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Toyota Sienna Maintenance and Repair (2003 earlier)



  • I also have to replace the liftgate handle. I've taken interior door panels off in other cars, but not the Sienna. Where should I start?
  • 4 months ago I purchased a demo (10,000 kms)2003 Sienna to replace my '98 Mercury Villager. I'd owned a '93 Camry wagon and had been very happy with it, and as I wasn't happy with Ford's dealer service on my Villager, decided to go back to Toyota. Last week I took the van in for warranty service for several annoying but not critical problems. Most of them have been mentioned on this board already. 1)Rear brake squeal at low speeds (like at a drive-through window)The service guy told me it's a common problem with these cars, hoping I guess I'd forget it. I persisted and they've ordered a "backplate" I believe. My power driver's seat also rocks back and forth during acceleration and deceleration. The service guy said they all do it to some degree but since mine seemed worse than usual, he's ordered a new seat base for me. Also, one of the positions on my rear airconditioning switch is dead. He ordered a resister for that. I also have an intermittent high pitched rattle eminating from the right dash area. Unfortunately, they couldn't find it but said they'd look again when I bring the vehicle back. So far at least, I'm very pleased with the service I'm getting.

    The sludge problem I've been reading about here concerns me however, so I will be taking my van back to Toyota on a regular basis for oil changes. Besides, they only seem a few dollars more expensive than any of the quick-lube places out there who tend to use inferior oil filters. I'm also aware that boards like this one, while extremely helpful, often accentuate the negatives of a product (because people will go out of their way to complain)and could possibly turn prospective buyers off with an exaggerated negative perspective. If you check out any bulletin board on any vehicle, you will find enough bad press to turn you off almost anything. Funny enough, the other car I was considering before deciding on the Toyota was a Passat Wagon. I checked out a bulleting board on Passats and there were many complaints about rocking power seats. The Sienna has been praised by Lemon-Aid and Consumers Reports, and that's good enough for me.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,411
    "The sludge problem I've been reading about here concerns me however, so I will be taking my van back to Toyota on a regular basis for oil changes"
    Indeed. Problem solved.
    Sludge is an issue if the van isn't maintained correctly. If you buy it (nearly) new, don't worry about a thing. I believe these engines are more prone to sludging than, say, a GM 350 V8, but it's really not a problem for people who take care of their cars. Old cast-iron pushrod engines just stand up to abuse better.
    And I'm not even a big fan of Toyota; too boring. But, since I've got no time for "interesting" cars right now, I did put some money where my mouth is:
    1998 Sienna LE, 86k miles
    2003 Sienna CE, 7k miles
    No sludge, and 3-5k oil changes, depending. My dealer does them for <$20, but in the 20 minutes it takes me to drive there, I've done it myself... I DO keep all my receipts, though.
    Good luck, and worry about something else, like the environment or the economy (Thank you, George!),
    East Lansing, MI
  • We've got a 99 Sienna with 91,000 miles. Meticulously maintained according to the maintenance schedule with all work done by the dealer. We're beginning to see transmission fluid leaking. Was wondering if anyone who has had transmission problems saw this symptom.
  • 2 years ago I purchased my 2001 sienna and have been driving around quite uneventfully until this morning. You see after having 2 oil changes in the last 6 weeks my car was running funny again, checked the oil and lo and behold - none. I immediately took the car to Toyota where they told me I had sludge. I had heard of this before and some of the awful things that have been said could happen to the engine because of it. I bought this minivan because I have 3 children who are always in it, and I figured with it's safety record and just being a Toyota (I have had 2 other Toyotas)that my family would be safe. the dealer said that they would clean the engine, at no expense to me, but that it was not covered under warranty, which begs the question why do it?. I am half afraid to take this vehicle back as the problem has not been fixed just bandaged. I also wanted to state very strongly that this car has had oil changes every 3-5k so to say that this problem occurs only in vehicles that are not well maintained is unfair and untrue - future buyers beware this is a real problem.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Your vehicle may not have been covered under warranty, but it should have been covered under the sludge policy that Toyota started last year. It is for several models of Toyotas, including the Sienna. It is for 8 years from original purchase date and is for unlimited miles. It is to repair your engine should you develop sludge if you have provided a reasonable level of maintenance. I heard that Toyota was looking for proof of one oil change per year before fixing for sludge.

