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VSC Trac Off

A few days ago, I got in my 2009 Sienna and started for the border. Coming near the border approaching Reynosa my engine symbol came on, and it was blinking. Also a message VSC Trac Off. Due to the blinking engine symbol I stopped and checked the oil, which was OKAY. So, after a while I started and drove off.

No more problems.

Here is my theory what may have happened.

In my State in Mexico, they do not seem to be able to balance tires. They do something obsolete with bubbles. So, until I get back to Pueblo Tires in McAllen I end up limiting the car to around 50 mph or the car starts to shake and shiver.

I had been driving below 50 mph all the way. We hit an inspection station in San Luis Potosi that held us up for almost 2 hours. So, we had no idea when the bridge was going to shut for the night. So, I started driving faster.

I will be reading up on this problem, but I have a tentative theory that the sensors may have reacted negatively to tire shaking and kicked a VSC error. I have been wrong before and expect to be wrong again, so I will be watching for this problem, and also be getting my wheels balanced. Just in case.

@irlandes Yes, I think you are on the right track. You’ll know after you have the tires properly balanced. Not sure what a Mexican inspection entails.

A flashing check engine light indicates a misfire. Very unlikely that tire/wheel vibrations would trigger a misfire fault. You probably have a failing coil, common on 2007-2009 2GR engines.


This sounds kid of far-fetched, IMO

I’ve driven plenty of vehicles with very badly balanced rims

Steering wheel shaking like crazy

The whole vehicle shaking

No lack of power

No check engine light flashing

I’d say there’s a very good chance the severe misfires were caused by something other than tires and rims

I like Nevada’s idea about the coils

The flashing check engine light indicates a misfire. I assume the engine started running normally again but the light remains on steady?

Vehicle Stability Control off and Traction Control off is just Toyota’s strategy of dealing with an engine performance problem. Since the engine isn’t functioning properly these systems can’t operate as designed so they are disabled.


Good information, thanks to all. A very short visit and need to use much of it for meeting next week’s tax deadline.

The inspection in Mexico consisted of allowing all vehicles to pass a checkpoint one at a time and a soldier evaluates each one as to Drive On, or pull over for further inspection. They are looking for drugs or other illegal traffic. Traffic was backed up 2.5 miles when we got there, and obviously getting longer as the day went on.

No, no light stayed on once I shut the car off. Warning Lights went out and stayed off. Since we were in the dreaded state of Tamaulipas, I did not linger once the lights went out again.

I will be doing some fast study once I get my taxes done. While here, I will be driving the old 2002. I had properly prepared if for storage, and once I re-installed the battery, it started perfectly within 2 seconds. It was parked for around 8 months with Fuel Stab in the tank, and battery on Battery keeper. There is some wobble on the tires from, I suppose,from tires sitting.

I need to make a decision fast. If I am going to need coils, I can get them easily and cheaply here, not so much in Mexico. If I decide to go that route, I would just take the coil and hope it doesn’t fail right away. From what I have read on this board, it would not be good to drive 800 miles with misfire.

I thought you will no longer be allowed to title and register the 2002 Sienna in Mexico . . . ?

If you decide to do coils on the 2009 Sienna, I highly advise you to either get the coils from a Toyota dealer. Or at least buy Denso brand. I think the factory coils ARE made by Denso, and have both the Denso and Toyota names and part numbers on them.

the aftermarket Denso coils will still be made by the OEM, but will obviously not have the Toyota name and part number.

Also install new plugs. I advise to install exactly the plugs listed in the owner’s manual. The book usually lists 2 acceptable part numbers, a Denso and a NGK

I believe napa carries Denso ignition parts on their shelves. I believe some of the other parts stores carry cheaper parts on their shelves.

That is correct. I can no longer even drive the 2002 Sienna south of the border, since I got Permanent residence, equivalent to our “green card” (which is actually pinkish now.) I Live a few miles north of the border in a resident owned mobile home park. And, the car is parked there when I am in Mexico for a few years until I see if Mexico decides to honor NAFTA which requires them to allow most older cars to be imported. They are currently in violation, due to whining by the used car industry.

It is too good a car to give up on easily, even though it has over 221,000 miles on it.

