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What goes wrong with Toyota Hilux?

Toyota Hilux – the name synonymous with ‘Unbreakable’ and one of Australia’s best-selling vehicles. The seventh-generation of the Hilux arrived in Australia at the start of 2005, powered by a 2.7-litre, a 4-litre petrol engine or the more popular 3-litre diesel engine, and was available in a number of body styles including the single and dual cab and a single extended cab.

While not the most luxurious vehicle, the Hilux was the number one choice for families looking to head off the beaten track on the weekends but still had to do the school run in the city during the week. It was also a hit with tradies, who loved the Hilux’s versatility, cargo space and towing capacity. As of August 2019, the Hilux continues to be Australia’s biggest-selling vehicle.

The Hilux received its first update in 2008, with a redesigned front bumper, as well as updated suspension and safety features. While the petrol engine variants are strong performers, most people opted for the 3-litre turbo-diesel engine for its increased fuel economy and torque which was great for towing.

Known as the D-4D (Direct Injection 4-stroke Common Rail Diesel) engine, it utilised astronomic fuel pressure – roughly 19,000psi – to inject diesel into the cylinders through specially designed fuel injectors, reducing fuel consumption and producing more power.

A class action filed in the Federal Court could affect up to 250,000 Toyota drivers nationwide, including owners of Australia’s top-selling car — the Hilux.

Key points:

  • Top-selling Toyota models are involved in a class action after owners and mechanics report problems with a filter
  • Some report fuel efficiency problems are costing $70 a week
  • Toyota launched a customer service campaign, but not a recall

Lawyers alleged Toyota Australia had been installing faulty Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) in its Hilux, Fortuner and Prado diesel cars sold nationwide from October 2015 to July 2019.

Bannister Law and Gilbert and Tobin lawyers allege the faulty filters cause foul smoke to spew from exhausts, dramatically decrease fuel efficiency and increase wear and tear on engines.

“We believe consumers are entitled to compensation for the defect we allege is in the vehicles,” Charles Bannister from Bannister Law told the ABC.

“The issue is that [in] the past few years, the operation of these vehicles has cost many people time off work in returning the vehicle to the dealership [to be fixed], and the excess fuel consumption has hit their hip pocket.

“People return to have the problem fixed. It’s not fixed, its fuel consumption is poor, and they return again.”

The case will claim drivers have suffered a “reduction in value” of their vehicles.

Toyota has confirmed the dusting issue that drops the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine in the HiLux, Prado and Fortuner into limp-home mode remains unfixed.

That piles more bad news on Australia’s biggest selling vehicle brand, which is battling a class-action lawsuit over the diesel particulate filter (DPF) in the same engine and models.

The ABC has now reported hundreds of fines have been issued to the HiLux, Australia’s top-selling vehicle, for blowing smoke.

The lawsuit alleges that rather than trapping and burning off particulates, the DPF causes smelly white smoke to be emitted from the exhaust and increase fuel consumption engine wear and tear.

Toyota launched a customer service campaign to address the issue in 2018 and is now contesting the class action.

The model year 2019 update rolling out now in HiLux had been the earliest opportunity for Toyota in Japan to update the flawed airbox of the 1GD-FTV engine and cure the dusting issue, but the design remains unchanged.

The problem is caused by a dust leak past the air filter that corrupts the mass airflow sensor, cuts the 1GD-FTV 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine’s power and switches off safety features including stability and traction control.

This issue, like the DPF drama, now potentially affects more than 200,000 vehicles in-service in Australia. But Toyota argues it only occurs in extreme off-road conditions and affects only a tiny portion of owners.

“Nothing much has changed since last time we spoke,” confirmed Toyota Australia Vice President Sales and Marketing Sean Hanley at the GR Supra launch this week. “This occurrence happens in very extreme driving conditions.

“We have a fix for that if that incident occurs. We ask customers to bring the car to their local dealer, and we will put it through a cleaning process.

