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VSC sudden activation. 2004 Toyota Sienna.



  • Peter,

    Any update?

    2004 Siena owner with vsc problem too!
  • Sorry, I have been traveling and did not respond.
    First, I would like to say I just want my car to work and am not looking for more. I am concerned that some may be fishing for some kind of settlement.

    The Toyota dealer in Lompoc CA at first indicated that the Toyota rep had identified some cases where they stated using run flat tires was the problem. I have run multiple sets (3) of non run flats without problem, so I discount this diagnosis. I did have a case a couple of years ago when the car would apply the ABS when driving at speeds greater than 20 mph or so. At that time I disconnected the ABS relay and drove to the dealer (where I reinstalled it). The dealer said the steering wheel sensor needed calibration. I had never done this and had aligned the wheels frequently, given that I have an AWD which "ate" tires. This corrected the problem for 3 or 4 years.

    The dealer told me that Toyota told them that I needed a new steering rack. It would be $800 with no guarantees. The steering is very good with no wandering and no wheel play. So I have a hard time believing this. I would spend the $$ right away if it would fix it, but do not want to start throw money at this with no diagnosis.

    There are only a few components which are in question.
    1. The ABS wheel sensors (also tells ABS if wheels are locking)
    2, The Steering sensor (needs to be calibrated to the steering shaft)
    3. The yaw sensor (tells if the car is rotating as during a skid)

    That's it! All of these have fault detection built into the car. It nothing shows up as a fault they are most likely working at least to some degree.

    The dealers said they looked at everything, but I do not have the confidence that more was done than plugging in the OBD II.

    1. The ABS sensors can be viewed easily with the wheel off. I need to check the sensor and the splines on the shaft (which others have found can get rust and dirt in them as well). ABS sensor are about $90 each without install.

    2. The steering shaft sensor can be easily re-calibrated through the ODB II connector. There is a Toyota Service Bulletin (TSB) on this and it is doable by a home mechanic.

    3. The yaw sensor appears to be the tough one. No east test and very expensive. If all else fails I my go to a junk yard and see if a swap helps.

    Once the ABS sensors have been checked/replaced/ the steering sensor re calibrated and even the yaw sensor swapped there is little more which can be done.

    In the final analysis this could be a systems issue (yes, I am an engineer). In the case of a systems issue, all the combined sensor tolerances my not be working out. Several parts must all play together for this system to work. If it was not designed correctly the errors stack up up and the system fails to function properly even though the individual parts are working to the manufacturers specifications. A classic design failure for many systems.

    We should all be mad as hell! Looking on the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. site (NHTSA) there are several reports of this same issue. It is CLEARLY a SAFETY ISSUE (and this on what was a $35K car)! We also face some really bureaucratic gov policy at the NHTSA. The definition of what gets recalled is vague at best.

    Beyond this there are numerous complaints by people like us listed on line. Toyota indicated they do not recognize what people put in chat rooms, but most of us have gone to the dealer as well. They are clearly aware that this is an issue.

    When I told this to Toyota Motor Sales (I called it in), I was told that there is no recall in place.

    I will work through my "punch list" to see if I can fix this myself, but would really like to escalate this. We would need reference to as many owners who have this problem and the car VINs. Everyone should make certain to file a complaint on the NHTSA site as well as will Toyota Motor Corp. The NHTSA reacts well to consumer pressure and I would go directly as well as through my local political representative.

    Please let me know what everyone else finds.


  • Thanks Peter for the update,

    I will file complaint on NHTSA site and I will be talking to the dealer serv mgr next week. Also, I removed run-flats years ago from my AWD Siena as they chewed them up way too fast.

  • Hello I have this problem too and it is very annoying. I have spent lots of money changing tires to fix it but it did not work. I am prepared to go to toyota to have them fix this I printed the 2 mediafire links for the yaw sensor and zero point calibration. Should I print any other things? I could not find a service report. Also what should I tell them when I get there. Because every time I try, they just change tires and I have to pay, while nothing happens.

