Category: automotive

Checking the fuel pump in a GMC Sierra Pick Up

This Summer I had to replace my fuel pump in my truck, the gas gauge was out and the engine started losing acceleration. So, I did the research and figured out how to

fuel pump 4

change it out. It is a simple process of removing the truck bed and the pump,  and I have a video I will share that I made on youtube here

In short, all you need to do is remove the truck bed, which is just a few large bolts, disconnect the gas cap hose from the bed and lift the bed back and out of the way. Then swapping out the pump is a cinch. Watch my video and you can see how easy it is. You can grab a pump for the GMC pick up here: Fuel Pump for Silverado & Sierra 1500  

Lexus ES300 Head Gasket Replacement

I have a 1995 Lexus ES300 that I enjoy working on. I bought it from my brother a few years ago and drove it until the head gaskets went bad this Summer in the 104 degree heat we experienced here in Texas. I decided it was not worth the money to fix the car with a Mechanic, it would cost what the car is worth. So I had to make a decision, sell it as a junker or do it myself. This was a much bigger repair than I have ever tackled with a car before. I like working on cars but I have always had 2 rules: stay out of the motor and transmission. But, I decided that worst case I sell it for junk and I am out the cost of a rebuild gasket kit, radiator and machining job.

I decided to use the Lexus/ Toyota Manual on line and carefully follow the instructions and bag and label everything as I went so I wouldn’t have a bucket of bolts left over at the end. I also decided to take dozens of photos and videos just in case I needed a reference point. The images are below. I have to upload the videos to youtube. I hope this helps someone else. This is not a job for a person who does not like to tear things apart. I took us 2 days of slow work to get this done.


Blown Head gasket in Lexus ES300

Removing Keyed lug off the wheel of a Lexus

lug.jpgSo Lexus thinks they are geniuses putting these “keyed lugs” on each tire. It keeps your wheels from moving on without the vehicle in tow. I can see their point, but I would have to question why someone driving one of these vehicles new would park it in an area where tires are going to be jacked. Steeling tires takes time. So, unless Tony Stewart’s pit crew turns to crime I don’t see why these things are standard.  The only time I see cars with stolen tires is when they are left on the side of the freeway for several days, usually that is the least of their problems.

I would venture to guess that most Lexus owners are not going to abandon their car in favor of walking somewhere. Then decide to leave it on the freeway for several days until they can convince some unemployed and otherwise bored and wayward friend to get a rope and help them tow it back to their house ( assuming it still has tires). But, I may be wrong. Anyway I digress, these damn keyed lugs are nothing short of a nightmare, if like me, you attempt to take it off and a section of it breaks away. What you are left with is a useless, unremovable, lug and a tire that isn’t going anywhere without dynamite. The ultimate anti-theft and anti-tire maintenance lock in the world.  It’s akin to padlocking your front door and then throwing the key in the lake, except a lot worse.

To begin with these things are made of chrome alloy, so think about something really hard and then beat it to a pulp with these lugs. Women should wear these things on their wedding fingers, they are so hard. My first thought was to drill a hole in the top and then insert a bolt remover which looks like a reverse threaded drill bit with a cone shaped head. 10 minutes of drilling later and a drill that was starting to melt, I had made a scratch on the surface of the lug and nothing more. I would have better luck nailing jello to the wall. So then I thought I would get out a cold chisel and try to beat until it decided to turn and loosen up. My cold chisel lasted all of 3 minutes before it bent out of frustration and decided it would rather be in the garbage can than continue on with the torture I was imbibing on it. So I took a minute to curse the lug, wish it eternal damnation, and then decided to get out the diamond tipped grinder.
Grinders really are the catch all of tools. They can remove just about anything you throw at them and are a favorite on many tv shows for the sparks they throw when grinding metal. They are the Billy Mays’ quick chop of the construction world. So I went to town on this bolt with my grinder. It was a slow process to essentially cut the bolt in half and then break it with a chisel but it did eventually give up and let go. The trick of course is to not destroy your wheel with the grinder while cutting the bolt. It takes a skilled and steady hand. But it can be done.

Installing Rear Struts in a Lexus ES300

So after several months of delays I have finally installed my rear struts in my 1995 Lexus ES300. What a pain it was. You have to remove the entire back interior to get to the strut top nuts to remove them. It basically works like this:

1) remove the sitting area of the back seat. This is easy just lift up the back seat. There are 2 simple arms that sit in a catch on the floor.

2) Remove the backs of the back seats. There are 2 bolts at each lower corner that hold the seats in place. Once these are removed you simply lift up the seats. You may have to get rough. There are hooks on the back that sit in catches. These have to come out to free the seat back.

3) Take off to interior side panels over the back doors. These are held in place by snap in screws just simply pull off the panels. Start from the top area over the door and work your way back to the area over the back shelf.

