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Toyota Sienna Maintenance and Repair (2003 earlier)



  • deg856deg856 Posts: 120
    Cliffy1's message 1526 asking Skimmel how long he's been driving took the exact same question out of my head. When I read Skimmel's message 1523 stating that "every 4 to 6 months seems frequent..." regarding oil change and asking if this oil change frequency was typical of only minivans, I actually wondered if Skimmel ever owned a car. Now, hold on, I'm not trying to be mean; that was what I really thought. On the Internet we can only form opinions of people based on the way he/she writes, and the questions he/she asks. When someone asks a question despite common knowledge without explaining why a question was asked that way, it is only natural for the readers to speculate on the reasons for the apparent lack of knowledge. I've known about the "3000 mi. or 3-month, whichever comes first" rule on oil change for all brands of vehicles ever since I started driving as a teenager in the early 80s. I learned that rule from word of mouth, and from reading car owner's manuals, auto magazines and newspaper articles on car maintenance, etc. The reasons for the 3000/3 rule has been so widely available and so well-known, I've taken it for granted that everyone else knew that too. It is hardly special knowledge. 2000 mi. in 4 months typically suggest that:

    a) The vehicle is used in short trips where it is seldom operated long enough for the oil temperature to reach normal level to burn off the water condensation in the oil;

    b) The engine goes through many cold starts where the engine experiences the most wear before oil pressure builds up.

    As far as the specific oil-change interval for your specific situation, read the owner's manual. Skimmel, you didn't even indicate what brand/model of car you have, so how do you expect anyone to know the reason that your vehicle's owner's manual recommends "oil should be changed at least every two years"? I'm guessing that you're driving a Soviet built nuclear-powered car that'll run forever without refueling, but it still needs an oil change every two years since the designer had not perfected the nuclear oil technology. Am I close?

    San Jose, CA


    Toyota has been stiffing thousands of consumers facing

    huge repair bills after sludge build-up led to engine failure

    in their relatively new Toyotas. The company has contended

    the problem is due solely to owner negligence and has

    refused to cover $5,000 engine replacements under warranty.

    Last week, while still claiming there's no design or quality

    problem, Toyota said that for the next year it will cover

    repairs for owners who can prove they changed the oil at

    least once a year.
  • alexv1nalexv1n Posts: 248
    While I don't have Toyota, I was trying to be in the loop for everything concerning minivans. And I was following the sludge problems for quite some time. While I'm not trying to judge if that's owner problem or design flaw, I have one question though. From what I've been reading, most (all?) owners with sludge either replaced oil themselves or have jiffy lube do the work. Do you know of at least several people who let the dealership change the oil and the engine still developed sludge? Just very curious.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    my 1999 sienna calls for oil change every 6000kms while my brothers 2000 sienna calls for oil change every 8000kms. i honestly dont know why toyota did that with the same exact engine. as far as i know, they are the all the same from 1998 up to 2000. i think that if toyota lowers the mileage requirement for oil/filter change, not so many people would be having this sludge problem.

    i know of 7 cars ranging from camry to avalon to sienna to lexus with the v6 engine as well as 4cyl. engine and none have this sludge problem. all (except the 2000 sienna) have 5000km. oil/filter changes. 5 of these vehicles have over 120,000kms on them with no problems at all.

    so, my own opinion is that the sludge is probably caused partly by engine design and partly due to improper maintenance by vehicle owner
  • fguofguo Posts: 2
    I used to do engine flush on my 88 Camry every 2-3 years after 100k miles. It has 210k miles now and still running. I checked my newly bought used Sienna with 45K miles, as I opened the oil cap, there's thick carbon deposit there. The engine runs fine so far. Just wonder has anyone had the experience to run engine flush on Sienna, or the flush chemical will damage the seal or clog the passage on this V6?
  • "as I opened the oil cap, there's thick carbon deposit there"

    I'm still not clear what to be looking for. Does anyone have an exact description of what we're talking about?

    I bypassed the other minivans in favor of the 2001 Sienna primarily due to the history of Toyota's reliable design. The only reason I picked Toyota was because of their reputation. I've always heard that Toyotas require minimal maintenance. With that in mind, I anticipated not having to open the hood for much of anything as long as I had the car serviced on schedule. Also, knowing that warranties get really wierd when you don't have documentation to support your maintenance, I also committed to driving 3 hours to my nearest Toyota dealership to have the work done. That's not a problem. I can live with that until the warranty has expired..

    What I didn't expect to do was have to open the hood and check the oil cap every time I rememember to make sure that my engine wasn't damaged due to "you know who" or maybe "who knows what" since Toyota hasn't posted any solutions to the problem.

