Oil sludge in engine. How to get rid of it? (Toyota Sienna)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jonathan Burk, Mar 13, 2003.

  1. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

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    Toyota Siennas seem to have a problem with oil sludge accumulation. Has anyone overcome this problem, or can anyone recommend a cleaner or procedure to get rid of existing sludge?

    I'm leaning towards Lubro-Moly's cleaner, or maybe switching to synthetic.
     
  2. Scooter

    Scooter Screenwriter

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    On the engine or in the engine????

    In the engine..a good name brand engine flush should do it.
     
  3. Stephen L

    Stephen L Second Unit

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    Jonathan before you do anything to your Sienna check with Toyota. The sludge was big news in the Sienna & Camry line last fall. I believe they put a program in place to handle it.
     
  4. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Have you verified the existence of sludge or is this proactive research ? We just bought a Sienna and I read about the potential of buildup that would void the warranty.

    I believe this is caused by the newer engines running hotter to gain better emissions, but with sludge as a by-product. I plan on changing the oil every 3-4k, rather than the 7500 recommended by Toyota.

    A friend that has a 3 yr old Sienna with 60k on it just lost a radiator, so frequent flushing may assist that also.

    Good Luck !
     
  5. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Jonathan,

    Have you had your Sienna since new and changed the oil per the recommended schedule? If so you will not have sludge.

    There are a small vocal group of folks who never or rarely changed the oil on these and experienced sludge buildup. These were typically folks who went 10k or longer between oil changes or never had it changed at all.



    I work in a Toyota dealership shop and have never seen sludge in a properly maintained engine. We have seen sludged engines but never on one that we can verify had the oil changed per factory recommended schedule. I've pulled the valve covers on these with 80-120 k miles and they are clean as a whistle inside if the oil's been changed.

    We had one Camry on which the engine siezed at 34k miles. The owners, a married couple, each assumed the other was getting the oil changed but it was never changed at all.

    To mollify the neglecters out there Toyota has started a service program under which they will clean out, repair, or replace (as necessary) any engine with sludge damage provided the owner can produce proof of 1 oil change in the previous 12 months. In one case at our dealership, the factory rep approved a new engine for a Sienna with 90k miles on it and the only proof of maintenance was photocopies of a handwritten notebook, which probably took the owner most of an evening to fake.

    The sludge will appear as a gummy or pudding like brownish goop under the valve cover at first, will eventually burn into a dark tarlike mass.

    If you are worried about your Sienna, have someone remover the front valve cover (very easy) and look for the above.

    If the oil's been changed regularly you won't see any sludge.

    If you do have sludge, get an oil change and save the reciept, then take the vehicle to a Toyota dealer for inspection and cleanout or repair.

    If you don't have sludge, continue to change the oil on a regular basis and you never will have sludge.

    Keep in mind that the recommended oil change interval of 7500 miles is for vehicles that are not used primarily for short (less than 10 miles) trips or lots of stop and go traffic. If your Sienna sees typical minivan use of mostly short trips and rarely gets fully warmed up in the winter, use the 5k interval or less.

    I recommend 3-4 k oil change intervals for most typical soccer-mom use.
     
  6. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Steve - good to get an "insiders" point of view.

    Can you verify the oil has been changed if customers only provide reciepts or manual records when owners performed the oil changes themselves ? (just inquiring, not trying to flame)

    Quite a few "net posters" claimed Toyota did not accept their reciepts from vendors like Jiffy Lube or other service centers as evidence of oil changes. Just wondering if there is a way Toyota can prove them wrong ? Kind of like an "our word against yours" deal....

    Any other "hot Sienna maintenance tips" (besides the ordinary ones) you can enlighten us on ?

    Thanks !
     
  7. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Interesting, we bought a certified used Sienna back in September of 2002. I'd not heard of this sludge problem before this.

    The engine in the Sienna is the same in several other Toyota makes and models so I would think that it would be a much wider spread problem if it were a Toyota engine defect of some sort. Sounds more like user neglect than anything else.

    I have the oil changed every 5k which averages about once a year, Linda doesn't drive much.


    Peace Out~[​IMG]
     
  8. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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  9. Lee L

    Lee L Supporting Actor

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    My question on this has always been, why is the way most people drive considered "severe" service? Why not say that short trips, yada, yada, yada are normal and have the other schedule be called light or limited duty or something similar. It almost sounds like the automakers want to leave themselves and out to deny warranty coverage when you did not realize your driving was severe.

    Also, I thought Magnuson-Moss specifically said that you do not have to have a vehicle serviced at any particular location or dealerr to be eligible for warranty coverage.
     
  10. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    What? A sludge problem and non one mentioned the PCV Valve. These things are cheap (under $10) and are regularly replaced during a 60k tune-up. They recycle the emmissions after the combustion stroke back into the air intake to help with pollution. If it's not working correctly the exhaust gases will stay in the block, causing the oil to sludge.

