That's how it should have gone. But when you mechanic alone, you're working on cars with MURPHY. You don't want Murphy working on your cars with you, he messes stuff up.
Skip to Tips and Tricks if you're not interested in a rough review of a 3SGTE teardown.
What really happened (in rough chronological order)...
Saturday: Get to the garage early with my buddy. He wants to take the Camry up there because it needs an oil change. Why he has to do that in a garage is beyond me, but whatever. We figure we'll have this engine tore down, rebuilt, and ready to go by this afternoon with enough time for him to just pull the drain plug and dump oil in the top and do a Grease Monkey oil change. Of course, problems arise.
When you take engines apart, I've found the best habit is to put bolts and nuts back on the engine hand-tight. This way you only have to line up accessories and parts with the engine, and the appropriate fastener is already hanging out waiting for you to use it. If you don't plan on taking the piece off again for another 100k miles, put some antiseize on it and tighten the living hell out of it. Omitting the antiseize is bad, you will regret it later when you break all the bolt heads off.
Suspension - This took forever to get off the engine after dropping the engine and suspension out the back. The problem was the exhaust had been crumpled up and wasn't nearly the right shape to come out. We had cut some of it last time I was up to get the muffler off the car (a complete writeoff) but the tubing itself had been pushed back to the steel B-pipe off the turbo. The aluminum pipe lost the fight and we ended up cutting the bolts with a torch since I was going to replace the B-pipe anyway. The suspension itself is actually OK minus the tie-rods, which twisted where they connected to the bent side of the frame.
Transmission - In order to get the engine on the stand, the transmission has to come off. The transmission suprised the hell out of me because gearboxes are normally about the size of a football and are heavy, but the MR2s transmission was so heavy I couldn't actually lift it. Nothing screams "high quality steel" like an object which is about twice as heavy as you would think just by looking at it. The trans also took forever to get off the car, despite breaking the bolts loose the thing just didn't want to drop. We ended up rocking it gently back and forth with a prybar until it literally fell off the engine and into my buddies hands (which then continued their downward path to the floor barely abated only to land gently by what little force he could apply). The flywheel had hotspots on it but wasn't horrible, but the clutch was fantastic. One of the dampening clips had come off and shaved itself into nothing all over the inside of the bell housing. The clutch itself was down to the rivet heads and the only reason why it hadn't died was because I don't beat the hell out of the car regularly. Because of the clip being gone (illustration), the pressure plate teeth were all chewed up from the shavings. It was all around bad news, and the reason the trans didn't come apart gracefully was because the clip had done a good job of soldering the two halves together.
Engine Stand - The engine stand was all bitched up and took quite an effort to swing the engine over on the crane to the stand. The engine stand supports the engine by bolting to the block where the transmission bolts up. Obviously these bolts are huge and hard to thread. Instead of being a sled-type engine stand where you lower the engine onto it and it's supported by the lip where the oil pan bolts up, you have to swing the engine sideways while someone else does the bolting.
Accessories - These came off how I expected them to (nicely). Mostly its a game called "find the connection". Accessories are either wired or piped to the engine. Thankfully by 100k miles, most of the tubes and wires have taken on enough of a memory that disconnecting them means they stay about there they need to go when reconnecting them. The only exception are the ground-straps. About this time is where I found weird axial play in the water pump, you shouldn't be able to move the gear up or down even a millimeter. At 100k miles, this was on The List of things to be replaced. About the only thing I wasn't happy with is that the alternator requires an offset wrench to get the center bolt out. You would not be able to do a headgasket with the engine in the car.
Intake and Exhaust Manifold - Possibly the most annoying part, both of these are an unholy mix of bolts and studs. Studs in the middle and bolts on the ends, which is actually the opposite of how I would design it. Exhaust manifold has much more even heating than the intake manifold, which means it breaks loose evenly and requires a gasket change. The intake manifold really caught me off guard. It wouldn't budge, even with rocking and enough WD-40 to make Exxon Valdise look like a small "oops". Finally we tired ourselves out and used the last drops of PB Blaster along the gasket. We had just gone for beers when a crash issued itself from across the garage. Figuring Rat Dogg had knocked something over we were too tired to care. Coming back to the engine, the intake manifold was now laying on the floor. Lesson learned: WD-40 sucks.