  • We brought our van to the dealer, they adjusted some sensors and I am not sure what else. They did not charge me for this cause I spoke with the service manager ahead of time and complained.. I am not confident the issue is fixed but it has not happened to me since that servicing over the last two months.

    We just traded the van in for a new vehicle, so I hope everyone gets their issue resolved with their Sienna.

  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,780
    I'm sure that they just did the Zero Point Calibration procedure, and all was fixed. If you had no further problems, then they finally did it right! Best of luck with the new vehicle. What did you get?
  • Kids all days finally OVER!
    Got a Lexus IS350...very un-minivanish! :o) bery fun car...

  • wow, thanks for the fast responses. I just want to makes sure my problem is the same as the other ones here. Sometimes in the middle of the road and highway, the car beeps and does a couple brakes. This process takes about 3-5 seconds. Also the light with the car and the curved lined behid it turns on. this is what i mean ght.jpg
    I just wanted to make sure that this is the right place to look at and that i have the same problem as you guys

    thanks again
  • I just bought a used one from private seller !  And it did the same thing , the vsc activated !!! The brakes were on and the engine got slower 

  • Hi Steve. Did you find a cause of the intermittent VSC activation? I too have the exact problem showing up in my 2004 Sienna and am trying to get more information before I take it in to the dealer. Thanks.
  • we have an 05 this happens to us for about 2 years getting worse now it happened on the freeway
    terrifying van at toyota now replacing rack and pinion assembly completely $1500.00!

    i will let you know if it fixes we did unplug the plug under hood but it only helped for a few weeks
    dont recomend following that route was told a few times by different dealers it could be rack and pinion
    note :
    the YAW sensor may or may not fix it you are right though
    toyota is ignoring this until someone dies if not already happend. my opinion only of course 11/ 25 /2015
  • I have 2 AWD Sienna's one a 2006 and one a 2004 both have just recently started locking up, with no warning, especially dangerous living in the San Bernardino mountain... We've had it into the dealer, they kept the 06 for nearly 2 weeks, the Toyota service manager drove it home for a few days...
    They reset the sensors (Yaw I think!) and they did a few other things, told us it was good to go, we drove it back up to Lake Arrowhead and it locked up twice on the way up.

    Back to the dealer, this time the problem was caused according to them because we had mis-matched tires on, they suggested replacing all four tires, which we did, stayed away from the run flats... which the service manager said was ok $812 later we drive up the mountain does exactly the same thing.

    Back to the dealer, they keep it for 3 days then come up with the fact that we need to have the original Run Flats and thats why the thing is locking up...

    Doesn't make any sense to me, we have video of the vehicle locking up on straight highway, but they still maintain its because we don't have run flats on it... Any advise would be appreciated, don't want to run out and buy another new set of tires if it's not going to fix the issue...

