The name Toyota traditionally instills thoughts of reliability cheap maintenance and a car that will still drive and feel the same even if it has skipped the last eight services and has no oil left in the sump.
Toyota’s are, for the best part very reliable cars. There are a few pitfalls with them we will warn you of, if you are in the market to buy a secondhand one.
Most Toyotas are unbreakable as the brand has lead you to believe, this is not false advertising as they are very reliable cars and very rarely break down. However, the result of this is owners do get away with skimping on regular maintenance and for the best part a Toyota that has had no servicing for a long time will feel and drive the same as one that is regularly serviced. The warning is test driving a Toyota with minimal mechanical knowledge can lead you to believe you have found yourself a great car. Be careful, it may feel and handle the same but there are some things to watch out for and things to check that will give away if its not being well maintained.
1. Automatic transmission oil. For some reason, Toyota’s discolour the red transmission oil far quicker than any other make. In the case of the automatic, check the colour and condition of the automatic oil by simply pulling out the dipstick and checking the colour of the oil. Anything other then red is a red flag.
2. Power steering oil suffers the same issue as the auto oil, check the colour of the power steering oil. Your looking for the same red oil.
3. Head gaskets. The older four cylinders were known to blow head gaskets, very hard to check for if you’re not equiped but be careful if you’re buying anything with a four cylinder. Get it checked. The 5S-FE engine was particularly bad for this problem.
4. Timing belts. Most of the modern four cylinder Toyota’s have done away with the timing belt and opted for the timing chain instead. However for the best part Toyotas still run timing belts. This includes many of their diesel range. If you’re buying a Toyota with a timing belt check for kilometres and when the last belt was replaced. If you can’t see documented proof it was changed, assume it has not been done.
5. Power steering pumps. Toyota have the pattern on leaking power steering pumps, every single pump made by Toyota hoses out power steering oil. Check if yours is leaking.
6. Lower control arm bushes. The rear most bush in the front lower control arms always split.
7. Rocker cover gasket leaks. From the same designer of the leaking power steering pump comes the engine oil leak from the rocker cover.
These are the most common faults we see on Toyota’s in our shop. Our advice is no matter what car you are looking at buying, pay a mechanic to give it a once over. No matter how much experience you think you have or your best mates uncle has, get a professional opinion.