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Well, I clearly got mis-info from the Toyota "help line". I DID question if the O2 replacement made sense, and so did my mechanic. But, we were both willing to try it, as it is less invasive and cheaper than the Knock sensor. But, obviously, it was stupid.
Now, the question is: what knock sensor? I have searched the parts lists on the web, and there appear to be THREE different replacement Knock sensors for 1996 Toyota Avalons. Two of the parts IM lines were unable to identify which, and referred me to "my" Toyota dealer.
My experience with three local dealers early-on was poor, so for years I have avoided them with both Avalons, doing all maintenance with mechanics with whom you can talk, interact and pay less agressive prices. I may have to suck up and go Toyota now, I guess.