  • jwhitt1jwhitt1 Posts: 1
    edited December 2015
    I have had this issue for about 2 years now but interestingly enough it has only happened in a certain part of the state far from my home when I visit friends about twice a year. Until last week, it never happened where I live including freeway driving. Finally happened at home driving at 30 mph and 5 times today on my way up to visit same friends in NorCal. I get a series of beeping and skid control light goes on. Brakes pump on their own and car pulls either right or left depending on the turn. A firm hand on the wheel keeps me under control and I have never left my lane but it is hair raising and aggravating. The whole scenario lasts about 2-5 seconds. Sometimes it only beeps with no braking. Haven't been to dealer yet but have had my tire store replace tires, wheel sensors, etc. Like others, I replaced my run flats with normal tires. Glad I came upon this site to know I am not alone. When I get back home I'll have a little talk with the Toyota dealer. My wife and I sold our older Ford Windstar for this brand new 2004 Sienna and I have regretted it for years. First the shock of the cost for run flats, then the auto slide doors stopped working and Toyota only wants about $2k per door to replace door motor, drivers seat warmer stopped working long ago.....I could go on but now I'm starting to get pissed off again. No more toyotas for me. Fortunately my kids are old enough now that we no longer need a minivan......good riddance.
  • Hi, I've read a lot of these complaint on the Sienna. One thing I've noticed, even on professional diagnostic websites, that no one hows recorded live data. The first thing I checked was the live data for the steering sensor. First thing I noticed was the sensor reading was stuck at 1150+. Which would tell the computer that your over steering. The thing that doesn't make since is that with the steering wheel, with working sensor, will only few degrees passed 500, positive or negative. I would think the computer would show a trouble code. Anyways I went even further. I disconnected the steering sensor. The computer still shows 1150+ without a trouble code. So I back probed the steering sensor. Shows to be functioning properly. I performed recalibration of steering sensor, yaw sensor, etc. per Toyota's instructions. I did this four times and only after the fourth time, the steering sensor ready became normal. It would go from a little over 500+ to 500-, worked normal. So I thought that everything was okay. I test drove and watched the live data of the steering sensor. Worked perfectly. So drove to the shop and parked it, turned it. Came a little later just to check and be sure the problem was fixed. Hooked up my scan tool to check steering sensor live data. Stuck back on 1150+. So just to be sure it wasn't a fluke I did the recalibration again. After the fourth time steering sensor read normal. But of coarse after shutting off the vehicle back to 1150+. I'd like to fix this and been working as a mechanic for over 25 years but, this one has me stumped.
  • I have a 2005 Toyota Sienna where the vsc system activated and slowed our van down. When it first happened we thought that the van broke down because there was a beeping sound and it seemed like the brakes activated by itself. Kinda scared us because we were going around a turn at 35mph We then noticed that the system activated every time around the same turn and we prepared ourselves every time we went around that turn. We tried going at different speeds and 90% of the time it activated at the different speeds. I read up on what the vsc system does and now the vsc activated at a different location that scared us again because we were going 60mph. Tried searching for possible causes for the activation on the internet. I noticed that all of the activations are on left turns. Was wondering if a bad suspension would activate the vsc system? Maybe the van is tilting past an acceptable angle on the turns and the system senses that?
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,780
    edited February 2016
    Remember that the system tracks the steering angle (how much you rotate the steering wheel) with the actual arc that the van takes on the road. Things that can make the system think something isn't right and that it has to intervene to prevent a possible crash are:

    1) Basic setup calibration. The Zero Point calibration sets the steering position sensor and the yaw (leaning and lateral acceleration) sensor in sync.

    2) If the tires were to slip sideways (wet road, crappy tires) the system would see this as understeer. I would think that an off-camber turn might accentuate this.

    3) Worn wheel bearings, suspension components - same. The input won't match the output. Combine this with #2 and you will get a much wider turn than the steering angle would predict.

    As an engineer, I'm more apt to look at the data and try to 'adjust' if you can't come to a more professional diagnosis and permanent fix. For instance, if the problem ONLY happened on left turns and was predictable in occurrence, I'd skew the calibration setup ever so slightly to favor the left (offset the yaw or steering sensor towards left bias) so that it was more 'centered' for the new reality. You might also simulate this by adding a few psi of air pressure to the right two tires and take this same curve and see if it helps. But remember this is just a suggestion - proceed with experiments at your discretion!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,488
    If you all had to speculate, what might you offer as a "root cause"? If calibration and "adjusts" don't fix it, what's the conclusion?

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,358
    He's not far off in some ways. A steering angle sensor recalibration might be in order if it is out. That calibration is a critical input for the VCS system and when it is out it can cause false activation of the system. With my factory Techstream scan tool, or even my Snap-On Solus Ultra the first step would be to see what the steering angle sensor is reporting when it is in the straight ahead position as well as retrieving any trouble codes from all of the modules on the vehicle. The steering angle sensor recalibration is performed with those same scan tools and is a normal routine to carry out for most shops.

    The one thing that should NOT be done is attempting to change tire pressures or "adjust" the sensor or its output to anywhere other than where service specifications require.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,780
    edited February 2016
    My suggestion was as a diagnostic aid, and not as a 'fix'. However, if you've totally exhausted all reasonable options and no amount of money thrown at the van has solved the problem (like replace EVERYTHING), you may have to adjust to compensate.
  • I know your pain. Toyota and their dealers do too, but is waiting for it all to die out - the cars, the owners, they don't care as long as they save a buck (check the Unintended Acceleration case they recently lost).