“We will also give them written advice or advice on how to deal with that and reduce the incidence going forward.”

Hanley said he could not commit to a design change fixing the problem being made in the next 12 months.

“But we are certainly looking at technical upgrades, always,” he said. “Any incident we get with any car we report through to our technical division. And this is no different, and we have done that.

“Our technical division has looked at all aspects of the condition. How it occurs, how often it happens, when it occurs, how to take preventative steps to stop it occurring.

“And that includes the fixes I have outlined to you today and potential technical fixes for the future.”

The ABC contacted authorities nationwide to establish which vehicles were being reported for expelling excess smoke.

In its story, it quoted Victorian EPA figures because they are the most comprehensive. Toyota topped the list in 2018/19 with 792 reports, 339 of which were for HiLux. The EPA did not specify whether white or black smoke was being expelled.

Toyota has known about the problem since at least 2016 and in March 2017 issued a dealer bulletin instructing dealers to inspect and clean parts of the air filters of affected cars using compressed air.

However, owners are only being informed of the issue if they question a dealer – and if the dealer representative is aware of the bulletin.

While Toyota is working on a fix for future cars, there are no plans to repair existing cars.

“It has now been raised as a design issue with Toyota in Japan,” a spokesman told Drive. “They will be working on a redesign of the air intake system.”

Toyota confirmed it is not planning to replace the parts on affected vehicles – despite the potential to leave drivers with an underperforming car.

“There are no plans to replace the air filters,” the spokesman said. “Standard maintenance and replacement of filters will continue to occur, and in severely dusty operating conditions Toyota dealers have been advised of the additional maintenance requirements that need to be followed.”

For those driving in dusty conditions, Toyota is recommending owners check and clean their air filters more regularly – or visit their dealers more often.

“It’s important that the air filter is checked more regularly in extremely dusty conditions … it’s an easy fix to have the dust blown out (to clean the sensor).”

In certain situations – once the redesigned intake is available – Toyota also says it may look at retrofitting the redesigned air intake at no cost to the owner.

Ironically, the issue is amplified when the car is equipped with a snorkel, and something fitted to the most off-road focused Hilux, the recently-unleashed Hilux Rugged X. Snorkels are also typically fitted by off-roaders looking to drive through water or in dusty conditions (in the owner’s manual Toyota says the snorkel “is designed to provide cleaner air to the engine in dusty conditions”).

Toyota instructs owners to drive in “extremely dusty conditions” to reverse the head of the snorkel and face it towards the rear of the car, something that requires loosening two screws.

Defending its stance on not replacing faulty cars, Toyota says the issue occurs in “really, really dusty” conditions.

However, that is exactly the environment the Hilux, Fortuner and Prado are designed to drive in.

The front page of the brochure for the Hilux features a car kicking up rocks and dust in the outback.

In the same brochure – which features pictures of cars on red dirt – Toyota describes the Hilux Rugged X as “an uncompromising combination of off-road capability and urban credibility”.

Despite dropping power and disconnecting safety systems, Toyota says there are no plans to recall the cars.

“As the vehicle is subject to reduced engine power (‘limp mode’) and can continue to be operated safely, it is not a safety-related item that would require a recall. We do, however, encourage customers to contact their nearest dealer as soon as possible if this issue does present itself.”

What’s happening with the filter?

Frustrated Toyota owners began calling Andrew Leimroth’s specialist diesel repair garage in 2017.

Since then, he has been inundated with complaints.

As well as toxic exhaust and fuel efficiency problems, Hilux, Fortuner, and Prado drivers were complaining about sudden power loss.

Mr Leimroth said the problems appeared to start with the DPF installed in 2.8-litre models.

“It’s really inundating calls that we get all the time,” he told the ABC at his garage in Berrima in New South Wales.

The DPF is meant to trap and burn soot from diesel, but customers are claiming it is getting blocked, creating more wear and tear on the engine and emitting fumes from the exhaust.

