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Toyota Avalon 2004 and earlier



  • wachsmuthwachsmuth Posts: 19
    I've been hoping to see an answer for mcescher1 concerning sludge - I also have a 2003 Avalon, and change my oil (Mobil 1) every 5,000 miles. Sure hope this prevents sludge, if that problem is not under warranty! Has anyone had a problem with this????? Thanks !!
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 591
         If you want to read Avalon history on the topic of "engine sludge" you can scroll back thru past messages on this board. There are numerous postings on the problem. Opinion varies, but the sludge situation generally seems to be old news at this point. My '99 XL was flawless and had no sludge at 92k miles when traded for an'03 XL. The dealer checked the car completely. Never used synthetic oil. But some who post here use the stuff exclusively.
         Maintain your Avalon by the book and you will likely not have a sludge issue, especially in the newer models. Enjoy your Avalons...
  • wachsmuth: By using synthetic your are less likely to have gelling (oil break-down - sludge) because synthetics can take a lot more heat before breaking down. Changing oil frequently, as you do, will most likely prevent sludge even with a good grade of regular oil. Toyota is not the only manufacturer that has had oil break-down problems.
  • fred3fred3 Posts: 10
    I'm looking to buy a new Avalon. One problem I face is that my wife has an allergy to the smell of leather seats, so I need to get cloth seats. I'd also like to get vehicle stability control on the car.

    Problem is that, despite Toyota's literature saying that cloth seats are available on both the XL and the XLS, and saying that the stability control is available is available on both the XL and the XLS, I am told that, in my region (New Jersey area), i) stability control is not available on the XL, and ii) stability control is available on the XLS only with leather seats.

    Does anyone know whether there are other regions where cloth seats and stability control are available on the same car, and, if so, what are my options for buying from a dealer in those regions and getting the car somehow sent to NJ?

  • lidolido Posts: 7
    Just wondering if anyone has had any of these things happen and/or has advice.

    1) My Avalon fairly regularly has the airbag light go on when on trips that are over an hour or so. It's not every time, but more like every other or third time.

    2) Every once in a while playing the radio or a cd the volume will dip and then come back up a few seconds later. It's not huge, but it is noticeable.

    3) Ever since I've had it it cranks a little long in my opinion when starting.

    4) Whenever the sun is pretty much overhead there is a bright reflection of it off the plastic where the black part in front of the clear display part meets and then off the windshield right in your line of sight.

    5) The other day I went to start it after work and it just wouldn't stay started. It wouldn't idle. It was like there was no gas getting to the engine and the engine sounded a little scrapey like something was holding it from going. I stepped on the gas and started it repeatedly jerking it out of the parking space and around the lot for a few minutes and then it started driving ok again.

    I took it to the dealer for items 1 - 3 while it was under warranty, but they said they couldn't find anything wrong. I'm thinking of taking a picture of the airbag lights being on and bringing that to them, but I don't know what to do about the other stuff.

  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    Welcome to the Avalon forums. I can only give you my opinion and not the gospel. Toyota often advertises things only to find out that you cannot get it in your region. They, a caring dealership, can preference order the car for you although you might have to wait awhile (3months). My brother had to do this to get a Matrix XR with air bags and ABS. Call the corp. to find out about preference ordering and a dealership that will not blow you off.

    Second, do you mean Skid control or stability control. I believe they are two different electronic mechanisms, for stabilizes the vehicles via brakes and reducing wheel spin. Which one are you referring to or both??

    Third, I have an 02 XL. I bought the XL to save the 4K difference, and added things I wanted, among them TokicoHP stuts and a set of 4 Michelin Artic Alpin snows mounted on additional wheels. I no longer have any problems with the car leaning or diving when braking nor do I have a problem with snowy conditions, all without electronic devices which can brake and have sometimes marginal capability. Try to get what you want first, but there are other ways to make it happen, that might also save you some money.

    Hope that opinion helps a little.
    Good luck.

