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#46 Old 01-03-2013, 10:44 AM
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A stuck controller pin (aka locked actuator at startup) is commonly misdiagnosed as a "dry start". In a way, it is. Because the vvt-i system relies on hydraulic oil pressure to function. Oil flows through a series of small channels from the pump to the actuator. Pressure is controlled by the oil control valve (OCV). Oil too thick or a blockage somewhere will delay oil flow, delay the unlocking of the controller. Thinner oil flows faster, less chance of that happening. Use of synthetic oil helps prevent deposits in the tiny passages of the vvt-i which can make the controller stick, another source of the problem. Lastly, controllers and OCV can go bad just like anything else mechanical. Fairly common for engines equipped with vvt-i to experience this issue. Take the cheapest steps first which is thinner oil, perhaps a varnish/deposit cleanup additive. 0w in a 40 is different than a 0w in a 20 depending on the air temps when the engine is started, but thats another discussion. Using a high efficiency filter with a heavy weight oil will cause a delay, its a balancing act there.
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This is a hard one because of the oil used. My first thought is thickness and deposits are not causing this if M1 0w40 has been used for extended periods. And that something mechanical is breaking down. Exposed by a combination of variables discussed prior (deposits, oil thickness, filter efficiency). The best way to figure this out is a process of elimination. You put a lower efficiency filter on with better flow, went away. You got rid of the noise at the expense of filtration. What else could it be short of a faulty controller or OCV?

No engine is immuned from deposits and varnish over time. Some say varnish is harmless. I disagree. Any small oil galley like the vvt-i system or the piston oil return holes can clog with varnish, hampering flow. Switching oil brands may be useful here. Pennzoil Ultra 5w30 is what I would try. Top of the line, good in the heat, high cleaner, has PAO (according to knowledgeable chemists). Not that its better, I think a change in chemistry may do some good every so often. Clean up what another leaves behind. Using the high efficiency filter for verification it worked. May take a few thousand miles to see results.

Some don't believe in additives, think motor oil can do it all. For the most part yes, but there are times where a cleaning additive may be helpful. This is one of those times because replacement costs of a controller are high. I try everything. Kreen and Lubegard Engine Flush are what I recommend. I have cleaned stuck controllers on 2 Toyotas including the old Camry I'm driving with them. Kreen is the one that was most effective. Same as above, using the high efficiency filter for verification it worked. Should see results almost right away with these.

If a different oil or an engine cleaner don't do the trick, next would be replacing the OCV. Then finally a new controller, the most expensive of all.
Agree... If you've been following this saga you know that I just recently changed my oil filter (from a Mobil 1) to a Toyota oil filter, thinking the ADBV on the Mobil 1 filter was faulty, thus the reason for the random dry starts. Well, I thought I found the fix for the dry starts (or so I thought)...for a while until out-of-the-blue the noise decided to make itself known again - much to my surprise! (I was totally wrong in blaming the Mobil 1 oil filter... )

So, I thought to myself - okay, I've changed the oil filter (which I thought was the problem) so now I'll change the oil I've always used (from Mobil 1 0W-40) to something much lighter and see if that corrects the random dry starts. Even though my oil (and oil filter) was just changed (less than 1,000 miles ago) I have now changed the [new 0W-40] oil only and replaced it with 2 qts 0W-20, 2 qts 0W-30 & 1 qt 0W-40 (which equates to a 0W-28 blend). So now I have a brand new non-restrictive Toyota oil filter and 5 new quarts of 0W-28 [blended] Mobil 1 full synthetic oil. And I still get the totally random start-up noise after the engine has been shut down for 6+ hours (whenever it decides to do it, which is totally unpredictable)...

It is clearly not the fault of the [Mobil 1] oil filter's anti-drain back valve, which I originally thought was the problem. And it is clearly not the fault of the weight or type of oil I have been using...

This all led me to further research this noise problem. I lucked into a multi-hundred post thread on a Lexus message board that described my random start-up noise perfectly. And some of the members there had even made sound clips and videos of their noise, which perfectly matched what I was hearing from my own engine. From reading their discussions (all 965 posts!!!) and their results of taking their cars to dealerships throughout the U.S. (and the world) I was able to learn (with almost 100% certainty) exactly what my problem is - a problem with the VVT-i system.

Your explanation of the VVT-i problem is correct, but all indications are - Toyota/Lexus has never found a solution to permanently fix the problem even though they revised their TSIB five times over the years. As the link I provided (above) clearly shows, owners with this VVT-i start-up noise problem have had their cars worked on (per the various TSIBs both under warranty and out of warranty) and the problem seems to always come back. That's bad!!! It pissed a lot of Lexus owners off big-time...and I don't blame them... But where are the Toyota owners (like me) that have no-doubt also experienced this same start-up noise problem.

