Not for sale
June 20, 2014
I've had this truck for what seems like forever, as I acquired it from a family member- original owner in the late 90s. It wasn't always my main transportation, but I just couldn't bring myself to sell it. It didn't come with much but a very warm heater- no AC, radio, power steering, and with a vinyl bench seat, crank windows, etc... A 4 speed manual 2WD with a 2 barrel carburetor, I think it was dirt cheap new- around $7200. You slide in the seat as you go around corners because the bench has absolutely no support at all. Your basic work truck- not exactly the stuff automotive dreams are made of.
But it definitely inspires confidence. There does seem to be something to the Toyota pickup reliability reputation. I drive it to work a lot, just to keep the miles off of the family car, and I never worry about it breaking down, even at 250K miles. It just feels solid, and is easy to work on, should you have to. And with no options, there is little to break- but no ABS or airbags either- yikes!
And although 109 Hp doesn't sound like a lot, this motor has one of the better torque curves in a 4 cylinder I've seen (Fuel injection gets 116 Hp and is pretty common in '90). With only 2700 pounds to move around, you can get off of the line and up to speed pretty fast, even while working through some pretty tall gearing. You can get 30 MPG on the highway if you can keep it below 70. I get about 25 driving on the suburban streets of Phoenix.
Used mostly as a hauler and as a 2nd/ 3rd car, It's been great, I would recommend. They made these trucks through '95, and started getting standard carpeting and cloth interior around '92, also with standard 5 speeds and Fuel Injection. The later Tacomas are good too, but relatively expensive. You can go older than ’89 (with the old body style), as the power train dates back to 1981, but (depending on the year) you may lose a little HP and you'll find fewer 5 speeds and fuel injection. The way the transmission/ differential gear ratios work, 5 speeds don't really give better highway mileage than 4 speeds, but they make the truck a bit quicker, and the 5 speeds seem more reliable. Adding 4WD (and 600 pounds) will hurt the mileage and the acceleration quite a bit.
As far as specific repairs for my '90 Toyota, my Dad put some really tough city miles on it at first with barely doing any more than changing the oil. At 95K, it had been completely reliable, but already needed a clutch. In the early 2000s, it needed a radiator, clutch master cylinder, and a starter at around 130- 150K. Then it seemed great for a long time until it blew the head gasket at 196K, it was also leaking a little through the front seal, so I changed that and the timing chain, having seen another truck break the chain at 270K. At 224K, it needed another clutch, but that’s just normal maintenance, and I changed the rear motor seal while I was down there, just in case. It's actually been great ever since the head gasket failure, now at about 250K. It's hard to believe, but it rarely burns oil. When I moved to Phoenix a few years ago, I put a new mechanical fan clutch in and started using 20W-50 oil in the summer. That seemed to really do the trick, as even in 110+ degree heat, it runs cool and doesn't seem to lose as much power when it gets hot as my other cars. Having been in both a 1992 and 94 fuel injected model, I can verify that they do struggle with cooling and pinging under load when it gets really hot. But they are superior in cold weather, as my truck stumbles and hesitates before it warms up.
Other 2WD trucks I've owned- 1997 Nissan Xtra- cab XE 4 cyl. 5 speed. Felt very roomy and fancy by comparison with power steering, cloth interior and A/C. Perfect reliability through 104K. Needed the money, sold it, and drove the '90 Toy instead for awhile. The '97 Nissan, though about as quick above 20 MPH as the `90 Toy, struggled to get more than low 20s MPG, even on the highway. An unfortunate shortcoming, on trips out of town, I’d