    "Feed the forum"

  • A friend tried to get a Corolla with ABS and side air bags. Not available in region even though it could be ordered that way. The dealer tried the preference order route and also made calls to Toyota. My friend called also. No luck. Gave up after four months and bought a Honda Civic - with ABS and side air bags - right off the lot.

    As long as Toyota is selling every car they build and demand stays high, there is little incentive for Toyota to change.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    Good post. Nothing wrong with switching to the Civic, IMO, a better car than the Corolla. My brother had the same problem. Very frustrating, however, finally fought a dealership that would do it, and has placed an order in for a Matrix XR with SES and ABS. I will rewrite the forum to see when and if he gets it.

  • sanandtonsanandton Posts: 342
    Can anyone tell me the basic difference between the XL and XLS versions of the Avalon? Bought a 2000 and really don't know what the S adds or takes away from the XL.
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 591
    In short, the XLS is the luxury model, an XL with more little things to give you pleasure. Examples: auto temp control, lots of "wood grain" inside and different spoke wheels. All standard. A stripped XLS is a better buy new than a loaded XL as it has higher resale later for the same price when new. The engine and all other major parts in the cars are identical. Options change each model year and the XL continues to pick up more standard items. But the XLS always has a few things not offered on the XL. Enjoy your Avalon. Great cars...
  • sanandtonsanandton Posts: 342
    It appears that I have a stripped XLS no sunroof, no traction control, but it still is a great car. Thanks for the info.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    Don't fret buckaboo. Some of us have the XL models. We bought them for different reasons than stated above, although some of the options are very appreciated in the XLS.

    The woodgrain I believe is woodgrain applique, not real wood, plastic looking like wood, I believe. I could be wrong but from my memory had plastic wood. I believe all the XLS's came with sunroofs, so you might have a XL. Not a biggie, since the price difference for wood applique, trac control, sun roof, navigation system, wood steering wheel and 5 disc JBL changer, FOG lights, rear seat courtesy lights was around the 4K mark.

    I was not interested in those items and thought it was a high price for what I call "fufu". Some would argue differently, and that is fine. I did do a little experiment. With that 4K, I bought myself, PIAA bulbs, PIAA 1500 Fog and driving lights, TokicoHP shocks, a set of wheels and HP winter tires, an XMradio, bug/stone guard deflector, trailer Class II hitch, and some other small stuff. It came out less, not much less, but better for me.

    I do like the rain sensing wiper option on the new ones. I think that that is a worthwhile option if they don't put it in a package of worthless crap that is unuseable,and breakable.

    Resale value matters little to us. We keep autos for over 10 years on the average, with over 200K on our past two vehicles.

    Enjoy your Avalon no matter which one you have. They are comfortable and reliable and very useable vehicles.

  • fatguycarfatguycar Posts: 38
    I bought a sunroof from American Sunroofs and had it fitted on my Lexus. It was just under $1,000. Now I have an XLS Avalon, and you'd have trouble knowing which roof was standard and which was aftermarket.
  • fred3fred3 Posts: 10
    This is a follow-up to my posting last week (#2583, 3/20/04) regarding my inability to get a car with both cloth seats and vehicle stability control. Events following that posting were very surprising:

    1) First, my thanks to abfisch for suggesting I call Toyota and ask about preference orders. As in the past, when I called, they were fairly unhelpful with specific information (e.g., is my desired combination of options available anywhere? can you recommend a dealer?...), simply referring me to a dealer of my choice. However, the one useful piece of information they gave is that I needed to call a dealer and specifically speak to the cusomer relations manager and ask about doing a preference order. I did this, and the CRM said he would get back to me later that day. Later that day, a salesman from the dealer called back and said they could get what I wanted (in either an XL or an XLS) and that it would take 2-3 months. The one problem was that the price was rather high.