From what he had seen, Mr Leimroth said he suspected the “burn cycle” was not working correctly.

“They end up with raw diesel coming out the tailpipe with steam, and a mixture of sulphuric acid and that’s of course very polluting, very hard on the eyes,” he said.

Berrima Diesel’s Facebook page was bombarded with hundreds of similar complaints.

Hilux owner says fuel efficiency problem costing $70 per week

Just a few weeks after he purchased his brand new 2017 Toyota Hilux Diesel, he noticed the poor fuel efficiency.

He estimated the car was operating at about 60 per cent fuel efficiency and that was costing him up to $70 more each week to fill the tank.

The Brisbane-based electrician said he had taken his car back to the dealer at least six times to address the faulty filter issue without success.

“Every time I have taken it in there to have a look at the actual filter to see if there’s an issue with it… they always come back and say the DPF is clean,” he said.

Mr Bannister said his firm had been inundated with drivers saying they had been experiencing problems.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of consumers with completely consistent issues concerning the operation of the vehicle, and we believe that it’s a widespread problem,” Mr Bannister said.

“We believe that the vehicle should be free from defects and that the representations regarding the fuel consumption of the vehicles were incorrect.

“The appropriate remedy is a class action representing all affected vehicle owners.”

As angry drivers continued to vent on Berrima Diesel’s Facebook page, Toyota sent Mr Leimroth a letter.

It warned him that the posts on his page were “false, misleading, inflammatory and defamatory” and ordered he take them down or face legal action.

Now, the tables have turned, and Toyota Australia is itself facing a legal fight, with the class action seeking compensation for drivers.

In October, the carmaker launched a Customer Service Campaign offering to clean, replace, or retrofit a switch for Hilux, Fortuna and Prado vehicles sold between June 2015 and June 2018.

All customers with potentially affected vehicles were asked to contact their Toyota dealer for testing and repair free of charge.

Hilux Common Problems

Turbo Issues

Lack of power and black smoke coming from the exhaust are a few symptoms. You may also hear a different noise coming from the turbo. This issue is usually caused by a split pipe connected to the intercooler. This issue will result in a loss of boost pressure. A replacement pipe fixes the issue.

Misfiring/Starting problems

On Hilux versions with the common rail diesel engines, there are known issues with the fuel injectors. This will eventually cause problems starting the car and also misfiring. To fix this, the car will need new fuel injectors to replace the old ones.

Loss of power

If you are experiencing power loss, then the usual cause of this issue is a blocked Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve. This valve gets blocked up with carbon which greatly reduces the airflow. Another symptom of this problem is irregular idling. This problem is rectified by cleaning out the EGR valve.

Crank seal leak

The Hilux has a known problem with leaking oil from the crank seal. You will notice this as the oil that leaks should cost a drip or puddle under the car. In this case, you will need a new crank seal in order to stop the leak.

5th gear synchro

Some owners have reported difficulty going into 5th gear. This is due to a faulty synchro in 5th gear, and this will need replacing to repair this fault. You are probably best to leave this job to a professional as it is quite a difficult job.

Within the above article, potential problems, causes and fixes have been identified as founded on the experience of vehicle owners and repairers, online sources such as discussion blogs, technical service bulletins and SAC experience. This information is provided solely for reference purposes. SAC strictly instruct readers that only properly qualified individuals should carry out repairs and/or modifications on your vehicles. It should also be made clear that the number of times an item is identified within this discussion should by no way be seen as an indicator of a model’s reliability or the frequency with which they may occur. Two of the exact same vehicles, owned by tow entirely different owners, driven in entirely different ways and on different terrains, and looked after in their unique ways, will each behave differently. As mentioned, this information is provided solely for reference purposes. Still, we hope – in the process of doing so – to empower you with relevant information which may enable you to make informative decisions whenever you experience any of the mentioned setbacks.


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