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Sulfur Smell from Toyota 4Runner

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Comments

  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    but I've only seen about a 3% success rate - I see many NCDS verdicts in the lemon law cases I review.

    The thing you have to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is a "significant impairment of use safety or value". And not just your opinion. This is an area where your opinion simply doesn't count.

    An automotive appraiser, writing a formal evaluation of the vehicle based on its engine management issues and the warranty/service history effects on value is a good start. Having the guy testify for you is much better.

    Having instrument-produced data is priceless, but be prepared for them to trot out "acceptable specifications" that your results may fall in - if so, you have no case at all.
  • Sadly, it sounds like this is a very difficult problem to remedy with legal and administrative approaches. I can understand the frustration of owners with this problem, but I'm a little puzzled why folks don't seem to be taking it into their own hands to try a more mechanical fix or two.

    I'm not talking about anything difficult or dramatic or permanent or expensive. Just a few dollars worth of plastic pipe and some duct tape or similar to divert the exhaust stream to the side a few inches. Maybe an hour invested in an experiment. This would redirect the exhaust away from the stagnant low pressure area at the rear of the vehicle. See my post #6923 "Smell experiments" in the main 4Runner discussion.

    Also, is it possible that (because of imperfect body/door fit or weatherstrip damage or bad installation) there is a gap in the rear hatch seal? A strip of plastic from a trash bag, an inch or two wide, anchored along both edges with some removable transparent tape (the low-stick version of regular "Scotch" tape) could be used to temporarily seal off the entire rear hatch. If that made a real difference, it would readily point to a fix that the dealer could make.

    I've read several things comparing the hazard levels of these sulfur compounds with the levels that humans can detect. I don't see clear agreement. In addition, modern vehicles with oxygen sensors and closed-loop engine management may not produce enough carbon monoxide to be a certain problem. So resolving these issues on the basis of danger to the occupants is difficult. An opportunity to consume a lot of time and effort, with an uncertain result. If I had the problem I'd be much more inclined to take the situation into my own hands and see what I could do. But that's just me, and I don't have the problem.

    None of this is to imply that Toyota (and the many other manufacturers that have the problem) shouldn't be doing more to clarify the cause and help with solutions.
  • I follow this forum and both of you give sound advice, thank you. I'm just a bit disappointed that, after spending 30k on a vehicle, I have to put up with this. A kia maybe, not a Toyota. I've learned my lesson. A very expensive lesson I might add, but Toyota won't get another cent from me. My passenger mirror is now loose and the RF shock is now on the fritz again (I had them replaced once already). I've owned many cars and this one takes the cake.

    Dare I say, my 90' mustang had fewer problems.

    I plan on thinking long and hard on my approach in court. Maybe they will recall it. When they do, I'll be the first in line down at the dealer where the service mgr said " I smell nothing"

    If it keeps breaking maybe I'll hit the 30 day rule. I think I have 10 already.

    Thanks to both of you for for some good sound advice.....keep it coming.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    it coincides with a "significant impairment of use, safety or value" - that is significant in the court's opinion, not yours.

    I'm sorry to bear bad news, but judges HATE lemon law suits and only tolerate the really radical ones - 4 transmissions in 15,000 miles on a 20,000 mile car. "Less significant" ones get thrown out or forced to settle.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    but is that engine E85 capable? if so, what happens if you switch to moonshine instead of gas?
  • Post 113 makes an interesting point. Toyota admits in its manual that exhaust in the cabin warrants the yellow caution treatment:

    "If you smell exhaust fumes in the vehicle, drive with the windows open and the back door and back window closed. Have the cause immediately located and corrected." (p. 239)

    Had I followed this advice, I would have taken my 2003 4Runner V8 into the dealer 52 times in the last month. Maybe this is the solution, warranty claims, free rental car every day.

    Seriously, everyone complaining to NHTSA is an important step.

    I've been through the same drill many of you have been -- Toyota saying there is no problem, trying every brand of gas available in MD/DC/VA.

