Strange noise in a new car

My wife’s new 2009 Toyota RAV4 now has 6000 miles on it. It’s 10 months old. She really wants to like the car. It replaced a Volvo 240 that she drove for nearly 20 years. Both she and the grandchildren were sad to the boxy blue car go. Our youngest son now drives it. He hated it as an old lady’s car until it became his. Now he loves it - warts and all.

Anyway! The new RAV4 has a rattling sound that only occurs under special conditions.

I have taken the RAV4 to the Toyota dealership three times with no success at fixing the rattle. They have heard the sound, but have not been able to catch it on the rack with their diagnostic equipment. I have been assured that the problem has now been escalated to Toyota USA! We even have an open case, #101450081, on file.

Now for Tom and Ray: The rattle occurs when the RAV4 has been moving along at 30MPH on the neighborhood streets. The driver releases the accelerator pedal to begin slowing - no braking, yet. Then the rattle can be heard in the engine compartment. I believe that I can feel the rattle in my right foot just as I let off the accelerator. Other drivers who have replicated the condition have not admitted to having felt. Maybe I have sensitive feet? Also, it seems that the air conditioner must be running when this occurs. It’s been too hot lately to want to experiment with the air conditioner off. Also, 30MPH is the magic number. Anything more or anything less; all is well.

Let me preface my next remarks by saying that I am not mechanically adept, but I’m not without some experience. I’ve stubbornly, not knowledgeably, rebuilt my baby daughter’s engine in her first auto, a 1985 Saab; and, I must have replaced just about every part in an MGB that I loved to drive when could keep it running. Made the mistake of trading the MG for a newer, safer car for one of my 4 sons. But that’s another story!

We had 6 children which has little to do with this issue other than to let Tom and Ray know that my wife and I may well be gluttons for punishment.

But, enough! My idea is that the rattle in my wife’s RAV4 seems to relate to the transmission needing to auto-“down-shift” but does not do so soon enough before a “too-large-of-a-load” is applied to the RAV4 engine. I.e., I think the rattle sounds like the valve clatter I heard too often when we were teaching our children to drive and they hadn’t gained the confidence to down-shift in the old autos that we relegated to their use. But, I admit I really would not bet that I am correct.

In any event Toyota is stumped. They are waiting until something more certain happens. Or, more folks complain. I’d hate to put 150,000 miles on the RAV4 and be in suspense the whole time about when the auto is going to really breakdown.

Of course, this has really upset my wife because she wants to love the RAV4 as much as she loved her Volvo, but she can’t bring herself to let go on a car that hasn’t proven to be trustworthy.

BTW: the recent Toyota brouhaha has no bearing on this. The Senate hearings, American media - including NPR, and the American auto dealer’s anti-Toyota marketing made no difference when we bought the RAV4.

MOF: the gross silence from the Senate and the American media regarding the recent recalls from Ford and GM merely underscore that we’re riding in a “Ship of Fools” captained by our government and the media.

Have we stumped Tom and Ray, as well as Toyota? Do I need to gather more evidence? Suggestions on what we should demand of Toyota?

Should we get Toyota to pay for our bringing the RAV4 to Tom and Ray’s shop? We love clam chowder and I’ve always wanted to get a Lobster Roll when the Maine fishermen bring in today’s catch. We could test drive the fix on the coast of Maine. Surely, the coastal roads will require a lot of 30MPH driving?

Tom & Ray do not frequent this forum, so you will have to do with a bunch of “car guys” who volunteer their time to help others with car issues.

Anyway, the solution to your problem is spelled w-a-r-r-a-n-t-y.
When warranty issues are involved, dealerships will not accept your diagnosis of the problem, so whatever diagnoses might be suggested in other responses will constitute interesting information, but not information that will be accepted by the dealership.

Yes, I know that you have brought the car to the dealership, and that they have been unsuccessful in tracing the problem. You should try either or both of the following routes to having the problem resolved:

Take the car to another Toyota dealership. Just as with MDs, Dentists, etc, some dealerships and some mechanics are more diligent and more skilled than others at the art of diagnosis.
“Kick it up a notch” by making a complaint to Toyota at the corporate level. Contact information is contained in your Owner’s Manual. Ultimately, you can demand (politely, please) that one of Toyota’s Regional Service Supervisors examine the car at the dealership. These folks have more knowledge, more authority, and more motivation than most dealership staff members.

Incidentally, the silence of the Senate and the media on recent Ford & GM recalls is simply a reflection of the reality that automotive recalls are a fact of life and are no longer extraordinary–unless they have to do with a truly life-threatening situation such as gas pedals that stick. Would you prefer that no recalls were done, as was standard practice prior to the last 30 years or so?

What kind of diagnostic equipment did the dealer use to try to find the source of the rattle?

The solution may be something simple that is rattling against the underside of the car such as a part of the exhsust system or the emergency brake cable. We had a squeaking sound on our 2003 Toyota 4runner at one time. Putting a dab of grease on the emergency brake cable where the cable goes into the housing solved the problem The squeak was annoying, but certainly didn’t affect the operation or the safety of the vehicle.

Keep the paperwork that shows you have brought the car in for this problem.

I sympathize with you that rattles and squeaks are annoying. A mechanic with a good ear can often find the source of the noise. My Dad had a 1954 Buick that developed an annoying squeak in the engine compartment. After several mechanics had looked at the car with no idea of where the noise originated, he took the car to an old time mechanic who was out working on a tractor in the field. We drove across the field. The mechanic heard us coming, lifted the hood, bounced the car once and then pulled out the dipstick. He let the oil from the dipstick drip onto a part on the accelerator linkage. Presto! No more squeak. Charge: $0.

Yea, I would suggest a different dealer. Remember that it is under warranty and if needed you can fall back on the lemon laws for your state.

My guess is a heat shield loose. But I would not put much money on it.