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Toyota Sienna Maintenance and Repair (2003 earlier)



  • Bought a new Sienna on Oct, and just finished a trip to Vancouver B.C. Everything is working perfect except the rear vision from the mirror. The right side blind spot is big.(I believe all the vans and SUVs have the same problem.) This week I started to think the solution for this problem. Finally, I find the solution from the Internet.
    I bought a 12" clip-on mirror and clip it onto the original one. Wow, I got an amazing rear vision from this new mirror. I tested drive it to the highway. It reduced a lot of blind spot, and of course I was still turning my head to double check before I changed lane. I am just wonder why Toyota won't put a bigger rear view mirror for Sienna.
  • gb9gb9 Posts: 16
    Thanks jbadams and blizz for the input.

    I brought my 2000 LE to the dealer for a diagnostic on the poor gas mileage. I provided them a log of my exact figures for the last four fill-ups, along with the gas station credit card receipts:

    12.11 mpg
    13.26 mpg
    13.4 mpg
    12.71 mpg

    All diagnostics: Normal
    The word from Toyota national HQ service people was that 12 - 13 mpg is within normal ranges for around town driving.

    Is there *any* truth to this whatsoever?

    I live on Long Island (suburban-type driving). It is not a particularly congested area. Thus, we do not have the "city"-type stop and go traffic.

    From previous experience with a new car (1994 Saturn), I found that the car did not reach the EPA *lower range* for city driving until after 5 years (40,000 miles).

    Is this what I have to look forward to?

    It's not so much the money, rather, I get the unsettling feeling of trashing the Earth more than I had anticipated.
  • Try a different gas station to see if you are getting bad gas. You might be getting water when you refuel. Run your take low, then refill at a good station and put in a bottle of fuel injector cleaner. Then drive until that tank full is almost gone. Then refill and monitor your mileage with this tank of gas.

    You say all diagnostics normal which sounds like they hooked a computer up to your car. But... that won't tell you if the brakes are binding or alignment is bad or tire pressure low or bad wheel bearings or clogged air filter (well maybe it might on the air filter).
  • Bought my '00 Sienna in Sept. '00 and have over 3k miles and have been getting around 21/22 mpg. I do a lot of driving around (3 kids), not much freeway driving - maybe 30%. Not a lot of stop and go either, though.

    I was one of the "lucky" torque converter problem Siennas, which has been repaired (about a month ago) and everything is fine. Haven't noticed any rattles, but maybe I'm not as aware?

    Also haven't noticed wind noise. The fan is very loud on the 3rd setting and up, though. Overall, extremely happy with the comfort and ride.

    I'm going to take it to the dealer for all oil changes. They recommended 5000 mile intervals, which I may shorten up to 4000 just for insurance.

    Good luck!
  • We use a separating key chain which pops apart to separate the key from the key fob. Keeps the key fob in your pocket, not bouncing against the dash. The rattle comes from behind the center air vents. When you hold the dash right below the vents the rattle will stop. There are dash clips behind the dash facia which attaches the facia to the dashboard. Toyota tried to use tape and felt pads to stop the rattle. It helped but then it came back. Toyota now says they won't take the dash apart to fix the problem. The rattles are normal. All Toyota's rattle.
  • I am the "proud" owner of a 1998 Toyota Sienna which has had all the quirks of a brand new model (1998 was the Sienna's debut year). I have put up with the pulling to the left & subsequent excessive wear on the tire, the doors sticking, the power locks sticking, the engine revving while idling - & all that I could stand (even though most of it Toyota never fixed).

    However, I can't put up with the oil problem. At 30,000 miles, despite oil changes at Toyota's recomendation of every 7,500 miles (non-turbocharged, over 5 miles per trip, temperate weather) - the van started smoking. Toyota says its just steam. At 33,000 miles the oil light flashes only when I break. Toyota provides an oil change, which I am billed for. At 35,000 miles - still smoking & flashing - Toyota tells me I need a new engine as oil is leaking from the valves or rings. Never before 30,000 miles had I seen any smoke or had the oil light come on. Never before had any oil change facility said I was low on or leaking oil.

