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Fixing up the Tacoma for Vegas, Baby

May 22, 2023

With the Tacoma living in Las Vegas now, it's harder to perform various maintenance tasks as they pop up and between trips. As such, with a few general maintenance issues - oil changes, tire rotations, etc. - and a few items in recent Rig Reviews needing attention, I drove the truck home from the Three Days of R&R trip for a little TLC (Tacoma Loving Care).

On my list for a warm spring day were the following tasks:

  • Routine maintenance - Change the oil, Rotate the tires Grease drive train.
  • Check the new SPC UCAs for play in the X-Axis bearings.
  • Replace the PCV valve.
  • Address the leak between the transmission and transfer case.
  • Solder the wiring harness for the Diode Dynamics SS5 Pro spotlights on the front bumper.
  • Repair the bottom of the tent floor, which has a couple holes from the ladder.
  • Install a LutzAuto speed sensor calibrator to fix my speedometer/odometer once and for all.
  • Have a spare key made, since the hidden key holder broke at some point over the years and so I don't have a spare with the Tacoma.
  • Install a Honda windshield wiper sprayer on the passenger side, to match the one on the driver side.
  • Get a new tablet to use for navigation, since I cracked the glass on my 8" Lenovo Tab 4 on a recent hike.

Quite the list, but everything - save for the seal between the transmission and transfer case - was pretty easy, so I figured I could knock it all out in a couple of days.

Routine Maintenance

Seems like I'll need to do about 2.5 oil changes a year now - down from 5-6 - with the Tacoma living in Las Vegas.

Changing the oil, rotating the tires (a 4-tire rotation - PR>PF, PF>DR, DR>DF, DF-PR), and greasing the drive train were all done at the same time in a little under an hour. The one thing I noticed this time was that a 5-tire rotation really is quite a lot easier, since you only need to support one corner of the vehicle at a time. Something to keep in mind in the future when I get a new set of tires and want to cheap out by reusing my "best used tire" as a spare.

While I had the front wheels off, I gave the SPC UCAs that I installed a wiggle to see if there was any play in the X-Axis bearings. I noticed what might be a little bit of play in the passenger side, and no play in the driver side. Definitely something to keep an eye on, and I'm glad for the three-year warranty that I have on these things.

I wish I'd never installed these X-Axis SPC UCAs.

Replace the PCV Valve

I've had a bit of oil seepage where the inlet for the PCV system connects to the main air intake at the throttle body. I didn't even know the function of that hose, but @Dirty Pool was kind enough to explain it for me - and with a diagram no less!

The first thing I noticed was how clean that engine looked.

Think of the PCV valve as a vacuum regulator of sorts. It allows for engine vacuum to draw fresh air through the entire engine without allowing a full-on vacuum leak.

"Fresh" air is drawn into the rear of the driver side valve cover through that hose (blue arrow). After travelling down to the crankcase, it travels up to the passenger side valve cover, where it exits at the (one way) PCV valve, following a hose (red arrow) to the intake manifold. All this time, the air is picking up crankcase vapors/blow by and positively ventilating them.

Folks tend to get confused about "that hose" (the PCV inlet) because it's connected to the main intake and they assume that the flow must be from the valve cover to the main intake tube. Nope, it's the other way around.

In theory "that hose" should be bone dry but in some cases/situations the engine can produce more blow by volume than the normal ventilating flow of the PCV system. When this happens that hose can look wet/oily.

This is nothing to worry about as even a perfectly healthy engine will sometimes generate a bit of positive pressure in the crankcase, especially periods of low vacuum such as low(er) RPM open throttle situations.

Even though it's normal, there are some things worth checking if there is excessive leakage:

  • Engine wear (rings),
  • driving style (don't open the throttle at low RPMs)
  • Manifold pressure
  • Fouled, restricted, or sticking PCV valve
  • ...or any combination of the above will contribute to overwhelming the system.

I have a pet theory that the 3.4 PCV system is "more easily" overwhelmed than it should be as indicated by the number of folks seeing wetness in that hose. It seems Toyota was aware of this because in later years they increased the diameter of "that tube" and added a metal "can" at the intake tube connection.Dirty Pool

This set my mind at ease a bit, but I still replaced my PCV valve as I've had one sitting around for a couple months and I last replaced mine about 95,000 miles ago.

Address the leak between the transmission and transfer case

I first noticed a leak between the transmission and transfer case in November 2022. Likely, the leak began when I swapped my transfer case nearly a year earlier. I'd purchased the replacement seal (90311-40007) as soon as I noticed the leak, but I really didn't want to drop the transfer case again, so for the last six months I've just been topping off the transmission with MT-90 gear oil, an action that would come back to bite me!

