Given my previous smog failures 12 with the Previa, I was left in a bit of a predicament. I had changed virtually everything I reasonably could, that was related with emissions, and the van still wasn’t passing. The only thing it was failing in was the 15mph NOx test. The maximum allowed was 1100, but it was measuring 1300. Close, but no cigar.

The only options left that I knew of included cleaning out the EGR valve or playing with the timing, neither of which I wanted to do because the engine was running fine. I also didn’t want to drop anymore money on what seemed like a never ending ordeal.

That meant it was time to get a little sly… I threw in some Fuel System Cleaner before the tank went completely empty. Then I drove the car around a good amount before the test – went on the highway for a bit and then climbed a large hill nearby to the smog place. The objective was to get the catalytic converter nice and hot, and up to operating temperature. Next, I pumped up all the tires to max pressure, and the rear drive tires were inflated to 6 psi over max. This should reduce the load on the engine during the dyno runs. Finally, it was time to bring the heat with this:

It’s a gasoline line antifreeze, but what it really is is Methyl Alcohol. I ran the tank to below 1/4 full, then poured in the bottle and took the test. The alcohol should burn cleaner and colder, and trick the sniffer.

Well, it worked. Since the previous NOx readings were fairly close, I was only hoping that all these things would be enough to push it to borderline passing. The van not only passed, but it passed by a LONG shot.

The HydroCarbon readings remained about the same as before, which were already good. The NOx readings, however, basically dropped by 1300… The 15mph test now measured a whole 22 for NOx. I don’t think that’s exactly realistic, but a pass is a pass :)

I’m going to attribute most of the success to the HEET, a secret weapon for smog. A cheap $2 bottle that’s a head ache saver.

Afterwards, I made my way over to the DMV to finally get the title transferred and registered under my name.

  • Purchased Vehicle: $1250
  • Smog Test (Failed): $31
  • Coolant Leak Diagnosis: $10
  • Coolant Pipe from Junkyard: $24 + $2 entrance fee
  • Mobil 1 Oil: $27
  • Oil Filter: $4
  • Sea Foam: $9
  • Wiper Blades: $28
  • Bosch Upstream O2 Sensor: $78
  • Bosch Downstream O2 Sensor: $50
  • AC Delco Battery: $56
  • Bumper Coating Paint: $4
  • Work for Coolant Pipe and New Belts: $180
  • NGK Iridium IX Spark Plugs: $29
  • Direct-Fit Catalytic Converter: $154
  • Magnaflow 5×8 Race Muffler: $130
  • BWD Spark Plug Wires: $49
  • Floor Mats: $16
  • Muffler Shop Work: $220
  • Fuel System Cleaner: $8
  • HEET Gas Antifreeze: $2
  • Smog Test #3 (Pass): $20
  • DMV Title Transfer Fee: $15

I think it’s finally time to tally everything up. As far as I’m concerned, the van is now back to good running condition and the maintenance work is finished. The items listed in the tally all follow such a criteria: they must be related, by some degree, to restoring the van back to full operational status.

SO, the sum total after the initial purchase price of $1250 is:


Preferably, I wanted to only allocate $2000 flat to this van, so it went about $400 over budget. I agree that some items could have been bought with cheaper alternatives, or were not entirely essential… still, I’m not complaining. I’m just glad to have a running vehicle for a Daily Driver, and one that I’m not paranoid about when I drive it places. I hope to get the money I invested into this thing back by using it as a workhorse.

4 thoughts on “Third Time’s the Charm

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