Fuel Rail - The cold start injector is in a tough but not impossible location. If we had ratcheting wrenches, it would have gone easier. But we broke them all so we don't. Ratcheting wrenches are not good at breaking loose stubborn bolts, which is why they come with a nonratcheting end.
Valvecover - Pretty standard affair. Turn screws anticlockwise. Lift.
Tips and Tricks for Saturday: Once you have the valvecover off, this is a good place to check for how true the engine is. If I had blown this engine, we would have taken the valvecover off first before spending all this time with the rest of it to check for trueness. My Lincoln Mark VII (you either love them or hate them) was sporting a Ford Mustang 302HO engine which had briefly been supercharged. When the headgasket blew, the valves wouldn't move through the journals which is tip #1 that the block is a writeoff. Tip #2 is to check to make sure the top of the head (the part of the engine holding the valves) is still dead level. Since the head is aluminum on most engines, it will deform with the iron block if the engine itself is warped or cracked. The 3SGTE was dead level across all axis (I checked because I'm semi-OCD when it comes to engines). The 302HO was warped. The way to check is to take a level and span the corners from each corner. If the metal pulls away from the level at any point, the whole thing is ready for the scrap-yard. Depending on the cams, you may not be able to check opposite corners, but with the cams out, the head loses some rigidity and if the cam bolts go into the block, some deformation is OK once the cams are out.
Cams - This is one of the parts I hate. Cams are made of high strength steel, which is extremely heavy, hard, and cracks easily. Dropping them shatters them like ice, but they have to be handled carefully because they are oily and polished. The cams have a disassembly order and a torque spec. When removing them, you put a big wrench on them and give it 1/8th of a turn in the order the book tells you to so that even torque is applied to the cam while its coming out. The n00b mistake is to just start unbolting the cam from the far side and then wondering why it just shattered all over the valvetrain (and more to the point: how to clean it up since the valvetrain is covered in oil). Label the cams with a paint-pen, I prefer "left" and "right" instead of "intake" and "exhaust". Label the cam gears also in sharpie or paint-pen. Before taking the cams off, chalk the cam gears together with a cam gear tool and use an impact wrench to get the nut off. You shouldn't need a puller, but there's three holes in the center of a proper cam gear. One is for aligning the gear to the cam and takes a pin which must be punched out, and the other two are threaded for a puller. A claw puller is better in this situation since it is possible to deflect the cam gear by putting too much tension on the center arms, but so long as you go slow and use lube, it should come off. Now, take stock of the ends of the cams. One end of each cam very obviously goes through the block and accepts the cam gear. One of the cams has a smooth end and the other cam will have a slot which mates to the distributor. God forbid you forget which cam is which, but the distributor will tip you off if the proper cam is on that side of the engine.
Tips for Saturday Part 2: The engine is going to be extremely broken if you mix up intake and exhaust parts at this point. I suggest labeling the bolt-heads in paint-pen, labeling the cam towers in paint-pen, and labeling just about anything else you take out of the engine in paint-pen for which side it's on, what it's position was, and where it goes. Because of how shallow the head is on MR2s, I could not leave the cam tower bolts in the head while working on it. (I probably could have if I had put two blocks on the table to support the head where it meets the valve-cover, but why take the risk?) Get some plastic sandwich bags, label those, and toss the gears, bolts, and cam towers into them. Find a place to put the cams they will not drop. Pretend they are made out of glass and are adult-toys. You wouldn't stick that in your pooper after dropping it on the floor of this garage, would you? Of course not, its filthy and probably broken.
Head Bolts - This is it, almost to the middle of the project! Head bolts come out the same way the cam bolts do: Carefully and in and order. But, since you cannot reuse them, just pay attention to the order. Each bolt has a washer under it and you must be sure you have an equal amount of bolts and washers upon disassembly. Remember, this thing is covered in pools of oil, its extremely easy to lose washers. Count them twice. The head is going to weigh maybe 40lbs at this point, but it must be carefully lifted and never pried to avoid scoring the mating surface. Use the engine hoist if you have to. Throw a towel down and put the head on it. Also put a towel over the head so no-one drops anything into the valvetrain.
