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Toyota Highlander oil sludge settlement

bicebice Posts: 1
edited December 2013 in Toyota
2001 sole owner of Highlander, 104,000 miles, NEVER a problem until check engine light started coming on, dealer said"bad sensor", no problem with engine. Then light started flashing, then blue smoke from tail pipe, sluggish to drive like it was losing power, dealer said 5000.00 to replace engine, traded and lost $$$$, then fOUND out about OIL SLUDGE class action settlement that would have replaced the engine or repaired it. What now?


  • mackabeemackabee Posts: 4,709
    Looks like you lost some money there. There was a notice that was sent out to owners of 1997-2001 Toyota s with a potential sludge problem. I don't think there's anything you can do now since you traded the car.
  • jsambojsambo Posts: 5
    I just had my oil changed at 95k which was only 1500 miles since the last but 5 months of city driving had passed. The prolube man showed me the sludge build up below the oil cap on the engine. He said I should have a flush next time and switched me to geriatric auto-oil. I have been consistent 4k oilchange person since I first read of the oil sludge problem five years ago. Does this first evidence of sludging indicate the beginning of the end for my engine? I think the extended sludge warrenty is to 100k so I wonder if I need to take it in to the dealer now? I wonder if I should trade it to a dealer to avoid an inevitable engine job?
    Thank you
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I'd want a little more info than just some crud under the oil cap.

    210delray, "Toyota Engine Sludge" #36, 12 Jan 2001 7:29 pm
  • jsambojsambo Posts: 5
    The extended warrenty is good for 8yrs. with no mileage restriction and I am getting very close to that. I am going to have the dealer look at the engine just in case there is any problem. It has been a very reliable vehicle which I hope to keep for many more years. Is the gelling problem showing up in any of the newer siennas,camrys or lexis vehicles.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I don't think the gel/sludge problem is much of a big deal anymore for Toyota.

    We kept asking for recent examples over in the Toyota Engine Sludge discussion, but the last 1,000 posts were mostly just ones bashing Toyota, so we finally shut it down. I haven't checked on the Sienna or Camry discussions though.
  • jsambojsambo Posts: 5
    The dealer looked at my engine and could not see any sluge or gelling under the valve covers. They did notice some smoke (blue)in the exhaust and offered to do valve guides for free. I also had the trans. fluid changed and injectors cleaned. He just called to say that the car was ready. The bill to Toyota is supposedly $1800. I never believed the owners manual guidelines for oil changes.
  • bob57bob57 Posts: 302
    Years ago while having my 2000 Sienna oil changed at the dealer (always at ~ 3000 miles) I read an internal memo (I think it was internal - dealers name on top of page - and I'm reading it upside down on his desk - did that to my boss too...) that service counselors strongly urge owners of '99 - '01 Sienna's to have the engine flushed every 30,000 miles regardless of oil change intervals.
    I'm not totally sure of the year range but definitely the 2000 Sienna was there.
    Of course at the same time I'm reading & they were telling me that there is no sludge problem and blaming it on the owners.
    Yeah, they knew - hence, the extended warranty.
    I still have the Toyota, it's been a good van. They just got caught with their pants down back then - and yeah, I had the engine flushed.
  • kenlwkenlw Posts: 190
    blue smoke is NOT always a sign of sludge, just that it is burning a bit of oil. Valve stem seals are a very common source of leakage on toyotas, you will notice it more as a puff when you take off from a light. A bit of valve stem seal leakage is of no big concern, many cars have been driven for 100k+ with a bit of leakage. The only concerns would be that the spark plugs may foul more often, and you need to make sure you aren't loosing too much between oil changes. Sometimes moving to a 10w40 can slow it down, it did for me. Some oils have "seal conditioners" I think they are worth a try.

    Continuous smoke as you drive is different and probably more serious, but again, not necessarily a sign of sludging.