4) remove the back 3rd brake light. It is simply held in by some simple hooks. Just grab it and pull it back and disconnect the light.

5) Remove the back shelf with the speakers. This item is cheap and I heard lots of old crappy particle board breaking as I moved it. I think the best advice would be to remove the seat belts at this point but I was too lazy. I just undid 6 black plastic screws that are running along the side of the shelf. 2 are under the seatbelts. Then I slide the shelf down still attached to the seat belts so I could get it out of the way and access the rear strut top screws. This whole process took about 15 minutes.

Now you are outside.  You have to jack up the car in back, but make sure you loosen the lugs first so they are easy to remove once the car is on jacks. Remove the rear tires and there are 4 areas you have to deal with. There are 2 lines that attach to the strut. They must be unscrewed. I believe they use a 10 and 12mm socket. There is also a nut attached to the suspension that has an odd hex head in the base of the nut. You will need to use a crescent wrench and an allen wrench to hold this nut in place while you undo it. It was rusted some in my case and was very  challenging.

The most challenging part is the strut lower bolts. These are 19mm bolts and I highly recommend a 1/2″ socket to remove them. They are very tightly screwed onto the strut. Make sure you attack from the nut side, not the bolt side. Otherwise you won’t be able to loosen then. I blew 2 -3/8″ extensions going for the bolt side before I purchased a 1/2″ extension and went after the nut side. Once this is done you need to remove the 3- 12mm  nuts inside the car up top holding the strut in place. These are fairly easy to do. The strut is difficult to wiggle out from under the car, but it will come.

I decided to keep the spring and strut mount. You may want to do that depending on your situation. If you have a completely new strut all you need to do is install it. This part goes fairly quickly. It took me about 2 hours to get out the struts, but less than half that to get them back in. You waste a lot of time breaking rust and finding your sockets. This is definitely a project for someone comfortable working on cars. I don’t recommend it for people who are novices. It is complex.

Make sure you have a good set of metric sockets and a 1/2″ ratchet and sockets to undo the struts.

Update: After having driven the car for a few weeks I would recommend changing the entire strut. The springs which don’t particularly look worn, apparently are and are squeaky too. I am not thrilled with the sound the car makes going over potholes. If I had it to do again I would definitely recommend a full replacement.

Amazon has these turn key Monroe Struts at a great price. Im planning on getting these next go round.

Rear Left: Monroe 171958 Quick-Strut Complete Strut Assembly

Rear Right: Monroe 171957 Quick-Strut Complete Strut Assembly


Changing the front Struts on a Lexus ES300 1995

As I continue to overhaul this car and get it road worthy I decided to tackle the struts this week. The front struts require jacking the car up and removing both wheels. You then have 3 bolts in the engine area that have to be removed to drop the struts down. At the bottom of the struts you must undo to small screws that hold the brake line and some other line to the struts. Then there are 2 large 22mm bolts that attach to the brake and steering assembly that must be undone. Then the struts will come down and out.

This is when the work starts. I suggest you go to the auto store and buy or borrow some strut spring compressor tools. These compress the spring down so you can safely remove it from the old strut. There are a few other items to consider. The strut top mount may be bad. Mine didn’t look bad, but I replaced them anyway. They cost around $70 each at the auto store. I got them on ebay for $60/set. Under this is a ball bearing pack that comes apart with a little effort. But be very careful, there are about 20 large ball bearings in there that can fly ou and go everywhere. I suggest opening it in a bucket and cleaning it with some engine cleaner. Once that is done you will want to repack them with fresh grease. This took me about 15 minutes a side. Then then is a large plate that sits on top of the spring to keep it in place. Under this is a rubber gasket that my be worn down.
You will need to compress the spring to be able to remove the top screw that holds the strut assembly together. I ended up using an electric drill to turn a socket head to tighten the strut tool which is nothing more than a large screw with 2 hook like plates sticking out of it that fasten onto the spring and compress it.

One the compression is done you simply unscrew the top screw and take apart the unit. Then you get the new strut and reassemble the same why it came apart. Make sure you use the left strut and the right strut on the correct side. My brand was universal for the front so it was not an issue. You also need to make sure you re align the strut head to tilt inwards. Total time to remove and reassemble these was around 4 hours. Total cost was around $350 for parts. My understanding is that shops charge around a grand to do the work I did. Not a bad savings.

These pre assembled full struts are a great option at Amazon and should cut down on time:

Front Left: Monroe 171980 Quick-Strut Complete Strut Assembly

Front Right:Monroe 171979 Quick-Strut Complete Strut Assembly

 Strut Top Hat (you will need 2):  Monroe 902926 Strut-Mate Strut Mounting Kit