Should I avoid Toyota Used Cars because of Sludge?

I am searching for a used Toyota but am concerned about the possibility of inheriting a sludge problem. I know its a small percentage, but I got burned on the Honda tranmissions recall & don’t want another huge bill. Should these cars be avoided due to this single factor?

Nope. Select a 4-banger. It was the 6-bangers that had a problem.
Then get whatever you choose thoroughly checked at the local garage before buying.

Happy holidays.

Great answer! One other problem that made the sludge situation worse was the very long oil drain interval Toyota used to have, and has now shortened. Stop and go driving and cold weather operation with the long drain interval made the sluge problem worse. Even on 4 cylinder models.

So, if buying a used Toyota of those years , I would like to see the maintenance records to see if oil was changed suffuciently frequent.

Merry Christmas!

I agree. The 4-cylinder Toyota engines don’t seem to have sludge problems, and continue to be as reliable as ever.

And, NO, you don’t need a V6.

I’ve seen sludge problems on every kind of car, no matter who makes it or what engine it has.
Most sludge problems are caused by driving and maintenance habits.

True. But even I. a Toyotaphile, have to admit that Toyota had a 6-banger that was prone to sludging even when properly maintained. Although Toyota never made public their failure analysis results, I recall reading somewhere that it was suspected that the engine design was providing insufficient capacity for the oil to cool under hard use conditions and it was coking. My understanding is that the problem was far more prevelent in the sunbelt.

I believe it was fixed sometime during the 03 model year, by enlarging the drain holes that let oil go back down into the engine.

Far be it from me to cast diversions on this suspicious occasion. They say not to use Pennzoil or Quaker State. I did not say this. I was never here.

Some vehicles and engines may have been more prone to sludging than others but it still boils down to one thing; change the oil more often or use a synthetic and the problem will not occur.
While the 3000-3500 mile oil change interval is often dismissed it is a necessity in many cases due to the car owner’s driving habits and enviromental conditions.
Changing the oil every 5-6k miles on a car that only sees 2 to 5 mile trips is not good enough.

It would be interesting to know the details (oil change intervals, type of oil, type of driving, etc.) behind the comparatively small number of vehicles that suffered any damage due to oil sludging.

I guarantee you this. When someone with a prematurely failed engine due to engine sludge is standing at the dealer service counter there is no way on earth they are ever going to admit to bad driving habits, lack of maintenance, or anything else.
They may only change the oil every 10-15k miles but they are going to look the service writer or service manager square in the eye without blinking and swear to the Vatican that oil was changed every 3000 miles at the latest.
The 3k miles figure usually surfaces after being told that the oil was not changed often enough, go figure.

The only comment I have is that some 4 cylinder models (actually many Camry) had the problem too so you are not immune. List:

? Camry 4 cylinder from 1997-2001,
? Camry 6 cylinder from 1997-2002,
? Camry Solara 4 cylinder from 1999-2001,
? Camry Solara 6 cylinder 1999-2002,
? Sienna 6 cylinder from 1998-2002,
? Avalon 6 cylinder from 1997-2002,
? Celica 4 cylinder from 1997-1999,
? Highlander 6 cylinder from 2001-2002,
? Lexus ES 300 from 1997-2002 and
? Lexus RX 300 from 1999-2002.

Some years back Consumer Reports did a survey of lon lived cars and what the owners did to get that far. They found adirect relationship between oilchange interval and engine life. Of those who changed oil every 3000 miles or less, only 15% had internal engine problems, while of those that changed oil at 5000 miles or more, 26% had internalengine problems. These were car owners who got their vehicles up to 250,000 to as high as 548,000 miles. Even then, their recommendation was; oil is cheap, engines are expensive.