    Is that what we're supposed to be doing? Checking the oil cap? I just did that and am not real clear what to look for. It looks like the drain goes to the left and directly below the oil cap is a hard surface. I can't tell if the surface is really metal or if it's some type of other material. It looks like crusty oil or a charcoal residue on the metal surface. Is that normal? Does the drain go to the left? What would be directly below the cap? Is that just overflow of burnt oil or something or do I have sludge like the others have described?

    All 3 oil changes have been made at the dealership and currently have 16,000 miles. I have another due in a week. Driving conditions would be classified as mild.

    Any information would be great since I am completely clueless what to be looking for.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    First, Toyotas are not known for requiring little maintenance. They are known for extreme reliability as long as maintenance is done. That is a major distinction.

    Next, with 16K miles and three oil changes, you have little chance of sludge, unless those oil changes went past the 4 or 6 moth interval. The crud you are looking at is sludge, but sludge in the area of the fill cap is normal. In order to find dangerous sludge, you really need to have the valve cover removed. Short of that, you may try sticking a small screw driver back under the valve cover and seeing if you can scrape anything out from under there. A dental pick works ever better.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    no, it's not about checking your oil cap.

    the carbon deposit mentioned is in the oil filler neck. when you remove your oil cap, look straight down the hole and you may or may not see this black carbon deposit there. if your van is fairly new, you may not have any deposit at all.

    it is black and if you scrape it, it looks and feels like mashed up charcoal in water. some people call this sludge, some people call it carbon deposit. i just changed my oil over the weekend and i did see this deposit and scraped it and cleaned the oil filler neck area. from what i read/understand, this is normal in cars. i've also checked other cars yesterday and i do see the same stuff present. in order to know if you have sludge or not, only sure way to find out is to remove your valve cover or you'll know when you engine stop working! unless u see puff of blue smoke from your tailpipe and you are using up oil, then you're ok.

    since this whole sludge issue started, i monitor my oil level and look for blue puff of smoke when i start up the engine. i change my oil every 5000kms. i now have over 53,000kms on the van and it runs perfect.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    i just have a question about this "pulling" problem with sienna's. mine used to be really bad, got rid of those dunlop tires and it's not as bad now. the van still pulls a tiny bit to the right or left. on freeways, it drives straight as an arrow!

    so my question is: are sienna's just sensitive to the "crown" on the road or is there something else?

    i've been to 3 dealers, 2 of them said there were complaints on sienna's about this pulling problem and the one dealer gave me the "crown" on the road story.

    thanks for any input
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    You have no idea how happy I am to answer a question NOT related to sludge.

    I have an opinion on this but first, let me give a little history. There was a batch of early production Siennas that did have a defect in the suspension that made them impossible to align without major alterations. I could be mistaken, but I think every one one of those were fixed and many were bought back by Toyota a few years ago.

    Some of the people who experienced this problem posted on the Internet about their problems. This caused concern among other Sienna owners and gave them the idea to do something that they had never done before. They drove down a seemingly level road and let go of the wheel. That is when road crown caused a drift to one side or the other. Customers mistook this for an alignment issue and some mischaracterized it as "pulling" when drifting would have been more accurate. Combine that with people who had poor alignment anyway and the myth began about pulling Siennas.

    Poor alignment is not easy to detect. There are slip pads at some dealerships, but they are known to be a bit vague. The only way to really know is to look for uneven tread wear. Unfortunately, by the time the problem shows up, it is too late. The best solution is to have your car aligned once a year in the spring after the potholes are repaired.

    I've never seen that the Siennas are more susceptible to road crown than other cars. Drive the same stretch of road at the same speed in two different cars, under similar wind and weather conditions and the drift should be about the same. Certain tires may affect this a little, as may differences in power steering systems, but the affect will be negligible.
  • deg856deg856 Posts: 120
    The logic is easy to understand - they have no way of knowing if oil changes were actually done despite the fact that the customers paid for the service. Here is an example. My aunt has long suspected that the independent mechanic she uses to service her Mercedes has been cheating her on oil change, but she is so ignorant about car maintenance she didn't even know how to check. Finally, a friend of hers checked the dipstick right after an oil change and found the oil to be extremely dirty. They went back and confronted the mechanic, who agreed to do it over. How this mechanic stays in business, and why my aunt still goes back to him, is beyond me. Are national chains better? I wouldn't count on it judging from the periodic scandals that break out in the news. I would like to think that the vast majority of service places are honest, but even if one out of a hundred places cheats their customers, there would still be a lot of cars that are not getting properly services. If you go to Sears for regular oil change and still get oil sludge in your engine, shouldn't Sears be responsible for fixing the engine since they're the one performing the service and guaranteeing the work? We know where that argument is going to get you with Sears (or with any other third party service places), but why not? Why should these third party service places earn your money for service but assume no responsibility? It's a classic Ford vs. Firestone argument, in which average consumers, individually, simply don't have enough insight to know the true guilty party. The fact of the matter is it's a lot easier to blame the car manufacturer no matter who services the car. If you go to Toyota dealers for service of your Toyota vehicles, at least there will be no argument on who's responsible if something goes wrong since it's their car and their service. No matter where you go, I still recommend checking the dipstick before and after each oil change to verify that the work is actually done. It's a small effort for your own protection.

