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Toyota Sabotaging Their Out-of-Warranty Vehicles?

I purchased my 2002 Toyota RAV4 from my dealer new?it was his demo car and my ECM(Engine Control Module) and Transmission issues just popped up at 107,000 miles. Like many, I had owned another Toyota previously, a Camry, and got 225,000 worry-free miles out of it. In fact my friend has a Toyota Celica she is still driving with 275,000 miles on it!!!

Out of the clear-blue two days ago, the RAV4 check engine light came on for about two hours, then went out, but the shifting then became erratic. I have serviced this vehicle faithfully since I purchased it and expected to get another 100,000 more miles, but, my dealership, where it has been serviced forever, said it was going to cost over $1,200 for the ECM (which is also not warrantied?what is with that?!?!?!?) and even if I replace just the ECM, it still may not work with the old transmission, so it was recommended that I replace the transmission too for another $3,500 because the defective ECM has destroyed the transmission.

In trying to develop some alternate strategies to approach the problem I suggested that we drop the transmission to physically inspect it for damage so then we could isolate the repair to just the ECM, but, as the dealership service manager told me, in their experiences with this problem, which they have had several encounters with on the RAV4 as well as Avalons, the only solution seems to be to undergo this complete and costly major repair.

And, with the market value for the car at only $6,000, it almost makes more sense to trade it in and get a new vehicle.

After pricing some of the vehicles on their lot as a reference point (I really need a pick-up with 4wd now more than the RAV4 2wd anyway) I had them reset the ECM to see if it might correct itself?like rebooting a computer, you know, to just get me home and to buy a little more time to determine an appropriate course of action. And don?t get your hopes up, I got home ok, but the Transmission is still slipping.

I had never realized that there were ever any serious problems like this with the Toyota product line until I went online and ?Googled ?Toyota Transmission problems? you will be amazed at how many of their products and models, Rav4?s, Avalons, Tundras, even 2008 Camrys are plagued with similar transmission malfunction issues. And isn’t it curious that so many of these Toyota Transmission and ECM problems seem to occur just outside the 80,000 mile warranty expiration date! Easy enough to program a computer to glitch-out, but interestingly enough, a glitch that ultimately destroys a major component like the transmission!

There’s no sabotage involved at all so forget the conspiracy theories.
There is a warranty placed on the ECM for 80k miles as required by Federal law. How many miles do you think it should be warrantied for; 200k, 500k, infinity?

In spite of the reputations, Toyotas break just like any other vehicle and while it will never be known, it would be interesting to know how many of those internet transmission failures are owner-inflicted due to abusive driving or lack of fluid changes; the latter of which should be done at 30k mile intervals.

At times problems develop (and not just with transmissions) due to factory automotive engineering and this is true of any car. One has to take their lumps and move on but sabotage it ain’t.

I agree, as usual, with ok4450. While Toyotas are very reliable vehicles, things can happen with any make of car–especially after you pass 100k.

Unless you want your friends and relatives to begin to question your mental state, I suggest that you avoid telling them that you think your car was sabotaged by the manufacturer. Of course, if you want them to give you hats made out of aluminum foil, this would be an excellent way to get presents like that.


For crying in a bucket!!! Toyota does not have a lifetime warranty and while being a good car they are by no means perfect. Pick the best car in the world and you will still have a service department for items that go bad.

The advent of “computer controlled” automatic transmissions has been a real pain to domestic and foreign makes. Aging of connectors and connections can sometimes be found by moving cables with the scanner watching.Disconnecting and reconnecting the cable(s) with a jolt of electronic cleaner spray.
But transmission slippage ain’t electronic.

what? are you that paranoid?,to belive that.

do as i would do with my son.

find new friends,they are warping your peceptoin on reality.

and i only read half,then needed a nap.

www.rav4world maybe able to help-great rav site RAVON

Having your car serviced regulary plays no part in the life span of components like the ECU. People express such shock when their cars need repair, “but I did all my oil changes”

Since you are out of warranty, take the vehicle to an independent shop for a second opinion. Dealerships are used to doing warranty work, and this one has probably done a number of these repairs on Toyota’s dime. But there may be a cheaper way to go than just throwing new parts at it.

The only ones Toyota is sabotaging are the ones at its Grassy Knoll dealership!

Quit drinking the Toyota cool aid. EVERY make has has a subset of cars sold with losers full of problems but fortunately the majority are relatively problem free. Get an assessment and pricing from a trusted independent. You may find that price at 2/3 of what your dealer proposes.

No vehicle is problem free.

Fix it, and, or sale it, and move on.

This post demonstrates precisely how Detroit shot itself in the foot for years and years by resting on its laurels. Now, people are so brainwashed in to thinking that every Toyota will last 250k+ miles (largely due to very good word of mouth advertising and their own madison avenue efforts), they won’t even consider a domestic.

Thanks for all the replies. I especially like the reference to the aluminum foil hat!

I own a small ad agency and have produced thousands of TV commercials, hundreds of print ads and billboard ads. I purposely used the word ?sabotage? (with a wink and nod) in the posting headline to elicit responses. Isn?t it interesting that no Toyota owners responded with similar problems with their transmissions or ECUs?

Since the original posting, I have talked to Toyota Motor Corp and discovered the part costs of a new ECU is $777.00 and a new transmission is $3,457, excluding labor. Additionally, the warranty for the ECU is 12 months and the transmission is also 12 months, unlimited mileage.

The repair costs originally quoted to me, which included labor, where quite fair, although, I find it interesting that my dealer was unwilling to offer me the twelve month warranty on the ECU.