    2) I spoke to sales people at 2 other dealerships with whom I had been dealing, explaining the whole situation. Both of them assured me that this was not possible; that Toyota does not make cars with cloth interiors and stability control; one suggested that the only reason the dealer had said they could do a preference order was to bring me into the dealership, so they could sell me something else.

    3) While trying to figure out what to do (i.e., pay the high price for the car with stability control and wait 2-3 months, or simply buy one without stability control), I got a call from a dealer I had contacted early in my search. The salesman said he had an XL with my specificatios in stock - including cloth seats and stability control. Having been told by about 20 sales people that this combination simply didn't exist in this region, I got him to confirm this again, and, still not believing him, got him to fax over a copy of the invoice. To my surprise, it proved correct. I bought the car that day.

    I still have not figured out what happened. Was that car incorrectly delivered to this region? Were all the other dealers misinformed?...?

    The one "negative" is that the car I got has features that I don't particularly need. It came with the "Package #2", which includes "4-way power front seats, remote illuminated entry, multi-function keyless entry system with lock, unlock, trunk release, panic features, P205/65HR15 all season tires and 15" x 6" alloy wheels." I'm ignorant about these things, but I'm trying to figure out what benefit I get from the tires and alloy wheels, compared to the standard tires and wheels on the Avalon. I asked the salesman who I dealt with in buying the car, and he really didn't give any meaningful information. Is this just aesthetic, or will I get better performance from these tires and wheels?

    Thanks, again, for the earlier help I got here!
  • fatguycarfatguycar Posts: 38

    The advantage of allow wheels is that they weigh less. The specific point is that this weight is unsprung, in that when you go over a bump you get less weight for the suspension to deal with.

    In theory this leads to better handling and less noise. However, I've never seen any comparison between steel and alloy wheels in terms of performance, and I think these days it's more aesthetic than anything.

    The tires have a higher speed rating than the standard "R" rating. This probably means a different, more expensive, tire, and thus the likelihood of better grip.
  • fred3fred3 Posts: 10
    Thanks for the wheel info, fatguycar.

    My Avalon came with Continental Touring Contact AS tires. From what I seem to be reading in other places on the internet, these don't seem to be the best. "Budget tires at a budget price" was how one reviewer put it. Wet traction seems to be the most common complaint.

    Anyone have thoughts about whether I should consider replacing these tires immediately, and, if so, with what?

    Thanks, again, for all the helpful people out there.
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    Fred3, almost every middle-of-the-pack car will have corresponding middle-of-the-pack tires, and the choice of standard or aftermarket tires is inevitably a compromise. My Avalon XLS is fitted with Michelin X all-season tires that are better than the tires on several previous vehicles for wet performance -- greatly reduced reaction to pools of water, and almost no hydroplaning. However, they squeal in tight corners at speed. I value wet handling over dry, so I'm perfectly content. You may seek that extra dry grip. It's all a matter of taste.
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Perhaps something like this happened:

    1) Your dealership swapped a car with another dealership and ended up with one that was configured out of region... Did it come with high miles for a new car like 200?

    2) Someone ordered the same config you wanted, then passed on the deal and the dealership got stuck with it

    In either case, you win.

    FYI Toyota knows how to do the 'custom order thing' in Japan. They build cars to order there. You go to a dealership and 'buy' your car. They build it and usually deliver it within 4 days.

    They will do it here when the time is right and the market needs it.
  • kicker9kicker9 Posts: 57
    My 03 XLS also came with the Michelin MXV4's, an awesome tire especially on wet roads with no hydroplaning, but, not so good in the snow if you have that need. I went with Hakkapeliitta WR's in the front for this past winter, an all weather tire as opposed to all season, didn't have any of the mixed tire problems all the tire dealers try to convince you of.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    While I am glad that you do not notice any demonstrable difference in winter tires on just the front axle, I highly discourage this to this forum. I am not a tire or wheel dealer. The properties of two different sets of tires on either axle, with dissimilar properties will set it handling inconsistencies, especially in emergent situations. The small expense in, realtively, for buying winter tires for all 4 wheels, is minimal if you have the vehicle for longer than 3 years. I drive in Vermont and in Upstate New York with an 02 Avalon, fitted with 4 winter tires on steel wheels for the long winter season.

