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Toyota Engine Sludge Problem



  • joedbobjoedbob Posts: 27
    I recently took my 2000 Avalon XLS and 2002 Camry XLE to my local Toyota dealer for oil and filter service. I have always believed in changing the oil every 3000 miles or less. On both cars, the dealer placed the usual plastic see-through oil change reminder on the inside of the windshields on completion of the oil change.

    In the past, ever since I purchased the Avalon in October of 1999, the little sticker reminder indicated the next change was due 5000 miles from the current odometer reading. Funny thing...on both cars this time, the next oil change was due in only 3000 miles from the current odometer. Hmmmmmm? Wonder why? Can anybody guess? Must have been a mistake on both cars.
  • dardson, your description of your Toyota taking control of your life hits way too close to home. I also did extensive research before buying my Sienna. My primary reason for buying it was because of it being rated as THE most reliable minivan on the market. So far it has been extremely reliable. 15 months later - no problems. Even though I can say that, I find myself doing the "peering into the oil hole" thing and sitting at the dealership for up to an hour after driving for 2 1/2 hours to get there. Now, I'm taking the long route into town to make sure that I drive at least 6 miles before turning the engine off and not becoming another start and stop casualty. I even posted a month or so ago that I had a nightmare about the sludge.

    Needless to say, I'm watching and waiting to see how this plays out. As you probably discovered, the resale price has depreciated tremendously, not just for Toyota, but for all cars because of the all time sales end of last year resulting in used cars flooding the market. So, it makes the most sense to me to wait at this point. See what Toyota is going to do. I'm thinking that in 6-9 months we'll have better information to work with. If someone can post indicating that they have had ALL of their oil changes at the dealership AND within the 5000 or less mile interval AND still developed sludge then I'll be in the market for a different car and not a Toyota. I don't *think I've seen that post yet. Maybe it's been posted and I missed it.

    I'm thinking that if the sludge issue is going to play out, it will be in the next 6-9 months. If there is a case, it will be a better time to sell. The used cars will have moved by next fall and I suspect the depreciation can't be any worse than it is now.
  • catgemcatgem Posts: 246
    thank you for your is refreshing to see calm posts!! (I apologize for my tirade against NCDS, but they bothered me more than Toyota, because they were such phonies!!)
    But, here we sit,trying to figure out what to do next...I am tempted to just dump my Sienna, especially because I had to sign a release. But, it is not a good time for me, and I would rather not act in haste!! I love the way it drives, and we will be making a short move this summer,and all that space will come in handy....
    Shifty, you made a good point about car companies redeeming their reps!! Many once great businesses are no longer mighty, and the reverse can certainly be true. I wish that folks who get so emotional about Toyota would take some business courses. Read some business law. Study the rise of Big Business in America (the railroads, the "robber barons"). What Toyota has done is not very unique OR surprising.
  • curlyqcurlyq Posts: 54
    I received my letter today for my 2000 Solara. I must say I was a bit put off by its tone and deflection of the issue at hand. It is sad to see a company that built a reputation on quality built, long lasting vehicles, can continuously blow it on the customer service end of the business. Since Toyota likes to survey its customers about their purchase and service experiences, I'd like to see a campaign letting Toyota know we are "COMPLETELY UNSATISFIED" with their explanation and handling of this very serious matter.
  • pronigierpronigier Posts: 19
    Toyota dealer gave me a copy of the letter that is supposed to go out to all owners of certain vehicles. I have a Camry that smokes. They are saying that there is oil jelly in the engine from changing the oil at 7500 miles instead of the severe requirment of 5000 miles. Funny but I have been changing the oil at 5000 miles. Anyway I will get my car fixed and then change the oil at 3000 miles and add an additive every other time. Would switching to Mobil One help.
  • 8u6hfd8u6hfd Posts: 1,391
    Valve stem seals may be leaking.
  • tccmn1tccmn1 Posts: 278
    I just got my Camry back after 2 weeks in the shop all covered under my EXTENDED WARRANTY. My Camry has 76K miles on it. They gave me a loaner that part wasn't too bad.
    They machined the head and installed new valve guide seals. Total costs for them was nearly $1000! I had the smoking problem at start-up issue and was originally told(last summer) to live with's normal!