    So Toyota (Parker Toyota - Coeur D' Alene, Idaho) says it'll take 2 & 1/2 days to arrange the repair with Toyota National. I wait. Parker calls & says they need my oil change proof. I don't have receipts so I give them the name, number, & date & mileage of each change - which I get by calling all over many cities in several states. However, one facility has no computer and so no record of me going there, although I know I did. The owner tells me "Honey, we ain't got no fancy computer here, sorry bout that". Plus, my husband did 2 or 3 himself & I don't know where the receipt is - after all, we've moved several times now.

    Parker informs me that the repair won't be covered as I have failed my duty under the warranty by not having the oil changed & keeping the receipt. I am thoroughly peeved, & I get copies of all receipts but one - I even locate me receipt for the do it myself oil change. I provide these to Parker with a nasty letter. I also call Toyota National - the man on the phone acts shocked at my treatment, but simply turns the matter over to Parker. Parker calls me & says he has a solution, but it is too late to call the manager back as it is now Friday at 9 pm & he won't be back till Monday. I have a feeling that it is going to be some deal where Toyota "generously" pays a small portion of the repair & I pay the rest.

    The bad news for Toyota is that the internet exists, & consumers like us now know there is a defect! The worse news for Toyota is that I happen to be an attorney who is not afraid to stand up for consumer's rights - particularly in cases where big corporations take advantage of consumers. And that is exactly what Toyota is doing. Rather than acknowledge a defect, and rather that honor a warranty, they put the burden on the consumer to prove otherwise, & make the process so difficult & expensive that the consumer goes away & Toyota pays nothing for the repair. In addition, the dealers don't have to provide a costly repair under warranty (which doesn't pay for the dealer).

    So please - ANYONE WHO HAS HAD THIS PROBLEM - E-MAIL ME YOUR STORY, & NAME & ADDRESS& phone. I plan to file an action in Federal Court. Time is of the essence!

    Rami Amaro
  • Please read my posting & e-mail me.

    Rami Amaro (Oil & Sludge lawsuit)
  • Interesting, very interesting, "bburns965" and "ramiamaro!" Owner blame again, am I surprised?? No honoring of warranty, no surprise there either! Didn't you know that the Sienna needs "kid glove" treatment....even still, it will have problems!

    You might want to know that other Toyota models have demonstrated the sludge problem, too. Look at Camry and Avalon posts where applicable. Are the engines same/similar?

    The pulling issue is well documented in the archives of Sienna owners here. Premature tire wear and brake problems are noted as well. Sticking sliding doors are common as are leaking rear washer lines.

    As for the sludge issue, I still think the problem will just be delayed if oil is changed every 3,000 miles. The problem is a slow-developing one. Keeping the oil "new" will only decrease the immediate problems. There are *definitely* some larger issues with the engine itself. No on has satisfactorily addressed a possible head gasket issue either.

    FACT: Toyota has a major head gasket problem which resulted in a major recall on some of its models in the last five years. Head gasket problems cannot possibly be "OWNER BLAME" problems (but Toyota might think of a way to try it!).

    "Readytobuy" wanted me to defend my information as if I were on trial. If you don't mind, I'll save that for the *real* trial if needed. I think that instead, Toyota needs to PROVE beyond any doubt that this is NOT a manufacturing defect inherent to many, many Siennas, and other models (crosses year models, too).

    Pending the resolution of my own case, I would be VERY INTERESTED in linking with "bburns965" and "ramiamaro" to pursue these matters further. And, as John Paul Johns said in a U.S. battle, "I have only just begun to fight..."

    I have not had much time at all to pursue these matters publicly. However, if Toyota forces me to, so be it. Everyone has free choice. No, there is no "chicken little" issue (as indicated by one poster). There is a David and Goliath issue. The difference? This time, the automaker will be David and the consumers will be Goliath. Get enough of us together and LOOK OUT!

