Toyota Sienna Van V6 Sludge Problem?

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Jan 21, 2003
Elizabeth City NC
My wife is considering this Mini-van for our next vehicle. Does it have the sludge Monster problems being talked about. It will probably be a used one 2000-2001
I think it will potentially have the sludge problems but that all depends on how you handle the oil change bit. Also it will depend on how the previous owner has maintained the vehicle. Another candidate for auto-rx treatments otherwise. Good luck! [Smile]
I'd look at Edmund's forum on this subject as well. Discussion went on for thousands of posts. IMHO, not all of these people were lying-- some had very compelling stories about getting shafted by Toyota. Toyota has made good on some extended warranty issues. Still, I'd definitely pull a valve cover at the very least. Also, although I'm not a big believer that synthetic is worth the extra $$$, in this case it's an investment I'd make. Having said that, I recently visited a relative up in northern Minnesota that had one of these beasts and hadn't given it much special treatment at all. I think she had about 85K with normal oil changes and dino oil and was only slightly aware of any "gelling" problem.
I would be very reluctant to by a used "sludge monster" Toyota, and 2000 -2001 Sienna is probably the worse because of the load on the engine due to the vehicle size, and the tightness of the engine compartment leads to the heads cooking the oil. You need to search this site in depth on this. I would at very least insist on the front valve cover being removed and the valve train inspected. The oil fill passage is baffled in such a way you can't see anything inside, so valve cover removal is needed. Honestly I would strongly look at the Honda Odyssey instead, but do research here too. I think the Honda's may have had transmission issues.
Look into the Odyssey. You'll - and your wife - will be much happier you did. [Smile] BTW Due to transimission issues during these years, all '00 and '01 Odysseys have a 6yr/100K warranty against the transmission, and it may be the entire powertrain as well, but not sure on that one. [I dont know] [ September 08, 2003, 05:38 PM: Message edited by: RC211V ]
csandste It is funny that you would mention gelling. We used a friends van in California for a week. It was a 2000 Sienna with 31,000 miles. I checked the oil and it was clean looking but seemed a little thicker than normal almost like a gell. She had few miles on the oil but 6 months and was looking to change it. Is this the way oil looks before sluging?? I would have expected dark color oil not light tan. [ September 08, 2003, 06:02 PM: Message edited by: TR3-2001SE ]
Our 99 Sienna gives an extremely quiet ride, but there are issues to look out for: --Many 98 thru early 00 models have extended trans protection due to "complete failure". For this repair, protection has been extended to 8 years from date of original sale. --Sliding door hinges make noise. Very annoying in an otherwise quiet ride. This is fixable with a couple hours of your time and about $10 in parts. --Interior Sliding door locks stick in the "in" position. Easily fixed with a $4 can of lube (can't remember the name of it right now!). --Tire pressure warning lights seem to come on at will. The dealer tries to fix it, but they never do. I refuse to pay for this repair since it's nothing that's a show stopper. --Modular CD player refuses to play just ejects them back out. This same CD player is using in certain 98-99 Isuzu models. Hopefully, the 2000 GM-size units fare better than the pre '00 stereos. --Sludge. I bought ours with 18K from a guy we knew, he changed the oil every 3K. At 37K or so, I performed 2 consecutive Schaeffer's Neutra treatments using Chevron Supreme. The first treatment was absolutly BLACK! EEGGADD! I took care of this van with 3k oil changes! The second treatment was MUCH lighter brown color. I've switched from 10w30 Mobil 1 SS to settle on 5w30 and will perform a UOA come Decemeber with about 5 or 6K miles on it. We'll see how this oil stands up in this engine. Not a bad vehicle all in all, but you MUST stay on top of the oil sludge issue by AutoRX'ing it or using Schaeffer's Neutra (my personal fave). I would suggest a 2003 model as the emissions were less restrictive on the top of the head. Don't know how much, but perhaps enough to make cyl head temps a few degrees lower...lower is better. My $0.02: Even a 2004 LE with no options isn't a bad deal...assuming you can find a dealer that will "deal" with you. Good luck!!
Forgot to mention that the digital clock sometimes goes out. Our is intermittent in it's operation. Again, not worth fixing since I don't care to know what time it is every minute I'm driving. With 2 help desk pagers and a cell phone on my belt, I can tell the time in any city on the planet! [Big Grin] This was previously mentioned, but the consumer discussions section at has excellent info on real-world issues around this vehicle. OK, I'm done now! [Smile]
Originally posted by ToyotaNSaturn: My $0.02: Even a 2004 LE with no options isn't a bad deal...assuming you can find a dealer that will "deal" with you. Good luck!!
We got ours for $30k but we opted for the dvd player (kids) and the premium sound system (again kids). Very happy with the '04 Sienna - our first minivan. Very happy with the dealer experience too (strange). Currently at 11k miles so I'm doing the auto-rx with Pennzoil cleaning. After that it's back to synthetic. I am hoping to get my hands on more german syntec but if I can't then M1 will be it. [Smile]
Thanks for all the replies. I believe with 3000-4000 mile changes with a good synthetic I will have no problems. Maybe auto-rx every 50,000 miles. It seems like most of the problems where with 5000 mile changes and dino oil. I will pull the valve covers for sure. I am sure it is a design problem but it can be handled with all the knowledge on this fourm. [Big Grin]
We had had very good luck with Hondas in the past, so when it came time to buy a mini-van in 2001, we naturally looked at the Honda. The Sienna and the Honda were the only two we considered, and after test drives, my wife prefered the the way the Toyota drove. Since it was to be her vehicle, we went with the Sienna. I switched to Mobil 1 10w30 at 1200 miles and have been using it ever since, with 5K mile changes. We have 38K miles on it so far. Runs great. None of the problems that ToyotaNSaturn has had - I think he got a lemon! I'll be doing an oil analysis at 40K and maybe I'll try an auto-rx treatment after that. I'm hoping to keep this van another 3-4 years. I don't know how widespread the sludge problem is. I know there are huge numbers of these Sienna's on the road, not to mention all the other vehicles that have these engines. I'm sure most of these drivers are using dino oil and doing oil changes at the maximum intervals, or whenever they get around to it. The average driver is not as obsessive about maintaining their vehicles as most of the people on this forum are. You would think these vehicles would be dropping like flies, but I don't think that's the case. Obviously there is a sludge problem with these engines, otherwise Toyota would never have admitted it. On the other hand, I tend to think it's not as widespread a problem as some are making it out to be. These engines certainly can't be neglected in terms of maintenance, but I don't think they will all self destruct quite as easily as some people say. I hope my vehicle doesn't prove me wrong on that! [Eek!]
Originally posted by harrydog: I'm sure most of these drivers are using dino oil and doing oil changes at the maximum intervals, or whenever they get around to it.
And there's the problem...
Originally posted by harrydog: None of the problems that ToyotaNSaturn has had - I think he got a lemon!
Exactly my thoughts! I even have my wife convinced of that! I looked at the end of model year Tahoe's and Yukons this past week, but that's a LOT of money. This Sienna will need to last about 6 years more, then I'll look elsewhere. By then, the kids' will be too big to have their legs cramped by the 2nd row bench seating and we'll need that Tahoe! Keeping the Sienna with all it's issues is much cheaper than looking elsewhere right now. Heck, it's fun to change the oil, isn't that why we're all here!? [Cheers!]
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