How long will it run?

Gentlemen, I would be so appreciative if you would give me your opinion. I’m having a problem with my 2000 Toyota Sienna that I purchased in 1999. Can you please give me your opinion?


112,000 miles mostly local driving excellent maintenance history

still is working

making some noise

oil light flickers then goes on after driving for several minutes.

PROBLEM: Currently, the oil light was coming on and my regular mechanic said it was probably just the sensor since there was still plenty of oil.

WHAT WAS DONE: He installed a new sensor and the oil light was off, temporarily, then came back on. I took it back immediately and he said the only thing that could be wrong is the oil pump which he didn’t feel comfortable replacing so he sent me to the Toyota dealership.

The toyota dealership removed the top cover of the engine to show much that there is black tarry looking crud that is very visible. I spoke with the mechanic and he said that he heard some noises coming from the engine.

THE CAUSE: They are saying that the problem is coming from engine sludge and that it needs a new engine.

Except for the engine problem, it’s in great condition. We’ve kept all of our records and have changed the oil frequently.

1. Do you think a used, rebuilt or remanufactured engine should be put in the vehicle?

2. Is there anything else that could be done at less cost that would fix the engine without having to replace it?

3. Do you think that any replacement engine v-6 from toyota for 2000 year is going to inevitably end up with sludge because of the design?

Is putting a used engine in our 2000 Sienna Van the best option? Or, is there a better one.

PRIOR HISTORY WITH SLUDGE: Back in 2002 when the engine sludge announcement was made by Toyota, we took it to the dealership and they put in some different valves.

Then, in 2003 we actually experienced an engine sludge problem and they replaced about 10-12 different parts on the engine.

At that time, they did not install the new valve cover.

What do you recommend for this vehicle? I’m so worried that we’ll pay $4,000 to install a used engine that won’t even last for a year.

Thanks in advance for your time.

  1. I would get any engine with decent miles and comes with some form of a warranty.

  2. Dealership can try and desludge the engine but it seems too far gone already.

  3. The extended warranty time has already ready passed

Never drive a car with a flickering oil light but it sounds like you know that its gonna blow and are prepared for it.



The oil light means low oil pressure. “Still plenty of oil” has nothing to do with this warning light. You can have the correct level of oil, but low oil pressure will ruin the engine quickly.

I used to buy used cars with 112,000 miles on them because they cost $600. I could rebuild the 350 chevy V-8 for $400, or buy a remanufactured one for $650. Those days are gone but the situation isn’t impossible.

Remanufactured engines have some kind of warranty and are almost as good as new ones. If you live in a low rust area, just do it. A new Sienna costs a fortune, so $4,000 is cheap for another 88,000 miles. Get rid of the Sienna when it hits 200,000 miles is you want to. I would.

Use synthetic oil at the first oil change and forever after to prevent sludge formation.

There are reasons to want a newer vehicle. If you are financially well off, buy the new one because you don’t need a breakdown, ever. Anything can stop working on an old car. Nobody wants to pay for a transmission repair or a $950 brake job. Then there could be the unrepairable catalytic converter code…

Thanks for taking the time to post a question that included the details.

While many don’t see it that way, oil sludging is caused by failure to change the oil often enough based on driving habits and enviro conditions. You state this vehicle was for local use so this tells me mostly short hop, stop and go type of driving.
In a case like this the oil should be changed every 3k miles or 3/4 months, whichever comes first. In some REALLY severe cases changing the oil every 2k miles or 3 months may be in order.

I’m also fully aware of claims that oil does not have to changed except every 6 months or infinity, whichever comes first. In a perfect world and without a “severe service” disclaimer; maybe. About 99% of the cars on the road meet the severe service requirement.

The engine is likely toast and that black, tarry substance they showed you is sludged and/or coked engine oil. The part you can’t see in the oil pan will look worse than that and that is what causes the engine damage. Generally what happens is that the oil pump pickup screen will clog up due to sludged/coked oil and this in turn will kill off the engine by shorting the oil supply.
As an analogy, think of someone squeezing the jugular vein on your neck. The results are the same.

Considering the age of the vehicle I’d be real nervous about sinking 4 grand into a used engine. Used engines can sometimes be a pig in a poke and you have no idea what you’re really getting. Many salvage yards state their units “guaranteed good” but keep in mind the yard has not likely ever heard that engine run. If it turns sour the yard will refund the money or provide another motor but none of them guarantee labor. This means you would have to pay up again unless the shop (foolishly in my opinion) agrees to stand behind a used engine.

I would at least invest the time and money to replace the oil pump and it’s pick-up screen. This may turn out to be loves labor lost but it might give you some time to look for a replacement car and still have something to trade in…It might even run for another couple of years…

Do you have a favorite brand of oil and how often do you change it? Where do you live?

Yep, I agree with OK. The sludge indicates not frequent enough oil changes and the light indicates low oil pressure from worn engine parts. Too bad it has that low a mileage but I would think long and hard about replacing an engine on a 10 year old vehicle at this point.

Toyota has had well known problems with oil sludging on their V-6 s as does Chrysler with the 2.7 V-6 s. Both have a lot of angry owners that changed their oil every 3000 miles and didn’t make it to 100,000 miles.

You left out part of that. They may have changed the oil at 3k miles but where are other factors (with time being the main one) such as any overheating episodes, enviro conditions, engine performance, types of fuel, etc.

You know why these things take on a new life? Because of the internet, lawyers, and class action suits. Toyota agreed to settle a class action over this but not because they feel they’re guilty. It’s because the number crunchers compared the total money to repair against what a 12 person jury with an equivalent total IQ of the same number might cost them. Many jurors like nothing more than to stick it to Big Business.
(Example. The guy who was told by doctors for over 20 years to quit smoking. He did not, developed terminal lung cancer, and jurors awarded this idiot something like 50 million dollars after he sued the tobacco company.)

So let me ask this. As a mechanic I’ve seen sludged (and trashed) engines on every kind of vehicle out there. A dealer I worked for bought over 3 dozen fleet cars, each with approx. 35k miles on them, and every single one of them was sludged up badly; many to the point where we could barely see the rocker arms when the valve covers werer pulled.
These cars were all Chevys, all had small block V-8s, and all had the same common deonominators; city driving and 1-2 oil changes per year.
The question. Do you think Chevy small blocks suffer from design flaws and are a sludge prone engine like the Toyotas and Chryslers you mention?

If the pan can be dropped without pulling the engine I would certainly suggest doing so. A good cleaning of the pan and inspection of the crankshaft might give a good idea whether there is any hope for the engine. I am very curious as to the frequency of oil changes and the variety of oil used and any issues with the cooling system.

While the pan is off would be a good time to pop a couple of main and rod bearings caps loose for a bearing inspection; preferably a couple located the fartherest from the oil pump.

Let me add a click and paste from a site bashing the Chrysler 2.7 for sludge problems.

Why Don’t These Failures Affect Every Dodge, Chrysler Vehicle Owner?

Each vehicle is driven differently, in different environments under different conditions. Driving styles where most consumers drive under severe driving conditions under which more contaminants are produced, however some consumers might not. Stop and go traffic, excessive idling at times, short trips, dusty conditions, environment such as cold or humid climates all has an affect and can accelerate and/or contribute to these failures

It is a sad situation. If it was my car before spending the big bucks on an engine replacement I would try synthetic oil changing it every time it gets a little brown, probably 3k or so. It may eventually pull out the sludge, and is an option to try something other than an engine replacement. From reading on the interweb the additives may cause more harm than good.