    I left the U.S. vehicles and turned to Honda and Toyota. I am not a previous import owner aside from my current '95 Odyssey and '99 Sienna. With my ever-increasing Sienna problems and my recently failed ABS (quote of $1400 for repair) on the Odyssey, I have NO FAITH in those automakers either.

    The situation with new vehicles is at a crisis level. Take the FORD Windstar and Explorer issues, the Chrysler minivans, the Sienna, the new Odyssey, also. GM is plagued by problems, too. We, the consumers are asked to POUR our hard-earned money into KNOWN and WIDESPREAD DEFECT repairs. IS IT FAIR???

    I like "bburns965" idea about a coalition. I think it is time to enact stronger laws to protect us. Just as Rami Amaro stated, we have the burden of proof as if WE are on trial. The dealerships ALWAYS say they have never seen the problem...I see it time and time again!

    Owners need to realize that by going quietly away (to make life easier in some cases), the automaker has ABSOLUTELY NO INCENTIVE to stop the unfair treatment. You also must put pressure on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Center for Auto Safety to protect you by investigating defect patterns. YES! It IS a hassle. But, generating the paperwork HELPS lead to action by consumer and government agencies.

    Will the automaker force you to go to extreme measures to get a resolution? Most likely. However, it would be wise for automakers to heed consumers' promises to get justice. Where there is a will there is a way.......

    (Consumers Unite: "")

    Having said all this, I am going to be optimistic that Toyota will be fair. My dealership, while initially quite frustrating to deal with, did make repairs and take steps to correct the problems. The problem? Some problems are *not resolved* despite repairs made. With a defect, oftentimes you get the "Band-Aid" treatment, only to return later with greater problems. This is NOT FAIR!!

    Don't forget to use,, and (newsgroup) to post the problems you have!

    Charlene Blake
  • Ooops! Typo. I meant to write John Paul Jones (American Revolution). ;-)
  • gb9gb9 Posts: 16
    I tried switching gas stations already in October, concentrating on major brands that get lots of business and thus frequent refills of the underground tanks. I will give one tankful of Techron a try, though.

    Regarding the dealer diagnosis: I check the tires myself at every other fillup, which rules out that factor. The service advisor pooh-poohed the idea of rubbing brakes, since there was no noise nor overheating of the pads/shoes.

    Indeed, the dealer service facility is even less inclined to do anything further because of two pieces of supporting "information" that they got from Georgetown, KY:

    1. 12 - 13 mpg is normal for around town.
    2. Gas mileage will be expected to worsen with the drop in temperature (in my area it has hardly dropped below freezing yet).

    What I really want to challenge is the contention that 12 - 13 is normal. Is there *any* support for this? The lower EPA range on the sticker (for city driving) is 15.

    I am very surprised that some other owners are getting 20 mpg around town. My results of 12 - 13 has to be indicative of some problem ? I question whether the service people did anything at all after having spoken to national HQ.
  • The sludge issue is hard to believe but I think that is because we are afraid that it will happen to us and because we cant think of an explaination. One thing is consistant, that is all owners claim almost EXACTLY the same thing. This issue SUDDENLY appears (almost overnight), with smoke out of the exhaust. Often it is taken to the dealer where they are initially told, "it is bad gas or some BS like that), then when the dealer checks it out they get accused with being neglegent. Needless to say all owners claim to having their oil changed as specified by the manuals.

    1. If the oil is being changed, what could malfunction to cause the "Sludge".
    2. What is SLUDGE?! Is it decomposed oil that is adhering to the engine pan?
    3. Are the oil levels typically low when the smoke appears?? Or are they normal.
    4. Could it be faulty oil filters?
  • Although this excerpt is in response to boat engine sludge, the following info also applies to automobile engines:

    What is engine sludge and how is it formed?

