Back in '98 I received a recall notice from Toyota for both my vehicles. It stated that all '94 Toyota vehicles with V6 engines were built with a defective head gasket, which could blow at anytime. I brought both my vehicles to a local Toyota dealer in response to the recall. They replaced the head gaskets on both vehicles. I still have the original paperwork from Toyota when this work was performed. At the time of work, this is the date and mileage for both vehicles.
Recall Notice: A 3VZ-E Head gasket Replacement.
June 26, 1998
Vehicle: 94 Toyota Truck 4x4
July 17, 1998
Vehicle: 94 Toyota 4Runner
Since that time I have put a lot of money into both vehicles, which goes against everything I have heard about Toyota's reputation for building vehicles with longevity, thus was my reason for buying two Toyota vehicles. I have all the receipts for numerous and expensive repairs, but this is not the reason I am posting this. I wanted to give a little history to understand my complaint.
The beginning of February of this year, my Toyota pickup truck blew a head gasket when I cranked it up one afternoon. Dense smoke and radiator fluid flowed from the tailpipe, and the engine was vibrating.
My wife's 4Runner had been experiencing problems with engine vibration, and less than a week earlier had been in the shop. Her truck would blow smoke out of the exhaust when first started, and the engine would vibrate, but would stop after a few minutes of running. The repair shop thought the problem was oil dripping on the exhaust, and it was nothing serious, and was cheaper to leave it like it was, than it would be to repair the oil leak.
After noticing the symptoms of my truck, I told my wife that I think the problem with her truck is possibly a small leak in the head gasket. I told her that since my truck was not drivable, we would put my truck in the shop first, and once my truck was fixed, I would have her truck checked. I lost confidence in this particular local repair shop, and decided I would take my vehicle to another shop, which I had dealt with in the past, and had no complaints with their work.
Less than 12 hours after the head gasket blew in my pickup truck, the very next morning I started my wife's 4Runner to make a trip into town. Immediately when I started it, dense smoke and radiator fluid flowed from the tailpipe, and the engine was vibrating even worse than before.
I immediately turned the truck off.
Now I had two vehicles sitting in the driveway with blown head gaskets! What are the odds of two same year vehicles blowing head gaskets within 12 hours apart?
I obviously became very concerned about the head gasket issue, especially because there had been a recall notice for the exact reason. I contacted Toyota with my concern. I expressed the issue to Toyota, and that we were extremely fortunate the head gasket didn't blow the week earlier when we were in Charleston attending my brother's funeral.
The woman I spoke with seemed genuinely concerned with the issue, and said they "Toyota" would see what they could do to help me out. She opened a case# 200602060829 and told me that she was going to call a local Toyota dealership, and she would let him know that I would be calling, and would see what she could do to get a special price. I called the dealership, and was told he spoke with Toyota and I would need to speak with someone in his service department. He transferred me to service, and was quoted a price of $1,600 per vehicle to repair.
Since my wife needed her truck for work, I had no choice but to have her's fixed first. I called another place and they felt they would repair the vehicle for a lesser price than Toyota. I had her truck towed to the local repair shop, where they made the repairs. I wanted to put both vehicles in the shop at the same time, but they could only work on one at a time. Once my wife's truck was repaired, I had my pickup truck towed to the local repair shop where they repaired it as well. Below are the dates and mileage for this repair.
February 16, 2006
Vehicle: 94 Toyota Truck 4x4
February 4, 2006
Vehicle: 94 Toyota 4Runner
During this time, I researched the web in an effort to find a picture of the defective head gaskets, which were being replaced in accordance to the recall. I could not find anything.
While my pickup truck was being repaired, the mechanic at the local repair shop left a message on my answering machine in reference to the reason the head gaskets were blowing. It seems that the problem is not with the head gasket at all, but a casting design flaw with the engine heads. The heads had dimples, which over time would cause the head gasket to blow. The heads on both my vehicles had to be resurfaced to remove the dimples. I was told that would fix the problem from reoccurring. The mechanic at the local repair shop showed me that both my vehicles have 2 head gaskets per engine, and that both head gaskets on both vehicles had blown.
I called Toyota with this information, and all I got was the run around. I could not get a straight answer when I pointed out the problem was a engine block casting issue, and not with the actual head gasket itself. The recall issued by Toyota "A 3VZ-E Head gasket Replacement" was not time, nor mileage limited. I was told that they show both my vehicles were fixed in accordance to the recall, and it is a one time fix only, and the owner has to take responsibility at some point for the vehicle.
It didn't matter whether I responded to the recall at 46,000 or waited until 246,000. And even then they were not fixing the problem, just placing a bandage over the symptom.
A friend of mine who retired from the Cary Police force was working at a local dealership. He told me that he spoke with one of the mechanics there regarding my problem. He told me that as soon as he told the mechanic the problem I experienced with both vehicles, the mechanic immediately responded with "I bet both are '94s". According to my friend, the mechanic use to work for Toyota, and was familiar that the problem was with the heads.
I have already filed complaints through www.nhtsa.dot.gov.