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Toyota Avalon 2004 and earlier



  • finfin atlantaPosts: 591
    Never bought one for either of my two Avalons but here are some thoughts:

    Most consumer mags cite the extended warranty as a total waste of money. The "wrap" idea is similar. And the better the car nameplate with a lower repair frequency, the worse deal the warranty becomes. It really comes down to what BWIA has posted above. What is your tolerance for risk?

    The prices quoted for repair work are stunning.. and probably accurate. Ouch. But with an Avalon, what are the chances of a major part failing? A transmission at 100k? Not hardly. A headlight? Maybe, but not too likely.

    The timing belt, however, is a known repair. If the timing belt is covered, for $50 deductable, that returns over $100 right there. The deal now looks a little better, given the unknowns, especially if you can cut the price.

    So...back to square one. What is your tolerance for risk? (Important: make sure WHO is behind the warranty and the places for repair work if needed! As posted by mcclearyfl above.)

    Enjoy your Avalon...
  • resdoresdo Posts: 2
    My new 2004 Avalon wanders around the road, I may get used to it but I feel like I can't look away from the road for fear I'll be off the road in a spit second. The car feels like it's going to tip over on curves, is hard to brake down, it nose dives with hard emergency brakes. I'm really disappointed with this, would a tire change help? The tires seem too small for the size and weight of the car. Pluses are rain and snow traction. It's great on a trip, very quiet and comfortable. I've read through the various tips on tires, shocks, etc. I'm wondering why the handling problem escaped almost all of the reviews I read before buying the car?
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Posts: 668
    Resdo, what are you using for comparison with your 04 Avalon?

    Don't have an 04, but my 96 does well on curves and doesn't dive too much with hard braking. The brakes work fine too, but feel soft compared to my other cars. However, the 66k on the front brakes may be the reason for the feel.

    See the posts about changing shocks. Sounds like all you need is more shock. A little more tire may give more grip, but a lower profile may take away some of the long trip comfort too.
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    Yes, fndlyfmrflyr asks the right question -- "compared to what?". Many cars use a high +ve caster adjustment on the front wheels to address "drift". More positive caster provides improved stability and self-centering in a vehicle's steering, but it also makes the steering heavy, especially at low speeds. My Saab, for instance, feels very heavy, almost cumbersome, but tracks very straight.

    I actually enjoy the lighter feel of the Avalon's steering, while recognizing that more driver input is required to avoid heading for the bushes. I also enjoy the very linear feel of the steering; exactly the same amount of effort is required to change direction whether it is just a slight movement from dead ahead or whether you are cranking the steering wheel to parallel park.

    Abfisch has posted extensively on the needed strut upgrades. The ONLY complaint I have about my 2003 XLS is the wallowing suspension, and I intend to follow abfisch's suggestions when my factory struts finally give out.
  • gerry100gerry100 Posts: 100
    McCleary is right. Wandering is caused by the "under engineered' shocks. Poor when new, mine are now "jello" at 30k miles.

    Failure is defined by Toyota as " leaking", and that hasn't happened yet, but the shocks have definitely softened considerably.

    I may have to upgrade Toyotas engineering at my own expenses.
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Our 2000 XLS has 40K on the original shocks.

    We did a family drive in February from New England to Cleveland and back over a long weekend, with four adults and a very full trunk. Handling was great, drive was easy, no dive problems. Steering is finger tip easy.

    A later trip to the NYC area under similar cicumstances was equally pleasant.
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    Footie writes

    <<with four adults and a very full trunk, handling was great>>

    The impact of poor shocks (struts) is less evident on a fully-loaded car, since inertia and spring compression assume a larger role in the handling of the car, particularly in freeway driving. Those of us who drive trucks will vouch that the unladen ride can be bouncy and hard, but mellows with a load.

    I doubt whether the same pleasure would have been experienced on one of our Kentucky winding highways, even if the original Toyota struts were still in new condition!
  • jluther2jluther2 Posts: 18
    Gerry: Suprised no one responded to your inquiry.
    I was sitting back waiting - also considering the update.

  • jluther2jluther2 Posts: 18
    I has read about the VSC and that was about it until early one morning last week.

