Article by Ryan Smith (Smitherz)
Now that the older Lexus engines are around
15 years old you might see one smoking a little bit when
started. This is a good indicator that the valve seals are worn
out. I would recommend changing them out anyways just because
they deteriorate after so many years. Below youíll see some
pretty shocking pictures of just how bad they get. All-Data
systems calls for an hourly estimate of 18 hours for an
automotive shop to do this operation. That is quite a bit of
time and once you look over my walk through you should be ready
to cut that time in half yourself. As long as you get a hold of
the right tools you should be ready to start. It is a very good
idea to have a Lexus service manual handy for this engine. You
will want to follow the cylinder head disassembly instructions.
You can also find this section in PDF format on forums.
I took some nice hi-res pictures because
the faqs I've seen on the subject really don't give a clear
picture of what's going on. The old seals were in pretty bad
shape so let me show a nice picture of the whole reason I'm
changing these out.
The keepers for the valve spring retainers are to the bottom of
this picture. You don't want to lose any one of these. There are
2 per valve so that makes 64 in total. BE VERY CAREFUL not to
lose any. If you lose one you will have to halt your whole
project and order another one.
Put the camshafts to the side with all of
the caps (called bearing caps in the Lexus manual). Keep in mind
that the caps are all numbered and must be placed back over the
camshaft in order. If you donít remember what order they go in
make sure and refer to the Lexus manual for the order and also
the torque specs as well. With the cams removed now pull out the
buckets and place them to the side in order. Notice the numbers
and arrows below.
Here is an important step: cut
lengths of rags so that you can plug up the passages in the
cylinder heads. This is key because you will drop little parts
every now and then. I actually just plugged up a couple of areas
around the immediate valves I was working with and I had too
many close calls. Just plug them all up! I also put tape across
the intake holes to make sure that nothing would fall into them
as well. Dropping anything down these holes makes them
impossible to recover without taking off the oilpan or you can
order new ones.
To remove the valve spring retainers you need to apply just
enough pressure to compress the springs for a split second. Once
the pressure is taken off of the valves they are free to move on
their own. The only place they will go is down into the cylinder
and you will not be able to pull them back up if this happens.
The object is to keep pressure on the valve so that it does not
fall down into the cylinder while you are doing your work. If
you use the air pressure method you will be pressurizing the
cylinders and you must have a good size air compressor to do
this. I have a 30+ gallon compressor that supplies a lot of air.
If you donít have something that is capable with keeping up a
good amount of air pressure once the air tank runs out then
donít try this. A portable roof nailing compressor is not a good
idea! If your air compressor is really loud this will not be
comfortable either, since it will be running to keep up with the
air that will leak from the cylinders. I used the air method
without any problems except I couldnít hear my radio over the
Here is a picture of the hose I used to go
from the spark plug hole to my air line. Carquest part number
#STL19700 is for a similar hose that anyone can order from them.
I used 70-80lbs of air pressure with great results.
The other method which is very popular is to shove a slim rope
down the spark plug hole which will physically fill up the
cylinder and push against the valves if you rotate the crank to
make it compress. This worked well but took a long time. If you
end up having to apply more pressure to a stubborn spring
retainer (this will happen) then the valve will push into the
cylinder just enough to ruin your attempt. Maybe you can figure
out a way to hold the crank still that wonít slow down the job.
I donít consider installing the other spark plugs to hold the
crank with compression time efficient. The rope trick takes
So here I am pushing rope into the cylinder
and turning the crank to compress the rope to hold the valves in
place. The good thing about using the rope is peace of mind if
youíre nervous and the absence of compressor noise is a bonus.
Putting the handle of my ratchet between the crank bolts for
leverage worked great to turn it.
