Introduction: MR2 Turbo Tune-Up (3SGTE)


This is a basic guide on tuning up the engine for a 1991-1998 Toyota MR2, or any other Toyota running a 3SGTE. (That is, the 2.0 liter turbo engine). It is generally a good idea to do a tune-up as soon as you buy a car, especially if you don't know the last time the car had a tune-up. This guide is also useful if you are experiencing a loss of performance, and looking to get some power back. The first step is to acquire the basic tools needed, as well as the time to do the work. Some of these steps can be split up, so the overall tune-up can be done over a matter of days.

What you'll need:

  • Jacks Stands and Jack
  • Ratchet and Wrench Set (with Spark Plug Socket)
  • Rags
  • Oil Catch Pan
  • Oil Filter Wrench
  • Clothes you don't mind getting dirty

***Disclaimer: Working on an MR2 can be frustrating. I am not responsible for anything you break, or any swearing family members/ children may hear.***

Step 1: Getting Familiar With the 3SGTE

Things to keep in Mind

The 3SGTE has a water-cooled head and turbo, as well as a cooled
oil system. It is a 2.0 Liter 4 cylinder turbocharged engine. Keeping this in mind, there are coolant lines everywhere, which can be old and brittle. Be careful where you reach/ force your hand. Old hoses can be very easy to break, but not very easy to replace.

Other than that, be patient. Because the MR2 is mid engined, the engine bay is quite packed. Reaching places can be difficult, and sometimes can take awhile to figure out the right angle. Keep this is mind when completing any of the next steps.

Step 2: Changing the Oil

What you'll need

We'll begin with something that you should always complete whenever you buy any car. Changing the oil on the an MR2 is probably the easiest step of this tune up, and can be completed in 20 minutes or less if you've ever changed oil before. From the tools list, for this step you will need:

  • Jack and jack stands
  • Rag
  • 14mm socket(3/8), 3/8 ratchet, and a 14mm wrench
  • Type B Oil Filter Wrench (For Toyota filters) Sometimes goes by a different name, strap type or sometimes turning by hand works as well.
  • Oil Catch Pan


Begin by lifting the back of your car of the ground, and safely resting the car on jack stands. (The rear sub-frame works great, it is the wide metal bar behind the diff)

Caution: Be sure the car is safely lifted, as you will be going under the car. I am not responsible for injury if you unsafely lift your car.

Completing the Job

Now that the car is off the ground, and you can get under it you're reading to change the oil. The simple process is outlined below:

  1. Place the oil catch pan under the drain bolt of the oil pan. Break* the drain bolt loose using a wrench, then loosen in by hand, quickly pulling it out once it comes loose. Oil will begin to drain into the catch pan. (See First Image)
  2. While the oil is draining, pop the rear engine lid and locate the oil filter. It is to the right of the exhaust manifold and turbo assembly, right next to the dipstick. (See Second Image)
  3. Put an extension on your ratchet, and attach the oil filter wrench. Loosen the oil filter and pull it off quickly. Wipe up and oil that got around the engine bay with a rag.
  4. Punch the top of the oil filter and place it on the catch pan as well to allow it to drain. Punching the top allows the oil filter drain faster. The oil should be done draining from the oil pan now.
  5. Once you are sure the oil is done draining, tighten the oil drain bolt back on, to 20 ft/lbs of torque. (This is about a quarter turn after it starts to become tight if you don't have a a torque wrench)
  6. Replace the oil filter, wiping the sealing ring of the filter with oil first. Remember, you only need to hand tighten an oil filter to about a quarter turn. Be sure to use a Toyota oil filter. They are 2 dollars more expensive than the off brand but work much better. (See third Image)
  7. Remove the oil cap (located on the valve cover, under where it says Toyota), and fill with 5 quarts of 10W-30 Conventional Oil. Screw the cap back on.
  8. Check your dipstick to ensure the car has the proper amount of oil. Then start the car and look under the oil pan to ensure that no oil is leaking.
  9. You've successfully changed the oil if you see no leaks, lower your MR2 and clean up.

*Note: Break is a common term across the car community for the initial loosening of a bolt.

Step 3: Removing the Spark Plugs

What You'll Need

For this section you will need:

  1. Ratchet
  2. Extension and spark plug socket (Shown in first image)
  3. New Spark Plugs

Getting it Done

  1. Remove the ignition cables, they should slide right off (They are circled in the second image)
  2. Attach the spark plug socket to the extension (A magnetic socket is preferable)
  3. Turn counter-clockwise until you feel the spark plug come loose. Remove the ratchet from the extension and slowly pull the extension and spark plug out. (Shown in third image)
  4. Repeat x3

Step 4: Checking/Changing Spark Plugs

Inspecting the Old Plugs

Inspecting spark plugs can be useful in finding issues with your engine, and learning about the engine in a car you just bought. It can give you an idea of what else you might need to do to the motor.

I find this link especially helpful: Spark Plug Info From NGK

Putting the New Plugs In

Complete the steps from getting it done in reverse order, tightening the plugs down to 20 ft/lbs.

Caution: Be very careful not to cross thread the plugs into the head

If you are not familiar, here's information on how not to cross thread

Once you've re-attached the ignition cables, you're done!