    Originally this engine was scheduled for much longer oil change intervals (10k, iirc). After the sludging issue came to light, the interval was changed to 7500. Regardless, most of the documented cases I have heard of (from friends at dealers) involve much, much longer oil change intervals, some up to 20k! No wonder they've sludged! Many engines could actually go 20k between changes and NOT sludge, this one was designed to run a bit hotter, so that probably contributed to the problem. The configuration on the Seinna was a bit hotter yet, so it seems most of the sludged engines were in Seinnas.

    I'm not saying that all cases are due to neglect (because they're not!), but the data I've seen says they are extremely rare. In any case, Toyota extended the warranty to 100k for all affected engines, even the 4 cylinder. Mine (v6) already had 150k when the warranty was extended!

    My 97 camry (with this engine) now has 220k miles and uses very little oil between 5k oil changes. Our 02 Highlander with the same engine has 90k and, while not subject to the sludgng issue in theory, it still uses no oil between 5k changes.

    Neither has ever been flushed, I had never heard of this being suggested. It certainly can't hurt, altho I don't think it is a cure-all as sludge tends to collect in places that a flush won't purge. Regular oil AND FILTER changes with quality oil will always be the best preventative in any case.

    checking under the oil fill cap is NOT a good way to determine sludge. this engine (and many Toyota engines) have a 'splash guard" right under the cap. It is a rough finish metal part, and just looking at it will convince you that you DO have sludge on a brand new engine! It isn't!

    You MUST pull the valve covers (or pan) to verify any sludge. Looking under the cap is not a good way to tell.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    I would add one thing to your post...

    Driving specifics may have a lot to do with sludge buildup, especially in engines prone to this condition.

    Those cars driven minimal distances (short mileage trips with long delays between trips, ie. 4-5 miles to and from work) will have a greater tendency for buildup as compared to longer trips where the engine reaches normal operating temperatures and stays there for a while, such as 25 mile trips or longer...
  • andrelaplumeandrelaplume Posts: 934
    Well, I had Chryslers in the past and they were known for head gasket jobs. They cost less than $500 as I recall. Toyota's cost a heck of a lot more than that and then you have the sludge possibility...nothing like playing Russian Roulette after committing to an already expensive gasket job only to find out you need a new engine. Its BS. FYI, I have a 2002 Camry w/64K miles. I have the oil changed 75% of the time at a dealer, 25% at my tire guy. Early on, at my original dealer, I paid for some sort of oil treatment to 'keep the seals in good shape'. The dealer I got to now says I was wasting my money. Anyway, I change the oil every 3 months no matter what. Guess what. My car is puffing blue smoke at start up. Don't tell me this is normal when I am paying extra for the Toyota...supopsedly a superior vehicle. It IS under the PLATINUM warranty I bought (the one many said I was nuts to purchase!). Now we will see how Toyota tries to wiggle out of a gasket least until the car is out of warranty!

    PS: Under warranty an emission chip was also replaced as well as some sort of piece in the door that causes the door lock to intermittantly not work with the keyless entry system. That would have run me $400. The scary thing is that 2 others doors have the same affliction now and then....of course they can not be repaired under warranty unless the dealer witnesses the problem.....$400 a shot!

    I was very well satisfied up until the year. If it were a Ford of GM I'd be looking for new one now. I paid extra $$$$$$$$$$$ for the Toyota expecting it to go at least 8 years with no issues. Silly me I guess. I hope my wife's 06 Rav fairs better.
  • kenlwkenlw Posts: 190
    why 3 months on oil changes? oil changes are usually based on mileage, not time.

    again, a slight puff of smoke at start up is, while not perfect, of no real concern in most cases. My 97 v6 camry does this and has for well over 150,000 miles (and as i said previously, has a total of 220,000 miles on it). Even with this stem seal leakage, it isn't enough to have to add any oil between changes (5000 miles).