    Was going to work on an exceptionally heavy raining morning. Without a doubt I was going WAY too fast approx 65 MPH when suddenly I hit a puddle and felt the care start to just take off. Bluish/green light on dash bliked on & the car immediately straightend itself out. It was so quick i'm not sure if the light on the dash indicating VSC was blue or green.
    Don't think I would ever consider another car without the Vechicle Skid Control.
    Hopefully you guys/gals never experience the problem.
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    Abfisch has stated that the struts cost about $400 (I have confirmed this), and that labor will run about $300 (this I have not checked). His total is thus + or - $700. This is for struts alone - he has also done a number of bushing changes.
  • resdoresdo Posts: 2
    Thanks for all the input, I suspect some of the respondees with older cars are driving a different car. The "stretched Cameron" frame, I suspect will change next year for 2005. Didn't the initial series of this car start in 2002? Maybe not. I will keep the shocks in mind when the time comes because I drive my cars into the ground and then donate them, hence many years of buying Japanese engineered cars. [Nissans and Toyotas] An engineer relative says it's the tires, and my comparison is a 96 Maxima which has identical tires. I knew I wasn't buying a sports car feel and overall, I love the car. Thanks for the responses.
  • georgeb7georgeb7 Posts: 35
    My brother-in-law owns an auto repair shop. He tells me that the prices paid by customers for dealer repairs are approximately double what you should pay. Some dealers in the area contract with his shop to do the repairs and charge the customer double. Most people take their cars to dealers because they are afraid of voiding the warranty. If your warranty has expired, there is no reason to take the car to a dealer. They rip you off, period.

    What I am saying is that the prices quoted for repairs are real, but unnecessary if you take your car to a reputable repair shop.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    Reading above boards, all great real issues. Nose diving problems, secure but NOT NIMBLE handling, are all described by CR test JAN 03 issue. We have good cars just not perfect cars. No one does. Tokico stuts made a major difference in handling and braking. Energy suspension sway bar bushing made a notable difference, but not quite as dramatic in cornering ability. TokicoHP shocks change the ride quality some for the better and some for the worse. In city driving and bad roads, they tansmit more vibration and abrupt dampening. In highway driving, they are a dream with much better control, less float, better braking, while still retaining an old fashioned comfort level. Sway bar busing (Polyurethane instead of rubber) transmit a little more vibration but not a notable difference in ride qualtiy, at least to my 45 year old back.

    NOTE: With these two modifications, you will achieve notably better handling making chaning tire sizes a trivial point. Plus one or plus two tire sizing I am not big on, especially if this is a 4 season car. Getting a better, sport tire than the crap Toyota puts on is all I would do once you need to replace them.

    NOTICE: I will be putting Energy suspension bushing, on the lower front suspension arms this Friday. They consist of two separate bushings. I will comment, subjectively, on their change both positive and negative. I do more interstate and highway driving than city/suburban.

    I also have placed "speed bleeders" on the brakes to ease in changing the fluid after 3 years with predictably good results from their ease of use.

    Hope this helps.

    "Feed the fourm"

  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Posts: 668
    Abfisch (and others) - What brand and model tire do you recommend for standard rim Avalons?

    Just about ready for new tires on my 96. I know the new Avalons have bigger rims standard, but I'd like to keep the quiet and nice ride. At little better stick would be nice too, but quiet and ride are most important. My 96 came with Dunlop SP 4000 tires. Skinny looking, but they are quiet, ride well, stop well and handle okay too. They seem to last about 35k and don't cost much, but I have had three fail (replaced under tire warranty) so in a sense, with the purchase of just two tires, I will be able to get about 75 to 80k out of OE the set.