I have since taken the RAV4 to another Toyota dealership for their assessment and they found no problems with the ECU although the transmission is indeed shot.

I have also spoken with two independent service shops.

In gathering all this info, it has been wonderful to speak with many of the certified mechanics about their experiences with ECUs and Transmissions on many makes and models.

As many noted, since the inception of the electronically controlled engine and manufacturer?s efforts to soften shifting points, automatic transmissions experience more overall wear.

I also priced some 20 new and pre-owned vehicles and luckily knew a couple of the salespeople personally. After discovering the blue-book value of my RAV4 ($9,000-$10,500 even with 107,000 miles) and weighing both the reality of $300-$400/month payments for the next 5 years and discovering how well used imports hold their resale value, I decided to have the second Toyota service shop replace the transmission for $3,512 including labor and the 12 month warranty.

So, even if the old ECU destroys the new transmission within twelve months, I won?t have to buy a new transmission, just the ECU.

Thanks again for your feedback. It helped reinforce the notion that a measured and deliberate approach to problem solving works best. Now, where did I put that roll of aluminum foil?

Hey look: Should ANY car company be responsible for manufacturing mistakes? OF course they should! Not a broken mirror or something, but this RAV4 thing is huge, as you would find out with a quick google. 220,000 cars and other models with “separate” recalls.

After denying any knowledge of any complaints right up until tee time, Toyota final issued its recall. They’ve learned from the big three, that’s for sure. To avoid having to pay for thousands of transmissions ruined by their erroneous programming, they offered to “replace” the ECM for free, while in fact just flashing in a new software program, while denying that the ECM has any responsibility for the automatic transmission operation. FALSE! This is all documented by mechanics an various sites such as

Turns out that with the CORRECT codes in the software, the reportable mpg goes down. Guess that might affect sales huh? Duh… Toyota, once a noble savior of the auto industry, has deteriorated into the very dysfunctional beast that they long ago set out to slay.

I would not be too quick to summarly dismiss the possibility of dealerships scamming customers. Most people want to live honest lives, but faced with laying off long-term employees, owners facing real losses that could cause them to lose not only the dealership but their personal homes, cause bad things to happen.

Most dealerships have very high overhead expenses, and enjoy perhaps a 3% to 7% pretax profit. When sales, service and parts revenues drop 20% to 60% as has been the case in 2007 and 08, some take drastic measures. These might include a serious face to face bewteen owners and service manager and head mechanic concluding to stiff their customers by slipping in intermittant computers, clogged egr valves, flakey radios, and whatever else, then charging the customer $1,200, $2,600 or $4,200 for repairs that cost the dealership nothing… a very tempting solution for cash flow woes. Multiply this times 20x per week and the dealership stays afloat on the unknowing backs of its customers.

I am not a cynical creep, but rather a practiced observer of life, and things like this do happen. Neither I nor anyone reading this is somewhow immune to slipping into this behavior ourselves, so I am not casting stones.

I would not be too quick to summarly dismiss the possibility of dealerships scamming customers. Most people want to live honest lives, but faced with laying off long-term employees, owners facing real losses that could cause them to lose not only the dealership but their personal homes, cause bad things to happen.

If you truly believe that is happening then WHY take the car to the dealer? Every town/city/country I know of has independent mechanics that are honest and a LOT cheaper then the dealer who’ll gladly take your business.

I got beat-up yesterday for saying the Dealer would come up with extra items that according to the way the Dealer thinks, needed repaired,not even saying that they were unneeded items.

Let’s see how your post flys.

I was only saying that Independants and Dealers do things different.

Was told I gave “terrible” advice because I prefered a Independant over a Dealer for a second opinion.

Like many on the Forum I have worked at Dealers and I have worked at Independants and I make my call based on that experience.

And believe it or not I am training right now to be a Service Advisor at a GM Dealer, It will be interesting when push comes to shove (How am I going to feel when told to do things as “thechums” describes?) My training does involve ethics situations.

Sabotage can’t be done on a long term basis. It will be eventually found out and would be ruinous to the business

If you ever need a new ECM, ask about a rebuilt. I needed one in the 1980s for a popular GM car and saved a bundle over new. After being in an industrial environment for a while, I am of the belief that rebuilt electronic goods can be more reliable than new as most of the components are burned in and well past the infant mortality portion of the bathtub curve. Look up “bathtub curve” with Google for more on this.

Good Morning!
I find your posting very interesting! Your vehicle has 107,000 miles, and you expect that it should be trouble free??? ------- Most new vehicle extended factory warranties run 6 years 100,000 miles or 7 years 100,000 miles. This tells the consumer that after 100,000 miles things are going to happen! QUESTION: ---- Do you expect Toyota or the dealership to pick up the cost of the repair? What was the mileage on the vehicle when you purchased it from the dealer? Did you get any kind of a warrnty?
Best regards. --------- Dwayne2

My 2001 Sienna has 146,000+ miles. It has needed some minor repairs, plus I made some PM type replacements of several high failure parts, such as O2 sensors. I fully expect, based on comments on this forum, I will probably be averaging $2,000 a year from now on to keep that car going.

Since a new Sienna costs $30,000 plus these days, $2,000 a year for the next 7 years to make 300,000 miles will save me a bundle.

If this car starts stranding me, the rules change quickly. Always have; always will.

Our previous Toyota was a 1988 Nova, assembled by Chevrolet. In 2001, my son drove it from the Midwest, 1400 miles to McAllen, in 26 hours. And, back a week later in 23 hours. It never stranded him. We dumped it at 248,000 miles, due to bad rebuilt parts and no new ones available.

Still as someone said, every manufacturer makes some cars below average.