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Sulfur Smell from Toyota 4Runner

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


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

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

    I was just about to buy a new V6 Limited, but now I'm waiting until the end of the year to get a 2004. Sorry about your problem, but hopefully Toyota will come out with a fix for it soon.
  • reddfishreddfish Posts: 54
    I had the same problem with my SR5 V8 (2003). Toyota would not and could not fix the problem. They blame the sulfur content in the gasoline in every state except CA. They have a TSB on this problem, ask your dealer for a copy.
  • sacstate1sacstate1 Posts: 189
    Only had the sulfur smell twice with 2K miles. I found running Exxon/Mobil was a culprit. My dealer service manager just bought a '03 Runner for his wife. Said he has noticed the smell when he gets on the motor. So, at least a Toyota representative admits the problem.
  • mcdawggmcdawgg Posts: 1,680
    Many new cars have the sulfur smell, not just Toyota, so the gas could be the problem.
  • tim_hooligantim_hooligan Posts: 143
    Our new 2003 Accord made that same smell. My parents new 2003 CRV made the smell. Granted, after 8000 miles the smell has about 95% vansihed.

    It's not just Toyota, I think it's the modern catalytic converter that's the culprit. If you read the forums around Edmunds for many many new cars, you will read about the same complaints.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    Seem to be on Toyotas with Hondas in second place.

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

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

    Are both these brands using some different emissions control strategies or catalysts that are different from the others?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,459
    This is sulphur dioxide you are smelling. Either it's in the fuel or you've got a problem with the car (defective catalytic or over rich fuel mixture) or you drive like a maniac. Any of those will cause this.

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  • reddfishreddfish Posts: 54
    sulfur dioxide is harmful to children and older people with asthma. If it's coming thru your a/c vents, it's a health issue.
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    Many of US refineries were designed to process crude from high Sulfur oil and thus need feed stocks from garbage oil countries whose oil is cheaper than high quality feed stocks.
    The disruptions of oil from Venezuela have lead to changes.
    Plus with new low sulfur regs coming out soon the refineries have rushed to use up all the cheaper garbage oil in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Identify the gas that’s entering the vehicle compartment.

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

    How much?

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

    Ref: Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety

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


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

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

    Stephen XXXXXXXXX

    To all that need this, please use it.
  • sacstate1sacstate1 Posts: 189
    You better get the buggy and horse ready, I am not aware of a gasoline powered vehicle that does not emit emmissions. But then again, the horse would emit Methane, which is also hazardous to your health.
  • tacovivatacoviva Posts: 116
    My problem is that the emission in INSIDE the vehicle compartment (windows up and A/C on recirc) when it's sealed. You should never be able to smell emissions inside the cabin, ever.
  • coranchercorancher Posts: 232
    tacoviva, the question this raises for me is whether it's better to go at the lemon law process from a health and safety approach or to go at it from the standpoint of diminished value/resale or something like that.

    At least one reference I've seen suggested that humans are sensitive to these sulfur compounds at concentrations far below those that are hazardous, and that the levels produced by the converters aren't a health problem. If you end up in this kind of argument in a lemon law hearing, I don't know how it would come out.

    Well, that's just an opinion to add to the mix. I haven't had the smell much, but when I did I realized how unpleasant it could be if it were inside the cabin much. Good luck, and let us know how your case comes out.
  • sacstate1sacstate1 Posts: 189
    You smell burnt jet fuel while on a plane, burnt diesel from a bus and don't forget raw gas fumes while refueling. Like corancher, I think the position of basing your Lemon litigation on smell might not hold up against a saavy Toyota arbitrator.
  • tacovivatacoviva Posts: 116
    Redfish has already won this case in FL based on lesser information. Furthermore, I'm using the Texas state arbitration group, not Toyota's. The diminished resale value is damage as well. The issue is that, you're not exposed to the burnt jet fuel for 5-6 years (how long you own the car). The bottom line is that if sulfur dioxide is in the car, it causes a health concern, it's unpleasant to smell, it reduces the value of the car, and it can't be fixed by the dealer, I don't see they have a choice. I would welcome Toyota to analyze the air in the vehicle, but they refused. In fact they recommended I immediately pursue the repurchase option.
  • tacovivatacoviva Posts: 116
    It's been proven that when you smell sulfur, it's concentration is a known value, 3-5 ppm. In fact, the smell is now resident on the seats and interior. When you get in, you can smell it. I have a 2 month old and just want to make sure he's safe. I'm sure this can't be good for him, longterm.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    I'm asthmatic (well-controlled,) but there are so many cars out there with a skunk for a co-pilot that I hope you win, and everybody with a SO2 problem does the same and wins.

    they can fix this if they really want to. it has to get expensive to get them to want to, it would appear. so make the condition expensive.
  • trenraytrenray Posts: 1
    I have a 2003 4runner with 10,600 miles on it, and the smell is worse than ever. I purchased it at Broadway Toyota in Portland, OR, and have received absolutely no help from them. I asked to just let me return the vehicle, but that was not an option for them. They gave me a letter when I went in to service when my vehicle had 5000 miles on it, telling me that by 10,000, the smell would be gone. ITS NOT!! Then they tell me to keep my back window up. Why should I have to!?! I paid $35,000 for a vehicle that have selected windows to use? Bulls__t! My dog rides back there and I hear him sneezing. I have a 3 yr old and a 6 yr old, and I am very concerned about their health. My daughter has had breathing problems in the past. I am very scared. I feel betrayed. What has happened to Toyota? They use to be so good. My vehicle also does the terrible vibration with the passenger window down. If I open the back window, the vibration goes away, but then you get the smell. I guess this vehicle is great for winter weather, but low-and-behold it gets hot out. Keep the windows up and forget about your dog in the back dying for some air, or shall we say "stinky air."
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    (for plaintiff's lawfirm), I've seen 8-10 of these rotten egg/sulphur cases go to arbitration and trial - they go down in flames. In fact, the firm no longer takes the cases because all they do is rack up fees with no recovery for the consumer or attorney.
  • coranchercorancher Posts: 232
    I think that nobody should have to tolerate this smell as a frequent problem, but if the manufacturers and fuel refiners aren't fixing it, perhaps some self-help is in order.

    A while back I posted a suggestion (directed to those that have the problem a lot) that folks try temporary use of a short diverter pipe (could even be CPVC plastic, just taped on) to point the exhaust farther to the back or out to the side, as some other vehicles do. Heck, even a downward redirection (or some combination of side and down, for example) might improve things. It might only take 3-6 inches of pipe and a 45 degree bend, and a successful fix could be cheaply rendered in steel by a muffler shop.

    It might work or it might not, but it would sure be a lot less trouble than a lemon law effort. If I had the smell with any frequency, I'd try this in a hot second. Anybody tried this?
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    Jeg's Racing , a well-known hot rod parts internet and catalog mail order business, offers SCENTED PERFUMES for your gasoline.

    You pour a small bottle of this additive into your tank, and as the fuel burns, it emits a smell. The only "flavor" I've smelled is "bubble gum", but they make root beer, pina colada, and 10-12 others. I'm serious, I'm not making this up - I wonder of root beer would coverup rotten eggs?
  • mhallackmhallack Posts: 32
    While I understand you being upset about this, let me advise you that leaving a window open near an active exhaust pipe is always a bad thing! Regardless of the sulfur smell every gas powered engine emits carbon monoxide which is most definitely hazardous to your health. The safest thing to do is roll ALL your windows up and crank up the AC when its hot (I live in Florida, so I have lots of experience with vehicles in high heat).

    If you have to keep your windows down, I do think the exhaust extension/bend is a good idea.
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