    There was extensive discussion of this issue on this site. Do a search for Toyota Sludge using the search feature of this forum and find one that is for Toyota Engine Sludge Customer Response (or similar title). BTW, you should have received a letter about this policy because Toyota said that they mailed it to 3.3 million owners with the subject engines over a year ago.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,411
    I don't understand.

    You write:
    "[..] been driving around quite uneventfully until this morning."


    "You see after having 2 oil changes in the last 6 weeks my car was running funny again."

    So it wasn't uneventful; the car had been "running funny", and a guess was that two oil changes might help.

    "[..] checked the oil and lo and behold - none."

    I'm assuming that it's being burned, not leaking out. Is that one of the symptoms of sludge? Doesn't it have to be pretty bad before it gets to the state of losing ~2 qt in a few weeks?

    "I also wanted to state very strongly that this car has had oil changes every 3-5k"

    Where do you get you oil changes done? Toyota dealership? Jiffy lube? Home? I have heard many people talk about how they changed the oil and then developed sludge, but I have NEVER seen anybody who could pony up receipts. I read posts from 2 people over the years whom I chose to believe, because of what they wrote and how they wrote it. I believe this to be exceedingly rare.

    So let me ask you this: Did you keep receipts? Could you scan them for us to see? Just so we have one case of sludge AND proper, proven maintenance? I mean no disrespect, but I would really like to see just one person with proof of maintenance.

    FWIW, I do think these engines are much more sensitive than pushrod GM V-6s, but that's just an opinion... I change at 3-5k, depending, I change the PCV every 30k, I do it myself, and I sure keep all receipts...

    '03 Sienna 7k
    '98 Sienna 86k
    no sludge.
  • I was wondering if anyone has experienced a squeak noise in the engine at start-up after the the motor has stayed off for about 5 hours?
    The van only has 2,000 miles. The dealer has replaced both belts, but the noise is still there. I wonder if it could be one or more of the idler pulleys or starter. The dealer wants to keep the van overnight and hear the noise, in order to better diagnose. The approach makes sense and is usually logical, but the noise is so short lasting that I'm not sure that the approach will help. Does anyone know of a diagnostic method for pinpointing problems with these support pulleys or starter?
  • We bought a used 2000 Sienna LE. We thought it was a good thing that it had a power door.

    After 3 months with it we are having problems. We took it to the dealer today. They gave us an $1800 estimate. Motor, cables, and computer unit need to be replaced. We have no warranty and the dealer is not willing to be responsible for fixing it at their cost.

    I am wondering what our next steps are. Has anybody had any luck taking something like this up with Toyota (maybe a district rep or something.) This problem is a known one and there have been several service bulletins on these doors. (If only I had known.)If so what are the steps for doing this request.

    Just looking for advice and experience.

    P.S. If you reference other post please include the name of the discussion. I can't seem to find some of the posts people are referencing.
  • Karen_CMKaren_CM Posts: 5,020
    You can search an individual discussion by entering key words in "Search this Discussion". That may be helpful for you.

    Community Manager If you have any questions or concerns about the Forums, send me an email,, or click on my screen name to send a personal message.

  • yamanyaman Posts: 113
    I doubt you will get anywhere.Our power window started acting up-sometimes it wouldn't close.Cost us $ 600 to fix on our 2000 XLE.No warranty coverage.
    Once the 3/35 warranty is up your on your own.Can't say that I blame them thats why they sell extended warranties.
  • neeverneever Posts: 2
    I just want to let everyone know about a product that has worked for me. It is called AutoRX and I have bought this stuff to treat my sludge problem. I do not get any money from this recommendation. I had an appointment with the dealer who told me that I needed to jump through hoops to get this fixed. So I did some research online and found this stuff and reviews at I tried it and had an oil analysis done afterward and now I am free of sludge. Based upon the test results, I am now using Schaeffers oil and adding lube control to the oil every 1,000 miles to prevent sludge and extend my oil changes. I decided to go this route instead of fighting with the dealer. About two years ago I was told I had sludge and just disregarded the mechanics words thinking he was trying to rip me off. Since then I have realized that I did indeed have sludge and did two treatments of autorx. I spent a little over $100 for these treatments and now I have peace of mind that I will drive this van another 100,000 miles (it currently has 110,000). I just want to let others know there is another alternative that may help them. If I had to do it over again, I would do an oil analysis before treatment and then one after treatment to compare the differences. I did notice while doing the autorx treatment, little black specks on the dipstick. I also found out you don't want to do a standard oil flush since big chunks can become dislodged and ruin your engine. From what I understand autorx removes the sludge slowly.
  • Just curious, what might the long affects of adding this stuff to the oil and extending the oil changes? I would be hesitant to extending the oil change periods for any reason, if my engine was prone to produce sludge.
  • Let me let you in on a little secret. If you properly maintain your vehicle, you won't have to use you magical sludge fix.

