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Toyota Matrix Engine Questions

montreal3montreal3 Posts: 3
Hello, this is a copy of my first post which I originally made in the Toyota Matrix sub-forum, and after I noticed how quickly it was buried by the large volume of new threads, I decided to repeat it here where the waters seem much calmer and it's more likely to be seen.

If you have been a member of any of the following forums: matrixowners.com, genvibe.com, corolland.com, toyotanation.com, then you may have already been made aware of an issue that has occurred in nearly 14% of Matrix/Vibe/Corolla owners (2003 model and up) according to my unscientific polls. Naturally 14% is an unrealistic high ratio since many owners without this problem are not members of internet forums or don't always vote in every poll they read. Nevertheless, hundreds of posts in several threads have been logged and since I stumbled across the EDMONDS forum by accident, I wanted to take the opportunity to invite any of the uninitiated here to be privileged with the information posted elsewhere.

So far we are 20 owners who all share the same 1800 cc engine, be it Matrix, Vibe, or Corolla, and have exactly the same symptom. In a nutshell, a very small number of these cars came off the assembly line during all of the last 3 years with some particular engine actuator or sensor which behaves in an unusual manner so that the engine computer slowly makes changes to the fuel tables or timing over the course of several days during the cold of winter.

The net result is that the engine idle speed which in a normal car is about 1800 rpm during the second minute following a cold start, becomes 2300 rpm in cars with this issue, and only in cars with manual transmissions. Reseting the computer makes the problem go away for a few days.

The excessively high rpms is probably due to the engine software having altered on purpose the amount of fuel, air and timing being admitted to the engine. But within the engine software appears to be a built in safety routine which independently decides that 2300 rpm is too fast a speed for the predicted amount of fuel and air, and the engine gets momentarily shut off until the rpms fall back into the safe zone which is below 1500 rpm. Once the engine is turned back on before stalling, it quickly revs back up to 2300 rpm, and the whole cycle repeats over and over 10 to 30 times during the second minute. The colder the weather, the more cycles. This cycling ends when the engine enters an new phase (probably when the heated oxygen sensors begin to function) and the idle then drops to a normal speed and all is stable.

Once this event has occurred at the start of the day, the computer never lets it happen again for the rest of the day. The car must sit outdoors overnight for the problem to repeat the next morning.

What does Toyota say? As you can imagine, it has been frustrating for many of us 20 owners because by the time we get the car to the dealer, the problem has disappeared for the day. However, I was able to leave the car overnight at my dealership's outdoor parking lot, and the blessed event got recorded on the dealership's scan tool.

This scan took place in January 2005 and following two failed attempts by my dealership to fix the problem, Toyota Canada, after some prodding, acknowledged the issue is so complex that that a solution would have to come from their engineering team in Japan. I was promised that research would start in the fall of 2005 (when it would be cold again) and any updates would be communicated through my dealership. Winter 2006 came and went without any notification or responses.

I should add that many mechanics across North America who have had to deal with this issue approached the problem with varying solutions, all without success. We have examples of changing the computer, the MAF sensor, the idle air valve, the O2 sensor, and it goes on and on.

Normally when there is an engine sensor that is grossly out of calibration, the engine computer generates a CEL warning and logs an error code. But should a defective sensor or actuator be just within the level of tolerance of the computer, then no error code will be generated, but the long term adaptive antipolution strategy might nevertheless be upset enough to unwittingly increase the cold idle rpms above a safe limit. For this reason I have to blame in part the engine software for not being more intelligent in monitoring when there is an instability occuring due to a slight mechanical defect in the engine. The problem is that the computer normally communicates using the OBD-II protocol and this protocol does not include a provision for such an instability. Engine software is assumed to be bug free.

I am providing the following link to one of the forum threads I set up elsewhere. You can listen to a MP3 audio recording of the engine during its unstable state and then judge for yourself if this issue applies to you. You can also link to similar threads at other forums where a comment can be posted or a vote can be cast for the vehicle (Matrix/Vibe/Corolla) which concerns you.

link title

To hear the recording, you have to re-link to the Vibe forum where the recording is hosted.

I look forward to reading any comments posted in this thread or elsewhere.