Head - You're looking at the final part and I'm thinking to myself "I am totally fucked and never going to get this back together". Remember the comment I made about Castrol GTX being good oil? This is where you find out how good the oil is in an engine. When I bought the MR2, it had 90k miles on it. I put another 40k on it using Castrol GTX instead of regular Joe Mechanics "Almost New" oil. GTX has a crapload of zinc in it, which is also how PB Blaster works. The valve buckets didn't have any scarring, which means the zinc is working.
Protip for Saturday: Burnt oil looks like a brownie. It also holds heat. It also is impossible to get off an engine. Using good oil in your engine will help things immensely. Water injection is OK, but makes it much easier to run an engine rich. Rich engines deposit carbon from unburned fuel all over everything while lean engines deposit carbon from burnt oil all over everything. The key is going to be oil, which means the carbon from a rich engine flows out of the engine before having a chance to deposit on anything. A lean engine will simply melt at some point and consume any quality of oil.
Cleaning it up - Well, I have no idea what the idiot was doing to the engine before I got the car but my best guess was "running it on a budget", which means going to Joe Mechanic for service instead of Toyota or doing it himself and spending the money on quality materials. Excuse the camera phone, but this engine is foul. The solution is to use a wire brush to remove the carbon fouling with a drill. You could do it by hand but it will take all day. Do the same with the gasket material left on the block. Scrub it until it shines. If you want it to really shine, use very fine sandpaper to get a high gloss surface. Clean the tops of the cylinders too, this area gets a light fouling and you can feel it with your finger. Once you're done this, use compressed air to blow out all the little stud holes on the block. Vacuum out the pistons. Put a layer of lithium paste or other high quality grease over the cylinder walls and piston heads. Do not apply grease to the gasket seat, but do wipe it down with a fine, lint free cloth. Remember: Dry start = death.
Cleaning the Valvetrain - If the head is in good condition, the Toyota valvebuckets (shims) will fall right out. In other words, I had to ball up a rag and stuff it against the buckets before putting a piece of wood over it. Putting the valveshims on the wrong valves will screw up the engine quite nicely and at best, it won't run right. At worst, it will smash a valve into a piston and it'll be game over. A note on some engines: The pistons will have a butterfly cut into the top of the piston which the valve can dip into if the timing is off on the engine. An interference engine will smash the pistons into the valves. A non-interference engine will gracefully drop the valve into the butterfly. At 100k miles, they all are interference engines from the carbon. With the valves supported, I could flip the head over and clean the valves and mating surfaces.
Sunday: It feels like it took too much time. I figured the rebuild would be a one-day job. I had no idea the engine was in this poor condition and required this much cleaning. It is far better to do all the deep engine bullshit now and clean it right than to wish it was done later. Treat the engine nicely, and it will last forever and hopefully won't foul nearly this badly again.
Headgasket protip: When the engine is out of the car for a swap, this is an excellent time to do the headgasket. The headgasket I ended up using was a Cometic MLS gasket. The stock Toyota gasket is .071" thick, this gasket was originally .040" thick until I was told that the .040" ones were out of stock. I accepted a .050" substitution. The .010" probably won't make a difference. The goal is to get a gasket which is as thin as possible but still can seal. Since the gasket is much weaker than either the block or the head, the gasket is what is going to blow first. Thinner gaskets made of stronger material give the block slightly more compression but also provide much less area of weak gasket material presented to the forces in the engine.
Protip for Studs: ARP is about the only brand I will buy. Bolts actually stretch and are impossible to torque properly. Studs are torqued down and then bolts are torqued on to them, making the torque wrench extremely accurate. Nuts also are designed to stretch before studs do, meaning that the torque reading and stretching will be absolutely proper. Do not ever re-use headbolts when doing an engine.