    I have three of the "problem" engines ranging from 78,000 to 132,000 miles on them without any problems.
  • I am not able to bring out the midrange control on my '03 Sienna CE van like I could with '02 Highlander and '04 Corolla by pressing the bass control knob for over 10 seconds. Is there one hidden in the Sienna?
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    I'm interested in what happened to your Sienna. Of course based on your treatemnt by some in here, I cn understand why you would not return.

    It has been well documented about Toyota "sludge" problem and Toyota has stepped up and has extended the warranty on the affected engines which your is one.

    Not sure why the shop would not cover it. I would make a call to the regional manager and have your receipts ready.

    Not to bring back a dead horse but there were many people who maintained their Toyotas regularly and still ended up with sludge. This is ultimately why toyota issued the warranty.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,411
    As far as Lisa's "treatment by some", that would be me. I respectfully asked if she'd be willing to scan her receipts for us. "No" would have been a perfectly good answer. But we haven't heard from her.

    "[..]but there were many people who maintained their Toyotas regularly and still ended up with sludge."

    I have heard many people say they changed their oil and then had sludge.
    I have seen many people challenged to provide receipts of oil changes.
    Here, or over on
    I've never seen anybody try to show their receipts. Do you want to see mine? They're all handwritten; I do my own oil changes... but for my new van I keep the store receipts. Anyway, no sludge at 87k.

    "This is ultimately why toyota issued the warranty."

    I'd say it ultimately was a marketing move, and a good one.
    But the overwhelming verdict by the professionals is, it's bogus.

    As opposed to the transmission issue. There WAS a problem, with a certain range of serial numbers, and the whole issue is understood. And there is the extended warranty.
    The sludge thing is still a mystery to me.

    I don't want to be taken as a Toyota apologist. We can all agree their bodies were terrible with rust until '92 or '93. And there was an issue for a long time with Corolla exhaust manifolds. And a number of other things, I'm sure. But this "sludge" business is just silly.

  • neeverneever Posts: 2
    Yes, if you properly maintain your Sienna engine (3,000 mile oil changes), you will not have sludge problems. But, 7,500 mile oil changes (which is what Toyota recommends for normal usage) is too long and allows the oil to "cook". These engines just get too hot for such a long duration. As far as extended oil changes, that is why I have chosen to use oil analysis to see exactly what is going on with my engine at certain intervals. No, I would not extend the oil changes if I did not get the oil analyzed. Also, I add Schaeffers oil and Lube Control to the oil every 1,000 miles which allows for the extended oil changes. It just saves me time (I change my own oil) and money.
  • gwracegwrace Posts: 1
    Owners of 2004 Toyota Sieannaa probably should check out this recall notice for the fuel tanks.

    Toyota Recalls Minivans

    Aug 15, 2003 2:51 pm US/Eastern
    WASHINGTON (AP) Toyota Motor Co. is recalling 34,437 Sienna minivans because the fuel tank is prone to damage and could cause a fire, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday.

    The recall covers minivans from the 2004 model year that were sold to the public starting in January.

    According to NHTSA, a part of the Sienna's fuel tank was damaged during severe front-end crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A fire could result if fuel leaked from the damaged tank.

    It was not immediately known whether any injuries were caused by the defect. Toyota officials weren't available for comment early Friday.

    Dealers will replace the fuel tank for free. Owners are scheduled to be notified of the recall later this month.

    So much for that "Toyota" quality...
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    You're posting this from August 15th? Perhaps you should go back 2 months and see the posts about this. The problem was detected by Toyota and a remedy found before any government action required it.
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