Lastly, it surprises me that this issue has remained so invisible to organizations like the AAA and the like who would want to flag this issue as part of their reviews of second hand Matrix/Vibe/Corolla cars.

And even more surprising is that Toyota appears to be in no hurry to get to the bottom of this. I would have expected their engineers to have strapped a monitor on my car's computer so that they could gather all the data available in order to ensure that this problem is not carried into their next generation of engines.
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Comments

  • prismaprisma Posts: 4
    I've just been shown leaks in the head gasket on my Matrix - 82K miles seems too soon for these kinds of problems in a Toyota.

    Am I the only one to have this problem so early in the car's life? That's what the Toyota dealership is telling me.

    Thanks for your help.

    S
  • petlpetl Posts: 610
    You may not be the only one. However, it is rare. The 1.8 is a proven engine that has been around for a long time. It has been very reliable. I'll assume it was properly maintained. Good luck.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,411
    I'll agree that it's a rare problem.. never heard of a 1.8l doing that.

    As far as maintenance... what maintenance? It's not like gasket balm has to be applied twice a year... the only thing that legitimately makes head gaskets go bad is warping the head, usually after coolant is lost.

    -Mathias
  • petlpetl Posts: 610
    Coolant maintenance.
  • prismaprisma Posts: 4
    Thanks ya'll. Car has had maintenance on a regular basis by Toyota. Coolant has been taken care of as it should. So given these facts, thoughts? Is it possible that Toyota built a bad one?

    Sandy
  • petlpetl Posts: 610
    Anything is possible. If Toyota has maintained the vehicle, I would speak with the manager at the dealer (having receipts handy). I would politely explain the situation to him/her and ask them if they think this is normal? You can tell them that it doesn't sound like normal wear and tear (the vehicle is not old and does not have many miles on it).

    Remain cool but firm. Throw in a few compliments (Toyota has a good reputation for building quality vehicles. However, it appears that they may have messed up on this one.) If they mention that the warranty has expired, respond with the fact Toyota maintained it and it's a Toyota. That's why you purchased it, to avoid these types of problems.

    Continue with; based on the fact that Toyota has maintained the vehicle, what do you suggest? I'm hoping that you offer some assistance.

    I think you get the drift.

    If that doesn't work, take it to the next level. Don't get angry. Although it may be difficult, remain calm, cool, composed and collected. Stick to the facts. Keep at them until a satisfactory solution is acheived. It can be frustrating. Good luck.
  • prismaprisma Posts: 4
    I just got back from the dealer where they put the car up. The mechanics showed me that the leak is from the Timing Chain Cover and dripping along the side of the Head Gasket so that it would appear that the Head Gaset is the problem but it's the Timing Chain Cover.

    They say that the sealant used at the factory is the white kind and that the factory uses white to seal most of the engine but in some places uses the black sealant which is actually better. They said that they will reseal the Timing Chain cover with the black sealant. They also showed me exactly where they think the leak is using an engine sitting on a shelf.

    They washed off the area and I'll be driving it for the next several days and then we'll check again to see if that's where the leak actually starts.

    So ya'll that know the interior of the Toyota Matrix engine, does the Timing Chain Cover sit on the upper side of the Head Gasket?

    Thanks so much.
  • petlpetl Posts: 610
    Not sure about the timing chain cover, it does appear that you are dealing with a good dealership. Hope this will fix the problem.
  • hmarhmar Posts: 15
    This is an interesting conversation as I'm awaiting the delivery of my 2006 XR. Is this something I should ask my mechanic to preventitively look into doing?
  • prismaprisma Posts: 4
    Certainly can't hurt. I'd be interested in knowing what your mechanic thinks.
  • montreal3montreal3 Posts: 3
    Hello, this is my first post.

    If you have been a member of any of the following forums: matrixowners.com, genvibe.com, corolland.com, toyotanation.com, then you may have already been made aware of an issue that has occurred in nearly 14% of Matrix/Vibe/Corolla owners (2003 model and up) according to my unscientific polls. Naturally 14% is an unrealistic high ratio since many owners without this problem are not members of internet forums or don't always vote in every poll they read. Nevertheless, hundreds of posts in several threads have been logged and since I stumbled across the EDMONDS forum by accident, I wanted to take the opportunity to invite any of the uninitiated here to be privileged with the information posted elsewhere.