    "Feed the forum"

  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    Glad you took my advance with asking about the preference order. Your money and you should get what you want, not what "The corportation" whats to shove down your throat, regioally. What a bunch of BS. Anyway, the Package you describe, for the most part, I find rather useful. It is my opinion, not the gospel now but this is how I use it.

    I put in a remote starter with your above package. Obviously I enjoy that feature, but also in the winter time, unlocking and locking the door is faster in sub zero weather, and opeing the trunk with a full cart of groceries is easier too. Not fufu, and useful features so depends on how much they got from you.

    The wheels and tires, ahhhh. That I differ with most people, probably alot in this forum, but...this is a forum none the less. If I had things my way, the way I bought my Avalon, I would have two sets of steel wheels, one for winter and one for the good weather. Steel I said not alloy. Reasons include these. The steel are more durable, especially on rotten roads in the NE. In addition to alloys sometimes bending, they are a PITA to clean especially if the brake dust start to accumulate on the fronts. The new alloys are slotted and not spoked so this argument has less weight with the new 03 and up wheels, even though those are the same exact wheel as the Lexus 300 some years ago, only with the Toyota centercap in the middle. Good ole Toyota. They know how to cross parts the best. The tires are the 65 series, and are the basic tire, not the 60 series that comes on the XLS with the 16" wheel. Why they advertise like this, is I suppose making a big deal about nothing. Except you got the nice alloys. Yes, they are lighter, but the wheels are NOT the limiting facter in the competent but NOT NIMBLE handling of the Avalons. Rather, the small sway bars, rubber bushings, and same struts as the older Camry/Lexus 300 are the weaker link. Just trust me as I have taken apart the suspension to my car several times.

    In any event, the 65 series tires will provide a softer ride, but give up a little transient response in steering amd handling. These are NOT big increments. If you want to change the ride or handling characteristics to a car, email me separately, and I can lead you to some things that make a much bigger difference.

    I glad that my advice was well headed and hope you enjoy your Avalon for many miles to come.

    "Feed the forum"

  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    I would love your advice on the setup on my '03 Sentra, I know this is off topic. Please e-mail me at so we can talk ofline about this.
    I do actually like the Avalon and might be looking at one in MY 06. (How's that for getting back on topic?)

    The Sandman :-)
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    You two could meet up in the Nissan Sentra discussion and "feed" THAT forum!

    Abfisch is right ... posting questions and answers is what benefits all of us, and is indeed the whole point of our discussions. Taking conversations off-line is sometimes the thing to do, but in this case why not have the conversation in the discussion that is dedicated to the Sentra?

    That link will get you there.

  • kicker9kicker9 Posts: 57
    Just did the first hand wash job of the season now that winter is hopefully over and discovered what were literally hundreds of tiny rust colored specks embedded on the lower portion of my 03 WHITE diamond Avalon. After hours of hard hand rubbing with a good quality polish,I'm glad to report that they all came off, many needing my fingernail to scrape them off, there doesn't seem to be any surface pitting. I first thought acid rain may have been the culprit, but, they were located from behind the front wheels to the rear of the car and from just above the body side molding down and all over the rear end which leads me to believe that whatever the NYS Dept. of Transportation is spreading in the winter is probably the cause. I'm sure they weren't rust spots because the rear bumper covering was affected and if I'm correct, that's either fiberglass or plastic.
    If anyone else has had a similar problem I would be interested to find out if anything what you came up with.
  • petraspetras Posts: 6
    Fred3...i highly recommend yokohama avid touring tires, i had a set on my wife's van for over a year and was pleased with the ride comfort and very low noise level on all surfaces except rough concrete, i recently put them on my 98 avalon and enjoy the improved ride and low noise level, i purchased them at for under $50 ea., note: they are only "s" speed rated which is a lower speed rating than original, but it's not a factor for the type of driving i do...
  • gerry100gerry100 Posts: 100
    My '03 XL is approaching 25K miles and the ride quality that I loved when I first got it has deteriorated to the point that it feels like an old Buick. It's too bad because the engine is quiet ,the build quality is excellent and I guess the ride quality is excellent if you're driving thru St Petersburg to the early bird dinner special.

