ST185 Project 2013

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ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:06 pm

I really need some help before I begin this project. I found this ST185 for sale locally and I intend to purchase it. It's going for sub two thousand and if you saw the pictures (which aren't online anymore because the post expired) you'd probably see the reason why. The clear coat is trashed and I noticed that a lot of the grey ST185s have that issue. The other issue which the seller stated in the ad was the car's leaky head gasket. Now I've been doing tons of research on forums and google trying to feel confident and able to replace the gasket. I found the repair manual and a video of a guy replacing his MR2's head gasket (which also has the 3SGTE). Needless to say I feel like I can do fix the gasket issue.

Here is where I need help. I have never considered buying a 20+ year-old car before. I drive a 2000 Tacoma and I love how all it needs is gas and oil to run for eternity. It's my trusty steed and I wish for this ST185 to follow suit. However, I will have to walk if I find more potential problems with the car. The thing that worries me most is rust. The car has been in NY for a fourth of its life and I am worried that rust has plagued vital components under the body. *Being that this will be the first car I am set about buying that is 20+ years-old, I am extremely worried about running into problems which will turn the car into a 'white elephant'. My question to anyone who reads this is; What, if any, are the typical problems which ST185s have? What do I need to look out for when I checkout the car in person?

The car I am looking at is a 1990 ST185. 160k on the body, 60k on the engine (it had a JDM swap for 100k of its life). Standard 5 speed, no accidents on the VIN and the title was not branded. The owner is in the military and used the car as a daily driver for 6 months and then had to leave for 3 months and when he came back, he said the head gasket "dried up."

I really appreciate the helpfulness and closeness of this community. I am a WRC fan and I realize the heritage which the ST185 has and I want to protect and bring this car back to its glory days.

-Collin
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby Ironchief » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:05 pm

I'm guessing it's still running? I'd definitely check the clutch to see if it needs to be replaced, that's a huge job and major pain in the rear.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:15 pm

Yes, it does run. I don't know if I should drive it around the block to see if things are loose or if the car feels unsettling, with the leaky head gasket. But I can feel if the clutch has a strong or weak engagement point with the car off.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby underscore » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:29 pm

If you only want to do the headgasket, don't get it. If you want it to be problem free the best thing to do would be to rebuild the engine and have all the wear items on the car taken care of at once.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:45 pm

I've got enough cash for the car, transport, metal gasket, tools and head bolts. This would be my first project so when you say that, it's kind of overwhelming. I was planning on brining the head to a shop to get it checked out while it was off. But there still is the whole block and pistons that wouldn't be inspected or touched.

Once I acquire more money to put towards the car I would like to rally spec the car. So upgraded suspension and I guess when I do that I'll look for control arm improvements and things alike. (so I'd focus on the general area of what I am upgrading to make sure the car can handle what the part can handle)

I could do the timing belt and replace more gaskets--would that get me a problem free car?
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby sinerasis » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:25 pm

Alltrac and problem-free don't really belong in the same sentence IMO.

If you want a daily driver expect regular (mostly minor) repairs on top of regular maintenance, assuming you're starting with a good car to begin with. Clutches generally get a workout on any awd car, turbos are hard on oil, etc. It can be done, but you need to be on top of things. If you notice a weird noise, or suspect something is wrong figure out the problem as quickly as possible. Regular maintenance is mandatory, period. Learn the quirks, most mechanics haven't ever heard of an awd Celica.

If you want a rally car, expect constant repairs and lots of parts/modifications. There's no such thing as a weekend warrior rally car, you will break things. Even a new car that has plentiful parts available will break things, it's exponentially more difficult with a 20 year old car that parts are no longer being made for.

I think for most people an Alltrac is a second car for these reasons.

Not talking bad about the Alltrac though, and don't want to sound like I'm discouraging you. Similar cars are the exact same way. Read up and be realistic from the get go.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:42 pm

This would be my secondary car. My Tacoma is my daily and I am afraid to part with it because of its reliability. I used to be a BMW nut but once I realized how expensive it would be to maintain I was quickly turned off. I've had such great luck with my Toyota that I thought every Toyota would be the same. The truth is I have been trying to research and find a information about the alltrac but I just can't. If it didn't share the same engine with the MR2 I would not have contacted the seller.

This would be my first project/fun car and I realize it will require work and time. I can commit to minor regular maintenance, but I can't commit to a money pit.

I can't afford to open up the block regularly because that requires fresh head bolts which are $150.

I don't really know what the common problems are with alltracs but if they are harder to fix and more expensive to fix than replacing a head gasket, then I probably should reconsider until I have a greater budget.

Are the common problems with alltracs cheaper and easier than replacing a head gasket?
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby phattyduck » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:06 pm

You are thinking of buying a >20 year old car for around $2k - oh, and its a complicate performance car that was probably driven hard many times in its life. You aren't going to get reliable, whether its a Toyota or not.

That said, it will be a new thing every time. Bushings, axles, seals/leaks, regular maintenance on down the list. There isn't any one particular thing that is unreliable, its just the fact that there are so many old wear items on the car.