    So far we are 20 owners who all share the same 1800 cc engine, be it Matrix, Vibe, or Corolla, and have exactly the same symptom. In a nutshell, a very small number of these cars came off the assembly line during all of the last 3 years with some particular engine actuator or sensor which behaves in an unusual manner so that the engine computer slowly makes changes to the fuel tables or timing over the course of several days during the cold of winter.

    The net result is that the engine idle speed which in a normal car is about 1800 rpm during the second minute following a cold start, becomes 2300 rpm in cars with this issue, and only in cars with manual transmissions. Reseting the computer makes the problem go away for a few days.

    The excessively high rpms is probably due to the engine software having altered on purpose the amount of fuel, air and timing being admitted to the engine. But within the engine software appears to be a built in safety routine which independently decides that 2300 rpm is too fast a speed for the predicted amount of fuel and air, and the engine gets momentarily shut off until the rpms fall back into the safe zone which is below 1500 rpm. Once the engine is turned back on before stalling, it quickly revs back up to 2300 rpm, and the whole cycle repeats over and over 10 to 30 times during the second minute. The colder the weather, the more cycles. This cycling ends when the engine enters an new phase (probably when the heated oxygen sensors begin to function) and the idle then drops to a normal speed and all is stable.

    Once this event has occurred at the start of the day, the computer never lets it happen again for the rest of the day. The car must sit outdoors overnight for the problem to repeat the next morning.

    What does Toyota say? As you can imagine, it has been frustrating for many of us 20 owners because by the time we get the car to the dealer, the problem has disappeared for the day. However, I was able to leave the car overnight at my dealership's outdoor parking lot, and the blessed event got recorded on the dealership's scan tool.

    This scan took place in January 2005 and following two failed attempts by my dealership to fix the problem, Toyota Canada, after some prodding, acknowledged the issue is so complex that that a solution would have to come from their engineering team in Japan. I was promised that research would start in the fall of 2005 (when it would be cold again) and any updates would be communicated through my dealership. Winter 2006 came and went without any notification or responses.

    I should add that many mechanics across North America who have had to deal with this issue approached the problem with varying solutions, all without success. We have examples of changing the computer, the MAF sensor, the idle air valve, the O2 sensor, and it goes on and on.

    Normally when there is an engine sensor that is grossly out of calibration, the engine computer generates a CEL warning and logs an error code. But should a defective sensor or actuator be just within the level of tolerance of the computer, then no error code will be generated, but the long term adaptive antipolution strategy might nevertheless be upset enough to unwittingly increase the cold idle rpms above a safe limit. For this reason I have to blame in part the engine software for not being more intelligent in monitoring when there is an instability occuring due to a slight mechanical defect in the engine. The problem is that the computer normally communicates using the OBD-II protocol and this protocol does not include a provision for such an instability. Engine software is assumed to be bug free.

    I am providing the following link to one of the forum threads I set up elsewhere. You can listen to a MP3 audio recording of the engine during its unstable state and then judge for yourself if this issue applies to you. You can also link to similar threads at other forums where a comment can be posted or a vote can be cast for the vehicle (Matrix/Vibe/Corolla) which concerns you.

    link title

    To hear the recording, you have to re-link to the Vibe forum where the recording is hosted.

    I look forward to reading any comments posted in this thread or elsewhere.

    Lastly, it surprises me that this issue has remained so invisible to organizations like the AAA and the like who would want to flag this issue as part of their reviews of second hand Matrix/Vibe/Corolla cars.

    And even more surprising is that Toyota appears to be in no hurry to get to the bottom of this. I would have expected their engineers to have strapped a monitor on my car's computer so that they could gather all the data available in order to ensure that this problem is not carried into their next generation of engines.
  • petlpetl Posts: 610
    I read your original post. Unfortunately, you seem to be the only person (or one a very few) experiencing this problem. We had a 2003 Matrix 4WD XR (one of the first ones manufactured). It ran flawlessly for the 2- 1/2 years that we owned it. It was one solid vehicle. To this day I'm sorry we sold it. Although we no longer needed 2 vehicles, I miss the practicality it offered. Good luck.
  • montreal3montreal3 Posts: 3
    Thank you for posting.

