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Rebuild or Replace Engine? I Just Purchased a 2007 TRD SE

3428 Views 37 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  norm356
I just purchased a 2007 TRD SE with 165k miles for $9.5k knowing it would need some repairs to the engine, because the owner was not performing regularly maintenance over his 3 years of ownership (3 oil changes over 35k miles). Although, he did make some significant repairs:

Timing Chain replaced ('20)
Rear Diff replaced (2020)

I had a pre-purchase inspection done at the local Toyota dealership, and they said the timing chain looked new but does appear to be slightly loose again and noted there was a noise coming from the top of the engine too. After purchasing, I took my FJ to a local mechanic for a thorough inspection and he said we could either 1) tear apart the existing engine to replace the timing chain and determine what the ticking is at the cylinder heads or 2) replace the engine with a used or rebuilt engine.

The mechanic is currently flushing all the fluids since those likely haven't been changed in awhile, and the oil was dark in the differential. I'm planning to do my own minor repairs: calipers, rotors, brakes, struts, LCA, etc. Other than all that, my first FJ drives great :)

Here's my question, I was surprised that the mechanic then said it wouldn't be worthwhile to rebuild since we don't know everything that's wrong with it, so he recommended replacing with a salvaged engine (same spec) with 121k miles for $12k (includes replacing oil sear, oil pan, water pump, spark plugs, and valve cover gaskets). Oof! I called another shop that installs Jasper Engines, and they quoted me $10k for the Jasper engine & install out the door. Now I'm at a crossroads:

1. Rebuild existing engine (unknown cost and need to find mechanic)
2. Replace with salvaged
3. Replace with rebuilt
4. Call it quits and sell this to someone more handy than me

I'd prefer to do #1, because it seems like this engine should still have some lift in it and the salvaged price is WAY more than I thought. I'm ok with #3, but I was hoping to keep a Toyota engine in this vehicle. I'd prefer to not sell since I purchased this vehicle knowing the rarity of the '07 TRD SEs and how great condition ones have sold for a lot on auction sites. Even with these repairs, I think I'll still be close to breaking even? I've always loved FJs, so my plan was to use this as my daily and enjoy a vehicle that's amazing to drive and doesn't depreciate significantly.

TL;DR: My engine is unhappy. I need advice on if I should try to save her, break up with her for a salvaged or rebuilt engine, or just say goodbye to FJ life for now.

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Appreciate the thorough responses, and I've never heard of Blackstone Labs. Just ordered the test kit!

I'm going to have the mechanic save some of the oil for the kit, then flush all the fluids and run Amsoil. I'll pursue rebuilding the existing engine depending on Blackstone results.

Regarding the timing chain "looking new," Toyota mechanic removed a cap and used his flashlight to shine a light at a small portion of the chain. I had a hard time seeing what he was referring to or the slight movement he noticed side to side. I agree that it seems odd there would be an issue already.

I assumed the noise at the top of the engine was the typical Toyota "ticking" sound. Is this a good example of that tick noise? @Iconic_

Does anyone know a good 1GRFE mechanic in Nashville?
The hard thing about an engine you know has been badly abused is the damage internally could be worse than normal. For instance, if the rings have built up carbon they could take out a cylinder badly enough it couldn't be honed and re-ringed (scrap). If the recently replaced timing chain has only 35k miles on it and there truly is sign its worn again, that soon, that would be hard to do and could be a sign of really, really bad internal state of affairs.

Is there any sign of oil consumption between oil changes? If not, that would speak well to the state of the cylinders.

Perhaps shop around for a used engine at lower cost (how much of that $12k quote is his labor and parts, and how much was the cost to procure the used engine?).

Another idea, for how to decide whether to rebuild or replace, is to do what Iconic suggested and send an oil sample for analysis, and also have your mechanic take photos of your engine with a valve cover off, and of the timing chain tensioner visible through the inspection cover. Share those here for review.

Note that a good condition FJ, purchased for $9.5k + $12k engine replacement is still a reasonable price, all things considered, so long as you plan to run it for some time.

The engine quote is $6.2k @ 121k miles with 18 month parts & labor (up to $75.00/hr.)

I'll have him take those photos today and report back!
I don't and that's my concern with salvaged. Seems like I'll be due for a timing chain, etc. in the next 100k miles.
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Really appreciate the community support and wisdom. Oil sample is being pulled today and all fluids replaced.

Here's the receipt from the timing chain and rear differential. @SpeedRye -- Not a lot of information on why it was replaced other than noise.

I'll see if I can get a video of the ticking noise along with the pictures: 1) chain adjuster through the port and 2) engine photos with valve cover off.


And here's the report from the mechanic regarding concern over maintenance from '20-'23 and why the timing chain might be an issue:

Timing chains are making noise also there’s a ticking noise in the cylinder heads. The timing chains were replaced on 1/22/2021 according to the invoice that the customer provided. But looks like the previous owner didn’t keep up with oil change maintenance as evidenced by the oil sludge caused from lack of oil changes. See pictures.

Rear Diff:

***Recommend rear differential service. Oil dark. Also has some metal on magnetic differential drain plug. We're flushing the fluids and hoping that solves this.


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Appreciate all the interest here, and I'll continue to provide updates. I need advice from people that know these FJs way better than me :LOL:

Current status: Oil change is complete and all fluids will be flushed Monday. Then, I'm in a holding pattern with the engine until I have the results from Blackstone.

The mechanic has yet to take photos of the chain adjuster through the port or the engine photos with valve cover off. I'm out of town until next weekend, so I might have to simply take those photos & the video of the engine running myself on 3/27. I'll upload those here and would welcome any feedback.

While I wait for the Blackstone results, I'm going to replace the front struts, LCA, and calipers, etc. with the help of Youtube videos and my neighbor. Will update photos of the overall progress, ha.
Finally back in town, and I grabbed the FJ. I had a few minutes this afternoon, so here’s an update for those following along:

1. Here’s a video of the engine noise. It’s hard to hear over the idler pulley, but curious to hear everyone’s thoughts. Also, difficult to distinguish between the timing chain and the noise at the top of the engine. TL;DR: I feel like an idiot, because it doesn't sound bad to me?

2. The oil had a few fine metal pieces in it, and I shipped it off to Blackstone this afternoon.

3. I didn’t have the mechanic take photos with the valve cover off, because he was going to charge $170. I’ll do that later this week.

4. The mechanic did take photos of the timing chain tensioner, but I forgot to ask them to measure per @norm356’s suggestion. I’ll do that when I grab the other photos.

More to come!
Well, got the Blackstone labs report back a few hours ago. Best news ever? Sounds like the engine doesn't have a mechanical failure.


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