    San Jose, CA
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    Well said.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    thanks for the insight. i can say that since i installed michelins and got rid of those dunlops - definitely better ride and the pulling or drifting or whatever people call it is pretty much gone. not completely but i can live with it. alignment was done using a laser guided alignment system and it was perfect.

    i gave my dunlops to my nephew for his caravan and i personally feel those dunlops were junk! he installed them on his caravan and about 5000kms later, they are almost bald! i havent seen tires wear out so fast.

    thanks again
  • I hope I'm not jinxing myself, but our Sienna just hit 50 K miles and we have not had any significant issues. Minor include:

    1. Some rattles
    2.distorted windshield
    3. and a right rear seat that will not come out. Dealer fixed once, but is now stuck again.

    I've always been lukewarm about the sienna, and have never cared to drive it. Its my wife's car and it functions like a basic appliance. Plain as vanilla, little personality. However, just replaced the OEM Dunlops and put premium Michelin's X-1s on it and oh my what a difference. Why weren't these the OEM tire? Better handling, better straight line stability, smoother ride, quieter ride. All of you Sienna owners do yourself a favor. No matter what your mileage get rid of thos Dunlops or Firestones. It is a totally different van and I actually enjoy driving it and throwing it into a curve. Before I was afraid it would tip over, or a tire would self destruct.

    As far as sludge, no signs. I change with the dealer every six months or 7500 miles and usually do a synthetic change myself once a year. So about three per year averaging every 3000 K miles. Our brakes are finally due for replacement, any opions or experiences with have the brakes serviced??
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    i think the reason michelins are not OEM on sienna is coz' of the price! michelins are much more expensive than dunlops. old corolla's, tercel, camry all come with michelin. nowadays, very few manufacturer use michelin as OEM.

    i definitely noticed the better ride and handling with my michelins.

    if you can service your own brakes, you'd definitely save big $$ even if you use OEM parts.
  • I'm finally ready to replace my Dunlops with a set of Michelins... but I've had a hard time narrowing down the model choices. Any ideas or suggestions would be welcome.
  • This is not related to sludge. I read your response about the tire wear/pulling on the early Seinna's. Do you know when those were manufatured? I have a 98 that the alignment has always been in spec, but it wears tires badly. I now have some BF Goodrich tires on it and they are lasting longer than any other tire I have had on the van. But they are still wearing badly. The really wear the edge of the tire towards the inside of the van, the left front worse than the right front. My van was purchased in May 98. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    It was early in the '98 model year. I don't believe there was an actual recall on them, but there was a TSB. The difference is that a recall affects all cars while a TSB is meant to cover cars with specific problems that actually manifest themselves. It is possible yours would be covered under the TSB. I'm not in the service end of things, but it may be worth while to talk to your dealer's service director.
  • I chose the X-Radial Plus or sometimes called the X-Radial One in the 215/65 size.
    Our XLE came with 215, but if you have the smaller 205 consider going up a size.
    The X-Radial is premium touring tire with an 80,000 mile treadware. The tire guys tried to talk me into a sedan or minivan tire, the Michelin Symetry. While is has an agressive tread it is a very basic tire. The X-Radial is very quiet and is designed for luxury sport sedans with modest handling requirments. The next Michelin up is the Energy which is designed for the likes of Accord EXs, BMW 3s, etc. You'll gain some additional side wall stiffness, which is overkill for a minivan, at the expense of ride quietness and comfort. I love the x-radial, I can't gloat overthem enough. It even gives the van a more solid feeling.

    Back to brakes, but never anti-locking ones. Is there any specific difficulties with doing the Sienna brakes.
  • I have a 2001 Sienna with approximately 15,000 miles. When the engine is started in the morning occasionally there is a rattle/clicking sounds to the engine at approximately 2500 to 3000 RPM. This goes away fairly quick as the engine warms. Is this unusual? Could it be related to the sludge issues I have recently heard about. Thanks in advance for any help. FYI, I have had the oil changed at about 6000 miles and due for another soon.
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