Does every Tacoma have this same leak? A lot do!

Following the steps in Step-by-Step Replacing the Transfer Case on a Tacoma, I got the j-shift removed, unplugged all the connectors, and removed six (6) of the eight (8) bolts that secure the transfer case to the transmission. Supporting the transfer case on a jack, I removed the final two bolts. As I split the cases, about half-a-quart (or maybe three-quarters) of oil gushes out of the "supposed to be dry" cavity. #winning.

At least I can vouch for the fact that there are true surfaces and a good seal between the transmission and transfer case.

With the transfer case removed, I had access to the seal on the transmission side.

At that point, I was able to remove the old seal using my slide hammer and replace it with my nailing hammer - before carefully buttoning everything back up, ensuring that I carefully inserted the transfer case input shaft into the new seal in order to keep it pristine.

Removal was straight forward with the right tool.

After cleaning up the race and applying a bit of grease to the new seal, I was ready to reassemble.

I've found that a block of wood and hammer are a great way to install new seals. I'd say better than a seal driver set, though the OTC seal driver set is a good one.

Here's to hoping that the fix holds for many years to come!

Solder the wiring harness for the Diode Dynamics SS5s

When I installed the Diode Dynamics SS5s on the front bumper, I had no idea how much I'd love them. I use them every chance I get for tons of light but noticed the one on the driver side started to flicker on my trip to Joshua Tree.

When I'd installed the lights, I'd made my own 12ga wiring harness to ensure that they were able to perform to their full potential, and I'd crimped the connectors that connected the harness to the pigtails that came from Diode Dynamics. It turns out that over time, that crimp worked its way loose, so this time I soldered the wires into the connectors and buttoned everything back up.

Crimping may be preferred by some, but I'll stick with solder from here on out.

Repair the bottom of the tent floor

Having noticed a couple holes in the bottom of my CVT tent floor, I set about patching them with some aluminum I had laying around. Simple process - cut out the aluminum to cover the holes, apply some industrial double-sided tape, place in position.

To be expected after more than 1,000 nights of use.

A couple of small plates and really strong tape.

Don't think I'll be wearing through 3/16" aluminum plates.

LutzAuto speed sensor calibrator installation

I've always wanted to have my speedometer calibrated correctly, but with 4.88 gears, 33" tires and the largest (33-tooth) speedo gear available, my speedometer has always read about 6% faster than I'm actually travelling.

I received a LutzAuto 3-wire speed sensor calibrator for my birthday, but like the transfer case seal, it's been sitting around gathering dust while the Tacoma has been in Las Vegas. I figured that while I was messing around with the transfer case seal, I might as well get the calibrator installed as well.

Install was straight forward - essentially, disconnect the plug on the side of the transfer case where the speedo gear is installed, and then insert the LutzAuto device inline between the speedo gear and ECU.

Step 1: disconnect the wiring harness from the transfer case using a pick tool to release the connector. This can be tricky.

Step 2: insert the LutzAuto device inline; it only fits one way.

Step 3: after calibration, zip tie everything up and out of the way.

Calibration for me was reasonably straight forward, as I already knew how far "off" my speedometer was from reality. After turning the ignition to the "ON" position, I first reset the device by press-and-holding the "down" and "up" buttons for 15 seconds, before pressing the "down" button 12 times, each press changing the reading at the speedometer by 0.5%.

Get a replacement spare key

This was a pretty straightforward operation - I headed to my local Home Depot and had a duplicate key ground from my primary key. It's not pretty, but for $3.50, it'll work just fine. Then - after a little trial and error - I was able to find the same, very thin, magnetic key holder that I've used for the last 20 years, and picked up a new one.

Should be good to go for another 20 years!

Install a better windshield washer on the passenger side

When I Modernized the Windshield Sprayer Nozzles, I only installed a Honda Odyssey 76810-TK8-A01 Windshield Washer Sprayer on the driver side, just in case I didn't like it. Well, I do like it, and it's finally time to match the passenger side. A 3-minute operation; the best kind.

Toyota jet-stream on the left; Honda fan spray on the right.

Buy a new tablet for GPS navigation

I'm not sure what happened exactly, but on a recent hike, my pant leg must have brushed up on a canyon wall or tree limb in just the right way to crack the screen on my 8" Lenovo Tab 4. I've really liked that tablet, so I searched for replacement on amazon, where I discovered that last year's model - the 8" Lenovo Tab M8 FHD not only contains 4-years newer technology (better processor, more RAM) but also has a significantly better screen (1920x1200). Beware though, there is an "HD" version of the M8 that is not the "FHD" version, and the screen on that device (1280x800) isn't as nice.