    Anyone know how the Bridgestone RE 950s are on Avalons? I see posts about the Avid H4s and there seems to be an opinion mix about these.
  • nomad56nomad56 Posts: 134
    fndlyfmrflyr-I am on SP4000's right now, and I'm NOT happy with them. They are fine for my more mature driving moments, but simply do not elevate themselves to more demanding input. I am about to put tires on my Avy, this week. I swore I would go back to Yoko AVS db's. It's a quieter performance oriented tire, with a little less tread life. I loved them. I have not hesitated to recommend them here several times. The only glitch is Goodrich Traction T/A VR's. I drove on these at the track and they were great. This was in a friends tricked out IS300. He promises they will meet Yoko's drive and their warranty is much better. If he comes through on pricing, I'll try these. Though this is the formula that left me on the Dunlops... I guess if they aren't what I'm looking for, there's always eBay. I'll let everyone know -nomad56- PS-I'm in SoCal so snow traction is NOT a consideration.
  • fndlyfmrflyrfndlyfmrflyr Posts: 668
    Thanks nomad56. I don't care for the SP4000 tires either. They were OE and I agree they are fine for long freeway drives. In SoCal too and haven't driven on snow in over 25 years. Doesn't even rain much around here. The plus I find with the Dunlops is they stayed quiet as they wore. The more handling oriented tires on my other cars have become noisy as they wear and I'd like to keep the Avalon quiet.
  • nomad56nomad56 Posts: 134
    fndly-my buddy's coming through on the Traction T/A's. They have a 60k mile warranty! For this, rotating/balance, etc... will not be a prob... as I am a maintenance nut. He's promising a consistant tire, but he works for them???? My advice for ANY tire you choose, is to maintain rotations/balance/pressure, which MOST people do NOT do. Performance tires (read "softer" compounds) are more vulnerable to any variations, which is why many users often write them off as poor tread life. Over the next two weeks, I will put 4k miles on the T/A's I'll have some feedback. -nomad56-
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    A few postings ago, Umpire wrote

    >> The dealer offered me a Certified "Wrap" plan to extend the bumper-to-bumper warranty to 6 years/ 100,000 miles. The plan he offered was priced at $927. He said each service would have a $50 deductible. >>

    Umpire already had a Certified car with the 100K powertrain warranty

    My dealer has offered a Toyota Company extended bumper-to-bumper warranty on my 1-year old Avalon XLS. In this offer good for the month of June, the full warranty is extended from 36 months to 6 years or 100,000 miles. The cost is $730 with NO deductible, and is valid at any Toyota dealer,. (The no-deductible is very interesting; deductibles are usually put in place to discourage service visits that have no real basis).

    Given the extraordinary costs of some repairs, I intend to avail myself of this protection for the equivalent of less than $250 per year. Having paid for the extended coverage I will also be motivated to keep the car for a bit!
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    I agree with you both but with some additional IMO info. It is very hard to compare tires on the same car with the same suspesion calibrations. To get info from a dealer is an Rx for capitalism. I like CR (Consumer Reports) for these types of comparisions as they use the same car (I think last time they had a Honda Accord and a BMW 5 series). I think or was that the Plus one, two , three tires comparisons. I can't freaking remember anymore. I do remember that I am NOT interested at all, in ULTRA PERFORMANCE tires, as they do not meet my criteria for longevity, ride comfort, and price. That said, out of all the Performance (H and V) rated tires they ran, the Bridgestone 950 and the Falken ZX 520?? were obviously superior in most if not all catergories. I am also not interested in snow or ice as I change wheels and tires for winter driving in upstate NY, diff. than NOMAD56 but same result. I do put a small bias towards handling but not at an apprciable loss in ride comfort, similar to you. My susenpsion modifications give me all the handling I could want from a interstate and rural cruiser so keeping it the same series is a bonus, not a deterent. Suspension geometry far surpases anything a single superior grade tire could possibly do.

    Unless CR comes out with another report, I would use that last report as an OBJECTIVE, relatively free from bias guide. The decision matrix that they use is not totally objective but the categories in handling, dry and wet traction braking, noise, and comfort and critical for evaluation.

    I will probably get either the Falken ZIEX 520 or the Bridgestone 950, depending on the deal of the month. Either one would be far superior than what you have as OEM, so either way you will be ahead. There was another Bridgestone in the same category that got a good review but it wan't as sporty and neared the $100 mark/tire.

    Let us know what you get and how they wear and share it with the forum. Everybody benefits that way. Also, if you go onto other tire websites, you can see the customer's comments on the tires they bought on a car similar to your own. Any car that approximates the Avy, I don't know, Crown Vic, Nissan Maxima, Camry, any of they with moderate V6 engines, front drive, middle weight, etc. will give you an idea of the customer's thoughts.

    Good luck.

    "Feed the forum"

  • gerry100gerry100 Posts: 100
    Thanks everybody for the feedback on the struts.

    I did find a distibutor for the TokicoHPs an dthe cost looks about right at $700 installed. (including alignment).

    One question though - Distibutors listing is only up to 2002MY. I assume that they will fit '03 cars as there were no significant mechanical changes? Comments?

    My 2 cts on these plus size tires, perforamnce tires etc.