    After running into this a few years ago while touring Yellowstone (real scary on mountain roads with switchbacks), this became a constant issue. It is real dangerous when it happens at 75 mph on the interstate with trucks on either side of you!

    I ran into a thread that talked about there being a problem with the bushings on rack and pinion module, and that seems to fit well with the data. There are rubber bushings on the module mounting and they deteriorate after a while and must be replaced. So I replaced mine, but the problem still happens - I have a few areas where I can make this happen at will. I finally disconnected the yaw sensor under the seat - no VSC, no ABS, no nothing! At least the car does not try to kill its drivers any more.

    Last night I looked under the car while my son rotated the steering wheel and noticed that the rack still moves when rotated - the bushing issue is still there! I am replacing that ?@#$@#$? $500 rack to see if that helps. If nothing else, it should tighten up the steering. Then a front end alignment and resetting of the VSC system. Will let you know what happens.

    PS - The AC system on the 2004 Sienna sucks also!
  • kentsengkentseng Posts: 1
    My car experienced this VSC sudden activate problem also since a year ago. I brought my 2005 Sienna to a dealer for diagnose, they ran a zero point calibration, and suggest to change the Steering sensor. They also noted that even with the sensor replacement, further analysis is need. It is not a guarantee repair. After the zero point calibration done, the VSC sudden activate was gone for few month. Few month later, the problem come back again. I then bring my car to my local mechanic to replace the steering sensor. After the sensor replace, the problem is the same. The mechanic recommend to replace the cable. Now the cable also changed, the problem is still there. I call the Toyota Corp. customer relation and they suggest to do farther analysis to other dealer, get 2nd opinion how and what to fix. The only ward they said is that the car is out of warranty, and there is no recall for this issue. Since the dealer cannot recreate the problem, it is difficult to really suggest what to repair.

    I called the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to file a complaint. They suggested to get more people who experienced the same situation file the complaint, so Toyota may recall for this issue. So for I am still stuck with my unsafe car. I am still considering I should bring to another dealer for another possible worthless checkup. I have already spend more than $1200 on my repair, still no improvement……
  • eeguru6677eeguru6677 Posts: 3
    Replaced the rack and pinion - the mounting bushings were shot! That cleared up the VSC problem, I have ABS (and VSC) back, the car drives a lot better and everything is Awesome! Bad news is I broke the Spiral Cable in the steering column :'( - make sure the rack and pinion is centered before you put it in! This is definitely the cause of my VSC false activation!
  • fxparisifxparisi Posts: 1
    Yes I agree with eeguru..... I've read ALL these posts because I had the same problem with my 2004 Toyota Sienna XLE limited. It has 176000 miles. That stupid alarm would go off at the same spot coming down the 4-lane from shaver lake. There's a quick left right "yaw" with an elevation drop on that road that would make this thing go off every time. I noticed that no one had a solution, just complaints. Plus, there were a lot of 'Mickey Mouse' solutions that didn't fix the problem. The Toyota dealer wanted to charge too much and I didn't feel like they new what the problem was. My trusted local mechanic at F&B Auto in Fresno did however. He replaced the Rack & Pinion and lower control arms as we could clearly see there was a ton of 'play' in these parts and they were clearly worn out. He replaced these things at a fraction of the cost of a typical dealer. He made sure everything was centered and "zeroed". Yesterday we tested the van on that road (he fixed it 2 months ago BTW) and it ran perfectly! No VSC alarms or automatic braking. The van feels way more stable after replacing these parts.

