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#3645 of 3687 1998 Sienna trans is a mess, Toyota takes no responsibility!
May 27, 2008 (7:06 am)
I am having a transmission problem with a used Sienna that is absolutely frustrating. Below is my story (I have sent this letter to Toyota arbitration, to no avail). Please read it in its entirety - there's a lot to say - and if you can help at all, please post a reply. Is there any other form of recourse other than to shell out $2500 to replace a transmission that Toyota is unwilling to stand behind?:
I purchased my 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan from Sloane Toyota in Devon, PA, in the summer of 2003. I also purchased a 3-year extended warranty. Within the timeframe of the warranty, in the winter of 2004-2005, the transmission started making an odd noise and was replaced under warranty by Sloane in June 2005.
Within the one-year warranty on that new transmission, my car started experiencing unusual behavior: on the coldest mornings, it would not automatically shift out of first gear into second gear for one to two miles, or about five to ten minutes, even if I pressed the accelerator down quite far. I contacted Sloane’s service department and described the problem in detail to one of the service people. They told me definitively that this behavior was “normal” and nothing to worry about. I questioned this, but was assured that everything was ok with my car. I even called one more time and received the same reassurance, plus the suggestion that I might check the transmission fluid level (I did, and it was full). They did NOT recommend that I bring the car in to be checked, or that there was any reason for concern, or that I should even check the color of the transmission fluid (I will refer to this later).
Over the next two winters, there were few truly frigid mornings during which this behavior exhibited itself. Thus, trusting the advice of Toyota’s service department, I ignored it on the few mornings it occurred. (This only happened in the morning when the car was completely cold, never at the end of the day.) Additionally, the car exhibited no other unusual behavior during this time.
Then this past winter, my car started exhibiting other odd behaviors that seemed to point to the transmission. The gear slippage worsened - it would occasionally be slow in switching between gears, typically from second to third. I started hearing a high-pitched whine that rose in pitch as I accelerated. I finally brought my car into Sloane Toyota to have it checked; they said my transmission was shot, and that it would cost $5000 to replace it. Sloane said they would not cover the replacement because my new transmission’s warranty had expired. I pointed out that I had experienced and reported unusual behavior earlier on, and that they never told me to bring it in. I also pointed out that it seemed quite clear that my more recent gear slippage was a worsening of the original problem on cold mornings, and thus an inherent problem in the new transmission they had installed in 2005. I said that this all could have been avoided if they had advised me to bring it in rather than assuring me that the symptoms I had experienced were “normal”. I pointed out that I did not bring it in because I was not advised to do so by their own service department – I had relied on their advice. I spoke with the service manager, Jim Nagle, on several occasions, trying to convince him of this, and thus that Toyota had some responsibility in the matter due to their poor advice of his own service department, but he remained firm on this position.
I also issued a complaint through Toyota Customer Service and spoke with a regional service manager, Larry Roberts. He indicated that the original problem of not switching from first to second gear on cold mornings was a “safety feature” to prevent stressing the transmission, and that the new problems I was experiencing were completely separate and unrelated.
For a second expert opinion, I then took my car to a very reputable and highly-recommended local transmission shop near me, who indicated that the transmission was a mess, that whatever was wrong had been building up for several years (i.e., since before the warranty expired). They said they found many “chunks of metal” in the transmission fluid and that the filter was completely clogged. The fluid was black rather than the usual clear color. They didn’t think it would last more than a few months. I explained the entire history of my transmission and my dealings with Toyota. They pointed out that Sienna minivans have a history of bad transmissions from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, and that my initial transmission replacement was one of many that Toyota quietly did under warranty. I described the “safety feature” concept, and he said it was complete and utter nonsense - that in all his years of transmission repair of Toyotas other cars, there was no such safety feature. Obviously, Mr. Roberts was lying in order to get me off his back, something I seriously resent and am deeply offended by as a Toyota customer. I called Mr. Roberts back to tell him this, and asked him for proof of such a safety feature. He ignored my request and became very gruff, hostile, and non-responsive.
My trans shop replaced my clogged transmission filter and refilled the fluid, to at least give my car some short-term life. Their cost to replace the transmission is *only* $2500 (not surprisingly half of the dealer’s price).
It surprises and distresses me that Toyota will not stand by their cars in this situation. Certainly, a new transmission should last more than a couple of years, especially on a Toyota!