    - doubtful you will ever notice the difference. Mass, suspension etc mean that you'll never put performance tires at the limit in the Avalon. All you'll get are tires that wear out faster and get noisier as they do. I replaced the original equipment disposables on mine with Goodyear Aquatreds - long wear, quiet and all the grip I can use.

    - The Avalon will never be sports car, no matter what you add on. With proper struts, it can be a rock solid, reliable, comfortable cruiser at a very low cost per mile. It will never be a handling car- but it will handle well for what it is.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    I put mine on a 02 Avalon many moons ago. To double check, call Tokico in CA or go on the website. Often, the distributors do not have the current years updated. There should not be a problem as the struts haven't changed, although the strut mounts on top have been reengineered cause they made noise. Very nice Toyota.

    If these stuts once you get them installed COMPETENTLY and aligned are not enough, you can pretty easily change just the F and R sway bar bushing that hold the sway bar to the chassis. The front ones are a bit.. to get on but if you have the right tools and some patience they fit perfectly. Use liberally, the grease provided with PU bushings as they will creak/Squeak otherwise. The Rear are easier to access although they have a harder time closing down. Again, a racket wrench is best. Use liberal grease and if you run out, USE BLUE MARINE GREASE which is hydrophilic. They use this for marine trailer bearing. You will notice the car is completely neutral in corners now. A little bit of vibration or resonance over certain bumps creeps in but it is easy to get used to and the neutral handling more than makes up for it. Otherwise, it is the same big, safe, quiet, effecient car it was when you bought it. Energy suspension makes the PU bushing for it. NOT THE Lower suspension arm bushings, just the sway bar ones. The Arm bushing are another matter, needing a press to get them out.

    If you want to be very meticulous, I sprayed the struts with heavy duty undercoating, first covering with newspaper and masking tape the piston completely and serial numbers so as not to damage the strut and in case it ever failed(guareenteed as long as YOU own the vehicle)you would have the number. I got these instructions directly by calling Tokico after explaining that I lived in the Northeast and do alot of cold weather driving and wanted to undercoat the struts without harming there funciton.

    In reference to your comments about the Avy being a sports car, you are probably correct, although the underpinnings although a bit dated, as a true independent 4 strut suspension with front and rear sway bars. This componentry, if better parts are used, will make this vehicle ride, handle, and behave much more nimble and sporty, to almost equal in ride quality and stability my best friends BMW 525i. Besides his manual gearbox, and the cheapness of some of the metal Toyota uses versus BMW, below 80MPH, there is not that much of a diff. anymore in the two, with room and comfort to the Avalon, especially for long higway type of hauling around. I was following a VW Jetta VR6 very early this AM, across a highway, with moderate traffic. I stayed with him awhile at speeds b/w 75-85MPH but I dropped back as the traffic go too heavy. I am getting old and more conservative, maybe a little smarter. I shouldn't have been late in the first place. It seems that those TokicoHP's get better the faster you go, as they control more than stiffen. Very secure yet comfortable ride in that vehicle. Complete confidence going at those speeds, when applicable. I don't recommend it all the time nor in excess of posted limits.

    "Feed the forum"

  • gerry100gerry100 Posts: 100
    Response from TokicoUSA is that the '02 strutswill not fit an '03. Probably the top strut mount change that Abfisch mentioned.

    How about Monroe Sensormatics, any one have any experience with these? My tire shop quoted me $740.
  • bwiabwia Boston Posts: 1,907
    I purchased a set of Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus XSE tires at Sears today but I am not sure if I got a good deal. With tax, balancing, valve and disposal fees, I paid $554.66 for the set.

    Here is what happened. I wanted to buy a set of OEM 205/60R/16 H-rated MXV4 tires at $130 each. The sales guy said he only had two H-rated tires in stock but he could give me a free upgrade to the $153 V-rated MXV4 Plus XSE for the same price of $130 and I took the offer.

    As far as I understand it the V-rated is a high performance tire but warranted for only 25,000 miles. To me there has been no difference in handling or road noise and I am wondering if I really got a better deal by buying the XSE? Can anyone explain the differences between an H and a V rated tire and which is the better choice for the Avalon?

    The promotional material said that the XSE is superior under wet conditions and in snow. Since I live in Boston that is good to know but in the meantime I am having buyers' remorse.
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    Tire rating letters are a definition of the maximum sustained speed under lab conditions that a tire can maintain without failing. They range from A to Z with Z being for super fast exotics. Unfortunately "H" is not in alphabetic sequence -- it comes just before "V".