    Well, now we see the mailings and the Toy trying to save face effort in place. It's just too bad to see a quality co. go down hard with SOOOO many vehicles affected (3.5 million) per my local Toy. service rep. who told me about this letter for the first time when I picked up my car!!

    I was planning on buying a new v6 Highlander....should I now?? Maybe, they fixed the problem on the newer's a risk.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Was it just the valve stem seals that went bad at 76K, or the valve guides themselves?

    If just the seals, that could happen to any engine at those miles. They get hard with age and use, and depending on your luck, may be a big problem or a small one. Still, more like 125K would be normal for valve stem seals. If the guides were bad at 76K, that's definitely premature IMO.

    I posted the automotive digest quote to show the relationship of Toyota's letter to the "fear of attorneys" noted in the Digest.
  • webguysterwebguyster Posts: 434
    When people mention this "smoke", is it so much white smoke, like a fog machine? Without looking at everyones bio to see where you live, most cars smoke at start up, in winter. I am aware that my car smokes upon cold start up, and as a comparison, I can use a friends 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe, recently recalled. We frequently meet at a movie theater, and with it being winter, start our cars, parked together, and the Hyundai warms up much faster than my Solara, and seem to have less smoke. Again my dealer has assured me, without looking in the engine, but just based on my maintenance, that I don't have any sludge problem, or any other engine problem. Says..."just keep changin' your oil!". I see old beaters burning oil, so I know it's blue smoke, but it seems that all cars smoke a bit at a cold start, thus all the posting about condensation, water, etc. How much white smoke is too much?

    Anyone know why 2002 Toyota owners will get a letter later this year, and not at purchase? Is it a SPA letter?

    Anyone have any feedback as to doing engine flushing as regular, annual, maintenance? It is not too costly, or time consuming, seems to be recommended on the web, mostly by the manufacturer of the machine, and has various opinons posted, throughout the web, as to its value.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I think flush is not really a preventative, but rather a restorative, to clean out an existing problem. If you are doing short interval oil changes, I don't think you'd need to do that + flushing.

    Coolant flush is a different matter, since coolant isn't regularly changed.
  • obyoneobyone Posts: 8,054
    Sir. The sludge that is referred to in this forum is located on the interior of the engine. What you have there is an oil leak that dried up and collected dirt while doing so.
  • bob57bob57 Posts: 302
    Several posts have said Toyota knows the "problem(s)" and hasn't done anything about it yet - except to say change the oil more often - inferring that is a band-aid fix. I feel if Toyo has come up with an analysis of a "defective" part or parts or design then it would have leaked out by now. A secret is not a secret if more than one person knows it.
    It's like some people said we never went to the moon and it was all faked. How could 100,000 people working at NASA on the moon shots keep that a secret? (I was there)
    Do we know Toyota actually did a change on the engine for the '02? Any documentation out there? Do we know if Toyota did an analysis on this problem? They said they did. So, did Toyota build an engine running on the edge of technology and later discover that the oil needs to be changed more often to prevent gel?
    I think the last statement is the only thing to go on right now until some type of proof (not the mags or experts or my friend says...) is carved in granite. Sludged engines are not just a Toyota problem but, yes, they may be more prone if the oil isn't changed more often.
  • webguysterwebguyster Posts: 434
    Post #4591..."I think the last statement is the only thing to go on right now until some type of proof (not the mags or experts or my friend says...) is carved in granite. Sludged engines are not just a Toyota problem but, yes, they may be more prone if the oil isn't changed more often."

