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Potential problems with the Toyota Estima

By guest blogger Brett Phillips

So, you stumbled across what is rumoured to be the holy grail of all Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) people movers - the Toyota Estima. Luxurious. Stylish. Comfortable. Roomy. Powerful. Perfect. UNBREAKABLE! Well… most of those things, but it would be reckless to claim there are no potential problems with Toyota Estima.

Although it could be argued that the Toyota Estima is close to perfect, it would also be prudent to fess up to some known potential problems and issues that MAY arise in the Toyota Estima.

It should also be highlighted that there’s no such thing as a problem-free car. Such a mechanical masterpiece as the modern-day automobile, in all its intricate, complex and mind-boggling glory, is bound to succumb to the Second Law of Thermodynamics at some point (i.e. it will fail somewhere at some time!)

Thankfully, Australian Estima enthusiasts have already been there and have your back! You’ll never walk (or drive) alone in an Estima, because even a quick search on Facebook will lead you to a thriving group of hard-core Estima fans with sleeves already rolled up ready to help you solve your Estima issues.

In one such group - Toyota Estima Australia - admin Minh Lam regularly pumps out expert advice that would school even Jeremy Clarkson.

Below is a selection of some Minh Lam gold. This is part of a more comprehensive list that can be found on the Toyota Estima Australia Facebook group, along with tons of equally excellent advice.

Toyota Estima

Top common potential problems with Toyota Estima

Exterior Toyota Estima problems:

  • 30 and 50 series suffer from dulling headlights that can be polished up and clear coated to prevent reoccurrence.
  • Sunroofs tend to leak in some of the 50 series due to poor silicone from factory. This means a removal job and clean up all clips and silicone and starting again
  • sunroof on 30 series leak due to blocked drain problems. Clear the drain. Simple!
  • NOTE: Estima paint in any colour is fantastic. Even red tints, which tend to fade in other manufacturers’ cars, hold beautifully.

Interior Toyota Estima problems:

  • Occasionally the third-row seats get stuck and won’t open up because the cable or lock gets jammed. There are a couple of causes, which are easily addressed.
  • NOTE: Another area where Toyota Estima excels - there are no issues with dash cracks or rattles.

Electrical Toyota Estima problems:

  • A common mistake is people inadvertently bump the power door button, which is hiding down near the center console. This deactivates the power doors and tends to confuse the owner as to why the power doors no longer operate automatically.
  • Using supermarket Energiser batteries on the remote key FOB reduces its range. It’s strongly suggested to use quality Panasonic batteries.
  • In the 30 Series, there is a kick panel on the passenger side hiding a second fuse box higher up. When, for example, a brake light bulb blows, people often miss that second box.
  • Occasionally the aircon goes out of calibration. There is a procedure to recalibrate it.
  • Occasionally the AFS lights play up. There is a reset procedure.

Mechanical Toyota Estima issues:

30 Series

  • The 2.4 litre engine has the potential to have oil consumption issues, owing to how it was originally embedded in the first place. Not a deal breaker. You can just keep topping up between oil changes. It's a piston ring design fault on the oil drain. New rings improve the issue slightly.
  • In the 2.4 litre engine, over time the head bolt can stretch, resulting in losing coolant, overheating and ultimately blowing the head gasket. The bolts must be replaced and the head hole rethreaded to prevent it.
  • The engine bay on the 3 litre gets really warm but has no ill effect
  • The 3 litre engine gets warm idling on 40 degrees days. Needle rises above half way but the coolant temp is still within range so don't panic.
  • The 3 litre engine has very sensitive knock sensors so may throw an engine code and does not engage 4th gear if poor quality fuel is used or if the knock sensor is dead.
  • Both 1mzfe and 2azfe are sensitive to dirty transmission fluid. An indicator is erratic gear shifting. Change the fluid (see note on Transmission below) and its pick up screen to resolve this.

50 Series

  • The 2.4 litre engine idiosyncrasies from the 30 series apply here (see above).
  • The 3.5 litre engine suffers from poor idler pulley and it starts to squeal when the aircon is running, indicating that it’s starting to seize. Worse case is that it starts a fire, so it’s worth addressing - so insist that your mechanic checks this. Too often it is misdiagnosed as the belt or aircon compressor.
  • The 3.5 litre engine suffers from a poor, leaking vvti oil return line. Change it to the updated full metal one without rubber or take it to Pirtek and recrimp braided lines.
  • The 3.5 litre engine AWD can develop a clunk at the rear. This is usually worn bushes on the rear diff bracket. The whole unit (not just a single bush) must be purchased.
  • Bushes love to go on the passenger side front so, more often than not, that will account for noises there.
  • Power steering ECU dies and you get no power assisted steering. This can be quite common. Ask me for the part number. So be wary of any P/S light coming on.

Toyota Estima Transmission problems

  • This is a silent one. The U660E gearbox is amazing but it has had its fair share of failure out of nowhere. So please check the transmission fluid colour and make sure the importer changes it.
  • Don’t believe any nonsense about it being sealed for life - there is a drain hole and refill hole. Toyotas of that vintage like the Prado etc are the same. Unfortunately, this just makes it harder for 3rd party mechanics and DIY.

Performance guidelines:

  • Toyota Estima 2AZ-FE 2.4-litre engine accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 11.2 sec. Fuel consumption approximately 8.62L /100km.
  • Toyota Estima 2AZ-FXE 2.4-litre Hybrid engine accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 10.5 sec. Fuel consumption approximately 5.6L/100km.
  • Toyota Estima 2GR-FE 3.5-litre engine accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 8.0 sec. Fuel consumption approximately 10.03L/km.

Version history:

From 1990 to 2019, the Toyota Estima has manufactured three generations.

The 1st generation is known as the XR10, XR20 being in production from 1990–1999.

The 2nd generation known as the XR30, XR40 and was in production from 2000–2005

Finally, the 3rd generation known as the XR50 was in production from 2006–2019.

Extra facts:

The Toyota Estima is mated with 3 engine options, the 2AZ-FE 2.4-litre engine, the 2GR-FE 3.5-litre engine, and 2AZ-FXE 2.4-litre I4 engine (available in both normal and hybrid versions). These are mated to either a 6-speed automatic, a 7-speed Super CVT-I, or a CVT automatic, available in both 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive.

The Toyota Estima is the second-largest minivan produced by Toyota and sold on the Japanese domestic market. Toyota Estima is packaged as Toyota Tarago in the Australian market and Toyota Previa in the Asian market. It has become the second-largest Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) in the Toyota lineup behind its big brothers, Toyota Vellfire and Toyota Alphard.

Little brothers Toyota Voxy and Toyota Noah complete the family.

Summary:

Globally, Toyota sold over 9 million cars in 2020 - stealing the crown from Volkswagen. They are still up there in the reliability stakes. For the number of cars on the road, these common or potential problems are a very small occurrence in the grand scheme of things.

So with that out of the way, and with such a fantastic support base here in Australia, prospective Estima owners can be fully confident that this Japanese favourite is a fantastic, reliable choice for an Australian garage.

Click here to view all Toyota Estima in our stock.

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Xo,
Natalia
Your JDM addict