    H= 130 mph
    V= 130 - approx 140 mph

    Most drivers never hit sustained speeds in excess of 80 mph, and many owners replace their original Z, etc., tires with much lower lettered ones. There is usually a significant cash saving for only small changes in handling ability.

    A "V" tire will have a slightly different structure to enable it to run cooler. Also the tire wall will be slighty stiffer than the sidewall in an "H" tire. This will result in a firmer and less forgiving ride using a "V" tire, but less tendency to squeal in corners. I would be happy with a "V" tire over an "H".

    Going to a higher letter such as "Y" or "Z" will do little for the Avalon. The restricting factor on Avalon performance is strut design, not tires.
  • mcclearyflmcclearyfl Posts: 149
    In the above post I failed to address one of your concerns -- behavior in snow. Higher speed tires tend to have a chemical composition and a tread pattern that are totally unsuited for snow. To a lesser extent this is true for H versus V tires.

    Abfisch advocates seasonal switching to a winter wheel/tire combination. I agree. Summer tires just won't cut it in the snow.
  • bwiabwia Boston Posts: 1,907
    Thanks mcclearyfl for your informed and detailed explanations on the various tire ratings. It really helped me understand better all the sales jargon that these manufacturers throw at you.

    Not satisfied with the handling of the V-rated tires I went back to Sears to complain. They checked the air pressure and rebalanced the tires. This time the ride feels better but not by much. However, they did mention that there was a slight dent on one of the alloy wheels which could be affecting the handling.

    I ordered a new wheel online from for $278.14 plus shipping $6.95 and handling $2.95. The dealer price is $456 + tax, so I believe the internet price is a good deal for an OEM part.

    After all this aggravation I believe I probably would be more satisfied with the Dunlop or Yokohama tires but I&#146;ll take my chances and see how well I warm up to the Michelins.
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 591
    My wife and daughter have been driving on Michelins since 1995, both in V6 Hondas. We have used both H and V rated sets but never mixed ratings within a set. The V has a hard time passing 30k miles. The H will last 40k or more. There is litle or no difference in everyday driving except tire mileage. (No snow driving considered as they drive in SE states and seldom see it.) These tires are pricey at about $150 each OTD, but they are some of the best available.

    My '03 Avalon XL came with the MXV, H rated, and two went 33k, the other two will go 40k. They were not rotated often enough and wore down too soon on the edges. The old '99 XL used two sets of Dunlops (no wet traction) before I switched to Toyo's. Lost some ride quality with the Toyo's but the car felt much better at highway speed, in the rain and in corners.

    Someday I might try Yokohama's just to see the difference. Several on this board like them. But Michelin preserves the nice Avalon ride with a high degree of safety and I hesitate to switch or experiment.

    Avalon tire ideas and comments are always welcome here. I keep looking for a way to get four good tires for the price of two MXV's..... and not lose the Avalon ride quality we all want.

    Enjoy your Avs, all....
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    Avalon shocks are not omnipresent as it is not a popular model. I have found Koni and Bilstein just too rigid in the past years in other model cars, although they are reputable brands and some swear by them.

    Do NOT get MONROE!!! I believe this is the company that makes the part for the Camry/Avalon/ES 300. I believe. Sensormatic, Avaymatic, I don't car matic. DON"T do it, you will be disappointed.

    If you cannot get a better answer from TokicoUSA and I think you can and I think they fit, then loook up on the net a company called KYB. They make the same shock, a premium strut, for the AValon 00-04 and it is listed. I don't know the prices but they are reasonable especially when compared to a OEM replacement part.

    I had a friend that put them on his Toyota Sienna van, and loved the difference.

    Hope that helps further.

    "Feed the forum"

  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591

    It is possible but not probable that a "dent" or out of round wheel minimally can affect your handling and ride. Since you bought a new wheel already, let us know if that makes a difference. If not, then like some, you are a little dissappointed with the handling of the Avy and you driving dictates probably changing some of the OEM components.

  • berobberob Posts: 35
    For a 60K service, one dealer is quoting $600 and another has two options - $150 for a "mini" and about $300 for the "maxi". It seems that neither dealer is performing the exact same service. I cannot find my owners manual/service manual so here's my question. On a 2000 Avalon, how often are the spark plugs and the tranny fluid supposed to be changed? Anything else that's critical at 60K that might not be captured in routine oil changes and inspections? Thanks in advance.
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