Now lets discuss that happens if you pop
the valve spring keepers off. They are the little tiny things I
mentioned earlier. They wedge in the tops of the spring
retainers which direct them into the notches on the tops of the
valve stems to hold them in place. If the keepers pop out then
the spring retainer will release their hold on the valve letting
it move if not held by rope or air. Notice the cone shape the
tiny keepers form when they come together in the hole of the
You want to pop out the small keepers, remove the valve spring
retainer and the springs itself. Then the goal is changing out
that old valve seal out and pressing in the new one. With the
right technique you don't even need to use a hammer to "pop" the
keepers in as other instructions have suggested. I highly
recommend that you DON'T use a hammer at all, unless you really
don't have enough strength to press the valve springs. Further
along I have a picture showing what position I used to easily
compress the spring with the tool. Also notice the I.D. (inner
diameter) of the new valve seal compared to the old, big
Here is the most important tool in this
whole operation. This is the keeper remover tool and I suggest
you just order one from Carquest (or wherever) for the $40-$45
and you will be ready to go. I guess some people have made their
own but this thing worked perfect and was ready to go right out
of the package with no modification.
The silver part has a hollow end that is
magnetized. This is what you press over the valve retainers
which allow the keepers to be pulled out of the valve grooves by
the magnets on this tool. Then once the seal is changed you put
the black unit into the hollow end of the tool. This is a spring
loaded punch and it is sort of like an impact driver at this
point because the tip will depress back into the tool when you
press it down hard on a surface. When you "load" the keepers
into the retainer and press it with this tool they will just pop
back into place like magic. More on this in a bit.
In this picture you can see the keepers on
top of the valve spring retainer on top of the valve spring.
Then to the left you can see the groove in the end of the valve
that the keepers fall into and are forced into place by the
valve springs tension once properly placed back into the
Now take a look at the valve keeper removal
tool (I'll call it a punch for short). The magnetized end will
not quite fit into the casting that surrounds the valve spring.
It's just a little fat so I used a brass fitting that is from a
half inch plumbing coupler. This little round piece is just the
size to act as an extension and it's not magnetic so it wasn't
annoying. Once the tool pushes down onto the retainer the
keepers will be allowed to be pulled out by the magnets through
the brass coupler just fine, never failed once.
Since you have the compressor supplying air
to hold the valve against the valve seat the valve stem will not
move when you are pressing the spring down since you are never
pushing directly on the valve. If a valve does lose pressure it
won't just fall right down so don't worry. The escaping air will
make a lot of noise but just pull it back up and it will seal
again. When the keepers are let loose you should be able to hear
them hit the magnet and you will know that you have them
securely in the tool. Of course, grab a pair of pliers to remove
them from inside the magnetized tool and set them aside
preferable in a small cup or jar.
Here is a picture of me in position,
pushing down to pop out a pair of keepers. Pulling back your arm
and bracing for a good shove you can easily push the spring
retainer down allowing the little guys to pop out. After you do
this a couple time you should be able to pop them out really
fast. I just have the engine on a stand on top of some wood
blocks. Here I put my left hand around the other side of the
engine to hug it so it makes it easier to apply force. If I
didn't hold onto the engine it would wiggle and the slippage
would be annoying and sloppy.
Donít kid yourself, eye protection is a
must with this kind of force and little parts.
Here is where you can now finally pull out
your seals. I used some cheap pliers that come in a set of 3 for
$10. I didn't want to wait to order a special seal pulling pair
of pliers. None of the tool trucks had them with them and I
didn't want to wait a couple more days when these work pretty
good. People have said that you might scratch the valve's stem
but I didn't seem to have any problems with that. They pop out
quite easily once you get a grip on them like I show here. Just
make sure that you wipe off any crud from the valve before you
put the new seals on.
Here is a view of the punch with the keepers stuck to the
magnets. Keep a pair of needle nose pliers close to grab them
out nice and easy. DO NOT LOSE THEM. Be very careful! They don't
exactly have these at the hardware store and they can only be
ordered FROM a Lexus dealership.
Now for the placement of seals. I dab a
little oil to make them slide down easy. Then I push them down
with a Craftsman 10mm deep socket. This seemed to work perfectly
and I finished up with 2-3 short taps with a hammer to press
them into place. I used the end of a pick to gauge the gap left
under the seal. It was just a tad more space under the seal than
the width of the pick and I could use this to make sure the seal
was pressed evenly in place all the way around each once. This
left no question about how far down each seals was pressed and
it is very quick.