    Sludge is a thick, jelly-like substance that is detrimental to the performance and life of
    your engine. Sludge obstructs oil passages and restricts oil flow. Once built up, it reduces
    heat transfer, increases the operating temperature and hampers engine operation. Sludge
    will lead to shortened engine life.

    Although the oil appears to be at fault, it is actually the victim of mechanical and chemical attack. The
    formation of sludge is a complex interaction of components. Each factor deserves attention.


    Soot is fine powder that is a product of incomplete combustion. This carbon substance enters the
    crankcase with exhaust blow-by gases that escape past the piston rings. Since soot is a very fine
    powder, it thickens oil by a process called "soot loading." It gels the oil like a cake mix thickens milk.

    If your motor oil becomes excessively thick, there will be less oil circulated through the engine. Also,
    the oil will leave a thicker oil film on the engine parts, which prevents proper heat transfer. By
    remaining on the hot parts, the oil will burn and form deposits.

    Engine heat, a natural result of internal combustion, takes its toll on your motor oil. In the presence of
    air, oil undergoes a process called oxidation, which becomes more severe as the temperature
    increases. Oxidation thickens the oil and produces corrosive acids. Left unchecked, your oil would
    degrade into a tar-like mess. While you want your internal engine temperature above 210F to evaporate
    unwanted contaminants, above 250F the oil is more prone to oxidation. At temperatures of 300'F, this
    process occurs rapidly.

    As long as inhibitors are present, no significant oxidation will occur. However, these additives
    are consumed with time. After their depletion, oil oxidation proceeds rapidly. Regular oil changes are


    Fuel enters your crankcase with exhaust blow-by gases in unburned and partially burned forms. It is
    chemically unstable; therefore, it reacts with itself and the oil to form gums, varnishes and asphaltic
    type compounds. These resinous substances are also unstable and react further to cause even more oil

    Oil additive packages include strong detergents and corrosion inhibitors to neutralize these compounds.
    They interrupt the reaction process and allow the dispersants to surround these contaminants so they
    can be removed at the oil drain. Again, these additives eventually will be depleted. An oil change is
    necessary to get a fresh charge of detergents and corrosion inhibitors.


    When fuel burns, some products of combustion react with moisture in the system to form acids. These
    include sulfuric, hydrochloric and organic acids.

    Sulfur-based acids are undesirable because they attack the oil, reducing its detergency. Organic acids
    react with unburned fuel to promote sludge and varnish. In addition, acids can cause additive settling,
    or dropout.

    Because acids are an inevitable by-product of combustion, oils incorporate potent additives to control
    these compounds. Our motor oils contain high-alkaline detergents and corrosion inhibitors that provide
    effective acid neutralization. However, these cannot last forever. Again, regular oil changes are

    Most people associate dirt with engine wear. It can also play a role in sludge formation. Wear of piston
    rings and cylinder walls causes an increase in piston blow-by. Since the exhaust gases contain many
    harmful by-products, their presence in the crankcase should be minimized. Nonetheless, some of these
    compounds will escape past the rings.

    Oils ashless dispersant and anti-wear additive components work to fight the harmful effects of dirt
    The dispersants suspend and isolate the dirt soot and other solid particles that work their way into the
    oil. The anti-wear agents help to prevent the wear that creates the clearances that allow these gases
    to enter the crankcase. As with the other additives, an oil change is necessary to flush the unwanted
    components and restock the engine with fresh additives.

    Engine Coolant (Antifreeze)

    This is your engine oil's number one enemy. Engine sludge is inevitable when oil meets engine coolant.
    Contamination of your oil with coolant promotes sludge by two means. First, it introduces water into
    the oil. This presents problems that we've previously discussed. Second, it brings into contact oil and
    coolant that are incompatible fluids.

    As the temperatures experienced in your engine, oil and coolant react to form deposits. Some are
    gooey or gel-like. This is typical sludge. Others are hard, brittle deposits that plug oil passageways,
    reducing oil flow. These two types of deposits guarantee a shortened life for your engine.