    My recent jaunt across the MassPike was six hours of steering wheel vibration,following every rut of depression in the pavement while being soothed by gentle rocking motions.

    I called my dealer from the car to ask about this. When I get too quick of an answer from a dealer service person I suspect that they've heard the question too many times and have a canned defense.Even if it is contradictory gibberish as I got in this case.

    When I asked about the ride and handling quality, he said something like " that can't be - the Avalon has the Lexus firm sport luxury ride suspension that never fails' ( I wonder if he was one of those tall fat short skinny guys).

    Mr TFSS also told me that the original Contis are good for 25-35K , but you should rotate every 5K. ( Of course where I have work done, that many rotations over 30K mile would be more than the cost of a tire, maybe two).

    I know the shock damping has detriorated and I also know that the shocks are probably not leaking and Toyota probably won't replace. I drive every car I have to its limits but don't abuse. Most of my other company cars have held up rather well.

    Toyota created value in this car by putting too big a body on the skinny legs of the Camry, and mine are getting tired.

    I'd recommend not getting this car as an over the road traveller.
  • fatguycarfatguycar Posts: 38
    >> the Avalon has the Lexus firm sport luxury ride suspension that never fails

    Really? My Lexus "failed" at around 120,000 miles. Unlike some other makes and models where the attitude is "I really must get someone to take a look at the shocks, because it seems like they might be going," inside about 1,000 miles it went from no symptoms to the feeling of no shocks whatsoever.

    Also the Avalon has a different suspension to the Lexus. It is softer and is less supportive on corners.

    It's not like any of these things are very bad (I've never had shocks last over 100,000 miles, for example) but things are definitely different from the Lexus.
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    I drive the Mass pike too in my wife's 2000 Avalon XLS.

    No problems with the ride or handling at 38k miles. We've replaced a couple of the tires but not the shocks.

    I drove it to Delaware about 5 months ago and the ride was great, handling was great, etc. etc.

    Sorry if others are experiencing otherwise.
  • warakawaraka Posts: 10
    During the extremely heavy rains we had in the middle of last week in the Boston area my new XLS, with sunroof sprang a leak.

    The drip came from the roof on the driver's side just where the plastic meets the soft felt roofing material on the front left pillar.

    On the outside it would appear that the water entered in the intersecting channel where the front windshield chrome meets the roof line. It certainly did not come from the sunroof.

    Is Toyota quality slipping or did I get a lemon?
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Defects can and do occur on almost every car. Defects occur at a lower frequency on Toyota products ( especially Lexus ) than any other manufacturer.

    But one, or even a few, defects doesn't mean Toyota quality is slipping or your car is a lemon.

    We had serveral defects with our 2000 XLS: several rattles, squeay front strut (Toyota replaced both in a blink), one of the wheel well plastic surrounds was warped (and replaced). I looked at the JDP data on the Avalon that year and figured out that only about 20 of them out of 60,000 made had this many defects.

    You must have some kind of defect in the seal at the leading edge of the windshield. Hopefully it's the only one you have.

    I just checked our Avy and noted that there's a narrow, but long strip of metal (?) that runs the length of the roof on both sides. It stops just before the windshield trim. Perhaps the water found a way in through this area.

    I'd ask that Toyota locate it (with heavy hose spray of some kind but not at high pressure washer) and repair it --- which might require a new windshield or trim piece and seal. Also, if the headliner is heavily damaged you ought to ask that they replace it too.
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