  • bmwk75sbmwk75s Posts: 21
    My 2006 Sienna LE AWD had no issues until a front wheel bearing was replaced. Ever since I have experienced the following...
    • Upon pulling away from a stop, the rear brakes will apply and the rear end will "sit" down repeatedly.
    • If I accelerate hard from a stop, it will cut the throttle so there is no acceleration until I left my foot and reapply the throttle.
    • Occasionally when accelerating from a stop when it doesn't do either of the above, the Stability Control light will flash and beep.
    Recently the Stability Control and check engine lights stayed on. It gave me an O2 sensor fault code along with some others. When my service guy went to search it, it was one of the top 5 fault codes in the system.

    Has anyone else experienced a similar issue?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,488
    edited July 2016
    Sounds like this might be related to the wheel bearing repair. The technician has to be able to access ABS codes with his scan tool, and start the diagnosis from that point. If the ABS system thinks one wheel is dragging or slipping, it's going to react accordingly.

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  • Having the same issue. 2004 Sienna VSC engaging on a curve at 35 mph consistently and two incidents of engaging at 65 mph going down freeway. Plus a few other random times going around a curve. Brakes come on and it pulls car to the right. On freeway it pulled us half off road, luckily we had just moved to the right lane or might have been a serious accident.This is the family car and the car my teenagers drive. Have had the car in the Toyota dealership service 5 times! Once calibration of system, 2 times cannot get it to go off when they drive it, 4th time changed sensor for $900 and they discounted the $150 I payed first time. Still going off. Took to other Toyota dealer near me to test on hill that it goes off consistently. They recreated it with me driving and again with computer hooked up. Now they are saying it's the bushings in the steering rack and shaft, cost $2000. If that does not work then try both front lower control arms, $1191. If that does not work then front brakes and rotors, $500. And they can't guarantee that any of that will fix it. I am not knowledgeable of the workings of car, so any ideas if any of these repairs will work? This could cost me $4500 and no guarantees it will work. This is a serious safety issue! We bought car new in 2003 from the dealer and always have it serviced at their shop. Anyone higher up that might give me a break on paying for all the guesswork to find the problem?
  • laxboy13laxboy13 SLOPosts: 2
    Had this happen to me 4 months ago, twice in 5 minutes and then no issue until it happened to my wife yesterday. Looks like this is a well documented issue. Thanks for the help.
  • I don't know what others will think of this solution, (the idea scares the heck out of my wife), but I'm using it as a stopgap until I have time to take my car in and get it worked on... My car is a Toyota Sienna XLD FWD and it has the same two relays this DIY family described:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,488
    It's a "solution" but not a great one....VSC and ABS, especially for the less experienced driver, are very useful. The gentleman in the video is not correct about these systems being "only good in the snow"---that's simply not true.

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  • laxboy13laxboy13 SLOPosts: 2
    I have filed my complaint wit the NTSA, complaint 10940130.
    I have a 2004 Sienna with ~146,000 miles on itand this problem has been going on for about 6 months. It happened twice in a span of 5 minutes, and then didn;t start happening again until about 2 months ago. Since then it has occurred with greater frequency and intermittent severity. In almost all cases, it occurs when driving 55-70 mph and while going around a right hand bend in the road, the "skid" light will come on, beep, and then the brakes will suddenly engage, causing the car to pull one way or the other (often left towards oncoming traffic). As soon as you exit the curve, the light goes off and you can accelerate back to speed.

    My dealership in San Luis Obispo is stumped. They do not know what to do and will not warranty work that involves guessing and trying to fixthe issue by replacing parts that they do not know are not working. We have driven the car with them and a data logger, got the VSC to go off and they sent the data to Toyota headquarters for analysis to see if they could determine where the problem is. Toyota headquarters said, "You are drivng too fast, and should slow down on corners.".... I'm driving a reasonable amount of speed at the speed of traffic at no more than 0-10 over the speed limit. I am so pissed by that response.

    So it seems my options are:
    1. Replace Yaw Sensor
    2. Replace steering sensor
    3. Replace Steering rack

    I too am an engineer with an understanding of instrument errors, control logic, mechanical wear, and troubleshooting. It's interesting to me that the issue is repeatable, (right hand turns only), happening more often, seems to be happening at a lower and lower mph threshold.

    Any ideas on where I should start throwing money?
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