Autocross started off as usual: check the MR2's oil & tire pressures, and go. I’ve done the proper maintenance, so this’ll run just fine, I thought. Little did I know how wrong I was.

See, driving a Toyota product is typically a trouble-free situation. Well-engineered and overbuilt, these cars run for hundreds of thousands of miles with just routine maintenance. This confidence, however, can lead to overconfidence.

See, autocross is straightforward. Get around the cones in the parking lot, preferably fast, and repeat. When my MR2 began to overheat after that totally sick drift in the video above, I was quite surprised.

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This car’s never overheated, ever! What’s wrong??

See, this is where that “Toyota Reliability” got me. My own pre-autocross checklist included checking the oil levels and tire pressure, but not coolant. Having never dealt with overheating issues, I’d never thought to check.

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Had I checked the cooling system pre-autocross, I’d have seen this:

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Uh-oh.

Is that rust, or is that oil, I wondered. The latter would indicate a blown head gasket. Not cool.

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After a flatbed trip to my local indie mechanic (luckily only a few miles from the autocross venue) I was relieved to find out that it was, in fact, rust. Not oil.

Phew.

One coolant flush later, and a new rust-free radiator cap, and the car runs properly again. Counting myself extremely lucky that the damage wasn’t severe, I reflected on how easily I could have avoided this laughable situation.

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Lesson of the story? Being aware of our assumptions, i.e. it’s never overheated so it never will, and doing the maintenance anyway, can save us from a lot of headaches when those assumptions break down. Taking the Toyota’s reliability for granted is a great way to make it unreliable.

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There’s probably some kind of metaphor in there that applies to life in general, but I’ll leave that up to all y’all to interpret.

Drive safe out there, everyone!