    $500 for a head gasket was a LONG time ago.....
  • I have a 2002 Highlander six cylinder with 180,000 miles. I purchased it brand new, and I have always done my own maintenence, including regular oil changes. It had never used any oil between changes. However, starting at about 160,000 miles, I started to have to add a quart every 2000 miles, and then it got worse and I was having to add a quart every 1000 miles. It was not leaking, and there was no smoke, even when first started up. I did research and found about the oil sludge issue. I called my local dealer and they offered to check it out to see if this was the problem. I did not have high hopes, due to my research showing many dealers not wanting to deal with this, or only a small percentage of engines actually having the issue. I was surprised when my dealer said "yes, you have oil sludge" and gave me the good news that Toyota would basically give me a brand new "short block" (block, pistons, rings, etc) and have the top valve end re-worked, and other misc parts, for "free". They also told me that when they do this repair job, they suggest other reapairs at the same time that are not covered under the oild sludge deal such as timing belt, water pump, spark plugs, belts, etc. I also had a differential seal leak which they suggested I fix, and I had a partially stripped oil pan female thread so they suggested a new oil pan. Of course, it did make sense to replace these items while the engine was being rebuilt, even witt the high cost of dealer parts and labor, and I OK'd the additional repairs. My grand total cost including taxes was $790, and $200 of that was for the oil pan... so the cost for a brand new lower short block, and top end re-do, with misc parts that are routinely replaced, was $600. I was never asked to produce any type of receipts or proof that I routinely changed oil, etc. Neeedless to say, I am very happy with this "settlement deal" as I have what amounts to a brand new engine for under $600.
  • bdymentbdyment Posts: 573
    You are one lucky customer. Many people had to fight tooth and nail to get Toyota to do anything, often with less than 80,000 miles for the sludge issue.
  • Hi, I have the exact same situation. what dealer did you bring this to? Where? What city? I have the same vehicle with only 53k miles and it has excessive oil loss at highway speeds. Like 3 quarts every 300 miles. Thanks!
  • jxcjxc Posts: 1
    I have a very similiar situation to steve, 53k miles and sometimes I've got white smoke on startup that lasts about 30 seconds. Sometimes there seems to be a large cloud other times not much of a cloud at all. It doesn;t seem to be related to how long it sits but more to the amount driven before parking it. I checked the oil and it was down below the first hole on the dip stick. I called my dealer ( who performs all service on this vehicle ), and their service manager indicated that it wasn't unusual for the valve seals to dry out and allow oil in while it sits. He said he didn't think it was unusual to need to add a quart of oil every 1000 miles. His assessment was - if it's just burning a little oil no worries - just keep adding oil. ( 10w30 or 10w40 he said add either ) . I think that is ridiculous. A) I should have to worry about adding oil to a car with 50k miles on it. B) I look like a dirtbag when I start the thing up and a giant cloud comes out. C) Is this guy giving me the run around? I would think the dealership would be more than happy to do the rebuild if Toyota is paying for it. What should I do next?
  • sitiakabsitiakab Posts: 4
    I listed a post regarding a dealer that DID provide me with a new short block engine - under name "sitiakab"... for those that asked which dealer, this was done by Lewis Toyota in Topeka KS
  • I have a 1999 Toyota Avalon 6 cil. I have noticed that it hasoil build up sludge like all across engine, car smells like its overheating although temp gauge does not go over half way. Oil recently changed and fluids topped off, no problem with oil pan noted. There is an oil leak on ground under car. I took back to place where oil change was done and tech suggested that I take it to a good mechanic and have checked out but he thought that it could be the head gasket needing replaced, expensive and might not fix the problem, engine on last leg, could blow, don't let overheat and dont overwork it. ?????? has always had regular maintenance done, and oil changes, been well taken care of. I wondered if this is the "Sludge" problem that I've been reading about?
  • vaofkyvaofky Posts: 1
    I'm glad to have come across this post today. I have been meticulous about my 2002 Toyota Highlander. Everything has been done at the dealer according to the book. After the last oil change at 102,000 my oil light came on at 104,000. I checked the oil and had to add 4.5 qts of oil. My local Toyota dealer could not figure out why I had no oil as there were no leaks and it did not appear to be burning oil. At 106,000 I had to take it back in after putting 5 quarts of oil in. I was told that they would have to tear the engine apart "to figure out the problem" though the lead mechanic thinks he knows what the problem is without doing so. He thinks I need to replace the block to the tune of $4000. No one mentioned of the oil sludge issue common to these vehicles. The dealership did tell me after the first oil change that if something happened "Toyota would take care of it" I'd say because of the known oil sludge problem. I'll keep you posted.
  • If I calculated it correct, the engine replacement was done within the time frame allowed in the settlement of the Class Action Lawsuit which was 8 years and 120 days from date of purchase.