    I do not remember if a 4WD Matrix has the possibility of a manual transmission or if only automatics are available. If your Matrix had an automatic transmission, then my problem would not have happened on your car. In order for the surging to occur, the motor must be completely de coupled from the transmission by either depressing the clutch or putting the manual transmission in neutral.

    Placing an automatic transmission in neutral still allows the cold torque converter to slightly load the engine enough to slow it down to the point where the rpm's are not high enough for the instability to occur.

    Yes, I am probably the only Matrix owner in this forum with this problem. As I wrote in the first post, there are 19 other identical cases logged in 5 other forums. I created a thread here in case someone logs into this site and searches using key words like "surging" or "hunting".

    I recently wrote to a journalist who publishes a weekly column in my local newspaper on automobile problems. I asked him what I should be asking Toyota in writing on the first anniversary following their written promise to investigate my issue as soon as possible. With a full year and winter having come and gone, I was wondering on behalf of the other 19 owners if Toyota was really serious about investing time and energy in searching for a solution.

    The journalist has read my e-mail letter to him but has not corresponded with me. I am hopeful he will get involved by making a suggestion and publishing any follow-ups, but if he doesn't participate, it may be because he sees my issue more as a legal problem and he might prefer that I write the same letter to the journalist who is a lawyer and writes about the legalities that affect car owners.

    I am otherwise happy with my Matrix but when I compare it to my previous Corolla wagon which gave me 8 years of problem free driving, I am a bit suspicious about the quality of Toyota cars which come off North American assembly lines versus the Japanese line that my Corolla wagon came off of. I need another 3 years to render a fair judgment.
  • My car "corolla 2003" also has the same behavior. Have you fixed the problem?

    Thanks

    Patrick
    (Montreal)
  • Besides my clutch and transmission problems there seems to be a problem with my engine idling erratically and of course has not done it when left at the garage. I was told by the mechanic that all the sounds coming from my engine are all 'normal'....this came from a guy who took me for a test drive in my car and popped the clutch at a red light and stalled it, started from second gear for the first ten minutes, scraped the bottom of my front bumper on the pavement because the incline from his shop was too steep and acknowledged a 'new' noise from my engine, couldn't tell me what it was from but said it was 'normal'....
  • badvibebadvibe Posts: 1
    My wife and I bought a used '04 Vibe in May '06. When the weather turned cold in late fall, it started doing this idle surge as the engine would start to warm up. It drives me nuts. Had I known about this issue with this car, I would not have purchased it. I suppose that's why it was sold during the warm weather.

    I have alot of trust in my mechanic who conducted a wild goose chase, only to conclude that the problem was beyond them. Reportedly, neither Toyota nor Pontiac would acknowledge any reports of such problems.

    I bought this car specifically because of the positive experiences I have had with Toyota products in the past ('04 pickup from same NUMI plant is still going strong). Although this car has a Pontiac nameplate, I feel very let down by Toyota and disinclined to give them the same unconditional faith that I have in the past. I wouldn't have expected great thing from a Pontiac product, but a Toyota?
  • dorvalpdorvalp Posts: 3
    I think they finally fix my problem... They reload a firmware of my computer's car. They did that a st-basile toyota... Near Montreal... Now it comes back to normal...

    Patrick
  • lamarcholamarcho Posts: 1
    I have the same problem with Corolla S 2003. Patrick, it's been 2 month that the reloaded the firmware, does the problem reapeared?

    Thanks very much for your help
  • dorvalpdorvalp Posts: 3
    Until now it is OK... I hope it will still OK this winter too...
  • etnpnysetnpnys Posts: 3
    Hi all. I have a 2005 XR with an auto trans. I absolutely love my Matrix - I think every family needs one of these and a truck.

    Anyway, I'm posting because although I absolutely love the car, I encountered something odd around 30k miles: a strange rattle-like sound started coming from the top of the passenger side of the motor. Now, being from a family of mechanics and having built numerous American muscle cars in the past, I knew that a knock was serious bad news. It seemed to happen most when the engine was *almost* fully warmed up, but not so much when cold or warm. It honestly sounds a little like somebody is shaking a spraypaint can under the hood.

