Missing air filter

I bought a used 2007 Tacoma truck from a Toyota dealer in July with 53,000 miles. After driving it for 5000 miles, I took it to my local mechanic for an oil change. He, being the good mechanic that he is, checked the air filter. To his surprise, there was no filter element in there! He put one in and told me about his discovery. My question to you is this - how much damage could have been done to the motor in the 5000 miles I drove it without an air filter? I intend to tell the dealer, but first I’d like to know what effects this missing filter could have on the truck so I know how much to ask for from the dealer. Thanks

And how do you know that it wasn’t driven for X thousand miles before you bought it?

I would say that a lot of ring damage could have been done. How much depends on how much dirt and sand was in the air you drove through. I’d be especially worried if you drove on any dirt roads.

Why (other than you bought the car from this specific Toyota dealer) would you present this issue to them? perhaps you have a reason that I am not thinking of.

Maybe very little or no damage at all unless you live in a dusty climate or travel on dirt roads.

I think you’re offbase by asking the dealer for anything. It’s quite likely the dealer knew nothing of this. The truck was probably a trade-in or auction buy, it was sent to detail for cleanup, and presented for sale to the public.

At that point it becomes the potential buyer’s responsibility to check the truck BEFORE you buy it.

In most state’s a used vehicle purchase is specifically “as-is” unless otherwise specified in writing or misrepresentation can be proven. You’r eliekly out of luck in getting and rebate from the dealer, but try anyway.

Damage could range from none to reduced engine lifespan, depending on the environment it was driven in, how long it ran like that, and whether the Mary Jane got sucked into the intake…(small '60s joke there).

The bigger question is that of the truck was driven without the air filter, what other neglect has it suffered? If it were mine I’d want it gone over thoroughly by my local mechanic, including an assessment of any possible sludging from neglect of oil changes. I’d probably want to flush the cooling system (not with chemicals) too, and perhaps even the brake system, even if it wasn’t yet due for its next braze job. If it’s an automatic, check the recommended maintenance schedule to see if it’s due for a servicing.

And belts…I’d want to put new belts in.

If significant wear occurred, it might show up in a compression test.

I would point it out to the dealer and expect nothing but an apology and maybe some coupons for routine service. When you buy a used vehicle from a new/used car dealer, as opposed to a regular Joan on the street or a used car dealer, you pay more and expect a little more. They should turn a car over with the air filter and no other parts obviously missing.

That said, you just don’t get enough from a dealer to justify the higher price. The last time I bought a car, I went to a couple of dealers just for giggles. I asked a sales guy if there was any warranty. He said, “We stand buy our used cars. You can buy a warranty if you want.” I was tempted to ask him if that means he will hold my hand when I am paying for repairs that happen soon after purchase.

Perhaps the saleman could tell you were there just for “giggles” and responded accordinaly.

Was the truck a Toyota certified used truck? Mostly it will not matter much. Unless you drive down dirt roads behind a car kicking up a lot of dust all the time. The wear and tear would be maybe 10% more. Think of it this way. Your engine sucks in dust and within milliseconds it explodes it. Dust actually does burn in an engine. Sand does not but sand size matter settles out of free air very very fast. Micron size dust like the stuff that floats in the air is less than the gap between your piston rings and the wall of the cylinder. Is clean air better? Yes. but given the clearances you are rubbing the walls of the cylinder with 10000 grit sand paper. Good ? NO. Bad, well not too bad.

IMHO it would have been quite interesting to see an oil analysis after that 5000 miles stint without the oil filter. Alas that oil is gone now.
If I were you I would invest $30 in an oil analysis and see what is says. If the Si (Silicon) reading is still abnormally high now, with the brand new oil in the engine and an air filter in place, you could infer that it was REALLY bad without the filter.
Blackstone Labs is a good place for oil analysis…IIRC they charge around $30-35 for one.

Edit: As pointed out by VDC below, I meant to write the “air filter”, not “oil filter” in the first sentence. Sorry.

Good answer. Blackstone analyses gives you enough information to know a lot about the motor’s condition, not just the oil’s condition. Blow-by, bearing and valve train wear, coolant contamination, and more. If it has worn badly, a few thousand miles on fresh oil will spot the problems.

I agree that an oil analysis would have been very helpful in this case. Unfortunately, locking the barn door after the horses have escaped does not do much good.

Incidentally, BadaBing, it was the AIR filter that was missing, not the oil filter.
I’m not quite sure how one would operate an engine (for more than a few seconds!) with no oil filter on its fitting.

Correction made! Thanks VDC :wink:

True…But the problem is…for every 1 gallon of gas used…you use 10,000 gallons of air…That’s a lot of dirty air…no matter how clean it is.