    I have a 2002 which was purchsaed new and it just started having an oil consumption issue - 4 quarts in less than 3,000 miles. I have been meticulous with oil changes and maintenance and I have all my records which my mechanic has duplicates of as well.

    Also, from what I have been reading ~ letters were supposed to have been sent..... I haven't moved, have the same address I did when I purchased the car..... Toyota is just f'd up!
  • Ways around the oil sludging issues... Simply, just run full synthetic oil. There are no issues with the sludging issue if you run full synthetic. Your issue does not sound like a sludging issue. The sludging issue could cause burning, could cause over heating, could cause sluggish acceleration, typically causes an engine code and check engine light to pop up as well. generally it does not cause disappearing oil.. that sounds like a bad head gasket. I would suggest changing your own oil, or going to a different mechanic and see if he can check for coolant in your oil, or have your coolant flushed and changed, then have him check to see if your coolant has oil in it.. because either it is leaking out, "bad grommet on your oil plug?" or your head gasket is leaking.
  • use of oil may be related to not replacing the pvc valve. see other thread on this board. change pcv first. rr70
  • I am also having a problem with excess oil consuption. I need to add 1 quart of oil every 500 miles, I have a 2001 highlander with 110000 miles on it. It has NO leaks but it does have a sludge build up in the PCV area, oil passes through the PCV valve. I heard about the unusual sludge problem with these models so I called Toyota Financial (I bought this vehicle from the in September 2011). They said my VIN should it may be eligible for repair by toyota so now it is hoop jumping time. They told me t go to a dealer and have a teck check it out. I took it to Libertyville Toyota and they checked it out and they said the engine was clean. I asked about the PCV area and they said they would need $400 from me before they would check that. I asked about the excessive oil use and they said it is normal to use a quart every 1000 miles on a well maintained vehicle. I asked for that in writing but they gave me a piece of paper that said something about if a vehicle uses more than a quart of oil after 1250 miles, there is a problem. They said the sludge problem would be by the valve cover if it was going to be covered by toyota. I reminded them again that I just bought the vehicle from toyota financial, they should have disclosed this problem before I bought it. They said too bad, pay up.

    I am waiting for a letter from Toyota to see how to proceed. Would like any feedback.
  • Hi,
    We also have a 2001 highlander. They shot us down in a very ugly way with the same situation. We found this problem 40k miles ago! By accident we found that if you leave the oil cover off (where you put the oil in the engine) Then it will burn oil must less quickly. In order to keep the oil from spraying all over the engine, we have placed an edlebrock air breather over the opening. Still burns oil, just not nearly as quickly. My highlander is a mom car and my kids have been terribly rough on it, so we decided NOT to spend the 3k on the engine, but it is still going strong with this method. It is sad that Toyota wouldn't do the right thing. We were within the window and had all the reciepts for oil changes, but they said it wasn't engine sludge. That was 2 years ago. We are going strong. =)
  • I have a 2002 Hylander that I purchased with 131,000 miles on it. Drove it off the dealer lot and seemed fine. After the first oil change, it has used as little as 1/2 quart over 300 miles of driving or as much as 4 quarts in 250 miles. I contacted the dealer and they tell me to bring it in and have engine disassembled for troubleshooting. Another mechanic I use thought it was oil rings. It doesn't add up. Does anyone know what the problem could be? I really like this vehicle, and own a newer Highlander as well. Maybe this was a bad chioce for a vehicle. Its getting old carrying around a 5 quart bottle of oil to make sure I do not damage the engine. Oil consumption is not even consistent. I have put 10,000 mikes on it and have added more than 20 quarts of oil between oil changes.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The oil is either leaking out of the engine or being burned along with the gas. In either case at that level of oil consumption there should be obvious signs.