    They're very small and are located on the intake manifold (should be easy access just using plyers to unscrew it). You might need to change yours now, worth a shot since it's so cheap.
     
  11. James Edward

    James Edward Supporting Actor

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    I leased a 99 Camry and received a couple of letters from Toyota telling me to be sure to change the oil regularly, or risk a 'gelling'(their word) problem with the crankcase. These were not the usual dealer flyers or promotions to drum up business. They came directly from Toyota Corp itself.

    There is definitely a design issue of some sort that has cropped up in at least the 6 cylinder engine. Otherwise they would not send these reminders.
     
  12. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    There is no design issue. What there has been is a number of folks who thought they could not change their oil and not have to pay for the resulting damage to their engines, much like the folks who want to sue McDonalds for making them fat.

    These folks, egged on by a self-appointed Nader-type (a Norfolk Virginia schoolteacher whose own Sienna has NOT had the sludge problem) have made enough noise on the internet to endanger Toyota's well-deserved reputation for quality and reliablility.

    Toyota responded with the Special Policy adjustment in February of 02, which was a month or so later extended to cover the vehicles for 8 years or 100k miles. All that is required is evidence of 1 oil change within the previous year. Our factory rep has approved photocopies of handwritten entries in a small spiral notebook (note they didn't even want to see the original notebook!).


    This V6 engine is used in every V6 Camry, Sienna, Avalon, Highlander, Lexus ES-300, and Lexus RX-300 built since 97, hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

    At our dealership we've had a total of maybe 5-10 sludge policy claims in the year since the policy was started.

    Given that we are the highest volume Toyota dealer between LA and San Francisco, this small number of claims in relation to the number of vehicles with this engine over a period of an entire year is indicative to me that this is a non-issue for anyone who takes decent care of the vehicle.

    Is it totally inconceivable that a tiny percentage of people who didn't change their oil might lie and say they did in order to avoid a $5000 engine replacement bill? Perhaps even going so far as to fake receipts at their neighborhood Kinko's?

    It's a routine occurence where I work to have people demand (and get) no-charge warranty repairs on antennas broken by car washes, cupholders stepped on by kids, radios gummed up with splashed soda pop.

    Somehow "the customer is always right" has become "the customer cannot be held accountable for his own actions or inactions."

    I will re-iterate that I've had the valve covers off these engines with over 100k miles on them and a service history of oil changes every 5 to 7k miles or so with the occasional 8 or 9k stretch between changes and seen no sludge whatsoever.

    We have seen sludge on off-lease cars bought by the used car dept at auction, typically with 24-38k on them and no service history. We have NOT seen sludge on any of the engines of cars that we can verify had normal oil change intervals.

    If there are any owners of these vehicles out there who are concerned, it is a half-hour project to remove the front valve cover (back one is a bitch, lol) and look for sludge. If you don't want to do it yourself, any competent shop can do it for about 1/2 to 1 hr labor charge. It is very easy to see, a thick pudding like (butterscotch flavor) gunk which eventually burns to a very thick black charcoal color hard deposit thick enough to obscure the cams and valve train.

    If you see it, get an oil change anywhere and save the receipt, wait a week and go to the Toyota dealer with the receipt and ask for them to check for sludge. Any damage done or cleanout required will be taken care of for free.

    Toyota has bent over backward on this, reports of them earlier refusing service on this no longer apply. Factory rep approval is still required but more often than not is granted over the phone.

    Sorry if I sound so defensive on this, it's just that the whole "sludge defect" thing is really an urban myth perpetuated by a bunch of people who don't want to take responsibility for their own neglect. If I hadn't read about it on the internet, I wouldn't have known about it, as in my 32 years or experience working on Toyotas I've never seen sludge on an engine that I knew had been properly maintained.

    Toyota does screw up on occasion.

    A perfect example is the widespread head gasket failures on 90-95 or so trucks and 4 runners with the 3 litre V6 (NOT the same engine as the "sludgers"). We did see these fail at a high rate, Toyota recognized the problem and instituted a recall to have them inspected and replaced, and all related damage fixed up to and including new heads and shortblocks for engines with over 100k miles on them. This recall was totally voluntary on Toyota's part and kept our shop busy for several years! It was done in the interest of
    maintaining customer satisfaction as many many of these were well out of warranty. We still are doing these on some vehicles that are over 10 years old with mileage above 100k. Any other mfg would and has told their customers with blown head gaskets out of warranty to go climb a rope.

    If a mfg. willing to go this far thought for one moment there was a real sludging problem on the 1mzfe V6s in the Siennas et al, they would have done the exact same thing. In fact, they have gone so far as to abandon any real demand for credible proof of maintenance and are fixing problems clearly caused by customer neglect. The low number of claims under the Service Policy is proof that this is a tempest in a teapot.
     

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