Thank you for the advice on the 2009. I suspect I would have done what you advise after investigating, but it is good to have a heads up on it as starting point. Thank you for your time.

I had one of those green cars, which was genuinely green, issued by INS. Completely old school, no bar code, no magnetic strip,

then I got a newer version from DHS, which has those features i mentioned

It seems you have residences in both Mexico and the US . . . ?

Doesn’t that make your taxes relatively complicated?

Is it hard to get genuine toyota parts south of the border?

I thought Toyota is a popular brand in Mexico?

By treaty all pension income involving Mexico or USA is taxable in the nation which pays it. So, no tax problems as long as I don’t earn money in Mexico. Good question, thanks. The USA taxes are what are
controlling my life this week.

It is very hard to give up citizenship in the USA. Many expats want to, but not everyone has money to pay for it. Many people cannot imagine why anyone would ever want to live elsewhere, but humans are very diverse, and some people simply find their personal paradise in another country. I have 10 times more friends and loved ones in my little Third World village than in the rest of the world combined.Yet, most of you would totally hate it there as I did on my first visit in 1983.

I write for people who are thinking about expatting. Every nation has good things and bad things. What you need is to find the place which has the good things which are important to you, and does not have the bad things which are also important to you. Hard to explain.

Yes, I am still a US citizen. I have permanent residence in Mexico which means I can live there forever with no more renewals or visits to immigration office. April 3 2016 was a banner day for me.


I took a few minutes to search for basic information on blinking engine symbol. More later as I finish my taxes:

Summary of various pages on this topic.

Some of the most common culprits behind a blinking engine light are as follows:

Ignition coil has failed
Fuel injector has failed
Engine computer has failed
Spark plug
Spark plug wire
Bad engine valves

What a Flashing Check Engine Light Means

Intermittent Flash
The light flashes only when the problem appears. Possible causes include loose connectors or broken wires that disconnect when car goes over bumps. Problem may not be critical.

Continuous Flash
A critical problem has been detected. Causes may include fuel passing into exhaust manifold.

Internal Engine Defect.

I can see that I have almost no information at this point. Because of dangerous location I stopped quickly and soon drove on with no repeat failure, so I don’t even know if it was intermittent.But, now, at least I know what to look for next time.

This will probably gross y’all out, but if it fails again in Mexico while going home, I will probably drive it home. Better the car than us, period.

I also am going to work on a posting on vibration caused failures based on my military box experience. I suspect a certain percentage of intermittent failures as we discussed in August may be related to intermittent vibration problems.Thanks, especially to db, for heads up on this problem.

I just learned something new. In my e-mails I put three pound signs at the beginning of a section. On this board that makes the next paragraph appear in bold, and no pound signs appear.

I went out looking for a new coil, to take along just in case I decided I needed one while in Mexico. Advanced said they had one, but did not.

I went to O’Reillys who sold me one. While making up my list of items for the Mexican customs, I noticed the receipt actually said it was for a 2005 Jeep so I took it back. The woman said, well, Joe really knows his parts so maybe it is interchangeable. Not a good idea.

She checked and their computer showed two coils. One was very short and compact and one has a really long probe, both listed for the 2009 Sienna. I told her that did not inspire confidence in either one so I wanted the money credited to my charge card. She did.

While we were waiting on the computer, we chatted. She was horrified that I planned to drive into Mexico. She is originally from Reynosa and said she will not even cross to visit family. She said the cartels went to the Wal-mart store in Reynosa and demanded money. They correctly told them they could not do that. So, a few days later the Wal-mart store was torched. They were correct. If the US Federal government found out a Wal-mart subsidiary paid bribes, the fine would be probably greater than the value of that store.

I told her the USA had the same sort of problem in the 30’s and 40’s, and eventually the people said enough and it was stopped. In Mexico, the same thing will happen. Once the people decide they have had enough, it will be stopped, as the Autodefensas stopped it in Michoacan.

Since I did not have a new coil, I drove back around 50 mph, and no more issues at all. Well, the last day I speeded up to 60 at times. Discount tire balanced my tires and not one shake even to 60. The tires were down to 4/32 but in Mexico tires are usually wrecked by road hazards before wear out, so I chose to drive these down some more before spending the money on new ones.