Shortblock Prep - Blow everything out again with the compressed air. Wipe off the top of the shortblock with the cloth. Put the studs into the shortblock finger tight and use a hex-key in the provided journal on the ARP studs to snug them in. Now is an excellent time to check for trueness of the studs. Since the studs are equal length, they should all screw into roughly the same depth within 1mm of each other. A little off is OK due to the threads on the block pulling a bit, but none of them should be obviously taller or shorter. Don't be afraid to unscrew, clean, and reseat the stud. Now without touching the gasket surface, place the headgasket on the shortblock. Most of them are done so that they cannot be improperly installed. Make sure all the holes are clear and none of them are blocked by the gasket, which is your tip it's upside down. If you do have to touch the surface, wipe it down with the fine, lint free cloth. The goal is to have no particulate on either the mating surfaces or the gasket. The headgasket is a dry-install, do not use gasket glue on it. Make sure it lays flat. Try to handle it by the excess tabs they give you, most performance gaskets have tabs with rivets that hang out the side of the block. This is your tip to put your fingers there.
Head Install - The ARP stud kit comes with molybdenum lubricant. The head is currently upside-down on the bench, but I have to keep it clean. The solution is a two handed job. Either use the engine hoist to lift the head and suspend it or get a second pair of hands. Using the clean cloth, wipe down the surface mating with the gasket one last time. Also, lay out the washers for the ARP kit and coat them with the moly lube. Use a paintbrush. Have one person hold the head without getting junk on the bottom and suspend it so someone else can drop the lubricated washers onto the head. The washers go around the studs, but they are thick enough there is not enough clearance to do it with the studs actually through the journals. Now gently line up the head and slowly deposit it onto the block. With the studs halfway through, finish lining up the washers and drop the head. Make sure the gasket does not get crimped and none of the washers pick up on the threads. Motor oil is not an acceptable lubricant. Using the same paintbrush, paint molybdenum onto the threads of the studs and the nuts. Paint the bottom of the nuts with it also for good measure. Save a bit, it is good to put on the cams also. The ARP stud kit suggests 60ft/lbs of torque for the assembly, and this requires a torque wrench with a minimum extension to clear the top of the head. The ARP nuts are 12x12s, which means 12cm by 12 points, so a special socket is required.
Tips for Torque: Set the torque wrench to 15ft/lbs, then 30ft/lbs, then 45ft/lbs, then 60ft/lbs. The proper way to hold a torque wrench is to grip the head to keep it on the nut and press against the handle at the furthest point. Pressing from the middle will change the leverage and affect the torque reading, so do not do this. Give each nut 1/8th a turn in the pattern specified by the shop manual until hitting the torque spec. Once all the nuts have been tightened to spec in order 1/8th a turn at a time, advance to the next step of torque. If any of the nuts have take-up (the wrench doesn't click immediately), follow through the pattern and do it again. Oftentimes the take-up from one nut will cause the other nut to relax. Plus the moly is slick stuff and will let the nuts relax a bit. I usually go over a pattern three times to make sure the nuts have no more take-up and no more relaxing to do before considering a torque spec process complete.
Water pump - It was a good time to put both the alternator bracket and alternator back onto the engine. The water pump also had axial play, which means its time to rebuild it. Use the same procedure as cleaning the heads and block to clean the old gasket material off the pump and use gasket glue to glue the pump back together. The gasket glue goes on both metal faces of the pump and the gasket is carefully laid on top of one side before pushing the two halves together. Use liquid o-ring where the pump meets the block (any brand is OK so long as its water-sealing) and screw the whole thing back on tightly so it can dry in place. Both gasket glue and liquid o-ring expand a bit, but the pump must be firmly torqued down to actually create a good seal. Its good to check the waterpump bolts for clearance: The 3SGTE bolts are long enough to penetrate and seal the waterjacket around the cylinders on the block, but not so long as to touch the pistons.
Pep Boys gave me the big middle finger again and sold me the wrong cam seals. Not wanting to do the cam process without the proper seals and certainly not wanting to re-use seals, I found a shop rag and covered the project with it. Next weekend: Cam seals and cams. Possibly more!