Early Explorer in Rubber
Q I am a 17-year-old avid reader that has just recently bought an SUV, a '03 Ford Explorer. It runs great, but over this winter I slid on ice into a curb and took a chunk out of my wheel, so I have been running on a spare. Where can I buy wheels and tires for an affordable price? I need wheels that can take me off-road and yet get me to work, to school, and possibly on trips down Interstate 5 here in Oregon. What would be fitting for my vehicle?
A There are plenty of places to buy tires and wheels. I know there is a 4Wheel Parts in your area that can sell you different wheel-and-tire packages, as well as National Tire & Wheel and the Tire Rack. All these advertisers are in our magazine and have websites you can order directly from. I used to live in Oregon and I'd recommend a tire that is good in the rain (since the rainy season in Oregon is about half the year). You'll also want something that isn't too loud for highway driving and yet still has some aggressive tread for exploring the hills around Medford, not to mention the snow you'll encounter going up to Mt. Hood for snowboarding. I'd recommend an all-terrain tire, like the BFGoodrich A-T, Nitto Terra Grappler, General Grabber A/T, Dick Cepek Radial F-C, or one of the many Michelin truck tires. In fact, I had a chance to test the new Michelin LTX M/S 2 in both wet and dry terrain and it worked very well, though it's not as aggressive as some of the other tires mentioned.
Heirloom or Headache?
Q I inherited this great '93 FZJ80 Land Cruiser that my father special-ordered new from Japan back in the day. He actually had it made to his specs and waited for it to arrive in the U.S. I hope to preserve and enjoy it before passing it on to my little boy, who's 3 years old.
Here's the problem. The truck is cosmetically holding up great, but with 203,000 miles it is mechanically wearing out quickly. I used to say that it leaks oil like the Exxon Valdez, but a more recent environmental catastrophe sadly requires me to say that it leaks oil like the BP Gulf rig. I go through more than a quart every thousand miles, and it's getting worse. It uses oil and also leaks it from the pan.
The question for you guys is how do I go about dealing with a tired, old engine? I can have a local Toyota expert remove and rebuild my engine, but it will set me back $5,600. I could buy a supposedly low-mile engine from a very well-known West Coast Land Cruiser specialty supplier, but it will cost $7,200 plus core charge plus freight. I have looked into getting a used engine for around $1,500 (supposedly from a Cruiser that was wrecked with 42,000 miles), but I am afraid of buying a pig in a poke.
Then there's the option of buying a used engine that has been rebuilt. But then again, there's the issue of not knowing what you're getting. For example, I asked the supplier if the rebuild was done with a Toyota pistons/rings/seals kit, and he seemed strangely dismayed and confused.
Yet another choice would be to do a compression check and maybe just rebuild the top end and replace what needs replacing, including the oil pan gasket. The various choices-some with warranties, some without-are dizzying, literally.
Jason D. T.
A You're dealing with a modern-day family heirloom, Jason, so treat it as such. Keep the original engine and have it rebuilt by a qualified Toyota rebuilder with real Toyota parts. With this investment you'll have a practically brand-new truck, and your son can do the same rebuild when he inherits it. It's cheaper than buying a new Land Cruiser, plus this is the last of the solid-axle Cruisers, making it one of my favorites. Although I have not priced out this type of rebuild, your numbers put it in the middle of the options.