Now get ready to put things back together.
You might want to oil the pieces when you are putting them back
together so that they slide back together when being pressed
Place the spring and the retainer back in place and put the 2
keepers back into the retainer hole. They only go one way and
they are tapered to match the hole so that they won't fall
through easily. The spring retainer won't go down any further
until you start applying pressure. Place the punch directly in
alignment with the valve and make sure to keep it in alignment
while you are pressing down on it. If you don't press nice and
straight you run a very high risk of the keepers not falling in
at all. If you keep it straight and press nice and firmly you
will be surprised at how easy it happens.
This happens very quick and all within the
one good push that you give to the tool.
When you press the punch the tip will keep push the keepers in
the hole and they will spread around the end of the valve due to
the way that they are shaped. So once the valve spring retainer
pushes the spring and passes the notch on the valve stem, the
keepers will be forced into place around the valve by the force
of the spring inside the punch tool.
Above all just be careful because if you don't keep things in
alignment and something hangs up in this motion, be careful
while pulling the punch back. Maybe only one of the keepers fell
into place or both of them might be out of place. If you pull
back quick the spring might still have tension on it and eject
I must admit I did drop a keeper when I was
positioning it. That is your worst fear since when it falls
through the head and down the oil passage the only way to get it
back is through the oil pan. I ended up taking off the pan
looking for mine but I never found it! I was about to order a
new one over the phone but I knew it just didnít disappear into
thin air so it was my mission to find it. Long story short I
found it eventually but it hiding just out of sight inside the
top of the head. My eyes were playing tricks on me as I could
have swore I dropped it down the oil passage. The good thing
that came out of it was I got to inspect my oil pan for
contaminants and apply a new seal on it as well and I can sleep
soundly knowing I had finally found it. Here is where it was
Here is where youíre going to be looking if
you drop any tiny pieces down into that cylinder head!
So there you have it. Just keep an eye on
things as you take them apart and youíll be fine. Concentrate
and get a good rhythm going and you should be able to get all 32
valve seals changed out fairly quickly. Here are a couple more
close ups for reference.
Below is a picture of upper valve keepers
that werenít pressed on hard enough to fully seat them in the
spring retainer. If you pull back the punch and see the keepers
like this remember that they have spring tension on them and
they could slip and shoot out since they arenít seated
correctly! Pop the black part out of the punch tool and put the
removal tool right back on in position and push it to release
the keepers right out again for another try. The lower one was
pressed in just fine.
Here is a breakdown on the bench:
Once again as shown below you want to load
the keepers into the hole of the retainer and place it on top of
the valve spring. Then you want to look very closely to see if
the keepers are lined up perfectly with the valve stem. If you
look down the hole between the keepers and the stem is not
aligned very closely donít even bother. Align it perfectly and
then place the punch tip right in the middle of the keepers, hug
the engine and press it down with a good shove. The action
should be smooth and the spring will compress under the pressure
nice and smooth and you will hear the keepers fall in place with
a ďclickĒ. It will feel weird the first couple of valves but you
will pick it up quickly and after two cylinders you should be a
pro at it.
For all the first timers when putting the
camshaft back donít forget to pre-load the cam gears. Refer to
the Lexus manual for the simple process. I just hold them in a
vise and use a punch and screwdriver to leverage the gear as
shown. Then I use my second set of arms to insert a bolt which
holds the gears in place temporarily as it is installed. Make
sure to torque down the caps in the correct order as you should
gradually increase the torque as you go around the caps a couple
of times. Below you can see my crescent wrench holding the
camshaft getting ready to remove the retaining bolt that will
release the cam gears. Notice the holes and the bolt on the side
of the cam gear. Nice and easy.
Good luck and make sure and put every valve
spring and bucket back in the same hole you took them out of.
Taking pictures with a digital camera might also be a good idea
before you tear things apart to get to the valves.
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