    Let's keep sharing what we find out. Maybe we will come up with a solution.
  • Do not use Toyota's lemon law process unless it is mandated by law in your state. You will lose. Toyota is bound by that decision, but not you. Use the state sanctioned program and have all your records and be prepared to have them drive your car if necessary. My similar case in Florida resulted in all three arbitrators being in agreement that my vehicle was a lemon without even driving the vehicle. Toyota bought back the car for the amount I paid for it, plus interest. Don't give up, they know there is a serious problem.
  • vaughn4vaughn4 Posts: 106
    You guys must find a way to get the word out to the general buying public about this sulfur problem. This forum is a good start. Only then will Toyota take corrective action. Chances are not good that people will win their cases since the Burden of Proof is on the buyer. Toyota knows this and that's why they haven't taken any action to correct this issue - they will prevail in most instances. That's why I took my loses and dumped my Runner (I'm glad I did). I just couldn't deal with Toyota's lack of concern.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    then so is every other manufacturer - I see the rotten egg smell in 1 out of 100 of everything out there, and in my position, I see literally every manufacturer.

    The lemon law and Mag-Moss warranty act center on your vehicle being unique and substantially impaired - none of them are unique, because many vehicles do this, and it's just a smell - annoying, sickening, whatever, but it's just a smell and has absolutely no effect on the way the vehicle operates.

    When you're pursuing a lemon law case and the arbitrators find out that the vehicle runs just fine, you're sunk.

    This issue, while offensive to some and not so to others, IS NOT a Toyota issue, it's an EPA issue. Cars and trucks from every manufacturer are capable of generating this smell given the right scenario - blame the EPA, not the manufacturer.

    Then, we can blame ourselves for putting greenies in the government that legislate the automobile until it smells bad and its brake rotors warp easily (another EPA-caused recurrent problem).
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    put a skunk stripe down the center of the bloody thing, with a black tail scraping the road at the end. it annoys me no end, and that makes me have evil thoughts on how to turn it around and annoy the makers who don't clean 'em up.
  • Hey gang... been reading this post for a while now and finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. I purchased a 03 4runner V8 4wd limited and am absolutely appalled at the choking sulphur type smell that I get under moderate acceleration. I filed an official complaint at the site that was recommended. Any additional words of wisdom??????? Anyone make any headway with their dealers?
  • I recently traded in my 2000 4Runner for a 2003. I am appalled at the sulfur smell that comes into the cabin when the back window is down. I never had this problem on my 2000 4Runner. Two things are different. The tailpipe was directed to the right side on the 2000, on the 2003 it is directed to the rear. The aerodynamics must be different on the 2003 also. You can feel the wind hit you in the back of the head on the 2003, and did not on the old style. I considered the roll down window a feature on the 4Runner. It is now basically useless. I am going to file a complaint with Toyota.
  • Toyota admitted that, on the V8, the vent on the left rear of the vehicle is too close to the tail pipe and sucks exhaust gas inside the cabin. Sulfur is not the issue anymore, it's a design oversight by Toyota. Apparently they didn't test the V8 well enough.

    Look at it this way, if the EPA took all the sulfur out, the vehicle would still suck exhaust gas in to the vehicle. Toyota admitted this. NOw, the question is.....is it a dangerous level? Answer, probably not, short term. But the long term effects can't be good. After all, that's what the clean air act and other related laws are all about....the long term exposure to low level emissions.

    But then again, without data, that's just an opinion.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    and if Toyota had admitted this on a grand scale, or any consumer group had gotten a hold on this story, wouldn't we non-4Runner owners have heard about it by now?

    Sounds like grounds for a class action lawsuit, but only if someone can prove harmful levels of noxious stuff.
  • Zues, you're right we need proof. Toyota admitted this in my hearing. I still lost though. Go figure. I think that everything that was said in the hearing is admissable in court though. I wonder if the tech rep would admit to it in court. Well, there were 5 people present, so I'm sure it would come out. It's just seems like politics to me.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    proceedings, with the exception of depositions, aren't usually admitted in a regular trial.

    Trial judges typically don't allow any information in that involve settlement proceedings.

    Also, the only way the Toyota guy will testify is he's subpaoened to do so by an attorney that YOU hire.
  • This is from a guy in another Toyota forum. Call the EPA as he says below. Pressure from all sides....can't hurt

    Rotten Eggs, Hydrogen Sulfide, H2S by corollagold Aug 25, 2003 (4:25 am)
    O.K., all you Rotten Egg complainers. Listen up. I called the nationally syndicated Clark Howard radio talk show last week and discussed the problem. My call was triggered by his monologue about only some of the most elite cars needing something more than the lowest octane. He suggested that I register my complaint with the NHTSA people - www.nhtsa.gov . (Suggestion - key it in once for the ENGINE, EMISSIONS category, copy it before submitting it, then enter it again under the ENGINE, EMISSIONS, CATALYTIC CONVERTER category. That way, they will see it two ways, and can't say we didn't enter it right. Limit, 2000 characters, so be succinct.)

