I just finished replacing the timing belt and water pump on a 1996 Rav4. I believe this is the same as the 1997. First, let me tell you that I have worked on many cars for many years and consider myself a very capable mechanic - however, this replacement was a true challenge.
The challenge was primarily due to the close proximity of the front of the engine vs. the side of the engine compartment and wheel well. I would recommend NOT attempting replacement of the timing belt or water pump, especially, on this vehicle as a DIY project unless you have a solid understanding of automotive function and repair. You will need specialty tools that are not always found in the average home garage. Air Impact tools are highly recommended for removal of the crank bolt...:
- Remove the front right tire and remove the plastic skid plates
- Remove the accessory belts from the power steering pump and alternator and remove the alternator.
- Remove the crank bolt with standard "counter-clockwise" rotation. This step, for me, required a propane torch to heat the crank bolt, which loosened the threads from the overflowing Locktite that was visible. I then used a 1/2" air impact gun with 120psi and 300 ft lbs of torque for approximately 5 minutes before the bolt came loose.
- Remove the crank pulley. You MUST use a correct puller on this step. You will risk bending and ruining the pulley if you don't. The correct puller is a harmonic balancer or crank pulley puller which allows you to thread it to the crank pulley and use a center shaft to "press" the pulley off of the crank. Do NOT use a jaw puller on this to avoid major headaches.
- Remove the front engine mount. You will need to put a floor jack under the oil pan and GENTLY hold the engine in place. DO NOT LIFT THE MOTOR... just "hold" the motor in place. From the wheel well access, remove the lower nut from the motor mount insulator bracket and then remove the 3 bolts attaching the lower bracket from the motor. Be careful when using a standard size ratchet on these 3 bolts. They are so close to the wheel well/frame that you can actually get your ratchet stuck up against the frame and you will be in a real world of crap if that happens. A buddy of mine had to use a Dremel and cut a ratchet out of an engine compartment from a Rav4 from it getting jammed. You may have to pull the lower timing cover to get the mount out after you unbolt it...
- You will need to now now remove the upper part of the engine mount from the frame/engine compartment in order to remove the upper part of the timing cover. If you have ABS on your Rav4, good luck to you. I did and It was a real pain in the a$$. It looks simple... there is one nut and one bolt on the insulator bracket, plus 3 bolts holding it to the frame. If you have ABS, the 3rd bolt is under the ABS module. The only way to get to this bolt is to remove the ABS module... or just unbolt it and "bend" it out of the way long enough to get to the bolt. If you don't have ABS, you will see the bolt with no worries.
- Remove the timing cover - upper and lower. The lower should have been removed with the removal of the mount.
- Remove the timing belt. Make sure to mark the belt on the cam and crank pulleys to ease in replacement with the new belt. I always put the motor in TDC position, but the new belt that I bought had absolutely no markings for realignment, so had I not marked the old belt for guidance, I would have had one heck of a time getting it right on the first shot
- If you are putting in a water pump during your timing belt replacement, which is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, this is where it get's fun. I also replaced the thermostat since everything had to be drained anyway... Just put a bucket under the lower rad hose, unclamp it and pull from the radiator to drain. One of the bolts of the water pump actually has the alternator adjustment bracket attached to it. Remove this bracket, then remove the remaining water pump bolts. Before putting the new pump on, make sure you remove any gasket material from the block. I use a drill with a wire brush attachment to polish and lightly score the mounting surface. When you put the new pump on, it is a good idea to use waterpump/therm housing ATV sealant on both sides of the gasket to ensure no leaks. Can you imagine going through all this crap just to have a leak? Ugh.
- Install your new timing belt and replace all the stuff you pulled off to get to it.
Clearance is a definite issue on this vehicle. If you have large hands, you will more than likely not be able to get to some of the timing cover bolts and most definitely will not be able to get to the lower bolt on the thermostat housing if changing the thermostat. Toyota did not do a very good job making this one a user friendly fixer. But it can be done - just be patient and give yourself plenty of time. :
I have just replaced the timing belt on my 99 Rav 4. It wasn't too hard, the hardest part was the three bolts holding the motor mount to the block. you can't get an air wrench on them, and can barely get a finger or two on them, not to mention a wratchet. Remember to set the timint mark on the front pulley to #1 TDC before pulling the pulley or te cover off. Then remember to sed the cam to #1. I also had a little trouble with the tensioner pulley. It's hard to get it to put enough tension on the belt before tightening it up. Otherwise the whole thing went pretty smoothly. Air tools make a huge difference.