After much thought, I concluded my first hunch was correct and it was a vibration problem. As I said, I will be writing a posting on vibration failures. I did work for some months in the vibration room. Our set up was such that when you started on a new project, you had to immediately hit the books as much as possible.

Well, actually, though it was rare, there were times when I had to more or less write the book, such as the first embedded microprocessor unit, since there was no body of knowledge or experience available. Not that I mean literally that there was actually a book written, in that case I developed a hands on training course for newbies.

So, when I worked in the Vibe Room, I had to read the theory behind it. Then, I learned from the experience, to the degree that I think I can say without arrogance that I can write on the topic in a manner useful to those willing to know more on the topic. But, that will be some time down the road due to high workload after the trip. Thanks again for the heads up a few weeks ago.

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I have a fair amount of experience in shock and vibe for various industries/applications. The requirements vary significantly based on the end application. For example, designing medical analyzers that can survive a fall is far different than a complex electronics package that can be placed on orbit.

In the former, I recall one instance where we needed to survive repeated 100G 1/2 sine wave shock to meet spec. I was pretty confident because I spent the prior week whipping one of the units as hard as I could into the concrete floor with a 6’ long cable without any loss of performance. But when we went to the certification lab with a greenhorn mechanical guy and the tech cycled the machine once prior to the testing, he proclaimed he would go start the car. I told him to relax, the guy hadn’t yet installed the bump stops.

I worked on a system that launched aboard the shuttle. We were a sub for the prime Lockheed but we had to work directly with the folks at NASA. At one point, we had exceeded our simulation tool capabilities when NASA stepped in with their considerably more advanced technology to determine the type and placement of shock isolators for our electronics package. Shortly afterward, they sent us prints and we procured the parts. Good grief! The specified shock isolators were essentially hockey pucks. You couldn’t put a dent in them, they were hard as heck. I questioned if we had the right parts and they reassured us they were correct. At that point, I gained a greater appreciation for the conditions encountered aboard the shuttle at launch.

Vibration is another animal altogether. I knew a guy that made his living solving complex vibration problems. For example, liquid dispensing valves failing in transit. The engineers kept making changes to make them stronger but they still kept failing. He stepped in and analyzed the valve and vessel to discover that a standing wave was setting up in the vessel and the valve placement put it right at the point of most energy. He took the original valve and moved it 1/2" away and that solved the problem.

Today, there are many standard protocols designed to cover both usage and transport. For the most part, we design and test against those industry standards. That has taken a lot of the guesswork out of it as compared to years past. That doesn’t mean the occasional oddball scenario doesn’t crop up from time to time. That’s when experience really plays a role in arriving at a quick and decisive solution.

It would be fun to engage in this discussion although I doubt this forum would allow it to continue for long…

What you called standing wave, we called resonance. I believe same thing with local usage being different.

The moderator rules, but my interpretation this thread includes vibration problems in cars, yet most vibration knowledge as you have shown relies on non-automotive usage. But, I think I need to do the same thing and when I get time, write on that information as applying to automotive issues. And, explain why I think my failure was vibration caused. It will not be easy, and may well be a totally new concept to many traditional mechanics. Without relying on military aviation issues, I would have absolutely no personal knowledge of vibration failure issues to apply to automotive. But, I do think the issues are the same, just much lower level g-forces.

What you called standing wave, we called resonance.

Yes, they are essentially one in the same. The standing wave is the result of achieving resonance.

yet most vibration knowledge as you have shown relies on non-automotive usage.

The example of the failed valve is during over the road transit of goods via truck.

I spent more than 20 years designing medical equipment to survive in many applications/environments including ambulatory (surface transport by vehicle and human) as well as fixed and rotary winged aircraft. The latter having very significant requirements regarding vibration resistance.

Vehicles have many challenging design issues related to environmental conditions (shock, vibration, thermal, humidity etc). Open up any ECM/BCM/PCM and you’ll easily see provisions for all of the above…It extends to the wiring and connections and all facets of the machine. To the electrical and mechanical engineers involved, they are really no different than any other application with the exception of degree of magnitude (+ or -).