    Clark also suggested that I make the same complaint to www.autosafety.org which has no character limit, near as I can tell.

    Well, the second one paid off. At least they were nice enough to respond, and here's what they had to say.

    "The engine in the Corolla is running too rich. There's not enough oxygen in the fuel mixture. The sulfur in the gasoline is being reduced to H2S rather than being oxidized to SOx. Call Toyota at 800-331-4331. To get EPA's assistance in the matter, call Sheena Dupree at 202-564-9414 who works on warranty issues for them. Or you can write the head of the office at the below address.
    " Margo T. Oge, Director
    " U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    " Office of Transportation and Air Quality (6401A)
    " 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    " Washington, DC 20460

    "Tell Toyota you are contacting EPA. That will get their attention."

    He signed his name, which I'll not repeat here.

    So later today I'll get the ball rolling. And now you too have something to work with, but please, Please, PLEASE be sure to report YOUR problems to those two (now three with www.epa.gov ) organizations, too. Only if enough of us bellyache - and to the right people - will we get Toyota to fix a problem that never should be happening. FWIW, my neighbor bought an '02 Honda Civic just before I got the Corolla. Neighbor uses the cheapest unleaded gas he can find, and has ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM with rotten eggs smell from his exhaust. I bought the Corolla because I felt it was mechanically superior to the Honda. It doesn't need a timing belt replaced every xxx miles - Toyota went to a chain drive for the overhead cams, in '03, and the rest of the engine dates back several years, so the design is pretty much "proven".
  • 2003 V8 4 runner, no smell during idle in the garage or with the windows down during highway/city driving. Let's see, are all 2003 4 runner owners effected by the sulphur smell? The V8 engines are the same in all 4 runners, could the difference be in the brand gas or engine oil brand used in different parts of the USA? What type of branded gas with octane rating and engine oil brand and weight are the owners using that smell sulphur?
  • Lets not lose sight of the real problem here. If you smell sulfur, then you have exhaust gas present. Just because you don't smell the sulfur that doesn't mean exhaust gases aren't present. Toyota admitted that the tailpipe is too close to the vent on the left rear. They used to bend it slighty outboard to prevent these types of problems, but on the new design it's points aft. Borla makes a dual exhaust for the V8 4Runner. Guess what....both tailpipes are side exhaust on the right side. That should tell you something. All Toyota has to do is refit the V8's with an outboard facing exhaust tip. Problem solved.

    Again, Sulfur is an indication that emissions are present. But when you use low sulfur fuel and the smell goes away do you think that the rest of the exhaust refuses to enter the vent? I think not. It's not magic exhaust. (like the magic bullet theory)
  • tacoviva (and others), can you tell us where the rear vents are? I had only a couple of minutes to look for them this morning, but didn't see anything. I looked around in the interior and exterior near the rear hatch, but didn't see anything that looked like a location where the cabin air is supposed to leave.
  • I have a 2003 V8 Sport, I think the dealerships should also be liable because they knew of the smell, said nothing and then claim innocent. I would have not bought this truck or would have waited it out until they fixed the problem.

    letter from Toyota

    Dear Mr. Briscoe,

    Thank you for your recent correspondence.

    The smell that you are referring to is caused by the high sulphur
    content in Canadian gasoline. The smell is in fact indicative that
    your Toyota 4Runner is operating properly. This is not an uncommon
    situation with most manufacturers today.

    The sulphur contained in the fuel transforms into sulphur dioxide
    which is then transformed into sulphur trioxide by oxidation and
    accumulates on the catalyst resulting in hydrogen sulphide by
    reduction. This will generally occur when the vehicle begins to run
    rich, such as when you are stopped, climbing a steep hill, or braking
    hard to slow down. The hydrogen sulphide is expelled from the
    exhaust pipe all at once. It is the hydrogen sulphide which is
    responsible for the odour.

