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Toyota Prado: Oil sludge

Louie Delinicolis ASKED THE GUIDE

Toyota Prado: Oil sludge

We bought a new Toyota Prado in 2007. At the same time we also bought their Mechanical Protection plan which covered you for six years or 175,000km, whichever came first, on the proviso that you had your car serviced with them charge. It turned out that it was a 30-point inspection, not an actual service. Around March last year, after about 120,000km, the oil light started coming on, even though the oil was full. After about four days Toyota identified that the sump was full of sludge. They cleaned the sump of sludge and put it back together without cleaning or flushing any other part of the engine. I had been complaining of engine noise and black smoke since about the 80,000km mark, but they kept insisting that everything was normal. Once the six years were up I decided to take the car for a service elsewhere, as I was convinced the skillset of mechanics at the dealer was inadequate at best. At around the 133,000km the oil light came back on, I took it back to the service outlet and told them about our previous experience with sludge. They pulled the sump off again and cleaned the sludge out. Only when I started driving the car home I noticed a winding sound coming from the engine. The service outlet wiped their hands of it, so I had to take it back to the Toyota dealer. They refused at first to acknowledge there was a problem, it was only when I insisted their supervisor come for a drive that the sound was acknowledged as not being normal. Anyway at a further charge they told me that due to the lack in lubrication caused by the sludging, the impeller in the turbocharger, had suffered. Then just before Xmas the oil light came back on again, they put that down to a bit of corrosion on the oil sensors, I personally believed it had re-sludged and they only relocated the sensors to stop it alarming. In January, when we were travelling up the coast on the freeway the car just shut down, we called NRMA who told us that they suspected that the engine had seized. I was gob smacked, the car is only six and a half years old with 140,000km on the clock. I noticed on your website that the engine in question, the D4D diesel was having issues with the injectors blocking up causing the oil to carbonate, which was recalled in England and New Zealand but not in Australia. We tried to have them take responsibility for the sludging and rectify the problem before any serious issues arose, but they pulled the oldest trick in the book and said that the car was not serviced in accordance with their terms and conditions. Unfortunately, we missed a couple of services throughout the early period of the car. What can we do?

The oil sludging is believed to be caused by fuel leakage past the fuel-injector seals into the oil stream. Eventually it can lead to the oil pickup being blocked, which then starves the engine of oil. It's a known problem in other parts of the world, but Toyota has not done anything about it here, even though we know of a number of cars that have suffered severe engine meltdowns. To make it worse the oil seals in question are supposed to be replaced at the 40,000km service when the valve clearances are checked and reset. It's clear that this isn't always done. Like you, I would be very angry about having the engine fail at such low kays, and I would be letting Toyota head office know about it in no uncertain terms. I know of one owner who managed to get them to replace the engine in his car when it had done over 200,000km, so I would urge you not to take Toyota's "no" for an answer and  push them to the limit. Take action through Consumer Affairs if needed. Don't worry that the Toyota warranty has expired, the company still has an obligation to sell you a product that is fit for purpose, and it would seem in this case that it has not.