Here are the points I was hoping would convince Toyota to take responsibility in this matter:
· Pat’s Transmissions expertly diagnosed how badly my transmission was damaged, compared to how relatively new it was.
· The extent of damage points to the certainty that problems started very early on, related to my original problem of gear shifting on cold mornings. I would even suggest that the ‘new’ transmission Sloane Toyota installed was a ‘lemon’, i.e., faulty right from the start.
· Sloane Toyota’s service department gave me poor and erroneous advice that the original symptoms I was experiencing were “normal”; moreover, they did *not* recommend that I bring my car in to have it checked while it was still under warranty.
· There is a known history of Sienna transmission problems in the timeframe of when my car was manufactured. I have had two bad transmissions in my car over the span of only five years!
· As a manufacturer of high-quality cars, Toyota should be expected to stand behind their products. Transmissions should not fail after such a short time, regardless of the arbitrary one-year warranty.
#3646 of 3687 Re: 1998 Sienna trans is a mess, Toyota takes no responsibility! [lgodiva]
May 27, 2008 (7:39 am)
I think you had a stronger case a while back, maybe in 2004. But in 2008? 5 years after you bought it? I wish you luck. The van is 10+ years old now.
#3647 of 3687 Re: 1998 Sienna trans is a mess, Toyota takes no responsibility!
May 27, 2008 (7:51 am)
Yes, that's what Toyota said, but don't you think there's some merit in my points about them giving me bad service advice and the nature of the problem, how it hardly ever happened for a couple of years, but that recent investigation by the local trans shop revealed a much worse problem that certainly started years ago? Considering Toyota's bad track record with Sienna transmissions in that time period, don't you think they should at least accept *some* responsibility and at least discount the trans job? How about the bogus "safety feature" nonsense the district rep gave me? All around, this experience has totally turned me off to Toyota and has left a very bad taste in my mouth.
#3648 of 3687 Re: 1998 Sienna trans is a mess, Toyota takes no responsibility! [lgodiva]
May 27, 2008 (7:54 am)
It's just that Toyota is not going to go up against one of its own dealerships. They represent Toyota.
You could fight to get discounts, but if you don't trust them to begin with, that's not really worth it.
Your biggest problem is the timing - you bought the car 5 years ago and it's now 10 years old.
Trade it in for something. Dodge has a lifetime powertrain warranty now, though they're not as reliable historically.
#3649 of 3687 Re: 1998 Sienna trans is a mess, Toyota takes no responsibility!
May 27, 2008 (8:01 am)
I considered trading it in. But the dealer would probably give me virtually nothing, especially after their mechanics inspect the car and immediately notice the trans problem. I really love the car in every other way. It has 95K miles but with a new trans I'd expect it to last a very long time. I'm thinking $2500 is worth it to continue using such a good car, instead of spending much much more on a NEW or newer used car. Of course I could always shop around, but this is my thinking.
#3650 of 3687 Re: 1998 Sienna trans is a mess, Toyota takes no responsibility! [lgodiva]
May 27, 2008 (8:03 am)
Yeah, I know what you mean.
The average car payment today is over $400, so it would take only about 6 months to recover your investment in the trans.
It's probably worth it, actually. As long as you have faith in the new mechanic that this will be a long-term solution.
I just had to plop down over $1000 on a 1993 Miata. It was due for timing belt, water pump, and a cooling system service (symptom was overheating).
Still, it's running like a champ now and in a few months I'm sure I'll be glad I fixed it.
#3651 of 3687 i need help why my toyota seinna dose not go in reverse but drive fine
Apr 16, 2008 (1:26 pm)
#3652 of 3687 i need help why my toyota seinna dose not go in reverse but drive fine
Apr 14, 2008 (11:14 am)
my toyota seinna drive fine but dose not go in reverse, you guys got any idea whats the problems? t hanks
#3653 of 3687 Re: i need help why my toyota seinna dose not go in reverse but drive fine [touaxiong]
Apr 15, 2008 (8:40 am)
Have you checked the ATF fluid level and condition? I would start there.
#3654 of 3687 Re: i need help why my toyota seinna dose not go in reverse but drive fine [ateixeira]
Apr 15, 2008 (9:34 am)
yes i did it was low than i put about one qourt in than i found out that the atf fluid was leaking, but still the reverse dose not work, but it drive fine.?