    This odour is particularly strong when your vehicle's catalytic
    converter is new and dissipates gradually as the vehicle gets older

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us, we hope this information
    is helpful.

    Sincerely,

    Lisa Davey
    Toyota Canada Inc.

    (Note, my truck has 14,000 miles on it, the smell is worse and the cat is certainly not new.)
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    "This is not an uncommon situation with most manufacturers today."

    Completely. That's why I can't label it a "significant impairment of use, safety or value" and why, as an appraiser with LOTS of vehicles behind me, couldn't "hit" it on value.

    Repeat after me: "Most manufacturers today"
  • I live in Canada, have tried different brand gas, our gas has different additives than in the USA.. Smell is still bad
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    you just can't argue with logic like that ;)
  • I finally got my first smell of sulfur...it was pretty slight, and after hard acceleration, but with all windows up and the system on recirc. Opening up to fresh and cracking the front windows made it clear out pretty quick. Its only happened with this particular batch of gas, so I'll see if it continues.

    What is even more interesting to me is that I mentioned it to my wife, and she said that she smells it, but that she smells it in every car she has ridden in for the past few years. She is the proverbial princess from the princess and the pea, so she should know, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

    Where is that left-rear vent?
  • I took the advice of Tacoviva (Post 138) and submitted complaints to HHTSA, AutoSafety.org and called Sheena Dupree. I will also write the EPA. I hope others will take up the cause, as Toyota will analyze this defect like others in a cost/benefit format. Toyota risks alienating devoted 4Runner owners. They need to hear our complaints loud and clear.

    As far as I am concerned emissions entering the cabin is not normal and are totally unacceptable. They enter the cabin with all the windows up, and increase in volume and intensity when the side windows or sunroof is open and gags everyone who is in the vehicle. I purchased the 2003 4Runner for recreational use and for commuting to work. The fact I have to deal with the sulfur smell/emissions entering the cabin on a daily basis is a real disappointment. I have switched to ARCO Low Sulfur Supreme with a negligible improvement and drive much of the times with the windows up at the expense of my Golden Retriever. This is not the way I like to drive nor should I be forced to drive this way, but even with all the windows up and the re circulating button activated, the sulfur smell enters the cabin.

    When I first purchased my 2003 4Runner on 11/5/02 and discovered the nasty emission smell coming into the cab on the way home, I complained to the dealership the following day. At that time I checked Edmunds discussion groups and could not find any other complaints regarding the sulfur smell, but now there is plenty of discussion. I took my vehicle in repeatedly to two dealerships and eventually complained numerous times to Toyota USA. I received all kinds of feedback from it's the gas, it's normal, drive with the windows up, it will go away in a few weeks to a year. Toyota USA did respond and a regional tech inspected the emissions on two occasions. The findings each were normal, but during the second inspection the Toyota Regional Tech turned on the re-circulating button. After reading these posts I beieve he knew the vent port was potentially contributing to emissions entering the cabin. In almost a year since purchasing the 4Runner Toyota has failed to not only remedy the problem, but to address the health concerns posed by myself regarding emissions/sulfur coming into the cab.

    I truly hope a recall occurs.

    Bill
  • 4rnr4rnr Posts: 25
    Has anyone thought of cruising around with a portable carbon monoxide detector to check if CO is present in the passenger compartment?
  • According to Toyota, the suspect vent is lcated somewhere on the left rear of the vehicle and it is resposible for this condition. If the sulfur is taken out of the gas, you'll still have emissions. However, in a written statement from NCDS and Toyota, this is an acceptable condition. I just got back from travel, but intend on getting some analysis done on the air quality. I think Toyota needs to hire reps with at least basic knowledge of their vehicle. Pathetic.
  • 4rnr4rnr Posts: 25
    I talked to the Toyota service manager about the location of the vents he said that they were on both sides under the bumper up near the tailights unfortunately I still couldn't find them so I will ask to see a photo to pinpoint the exact location. What was very strange during my 2 day test drive was when it was sunny I could smell the odor on slight acceleration but the next day it was raining and I had the defroster on and the recirc. light off meaning I had fresh air flowing in and couldn't detect the smell even once. Anyone out there experience this same phenomenon? Also do you think that the power tailgate not cinching tight enough could play a role in letting in the emissions?
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