    Change the oil more often than what?
  • mcgregermcgreger Posts: 40
    I test drove a Pontiac Vibe(aka Toyota Matrix), and had a chance to look through the owners manual. Still two change intervals; but the first one is set at every 3k miles for the short trip, heavy traffic, long idle sort of driving scenarios-the long term highway driving is still at 7.5k miles. And they are fairly specific in their description of the shorter term oil change schedule-not like the previous Toyota manuals which I think erred with their 5k mile intervals for severe driving conditions. How many people maybe saw 5k vs. 7.5k and just decided that for such a small difference(2.5k), why not just go with the 7.5k(or longer) interval because it was less hassle and cheaper than having more frequent oil changes.
  • jj35jj35 Posts: 283
    tccmn1, you posted the following under the Toyota Sedan Camry forum (post #3253):

    "Again, I was told by the service manager that there will be a service bulletin sent out to 3.5 million Toyota owners of vehicles from 1997-2001 (Camrys, Avalons, Siennas, Highlanders 4's and 6's) all mfg. prior to August 2001. The VIN's will also determine the problem vehicles.
    The symptoms are; smoking, check engine light coming on, oil levels going down. Once you spot one of the three symptoms, you are to call your local Toyota service and notify them of the issue. They will have a Toy Rep. come out and view your car and determine if it fits the 'recall' scenario. If it does, they will cover the expense. There will be a 1 year window for owners to respond or deal with this issue. After which time, their coverage is gone."

    This sounds similar to the special policy adjustment, but I thought Toyota was pretty clear that the SPA was not a recall nor warranty coverage - I am wondering if Toyota has changed their position or maybe your dealer is not using the right terminology. Or is this something new and different from the SPA? Maybe Cliffy1 can fill us in.
  • mfjjmfjj Posts: 20
    I'm about to buy an 02 Camry V6. I know Toyota says they didn't change anything to fix the sludge problem because there was nothing to fix, but I'm hoping the changes they made to achieve the ULEV status (and possibly a different part supplier) might have made a difference.

    This car will be used in relatively mild climate (Delaware) for off-hour daily commute, 20 miles highway cruising each way. I don't think this is "severe" driving condition and I'd really like to use the 7.5K maintenance schedule. But will Toyota believe me? Does synthetic oil help? I mean, if I use Mobil 1 Synthetic every 7500 miles at the dealer's shop, does it matter whether the driving condition is normal or severe? I'm asking this not so much as a technical question, but more in terms of what would satisfy Toyota regarding warranty repairs. Thanks!
  • jj35jj35 Posts: 283
    The dealer that I see is recommending 5,000 mile oil changes using Castrol Syntec in my Sienna van. They did not inquire about my driving conditions, but I easily fall within the 7,500 mile parameters listed in my manual.
  • webguysterwebguyster Posts: 434
    If I were getting a new Toyota, I would really consider if I were going to follow the normal or severe maintenance. My belief is synthetic is the best way to go, and if it were more cost effective, we would not rely on dino oil. As far as Delaware being mild, I would consider, does it get below zero in the winter, and over 90f, in summer??? It may seem normal, but by the words of the book, you still might consider the climate severe.
  • jj35jj35 Posts: 283
    The 2000 Toyota Sienna manual does not list temperatures of over 90 degrees as a severe condition. Frequent stops and starts in below freezing temperatures is listed, however.
  • mfjjmfjj Posts: 20
    webguyster said: "As far as Delaware being mild, I would consider, does it get below zero in the winter, and over 90f, in summer??? It may seem normal, but by the words of the book, you still might consider the climate severe."

    This is exactly my point. It doesn't matter how I use the car, it can always be interpreted as "severe". That's why I'm considering synthetic just to avoid the question. But will it satisfy Toyota?

    By the way, the "book" defined severe as the following:
    1. Towing a trailer or using a camper or car-top carrier.
    2. Repeated short trips of less than 5 miles in temperatures below freezing.
    3. Extensive idling or low-speed driving for long distances as in heavy commercial use, such as delivery, taxi, or patrol car.
    4. Operating on rough, muddy, or salt-covered roads.
    5. Operating on unpaved or dusty roads.