    No oil additives available will help solve this problem. The only solution is to drain the oil and locate the
    source of contamination. Then, have the mechanical problem repaired.

    These are the enemies of your engine oil -- Soot, Heat, Fuel, Water, Acid, Dirt and Engine Coolant.
    Motor oil formulations provide the highest level of protection against these enemies.

    Inadequate Engine Maintenance

    Lack of engine maintenance is probably responsible for more sludged engines than all other categories
    combined. Establish proper oil change for your vehicle. A timely oil change is inexpensive insurance for your engine.

    A properly tuned engine is a must. Efficient, lean combustion produces fewer harmful acids, soot and
    unburned fuel than a rough running engine.

    The proper quality oil for your engine. Never use oil that is rated less than the minimum API
    Service Category specified by your auto engine manufacturer.

    Finally, the cooling system must be flushed and refilled periodically with a proper water/coolant
    mixture. This prevents engine overheating.

    These are just a few examples. There are other conditions - clogged air filter, low oil level, low coolant
    level, bad fuel, etc. that contribute to sludge.

    The formation of sludge in your engine is a disturbing problem. Often, the oil seems to be at fault.
    More often, however, oil is the victim. It is the victim of mechanical malfunctions, extended oil drains
    or a poorly tuned engine.
  • kk123kk123 Posts: 2
    Been reading these posts for several months now as I have been battling several issues with my 2000 XLE, 4500 miles. I am an engineer, have a family with kids, and is meticulous with maintenance and the operation of his vehicles...

    I would like to share with you some of the issues and remedies.

    Took delivery of the vehicle July 2000. Had engine light, torque Converter replacement soon afterwards, you know the drill........This was only the beginning:

    Noticed clicking noise while applying the brakes in reverse, (front left tire). Took it to two dealers and had factory rep. examine. He stated its " normal brake noise, all Toyota's do that"
    Bull____ ! The problem is that the brake pad floats" inside the caliper housing. When you back up, the pad wants to go forward, making a clunk or click. You will notice that if you go from reverse to drive and back again the noise continues. The tolerances or spacing that Toyota allowed for the pad to travel in the housing may differ from housing to housing. I measured the clearances from left to right front wheel and noticed the larger gap on the left, thus the sound on my particular van is only from the left side. OK , heres the fix. If the dealer wont replace the housing, ask your local brake shop to "build up" or put a spot weld on both sides of the pad and re-assemble. Make sure the pad still has some play in it and the noise disappears.

    Seats rattle:
    Front - I have no rattles, cant offer any advice
    Middle - Captains chairs: Try lifting the seat an check for and material or cables/springs touching other materials under the seats. Change positions of the seat(i.e. move forward or reverse one notch) If you have leather, take some leather softener and apply some to the seats where the leather makes contact to the plastic trim.
    Rear - Take them out and re-install, my seats were not in correctly.....

    Gas Mileage
    14-16 around town, suburban NJ
    20+ on the highway, dont expect miracles, this is a heavy, moving brick that does not cheat the wind like the Honda or Nissan...

    They su__ ! Firestone junk. Already been to the local Firestone dealer to get them pro-rated for a set of Michelins. Don't waste your time, my tires are wearing out at 4 times the normal rate. Wait until they wear out, take your warranty(the 80k mile warranty) and ask them them to give you a replacement set of another brand of tire. With all the attention and problems at Firestone, they will make good on a new set. My local tire dealer has already given me this piece of info...

    Door rattles:
    Front passenger door rattles upon closing. It sounds like a "double hit" when it hits the frame rails. Guess what. Its the crappy lower vinyl body side mouldings that are either loose or slapping aginst the door when it closes.

    This is my latest dilemma:

    Try making a slow left or right turn 20-25 mph , and accelerate out of the turn while allowing the steering wheel to come back to center. Notice a muffled thump ? The dealer is currently trying to figure this one out.

