Car Problems.. 1991 4runner


I have a 1991 Toyota 4runner, it has over 230,000 miles on the car but 180,000 on the newest engine. I have been getting white smoke in the tailpipe and recently got steam from my coolant reservoir. I just got my car fixed from some other problems with it and now this came up. The white smoke is usually only there from starting the car and until i hit about 40 mph, never sooner no matter how long i drive. The steam just happened after driving about 2 miles and back home.
Thank you,


Pretty typical head gasket symptoms, especially given a 2nd-gen 4Runner. The head gaskets were a major recall issue on the V6’s that came in these trucks (which should have at some point been fixed with upgraded gaskets), but it can also be an issue on the 22R 4-cylinders.

White smoke from the exhaust means water is getting into the cylinders, consistent with head gasket failure, as is pressurising the cooling system (I’m assuming the steam came out on it’s own, not just when you took the cap off?).
Other checks include looking for water in the oil, or oil in the coolant, either of which will form an emulsion. I’ve seen several shades of brown/yellow, but none of them look like oil, so that’s a simple one, just pull the dipstick and look in the oil filler at the top of the engine.
A good mechanic should be able to pressure test the cylinders and determine roughly where the gasket has blown, and how bad it is likely to be without stripping the engine.
Depending on the price of parts etc, it may not be a worthwhile repair, but only you know how much the car is worth to you.

Pretty reasonable expectation from an engine with 180k miles.

Head gasket first, but keep this on the radar screen: Warped heads.

If you replace the head gaskets, there is a chance the problem doesn’t go away…

Yes, well, I don’t know how you do things in your neck of the woods, but over here it is common good practice to have an engineering firm check and, if necessary (it usually is) skim the mating surface of the head anytime it is removed after having been run, to ensure a sound mating surface.
Most heads are warped to some degree by the time they have to be removed, but it’s normally in the range of a few thou’ that need planing off and all is well.
Sorry, I was under the impression that any competent mechanic would know this, but I should know by now to assume nothing.

My advice is, if it is indead a head gasket problem (and it sounds like it is), for heavens sake do not attempt to make this a DIY job. At our auto shop we occasionally get the job of straightening out one of these attempts. Some of our most pitiful stories are about these - like the one about the guy who brought in a mason jar pretty full of bolts and so forth that just happened to be left over from his work.

The usual result of a DIY head gasket job is that all the parts that the owner bought are trashed, and undoing his work (known as getting back to square one) adds considerably more to the cost than it would have been if the vehicle had been brought to us in the first place…

Same here in the U.S. It’s standard procedure for competent repair shops to send the heads to a machine shop to check not only for straightness but also for cracks. It’s also the right time to ask the machinist to evaluate the valves and valve seats – if a valve job is about due, it’s a false economy to skip it.

Yep, and true for other types of repair as well. What many folks don’t realize is that the hardest job to do is to find and fix someone else’s mistakes. Professional repair people are accustomed to the ways that things normally break, and can repair them efficiently. But the do-it-yourselfers who are unable to get the job properly completed very commonly do things that the pros don’t normally run into because they wouldn’t even think of doing them. It can be quite a challenge to unearth the unusual and illogical problems that some amateurs create.

Yup - the day of the shade tree mechanic is long over.

Thank you all so much! You we’re all very informative and useful!