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'02 Toyota RAV4 Engined Seized

My 2002 RAV4 died on Monday. My daughter was driving and it started making very odd noises & seized up. It has ~100K miles & the oil level is good. The mechanic put a long screwdriver in it (not sure what part) & it wouldn’t turn.

Why would this happen? Oil pump bad? If so then shouldn’t a check engine light turn on?

Has this happened to anyone else? Is it possible there’s a recall associated with this, or an alert?


Good luck. Get a 2nd opinion from another mechanic. The chances of Toyota helping with this one are at best slim.

It is possible an internal engine part failed. I am not sure a screw driver is a determinant of a “seized engine”. Hence my suggestion for another opinion.

Did the timing belt break??

No, the timing belt is still there.

These use a chain and those can snap too with some “very odd noises”

“Why would this happen? Oil pump bad? If so then shouldn’t a check engine light turn on?”

9 times out of 10, lack of oil is the cause…This causes bearing failure and seizure. If this is not the situation in your case, then it is a one in a million failure. Once in a blue moon, a bearing will “spin”, rotate slightly out of position, which blocks the oil hole that feed the bearing, which leads to quick failure and lots of “strange noises”. Seizure however very, very rare unless something big and heavy breaks and jams inside the engine. A tear-down will be necessary to determine the exact cause…

I would start looking for a serviceable used (salvage) engine before I would “rebuild” yours…

A recall will not cover engine problems. Recalls are issued for safety related items; fire hazard, lighting, suspension, brakes, etc.

I agree with Caddyman that lack of oil is usually the reason for a seizure. And who says the oil level is good? Have you personally checked the oil level or are you relying on someone else’s statement?
Also agreed that a screwdriver is not a good tool at all for determining an engine seizure. The trans should be in neutral and a socket/ratchet should be used in an attempt to rotate the engine.

Depending on the regularity of oil changes, it’s possible the oil pump pickup screen could be clogged up due to sludge. Eventually the oil supply can’t keep up and it’s all over.

Another cause of an engine seizure could be overheating. So how is the coolant level?
Yet another point could be just how long your daughter continued to operate the vehicle AFTER it started making noises.

Oil pumps are simple impellars that spend their lives bathed and washed with oil. They really don’t fail.

What is the status of the vehicle right now? Has anyone looked deeper?

Has anyone tried removng the sparkplugs? Only three things will stop an engine like that to where it cannot be turned manually:

  1. a seized bearing
  2. hydrolocking…one or more cylinders filling with water (think:coolant) Water does not compress well and can stop a piston from continuing its compression stroke
  3. mechanical breakage of a connecting rod…extremely rare in a stock engine.

If the engine is hydrolocked, removal of the spark plugs will allow it to be mechanically turned. The fluid will come out the plug hole.

Has the maintenance been kept up? Oil with 100K on it is not much better than no oil. It can prevent the system from maintaining that pressurized barrier that’s so critical to bearings.

Oh, and loss of oil pressure will cause the oil light to energize, but not the check engine light. The CEL is for emissions related items including erratic ignition.