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Port Saint Lucie, FL
Off the top of my head I would say the Protege, that being said, I'm not sure "whats harder" is the way I would phrase it. Different setup, different tools, different technique. The tensioner on the Protege is mechanical / spring loaded whereas the Tacoma ( I'm assuming it was a V6 3.4L engine ) is a hydraulic setup. Also, you have a dual overhead cam setup on the Mazda and only a single on the Toyota. All in all, if you handled the Tacoma without too much difficulty, I don't see why you couldn't pull off the Protege, although I don't recommend any DIY'ers performing any such task. Get the proper service information and read over it before making the attempt, let me know if you have any particular, slightly more specific questions about the job.
I would firstly like to know what your fuel mileage is at this point? Was this a sudden decrease in fuel mileage, or have you noticed it getting progressively worse over time? Is you check engine lamp on? Make sure to check your tire pressures, also check your fuel filter and air filter. You mention you installed a new filter but not sure which one you are referring to.
Have you actually had this diagnosed, or have simply asked for suggestions? There are numerous items that can cause this code to set, and you may sift through many ideas before actually finding the culprit. A quick check of the definition and criteria of setting this code tells me, basically, it's a code that tells you what you already know. To paraphrase the code description reveals the the ECM detects that the idle speed is not within it's expected range, and since you mention that the idle is fairly terrible, the code is almost worthless. I say almost worthless because along with the code being stored there should be information stored as to the conditions the vehicle was under during the problem event, or freeze frame data as we call it. It sounds to me like you need to find a competent automotive repair facility and have them diagnose the problem, thus ruling out all of the thoughts and ideas.
It sounds from your description as if the air conditioning compressor failed internally and seized up, causing the serpentine belt to melt due to being dragged across a pulley that wasn't moving. The end result would have been that the belt broke, but the cause may very well be a problem with your air conditioning compressor. The compressor may be covered under your warranty, and due to the high costs that will most likely come with the appropriate repair, I would recommend you look into whether or not this item is covered. All of that being said, it would be best to have a competent technician thoroughly inspect why the belt failed, and what components will be needed to rectify the situation. It is likely that if the compressor failed internally, debris has traveled to other parts of the system, requiring further parts replacement in order to guarantee the new components will last an expected lifetime.
My information system tells me that the fluid in your automatic transmission should be flushed every 60,000 miles. Typically I personally remain slightly old fashioned when it comes to transmission servicing, and recommend the service be done every 30,000 miles. I have two main reasons for more frequent fluid exchanger services. 1) It doesn't hurt to perform the service more often, the only negative is spending some extra cash. That being said, automatic transmissions are very complex units unto themselves, which is why there are so many transmission shops, almost as many as general repair shops. These units are very costly to repair and/or replace, so a little extra piece of mind is worth it, just my opinion. 2) More frequent services allow for possibly catching any upcoming problems that are just starting out. When a vehicle comes in for the servicing of the transmission, a more precise test drive devoted to putting the transmission through its paces usually takes place. Simply put, more attention is paid specifically to the automatic transmission unit above the standard fluid level and condition checking performed at your normal engine oil service interval. Hope that helps.
Chunks of metal found in the differential aren't really ever a good thing, but it may not be the end of the world either, depends on how big the chunks are and from what component they came from. If the ABS lamp is illuminated, it basically means that the control module has detected a fault and disabled the ABS braking, it will have no affect on you base brake system. On a 90 Bronco, and off the top of my head, I'm guessing this is only and RWAL ( Rear wheel anti-lock ) system. If this is the case, the most likely culprit is the differential speed sensor mounted on top of the rear differential. It should be a 2 wire sensor. These commonly fail electrically, but they can also fail due to physical damage ( like chunks of metal smacking into it ). Did you by any chance rotate the differential while you had the cover off and take not of the condition of the ABS speed sensors tone ring? If your metal chunks were coming from there, then you have most likely found the root cause of your ABS issue. Of course there are other possibilities, but I have found that the speed sensor in the rear differential is the issue most of the time. If you have any other questions just ask.
Is the check engine lamp on? I would like to think it would be, but I have seen some serious engine problems that did not illuminate the MIL ( malfunction indiactor lamp ) in the past. Checking fuel pressure is always a good idea, I personally like the clogged exhaust theory off the top of my head. From your short description, what stands out to me is that you specify 3000 rpms. Clogged, or should I say restricted exhaust systems tend to make the efficiency of the engine much worse at higher RPM's due the the amount of air trying to flow through it. I would be even more suspicious of a restricted catalytic converter if you have had any repairs made in the past or recent past for cylinder misfires. Some more details about the vehicles current state of affairs and recent repair work would help out. How many miles, typical driving conditions for the vehicle, anything helps. Also, the mass airflow ( MAF ) sensors on Ford vehicles have a very large influence on fuel control, and when they get excessively dirty can cause symptoms similar to your description, but I can't say that I have ever had one stall or get close to stalling because of a faulty or dirty MAF. The typical main concern with a MAF problem is lack of power. Good luck to you, ask more questions if you need.
Basically a P0420 stands for "catalytic converter efficiency below threshold bank 1". The engine control module, or ECM, on your vehicle tests the efficiency of the "cat" periodically, and will set this code when it fails the test. If I remember correctly, the test has to fail twice in succession before actually turning on the check engine light or CEL / MIL. The ECM is comparing the signals from the oxygen sensors in order to determine the health of the catalytic converter. I have found over many years that if this codes has been stored by the ECM, 98% of the time the catalytic converter actually has degraded. What happens next is crucial, you must determine the root cause of the catalytic converter failure. If it's simply old and worn out then fine, but you better make sure that there aren't any misfires, internal oil or coolant leaks, and things of that nature. Also, these year Subaru engines are fairly notorious for having misfires in cylinder #4 due to coolant and/or oil leaking into that cylinder by way of failed head gaskets. So it would be wise to make sure everything is sealed and in proper operating condition before replacing those expensive cats. Let me know if you have any questions.
Is that part number referring to an E.G.R. ( Exhaust gas recirculation )control solenoid?
Definitely check the cable connections at the battery. If the battery is only 1 month old, odds are it should have been charged sufficiently from the drive home to restart the vehicle, although allowing the vehicles battery to be charged by the alternator is never a good idea (this will overwork the alternator and possibly cause overheating resulting in reduced operational life of the alternator). Initially there may have been a load left on or parasitic drain somewhere else causing the initial no start, but again, after getting the vehicle up and running, the alternator should have been in good enough shape to operate the vehicles electronics normally, not under reduced power like you are describing. Please keep us informed as to your findings.