    I've already stated the use of the car: "off-hour daily commute, 20 miles highway cruising each way". Yes, it's in Delaware, but is it severe?
  • armtdmarmtdm Posts: 2,057
    I picked up some Amsoil product today from my Direct Jobber who maintains an inventory so it eliminates the shipping for me. Anyway got into a huge argument over the Amsoil warranty and more specifically Toyota sludged engines. As you may know, the Amsoil Warranty says they will replace an engine if their oil is used per instructions (1 year or 25,000 miles and filter at 6 months or 12,500 miles) in a "MECHANICALLY SOUND" engine and the engine fails.

    To me that does not say that the oil had to cause the failure but that the engine may fail with cause unknown. Their interpretation is that the oil can never fail without a mechanical problem. Thus, only a bad batch of oil manufactured incorrectly could cause the warranty to kick in. They will never cover an engine if it fails simply by using Amsoil as directed because it will ALWAYS BE A MECHANICAL FAILURE and thus not a mechanically sound engine. I asked if they have paid any warranties under the Toyota sludge issue. They said no, never will, this is mechanical problem and not an oil problem and the engine is causing nitration. Could never be oil failure.

    I pointed out that if Amsoil knew that these engines were sludge prone would you not inform customers to monitor and change oil more frequently because if it sludged AMSOIL would not honor their warranty. They said, no it is Toyotas problem. Nothing like misleading a customer in my opinion if you know the product you sell may not cover a potential problem and if it does not you will not honor your warranty.

    So, IMHO this is another warranty that is not worth the paper it is printed on. In my opinion what they should be doing is simple, here's the warranty but only if you can prove the oil was bad from the factory will the warranty be honored and that will be extremely unlikely. I stated that no one has "proven" a mechanical or engine design fault with Toyota as yet and they said we don't care, the oil cannot fail unless there is a mechanical failure.

    What hogwash! So, like most warranties on this planet, not worth the paper it is printed on should it ever be needed.
  • fxashunfxashun Posts: 747
    Great post. Goes back to the Amosoil debate we had a long time ago here. There is a story where a guy DID get his repairs covered by Amsoil. I called Amsoil and they said they were pursuing Toyota in that case and were doing their own study on the problem. I didn't follow up on it though.
  • This whole issue reminds me of the "unintended acceleration" debate many years ago. In that debate, thousands of owners reported their cars accelerating violently when the driver was trying to slow down, usually while reversing. This problem was commonly associated with Audi, although most automakers had some incidence of it.

    Many people believed there was some sort of weird interaction between engine/transmission control computers and possibly ABS controllers. Ultimately it was proved that the cause was generally the driver pressing the accelerator instead of the brake pedal. When the car started to accelerate the driver, thinking his/her foot was on the brake, pressed harder, causing the car to rocket backwards. However, although there was a tendency to blame the customer, this in no way excused Audi. Their car was clearly more prone to this sort of driver error than other cars (likely due to pedal positioning, shape and feel), so they were responsible, not the drivers who made the errors. The problem was fixed by the use of transmission interlocks, which would only select reverse if the brake pedal was depressed.

    Now we have Toyota (whose brand image is based on quality, reliability, durability and low maintenance) saying that engine sludging is not due to an engine fault, but due to inadequate owner maintenance. The trouble is, there is no evidence that owners of the specific Toyota models involved are maintaining their cars any worse than other owners. They are behaving normally (just like the Audi drivers were). The reason their cars have problems is that the engine design is clearly at fault in that it requires more maintenance than other mass market cars doing the same job. Whether there is a specific "fault" or it is just too marginal in its overall design, is irrelevant. Toyota is responsible for ensuring their car is of saleable quality. For Ferrari an unusually frequent maintenance program might be acceptable, because that is a specialist, very high performance car, but not so Toyota. They sell mass-market cars to ordinary consumers, and their cars SHOULD NOT require unusually frequent servicing, NO MATTER WHAT THE OWNERS MANUAL SAYS. Attempts to redefine "severe use" are, IMHO, a lame attempt to cover up the problem with their product.

