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Sulfur Smell from Toyota 4Runner

bob443bob443 Posts: 1
I recently bought a brand new 2003 Toyota 4Runner and can not believe that it is normal for my brand new SUV to smell of sulfur. I was advised that this was due to poor gas being provided in our area, however I have driven from NC to VA to OH to NY to PA and back to VA and then NC and tried different types of gas and octane levels in each state and it made no difference. I now have 5K on my SUV and the sulfur is just as bad as it was when I purchased it. Why is it that I do not smell the sulfur in other vehicles, but only mine? A friend just bought a brand new Ford Explorer and his SUV does not smell like sulfur. I have questioned the dealership about this and they are convinced that it is not the catalytic converter and that it is the quality of gas in America. Any suggestions?


  • coolpop36coolpop36 Posts: 65
    Your dealership is either full of idiots or they are trying to do one of the following - avoid fixing the problem or avoid telling you that there is no particular remedy at this time.

    Do a little research and you'll see that the new V6 engines are having this problem. The quality of gas has nothing to do with this.

    I was just about to buy a new V6 Limited, but now I'm waiting until the end of the year to get a 2004. Sorry about your problem, but hopefully Toyota will come out with a fix for it soon.
  • reddfishreddfish Posts: 54
    I had the same problem with my SR5 V8 (2003). Toyota would not and could not fix the problem. They blame the sulfur content in the gasoline in every state except CA. They have a TSB on this problem, ask your dealer for a copy.
  • sacstate1sacstate1 Posts: 189
    Only had the sulfur smell twice with 2K miles. I found running Exxon/Mobil was a culprit. My dealer service manager just bought a '03 Runner for his wife. Said he has noticed the smell when he gets on the motor. So, at least a Toyota representative admits the problem.
  • mcdawggmcdawgg Posts: 1,666
    Many new cars have the sulfur smell, not just Toyota, so the gas could be the problem.
  • tim_hooligantim_hooligan Posts: 143
    Our new 2003 Accord made that same smell. My parents new 2003 CRV made the smell. Granted, after 8000 miles the smell has about 95% vansihed.

    It's not just Toyota, I think it's the modern catalytic converter that's the culprit. If you read the forums around Edmunds for many many new cars, you will read about the same complaints.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,564
    Seem to be on Toyotas with Hondas in second place.

    I haven't read any discussions in Edmunds concerning this issue on other brands, and I tend to surf around Edmunds discussions quite a bit.

    Oddly enough, I am old enough to remember this being an issue on the first generation of automobiles equipped with catalytic converters in the 70's. I have not had a car since that has had this issue, but then I have never owned a Toyota or Honda.

    Are both these brands using some different emissions control strategies or catalysts that are different from the others?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,693
    This is sulphur dioxide you are smelling. Either it's in the fuel or you've got a problem with the car (defective catalytic or over rich fuel mixture) or you drive like a maniac. Any of those will cause this.
  • reddfishreddfish Posts: 54
    sulfur dioxide is harmful to children and older people with asthma. If it's coming thru your a/c vents, it's a health issue.
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    Many of US refineries were designed to process crude from high Sulfur oil and thus need feed stocks from garbage oil countries whose oil is cheaper than high quality feed stocks.
    The disruptions of oil from Venezuela have lead to changes.
    Plus with new low sulfur regs coming out soon the refineries have rushed to use up all the cheaper garbage oil in the world.

    The other problem is the new LEV catalyst which are more efficient but more tempermental as to gasoline quality.

    Ever wonder what the phrase sweet crude means.
  • reddfishreddfish Posts: 54
    Toyota's TSB on the sulfur says that CA is the only state that requires the lower sulfur content in gasoline. Toyota corporate says all states should be compliant by 2005. So your choices are to live with the smell if you have it, drive to California for fuel, or wait until 2005 to buy your Toyota 4runner.
  • chesterzchesterz Posts: 11
    I bought my 4Runner a few months ago, and just this past weekend detected a faint sulfur smell. I noticed it after put my foot to the floor from a standing start. (I won't apologize for doing that, I was getting ahead of a kid in a beat up Camero who had cut me off.) This is the only time I have noticed anything like that with the truck.

    I have noticed other postings about the smell, and some people detect it all of the time.