    I took it to two different dealerships; one said they couldn't hear it (in his defense, it was a lot quieter at that particular time) and the other dealership said that the only thing they can figure is that it's the tensioner (which is around that area anyway).

    I now have over 110k miles on the car, and *I drive this thing hard* - like it was a Subaru WRX STI. The noise has not gotten any worse or any less since its inception (though sometimes it varies a little without reason) - but I have grown accustomed to using higher octane fuel in an attempt to combat the problem.

    Does this sound familiar to anybody out there? One time it was so prevalent that my father-in-law walked past his driveway and asked what was wrong with my car...

    Ideas?

    EDIT: I have done all maintenance myself - every 5k miles like clockwork. I have replaced the plugs recently and I am still using 5w-30 Castrol GTX or Valvoline at every oil change. I installed headers onto the car around 75k miles, but they didn't affect the noise at all.
  • I'm a newbie here, but couldn't find anything on this. just purchased on '08 Matrix xr, and today after about 35 mins of stop/go driving around town, I popped the hood to make sure the fluid levels were right (going back to the dealer for a few things tomorrow). when I tried to prop up the hood, the black spindle that props the hood was really really hot. facing the engine, it's on the left side of the engine bay, and it did seem all the metal I touched around that area was really hot. too hot to touch.

    is this normal?

    is there any sort of "fix" for it?

    thanks in advance for any/all help....

    tm
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,692
    It is normal for anything metal under the hood to be very hot to the touch immediately after driving around. You should be able to use the hood prop, however, but not to hang onto it for several minutes.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • I agree with moontom. I have a Matrix and do my own maintenance. Yeah, that thing can get kinda hot, but I'm only touching it for about 5 seconds at a time, and I try to focus on the little plasticky-rubber thing at the end that inserts into the hood.
  • I've had lots of toyotas and recently a mazda 3, and all would get somewhat hot, but not to the point where you pull yr hand away trying to just prop up the hood. the temp gauge seems fine so I'm not going to worry. but when it's time to work on this puppy I will find a shady spot and proceed with caution.

    thanks for the insights!
  • Check the color of the ECT sensor plastic portion. If it is black the problem is the sensor. Change to the gray sensor. The female vehicle connector will plug into either sensor even though they have different raised keyways on them. It worked for my '03 Matrix XR
  • tkerrtkerr Posts: 2
    My matrix is as gutless as the rest. (more-so with the AWD) But recently when getting into the passing lane, or climbing up a hill, the engine RPMS will start to rise, then quickly drop back 1500 RPM with the pedal fully depressed, in about 5 seconds the RPMS climb to about 5000 but the car does not pick up speed. Had it hooked to a cpu but no issues were found even when this event happens. Put in some injector cleaner, with a full tank of gas...see what happens I guess....Any suggestions??? :sick:
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Is this a manual transmission? Sounds like your clutch is mis-adjusted and starting to slip in high gear.
  • tkerrtkerr Posts: 2
    No sorry, forgot to mention its an automatic!
  • First post, tried to search but I am not really sure if this is a transmission problem or clutch, or both. If anyone has had a similiar problem any help would be appreciated before I
    get this checked out.

    Quick stats: 6-speed manual XRS, TRD intake, bought July of 2002, drive it hard but not insane.

    Today I noticed when I pressed the gas in, mostly in 6th gear, the RPMs would rev higher but then it would seemingly catch and be grabbed back down at a higher RPM and then speed the car up. The same idea as a bike chain skipping a few teeth and then eventually grabbing ahold of one and pulling the bike along as normal. It just started and I do not want to let it get bad incase the situation can be remedied and prevent any other damage to the car's motor. I see many people have been having transmission problems with theirs but I am not sure if a manual has a transmission being that I know little about cars.
  • I'm not a mechanic or a Matrix driver but am a lifelong MT guy, and what you described sounds like the clutch to me. I would have a qualified mechanic look at it soon. What is the odometer reading? Unless you are driving waaay more than average it seems pretty early for clutch failure. My current car has 148k miles on it and the original clutch is still fine and I hear that's normal for this car (not a Matrix).
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