Toyota Head Gasket Replacement

courtesy of Bob, The Auto Answer Man

Dear Bob,
My question is simple. Can a novice backyard mechanic take on a head gasket or head replacement themselves? Here is the situation. My neighbor owns a 1985 Toyota pickup (4 cyl, 4 wd) with 130k miles on it. He has already replaced the brake master cylinder, brake pads, radiator, new tires and the cab is rust free. However, he thinks the head gasket may have blown. There is coolant in the oil and it runs rough after it gets warm (it runs fine when it is cool). He has offered to give the vehicle to me for free. Right now it would be a project repair and not a vehicle I need right away. So is it possible for a novice backyard mechanic to tackle a job like this on the first time out? Although I haven't worked on cars before, now that I have two small children and less of a budget, I need to start doing my own repairs. Is there anyway to identify if it is the head gasket or head itself that has a problem without disassembly? What book would you recommend to take a novice through this type of repair?

Since this is not your main means of transportation, then the question is really up to you. I would suggest getting the repair manual and read through it thoroughly. Pay special attention to the section on motor rebuilding. Since it's not your main car, you can take your time. If something gets a little tough, you can stop and figure it out. You will basically have to take the whole upper part of the engine apart and remove it just to get clearance. You have to remove the exhaust, the intake, the alternator and all other accessories. When it comes time to putting it back together, make sure you have a good torque wrench and tighten to manufactures specs. Also, I believe that it is an aluminum block and head... you might have to get the head machined to make sure that it is true (flat). again, read the book. It will take some time, but if your handy and can turn a wrench, then I think you could do it. Also remember to pay special attention to the timing. I believe that this motor has over head cam. So your timing marks are very critical. I would suggest that you set the motor at top dead center on number one cylinder then remove the battery so the engine can NOT be cranked. This way, you will have a good point of reference when it's time to go back together.
Good Luck!
Drive Safely!
Bob, The Auto Answer Man

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