    Having said all this, no company will ever "win" by blaming their customers. People aren't stupid, and they remember these things next time they buy
  • fxashunfxashun Posts: 747
    No more posts. David set it all out right there. Great post.
  • tccmn1tccmn1 Posts: 278
    My smoke started appearing last spring and through the MN. summer. Temp. had nothing to do with it.

    I was originally told by two local Toy dealers to live with's just oil seeping down the guides..extra lubricant for 'em. This was BLUE OIL type smoke...not hot exhaust in cold weather type or Antifreeze white type fog! They replaced my head on the 4 banger Camry at 76K under Toy ExtraCare. I swear by buying the extended warranty on ALL my Toy vehicles I've owned and my American DC minivan.

    I also changed my oil EVERY 3K miles! So, they can't stick that 'not maintaining the vehicle' schtick on my case. I have a wad of invoices to prove it after nearly 5 years.

    Check my post on whatever they want to call this 'letter' being sent out to 3.5MM Toy owners of various models on the Camry thread. Call it a recall, warranty, bulletin,'ve still got to prove it to the Toy Rep who visits the local shops once a month or so, to visually see that you have the problem before they will cover the expense of fixing it. Check Eng. Light, Blue Smoke, or oil levels going down unusually fast are the 3 symptoms to look for.

    Funny, I remember a '77 Toy pickup I had that I had to battle Toy Corp. on for a new Torque Converter. They paid for it after I wrote a nasty gram to Cust. Serv.. Back in those days we had to handwrite our feelings in letters.

    The more things change, the more they're just the same!!:))
  • I will use Mobil 1 at next change.

    The corvette & 5 other vehicles leave the factory with it !

    Saw info from Larry Perry (the Magic Mechanic of Orlando, Fl)someplace (not on his web page), mentioned the very high temp these engines have, recommends synthetic and frequent changes.

    My vehicle meets the 7,500\6 mo.
    Svg. Mgr. said 4,000\4 mo (even with the synthetic). Seems like overkill to me.

    Great posts on tailpipe smoke. Saw the white smoke\thick fog yesterday on my ford 3.8 + a bubbling in the coolant overflow.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    TCCMN1 -- actually, the Toyota reps comment was a bit perverse, but actually true. It IS good for the valve to have a little extra oil on it. However, it's not good to have a mosquito-fogger for a car in the mornings. If you want some extra oil in the upper cylinders, there are upper cyl lubricants that allow you to control the amount of oil up there by adding to the gas in a certain proportion. That's why the rep's answer was true but very wise-[non-permissible content removed].

    DAVIDFRANCIS--great post, thanks. What the Audi 5000 debacle taught me was that the consumer could be RIGHT and WRONG at the same time!

    Right about having a real problem but wrong about what caused it.

    As soon as a device was installed that forced you to step on the brake before the shift lever would release into reverse--guess what?-- no more surprise acceleration problems.

    Yep, Audi bungled this one, too. They should have intervened earlier and put that device on every Audi 5000 they could find on the face of the earth.
  • fxashunfxashun Posts: 747
    I think it was Car and Driver noticed that that leather on the gear selector was starting to show a lot of wear. They asked their dealer to replace it under warranty and they said no because they "abused" it. They were not amused.
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,918
    Mr. Shifty: What do you think of some of the Toyota reps not accepting non-Toyota oil changes even with receipts? To me this creates another issue in this saga. Just interested in hearing your opinion on this.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    That's a difficult call. If one accepts the premise that only a lack of maintenance causes sludge, receipts are not relevant. If those receipts are from the dealership, the assumption would be that the dealer didn't actually perform services that were paid for. Because those receipts are from a Toyota dealership, the warranty would be backed because it was agents of Toyota that caused the sludge.

    If the receipts are not from a dealership, Toyota would not be compelled to back them up.

    In this case, it isn't so much Toyota blaming the customer as blaming the people who ostensively changed the oil.
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