    I will continue to watch for it.
  • coranchercorancher Posts: 232
    I'm not sure it's been recommended in this thread yet, but those interested should consider searching and reviewing the main 4Runner discussion. There's a ton of smell discussion there, including the fact that many (most? all?) of the 4Runners and other recent catalyst-equipped vehicles will smell during and immediately after heavy acceleration. I, for one, posted instructions for an easy experiment to try to produce and detect the smell.

    It's apparently due to the burn-off of the sulfur deposits in the converters which primarily occurs during heavy acceleration. The V8s seem to have the problem more frequently, but the V6s and many other models & makes have it too. I wonder if the difference between the V6 and V8 models is related to the fact (if I understand it correctly) that the V6 uses 4 catalysts and the V8 uses 3? It seems like significant and/or frequent production of the smell requires a set of conditions (including fuel and engine operating regime) that most people don't get into too often. On the other hand, some folks have reported experiencing it all the time, even with the windows rolled up and with fresh air coming into the cabin. That's a real puzzler, and I haven't heard an adequate explanation.
  • jstanistjstanist Posts: 5
    I not only get a sulfur smell from my '03 v-6 but also a lot of detonation noise on acceleration does anyone get this noise as well?
  • coranchercorancher Posts: 232
    True detonation can damage an engine very quickly, and the 4Runner (and most/all modern engines) have sensors and computer software to prevent it. I haven't heard this kind of noise, and suggest you take a drive with your dealer's service manager right away to make sure you don't have a serious problem.
  • terrafirmaterrafirma Posts: 212
    I think you are talking about the rattling sound during acceleration. That is normal and because they didn't make the manifold thick enough to insulate the sound away. It's not harmful in anyway. It sounds a bit out of place because otherwise it is so refined but it's not a problem.
  • jstanistjstanist Posts: 5
    Thanks for the responses I don't think it's true detonation noise but sounds more like a rolling "D" on on acceleration. If this is normal it's to bad because your right the vehicle is otherwise very refined
  • tacovivatacoviva Posts: 116
    I've done some research in to the problem and here's what I am presenting at my Lemon Law hearing....

    I feel that the condition of the vehicle presents a real health and safety issue. To truly determine if it is I must answer the following questions. What gas is entering the vehicle compartment? How much? Is it hazardous?

    Identify the gas that’s entering the vehicle compartment.

    Answer: Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is formed when fuel containing sulfur is burned.

    How much?

    Answer: It turns out that Sulfur Dioxide has an odor threshold. What this means is that if you can smell it, the concentration can be determined. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, the instant you smell Sulfur Dioxide the concentration is known to be 3-5 ppm (parts per million).

    Ref: Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety

    What does Sulfur Dioxide do to the occupants?
    Answer: High concentrations of sulfur dioxide can result in temporary breathing impairment for asthmatic children and adults who are active outdoors.
    Short-term exposure:
    o reduced lung function
    o wheezing
    o chest tightness
    o shortness of breath
    Long-term exposure:
    o respiratory illness
    o alterations in the lungs' defenses
    o aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease
    People affected include children, the elderly, and those with cardiovascular disease or chronic lung disease.


    Is this a hazardous condition?
    Answer: Yes. According to OSHA, The STEL (Short Term Exposure Limit) is limited to 5 ppm over 15 minutes of exposure. Therefore, if the odor threshold is 3-5 ppm and the STEL is 5 ppm, then if the smell is present in the vehicle for 15 minutes of driving, then the Government standard for exposure has been exceeded. This has occurred multiple times since delivery of the vehicle.
    Ref: Safety and Health for Engineers, Roger L. Bauer, ISBN 047128632-X

    About myself, I’m employed by XXXXXXXXX in FT. Worth, Texas. While employed here I’ve dedicated a considerable amount of time as a Safety Engineer performing analyses such as this for the various programs. This data used in this analysis is readily available and well documented.

    Stephen XXXXXXXXX

    To all that need this, please use it.
  • sacstate1sacstate1 Posts: 189
    You better get the buggy and horse ready, I am not aware of a gasoline powered vehicle that does not emit emmissions. But then again, the horse would emit Methane, which is also hazardous to your health.
  • tacovivatacoviva Posts: 116
    My problem is that the emission in INSIDE the vehicle compartment (windows up and A/C on recirc) when it's sealed. You should never be able to smell emissions inside the cabin, ever.
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