With all that out of the way, it's time to go to Vegas, baby!





    JOHN D MORAN July 24, 2023

    Yes, maintaining the vehicle is always important. I check things in my truck frequently but at my age have to leave the real work to the master mechanic I've trusted for many years. Yep, brakes are coming due soon! As always, enjoy your posts and travels. Always fun to see what's out there in places that we'll never be able to visit ourselves, thanks again! BTW - I finally used my Body Armor Sky Ridge tent, it's good BUT not for my full size truck. Since you've been entertaining us for a while I'd like to make an offer if you'll send me an email.

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 24, 2023

      Thanks John, glad you're enjoying the posts, as always! As for the maintenance, one of the things I've missed most as we've left the Tacoma in Las Vegas is the ability to sort of poke around on it - checking this and that - when it's home between trips. I still try to do a bit of looking around while I'm on the trips but it's never the same when you're rolling around in the dust and just want to get some sleep from a long day on the trail!

      Luckily, as a Toyota, it has - at least so far - stood up to the reputation. Preventative maintenance and an ear to the ground for new noises will hopefully continue to be a successful strategy! ?

  2. Thomas R
    Thomas R July 24, 2023

    What's your mileage up to now? Does your 3.4 burn any oil or lose any coolant between changes?

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 24, 2023

      Sitting right around 250K these days and the engine seems healthy - at least per the last checkup with Blackstone Labs. As far as coolant goes - I don't think I'm losing any, but it probably wouldn't hurt to check. At the very least, engine temps stay in the normal range (~190°F), even in triple digit ambient temps!

  3. Lance Geis
    Lance Geis July 25, 2023

    Rally enjoy these posts. Thanks for taking the time to share this stuff. I had a 2013 Tacoma for 6 years which I sold for a new F150. I like the bigger truck but it just doesn't have the personality of my old ride 🙂

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 25, 2023

      Thanks Lance, glad you're enjoying them! Always happy to hear when folks do - puts a smile on my face - and I'm always happy to answer questions you might have as well.

      I don't know how long my 1st Tacoma will last, but a 2012-2015 2nd gen is my current favorite for replacement. Who knows, maybe they'll make the 5th gen a "retro" style - small and narrow. Yeah, right. ?

  4. Bill Rambo
    Bill Rambo July 27, 2023

    Trying to figure the washer nozzles out for my 2014. If anyone knows, please shout out. Great information Dan on your upkeep!

  5. Fletcher Parsons
    Fletcher Parsons November 11, 2023

    Hi Dan. How's the speedo calibration working? I went Dakota Digital on mine a few years ago. I found that I had to calibrate to either the speedometer or odometer. Calibrating to one left the other off by a little. I chose to calibrate to the odometer, which results in the speedometer reading high by a couple of MPH at mid-sixties MPH (speedometer reading of 65 MPH is actually 62 MPH by GPS). What's your experience?

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 11, 2023

      Hey Fletcher, so... I have a rig review coming up about this - essentially an update on my LutzAuto Toyota 3 Wire Speed Sensor Calibrator - but I'm happy to spoil it since you asked!

      Functionally, I really like the Lutz. I wish I'd known about it prior to installing the 33 tooth speedo gear, as it's just so much easier and more flexible to "get it right." That said, I originally calibrated it so that my speedo was correct, since that's always the thing we look at and think of as being "off." After doing that, I ran through a few of the odometer calibration segments of highway, and measured some reasonably long distances using the odometer and GPS data, and I was surprised to find that the mileage was off by nearly 4% when the speedometer was dead on! Like you, I much prefer to have the odometer be correct (since that's what gas mileage, service intervals, etc.) are based on, so I recalibrated and now the ODO is spot on but the speedo is consistently a bit high (about the same as yours).

      As I was thinking through this, I reasoned out that Toyota probably does this on purpose for two reasons:

      1. so that when folks think they are going the speed limit, they aren't (a bit of cover-your-ass on their part).
      2. so that when people are going "75mph," they are actually going 70mph and getting slightly better fuel economy than they'd be getting at actual 75mph speeds. You know, increasing Toyota's fleet mpg average.

      Anyway, not that it really matters, but it was a very intriguing discovery that I was excite to share because I don't think it's all that well known. Well, except that you know it already, so I'm probably - once again - behind the curve!


      • Fletch Parsons
        Fletch Parsons November 12, 2023

        Too funny! If there’s anyone NOT behind the curve, it is you. Glad it’s working.

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