear into this baby I wanna make damn sure I know what the problem is and I'm not doing an exploratory surgery)

Main Summary: I got white smoke coming out my tailpipe when I crank up my truck and it lasts for about 5 minutes then it goes away. I may be losing small amounts of water. My oil level has stayed the same. During these happenings my truck has started to act like its having a hard time starting. Whats up?

TIA y'all are awesome (BTW - I know this is my first post and I may be asking a lot for a rookie, but y'all single handedly helped me do my first timing belt and water pump as well as new billies all the way around so I'm greatly appreciative. But I've searched the forum pretty thoroughly for a good tutorial on how to fix what I need to buy I've come up short)
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Old 06-29-2013, 10:02 AM   #2
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I would say you've got a small tear in the head gasket which is causing coolant to sneak by and once the truck warms up, the hole is sealing up.

The starting issue has got to be separate. I would check for loose terminals on the battery and starter. I had an issue with my '99 that the battery connector was tight on the battery but it wasn't tight all around (picture a triangle going over a circle) and it was causing a bad connection. Funny thing was it didn't rear it's ugly head until I was driving to VA for vacation and stopped at a gas station to fill up. Got back in the truck and it was dead.
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Old 06-29-2013, 10:17 AM   #3
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I completely agree with your reasoning behind the head gasket. I'm glad you were on the same page as me. My dad mentioned to me something called hydro locking and said that sometimes water could get into the cylinders and when they first try to fire they push water instead making it sound like a dead battery. I will check connections though.

Any good leads on a head gasket changin tutorial for this type of engine.
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Old 06-29-2013, 01:13 PM   #4
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white smoke from the exhaust generally indicates head gasket problems. reading the story i would say that it is most likely the case.
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Old 06-29-2013, 03:06 PM   #5
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I'm in bad need of a tutorial for this job...any ideas? My repair manual is garbage.
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Old 06-29-2013, 04:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tacomatrd99 View Post
I would say you've got a small tear in the head gasket which is causing coolant to sneak by and once the truck warms up, the hole is sealing up.

The starting issue has got to be separate. I would check for loose terminals on the battery and starter. I had an issue with my '99 that the battery connector was tight on the battery but it wasn't tight all around (picture a triangle going over a circle) and it was causing a bad connection. Funny thing was it didn't rear it's ugly head until I was driving to VA for vacation and stopped at a gas station to fill up. Got back in the truck and it was dead.
I was already inclined to say this after the first reading of the OP post. Head gasket is a high likelihood cause.

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Originally Posted by Washington Ag View Post
I'm in bad need of a tutorial for this job...any ideas? My repair manual is garbage.
This is not a simple job like a water pump and timing belt. You will need a solid selection of tools available, and some time ahead of yourself. Doing this in a garage you can expect a head gasket job to take you from 2-4 days of 4-6 hours each day to complete. The best thing to do is find a GOOD repair manual for your truck and read the procedure SEVERAL times before you get started.
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Old 07-02-2013, 10:13 AM   #7
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Any good suggestions for head gasket kits? I have seen a few on ebay but the prices range from like $60 to $300 for the same thing. Where would I find OEM replacement?
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