    If there are no signs of leakage you most likely need a new or rebuilt engine.
  • I own a 2002 toyota highlander that burned excessive oil only at highway speed driving (~70mph or greater). It was burning 3 quarts every 300 miles at these speeds. It did not burn this oil at city driving speeds. The lack of oil did eventually damage my block. My toyota highlander only had 53K miles at the time in 2009 when this happened. Toyota "assisted me in my repairs" since it was such a low mileage vehicle and I had good records of my oil changes. They paid for my parts (a new short block ~$4k) and I paid for the labor (~$1,900). However, that did not fix the issue. Later after many more test drives and the technician trying to figure it out, Toyota replaced the heads, valve covers and the PCV valve. Toyota paid for it since they didn't fix it right the first time with just the short block replacement (after pleading my case to the manager at the dealer and the regional Toyota engineer). I have not had excessive oil consumption since then. I have done some research and found that the earlier highlanders, including 2002, had a flaw in the oil circulation in the heads. Some say the new valve covers provide better oil flow in and around the valves in the heads. I have seen where others have claimed that a new PCV valve had resolved the issue. Based on my experience, all I can say is it was something in the new heads, valve covers, or PCV valve that fixed the problem since those were the last three items that they replaced. Best of luck to you. It is somewhat difficult to get Toyota to admit to any design flaws and to cover the costs!!!! I may have been one of the exceptions since it had such low mileage. I basically ended up with a complete new engine at my cost of labor ($1,900).
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,786

    The description of the high oil usage at high speed points clearly to a problem with the PCV valve in any engine. I'd guess that was more logical starting point


  • I own a 2002 Highlander V6 with 112,000 miles on the clock and also experience oil consumption issues. It's mostly used for short hilly urban stop start commuting in Vancouver, Canada, and uses about 1 quart every 3000mi - pretty reasonable to me. However, when used for longer high speed freeway trips, it starts eating oil like there is no tomorrow.

    I did a 4500mi road trip from Canada to Southern California last summer, where, at times, I was going through two quarts every time I filled up (about 300miles). It appeared to be directly related to how fast I was driving - at a steady 75mph I used a quart every 300miles; two quarts were required during 85mph legs in Montana. Under 65mph oil consumption is negligible, even when hauling a trailer.

    I've learned to live with it, and given the big repair cost of PCV valves, I'm not going to fix it, unless it gets worse. I now use one of our other vehicles for long distance trips in future, and keep the Highlander for around town commuting.

    Sucks though. I backpacked around Australia a few years back in a 1984 Toyota Corona. 405,000 kilometres on the clock when I purchased it and 421,000km when I sold it 7 months later. It didn't use any oil between changes, and it was often driven at 100mph plus in the then speed limit free Northern Territory.

    Somehow I don't think my 2002 Highlander is going to get to 400,000km.

  • Dave,
    If the solution really is just the PCV valve, it is only ~ $10 item. PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system siphons the vapors from the crankcase and routes them into the intake manifold so they can be reburned in the engine. It's just a little black valve that attaches to the valve cover. Some have claimed this has worked for them (this valve needs to open up at high speeds). I'm not convinced but I think it would be worth the $10 to try it. If that doesn't work, then yes it appears that your repair will involve either the new valve covers that they have made for the older highlanders or the actual heads with new valves. Best of luck. If you do choose to replace the PCV valve and it works, I'd be interested your results.
    Regards, Steve
  • We also own a 2001 Toyota Highlander that has the same problem of using a lot of oil. I was very interested in your solution regarding leaving the oil cap off and replacing it with an Edlebrock air breather. May I ask what the part # is for the air breather? I would like to try this solution, thank you.
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