Check out some of the threads here to get an idea of what's involved in keeping an Alltrac running. To put it in perspective, my 'to-do' list is about 25 items long on my Alltrac - nothing too big, but all stuff that would fix or make the car better.

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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby UtahSleeper » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:14 pm

Headgaskets happen, but I would say common. Really the big issue with our cars is that they are 20+ years old and have not had the proper maintence. Aside from that, the other issue is rust.

What symptoms of the HG does it have? If antifreeze isnt getting in the oil, take the car for a ride around the block and keep temp low.

If you get one you can potentially fix the HG (and do the timing belt while your at it) and have no MAJOR issues after. But I would plan on doing little repairs as you go. If something acts funny, park it till you can work on it.

They really are great cars, but are hurt by their age and people not caring for them. There are a fare amount of people here that have driven a trac regularly and DD. There is a guy here that DD's his. Just a stock trac with a little under 200k miles I think.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:39 pm

Well they seller does not understand the heritage and the rarity of the car. He is in the military and needs to get rid of it before he leave the country. From his point of view he is selling a poor looking Celica with a busted head gasket. The pricing seems fair for what it is. It was thrashed around for some time of its life. He told me there was a JDM engine and transmission for 100ks of its life. I can afford to park it and trouble shoot and not have to worry about transportation because I will have my truck as a DD.

Rust does scare me and I will walk if I see corroded bushing areas. I don't know how to weld nor do I have time to. I don't want it to be that big of a project.

I don't know specifically what is wrong with the head gasket other than it needs replacement. He told me he just saw leakage around the block which does not give me much information.

How would I know if antifreeze isn't mixing with the oil? I know that if the exhaust smells sweet and is white that coolant has gotten into the cylinders.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby peteleetzor » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:45 pm

Well, I DD my car, but I think the most common issue probably in the transmission somewhere, aside from the usual minor repair that a car needs.

speedo cable
bad clutch
synchros + seals

other then that rebuilding engine should in theory last you quite a long time if you complete the maintenance on a good interval, and not abuse it everyday.

During my test drive, I made sure all the electronics worked ( wipers, windows, seat, radio, defrost etc.), test drove the car made sure all the gear works, and can change gear. full left + right turn to see wheel. I also took it to the freeway for around 2 miles to test the car at around 3.5k -4k rpm in each gear, thats too make sure the engine is still healthy.

Obviously when test driving make note of any sounds, random vibration, and alignment issue. Check the engine bay(for general inspection aka fluid levels/battery condition), and let the car idle for a few minutes then check under the car for any fluid.

on a secondary note, a good overhaul (rebuilt engine + transmission ) probably takes around 3-4k. 1.2-1.5k for labor, then everything else.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:52 pm

I don't know if I should test drive with a leaking head gasket.

Knowing that the head gasket is leaking, what would you recommend for a test/inspection?

Would it be worthwhile to call a local shop and have them inspect the car? I don't know what they would do exactly, and honestly my parents have been screwed over by shops before in the past.

Would the rebuild cost me 3-4k? and do you think its a job that anyone can do with knowledge and time?
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby underscore » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:59 pm

Why does he say the headgasket leaks? There are a lot of things that people can assume are headgasket problems that aren't.

edit: I just saw that you said leakage near the head. I would look into this further, as this sounds odd. If it's oil leaking it might just be the valve cover gasket, which isn't a big deal.

As far as getting it inspected, I honestly wouldn't bother unless you have some mechanic friends who are familiar with such cars. Most mechanics know jack squat when it comes to the Alltracs unless you tell them yourself. That's how I got my GTFour that needed an exhaust stud and spark plugs for $2000.

Lastly, re: corroded bushing areas, you might want to look at the online parts diagrams after looking the car over to see what is bolted to the car, and what is welded to the chassis. A lot of stuff is removable, which makes repairs a lot easier.

cwalther1 wrote:I've had such great luck with my Toyota that I thought every Toyota would be the same.


Don't get me wrong, they can be very reliable cars like every Toyota, but most of them suffer from years of poor maintenance.

cwalther1 wrote:I can't afford to open up the block regularly because that requires fresh head bolts which are $150.


That should be a non-issue, most of the issues that come up are external to the block.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby UtahSleeper » Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:29 pm

I would give it a test drive if the engine oil does not look like baby shit. If its mixing with the oil in the engine then that would be bad to drive with.
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Re: ST185 Project 2013

Postby cwalther1 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:44 pm

Well the car has been sitting for 5+ months because he is out of state with his military-job-things.

So I would imagine that the oil is bad and dirty brown. If coolant has mixed with the oil will there be a metallic-y color or something obvious? maybe a green or whatever color coolant he has on the dipstick?

Damn. I asked him about test driving it and he said the battery is dead. Which seems reasonable considering it's been sitting for a while. I guess I'll have to see if my truck's battery can be used in the alltrac.

Edit: my truck battery fits!!
Last edited by cwalther1 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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