Question about 2003 Toyota RAV4

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2003 RAV4 Engine Replaced, Electrical Issues

I run a 2003 RAV4Cruiser in Australia (195000km on the clock). Last major service was done at168000km (I know I neglected it), and unfortunately bad things happened and I had to replacethe engine with a second hand engine with only 65000km on it. I pickedup the car, it was running fine. After 85km, I noticed a periodic sharpdrop in power and then return to normal (within a fraction of a second). This startedto happen more often over the next 15km, and the check engine (yellowengine) light started to flicker on and then go out. Then the light stayed onlonger, and finally the missing in the engine got so bad I pulled overand had the vehicle towed back to the mechanic to get it fixed. Beforeit was towed, I noticed a red fluid in parts of engine bay, and a smallpool under the vehicle.

The mechanic once he had a look istelling me that there was no fluid leakage. He says the computermanagement system in the RAV (automatics only) is smart enough to knowwhen there is a new engine in the car, and that this has led toelectrical issues resulting in what I experienced. They are now gettingan autoelectrician to check it over. The work done to replace theengine has a 6 month 10000km warranty, and I am worried they may tryand invent a reason not associated with the engine replacement thatexempts them from any expenses to fix the vehicle. I need to try tounderstand the truth and what is and isn't plausible.

My questions are:
1.Is the electrical / computer-based engine recognition thing a plausiblescenario to explain what I experienced in the vehicle? Why wouldn't the electrical / computer system have had anissue from the start? It seems strange this would emerge after 85km ofrunning fine.
2. Given the yellow warning light, if the mechanicdidn't install the engine correctly, what could lead to a anautomatic transmission problem? Do the symptoms I experienced soundlike an automatic transmission problem or the electrical problem above.

3. Have you ever done an engine replacement in 2003 RAV4 Cruiser Auto (I know its a long shot) and experienced this issue?

Thanks in advance

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  • 2 more comments 
  • Ben_RAV4 Sep 04, 2008

    fire away mate. I need all the help I can get.

    BTW, the original engine needed replacing becasue the sprocket supporting the timing chain sheered off while driving and did a bunch of internal damage. It was either have the engine rebuilt, or fit a second hand one with only 65000km on it. I chose the latter.

    To elaborate on the engine symptoms - I started feel the engine miss, I.e. a sharp drop in power then return to normal. Almost a judder. This got more frequent when driving up hill, and after 15km I thought it best to pull over.


  • Ben_RAV4 Sep 04, 2008

    To clarify the timelines:

    This has all happened this past 7 days. Old engine (had 121000miles on it, last major service at 104000miles) died Thursday last week. New engine put in and picked up Monday night. Car started and ran fine for the drive home. Was test driven by mechanic for 50km, and let idel for more than an hour and a half.

    Next day car started and ran fine, until about 20km into the journey.

    To address you questions directly:

    Hard starting: no.
    Rough Ideling: no, it sounded normal.
    Hesitation on acceleration: Yes, but only intermitently. After the problem first started, it seemed to be worse when accelerating. But it did still happen when not accelerating.
    Dieing at lights: No.
    Slippage of gears: No.
    Serviced after installation: Installed and delivered this Tuesday, so no.

    All fluids checked when engine installed. Since it has broken this week, the mechanic says levels of all fluids are normal.

    Transmission shudder omn takeoff: No. It really only seemed to judder and play up intermitently, and got a worse during acceleration.

    Coolant was full when car picked up, and OK after breakdown.

    Not sure on changing plugs and wires. Would have to ask.


  • Ben_RAV4 Sep 04, 2008

    Just spoke with the mechanic.

    He is telling me the vehicle is now fixed and ready for pick up after the auto electrician found the fault. He said it was a "super wire" whatever that is, and said it probably worked its way loose as I drove the vehicle for longer and longer until it finally seperated when put on the tow truck. (I failed to mention when they got it to the yard it had no electrics at all and they couldn't start it.)

    When the engine was replaced, he put in new spark plugs, a new oil filter (as the old one probably had metal shards in it).

    So the question is, does this loose wire sound like it would have been the problem?


  • Ben_RAV4 Sep 04, 2008

    God bless ya mate, thanks for all the help.

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  • 1,263 Answers

First it is plausible that it could be a ecm problem however if it were replacing the engine was a waste of money and the problem never got solved, and i highly doubt it's a ecm problem to begin with. with the ecm it does learn as you are driving but the only way it does that is by checking the sensors and compenstating the performance from the results. if you were leaking fluid and it was red it was from your transmission or your transaxle if it's 4 wheel drive. If your yellow light comes on most people assume that it has something to do with the computer, but often times that in newer vehicles they don't always have seperate gauges for the oil,electrical,etc. and if you have a low level in fluids it will cause the check engine light to come on. I have over 25 years of experience in engine building i have replaced alot of engines in different vehicles over the years and i have yet to install one in a RAV4, however basic engine principles still apply. all engines run the same and transmissions are the same. the trick is to use common sense and take your time in diagnosing problems. Now you stated you felt a loss of power brfore you had to tow it. I'm going to ask you a few basic questions and I would like you to reply back with the answers. this will help me pinpoint the problem instead of guessing like most under qualified mechanics that just want your money

Posted on Sep 04, 2008

  • 2 more comments 
  • Ronald Mueller
    Ronald Mueller Sep 04, 2008

    did you have hard starting issues, rough idleling,hesitation upon acceleration,would it die at stop lights,if it's hot sdo you have a hard time starting,waqs there slippage between gears. when was the last time it was serviced after the installation(please use miles instead of km ok)when was the last time the fuel,trans,air filter changedwhen was the last time the fluid in the trans mission changed. did you feel the transmission shudder upon take off or during gear changes. was your coolant at the right level. and finally before the engine was installed did they change the plugs and wires. please reply with the answers

  • Ronald Mueller
    Ronald Mueller Sep 04, 2008

    it would seem that you have problem with either a sticky solenoid inside the transmission. if that is the case and this is a cheap solution is to drop the transmission fluid and change it with the filter. then add a additive by lucas oil products it cost about 10-15 us dollars and generally helps for gummed up valve bodys in the transmission. it should take a couple of days for this to work i would not drive the vehicle at highway speed normal city driving is recommended.. the ecm would recognize a drop in pressures inside the transmission and it would light check engine. if the problem persists after a few days then it would either be a engine speed sensor(this sends a signal to the ecm how fast the crank is turning and the ecm sends a signal to the trans mission. the problem could also be the transmission control module(this is the gobetween the ecm and the transmission solenoids)to check these you have to hook it up to a diagnostic scan tool.ifn the voltage signal to these are within parameters then you have a weak or bad torque converter. none last thing even though the plugs are not really the cause it's always best that you replace them when you get a drop in motor, also when you change the wires i always get the high performance becaquse they take the heat better and there is no chance of cross firing between them which happens whth cheap wires. this should give you options to make an informed decision. in the future when you take it to a shop ask very pointed questions, if they can't tell detailed answers don't let them touch the vehicle. this will save you lots of cash and frustration take it to someone else you will thank me. you can always reply back to me on this site if you need help. good luck

  • Ronald Mueller
    Ronald Mueller Sep 04, 2008

    now that you mentioned the no electric part yes that can happen it is most likely the datalink to the trans controlmodule(superwire even though i never heard that term)

  • Ronald Mueller
    Ronald Mueller Sep 04, 2008

    your welcome

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