    Oh, by the way, I own a '94 Quest with 140K, never seen a mechanic, just routine maintenance. The Sienna was supposed to replace this vehicle. It runs better than the Sienna.

    I guess, I bought the wrong van....
  • Interesting, my 94 Camry has always clunked in the left front brake too - maybe you explained why. Not a problem tho after 80k miles (still have original pads!!!!!)

    Before you think the quest is great, look at crask test:
    Take a look at
    look at the "eating your kneecaps" pix on the upper right of the 4 set of pix -- Sienna pix is better.
  • jdfordjdford Posts: 10
    I hate to be cynical, but two of the local Toyotal dealers are advertising "sludge removal" engine cleaning that they recommend every 12,000 miles. Seems like another revenue stream for them and a built in excuse for damage due to sludge...."if you had paid for our recommended engine cleaning....." I have 36,000 on my '98 Sienna and have had no sign of sludge when I change my oil. I do it myself and use Mobil 1 every 7,500 miles.

    After seeing some previous posts about the camshaft sensor leaking, the lightbulb went off about why the front of the engine has a coat of grime on it. The camshaft sensor seal appeared to be the solution. Guess what the dealer said? The accumulation on that part of the engine is due to moisture and is perfectly normal. Funny, only the right half of the engine is subject to this moisture. The Toyota is the only vehicle I have had to have warranty work done on since my Nissan Pathfinder. I am on my third Acura and have NEVER seen the dealer for warranty work (knock on wood for my new MDX). All in all, I am quite satisfied with the Sienna; the dealer just does not have a great customer service attitude. They advertise that they win service excellence awards from Toyota, but I have always had to return a second time if a part was required - a huge inconvenience.
  • 1846618466 Posts: 46
    Have had our LE for 15k miles now and it's been a joy to own. No problems other than a bad passenger side power window switch. Don't be afraid of the Sienna's quality (it's great). This is one fine machine!!!
  • We have had our 2000 XLE since April. 11000 miles. The vehicle has been a pleasure to drive. 18-22 mpg. We have only had two issues. 1) The squeaky dash which seems to have gone away for now. 2) We noticed a clicking noise when engaged in a tight left hand turn. We took it in and the dealer wants to replace the left drive axle. Will update after next visit.
  • beckpbeckp Posts: 20
    I don't doubt some of the issues that Sienna owners are having and sympathize with them. I know what it's like after having owned the King of all hassles, a '87 Sterling.

    I have a '98 XLE that has only one real issue, the steering rack problem. It was graciously replaced by my dealership. I did have a battle with the interior brake pedal clicking noise. I won the battle and got it fixed right.

    I have 44,000 miles, Mobil One from day one, change oil myself every 3-5K miles, NO SLUDGE.

    Please potential Sienna owners, there are WAY more happy owners than unhappy, look at it's crash test results and think of your family. And last of all, don't spend big bucks on a vehicle and then decide to get cheap. Use good oil, good filters and change it often!
  • We purchased a 2001 Sienna XLE in November. We are taking it back to the dealersip for the 3rd time due to the check engine, VSC, and Trac Off lights all coming on after driving a few miles. So far we have have driven the van for 11 days, while the dealership has had it for 7 days. Has any one else had this problem?
  • flalemon,

    I experienced similar VSC problem you had. My 2001 Sienna XLE was purchased in October. My VSC and Trac Off lights come on often (sometimes ABS light joins in).

    I had to take the van in to the dealer few times before they can resolve the problem. My experience was that warning lights would come on when the car is cold. If I drive the car for more than 20-30mins then shut the engine off and restart the engine, lights would not come back on...

    I told the dealer about the "cold" start and they waited for the car cools down (cold weather helps) and with all warning lights on they detected (or computer detected) the "Steering Angle Sensor" was bad. It would not function when it's cold, so the computer shut the VSC system off.

    I also called Toyota customer service department and they made sure that the dealer would work with the Toyota's special service department to resolve the problem.

    No more warning lights after the Steering Angle Sensor was replaced...

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
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