The cold start-up 'dry start' noise is so random, so intermittent, so unpredictable, that you can never predict when it will occur. But when it does happen it always happens after the engine has been shut down a number of hours, which allows the oil to drain-off from the VVT-i actuator 'if' the locking pin hasn't performed correctly, which all happens so unpredictably that you would rarely guess when it will happen.

I am very surprised that other Toyota V6 owners (with VVT-i systems) like myself have not complained about this cold start-up 'dry-start' noise. I cannot find any Toyota TSBs or any clearcut discussions indicating that other Toyota owners experienced this problem. This is puzzling to me. Could it be that Lexus owners are less tolerant of this sort of thing and complain more than Toyota owners? I certainly would not think so! The whole thing is very strange...

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#47 Old 01-03-2013, 11:12 AM
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There are Toyota TSB's. What i think is its not common in your year, maybe no TSB. But like anything, it can break.

http://www.rav4world.com/tsb/2010/T-SB-0146-10.pdf



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#48 Old 01-03-2013, 11:21 AM
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That's the noise! The Rav4 video has a better approximation of the degree of grinding or rattling dry-start noise it makes. The Highlander's noise just seemed overly loud to me (maybe the microphone was placed in a bad spot), but it was clearly the same type noise caused by the same thing - the VVT-i system being dry of oil.
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#49 Old 01-03-2013, 11:24 AM
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I am going to experiment with bumping the starter one time before actually cranking-up the engine in hopes it will make any difference. Dunno... I'll do this 'bump start' whenever the engine has not been run for a number of hours...
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#50 Old 01-03-2013, 11:39 AM
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Dry or sticky/stuck is the question. For me both would stick. Solved with cleaners. The old Camry started this morning at 1.8 F with no startup noises. High efficiency filter, 5w30 M1 HM full syn. Kreen was used 70k ago to solve it, every 20k since to keep it from coming back. I would try PU or the cleaners if things don't change. cheap money if it cures it.

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#51 Old 01-03-2013, 11:44 AM
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So, there sure sounds like the noise is a metal-on-metal friction taking place, which begs a question to be asked. Is the split-second grinding, clattering, rattling noise that is heard coming from the free-floating actuator (until the oil pressure comes up) anything to really be concerned about? Is it your opinion that the actual cause of the offensive noise is nothing to be worried about...and that it does not appear to be a major concern from a wear standpoint - as in wear from lack of oil lubrication on cam lobes, cam bearings, valve stems, etc.?
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#52 Old 01-03-2013, 11:54 AM
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Dry or sticky/stuck is the question. For me both would stick. Solved with cleaners. The old Camry started this morning at 1.8 F with no startup noises. High efficiency filter, 5w30 M1 HM full syn. Kreen was used 70k ago to solve it, every 20k since to keep it from coming back. I would try PU or the cleaners if things don't change. cheap money if it cures it.
I've always changed the oil and filter between 2,500~5,000 miles, using Mobil 1 0W-40 oil. The internals appear to be extremely clean and show no indication of wear, varnish, sludge, etc. that would indicate any problem. My engine has always purred like a sewing machine, like it was new. It just has that random start-up noise from time-to-time. I can 'not' drive the car for many days and not get the start-up noise...or I can not drive it for 7 hours and sometimes I do get it. Totally unpredictable...

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#53 Old 01-03-2013, 12:01 PM
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I do not think its dry starting, do not think the engine is going without lubrication. The rattle is caused by the controller sticking or beginning to fail. The rattle may be caused by the controller, but whats actually rattling is likely the valve-train with the cams in the wrong position IMO. No noise should be ignored no matter what it is.

You can't see deep down in the engine or inside the controller. As stated I don't argue M1 is a clean running oil, but you can't say you don't have deposits. All engines do, you can't stop it no matter what you use. I would make an attempt to resolve it. Up to you how.

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#54 Old 01-03-2013, 01:04 PM
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Kooter, did you not solve the problem by switching oil filters? Or, does it sometimes occur with the Toyota oil filter too?

2grfe had a factory defect, as do various other Toyota engines.

Unless the '04 1mz has the same TSB, then it all means nothings.

Sorry Leaky, full synthetic oil with reasonable maintenance intervals is assumed clean.

This is still a Mobil1 filter issue. KN... also have the same issue. I'd call it 'quality control' on their part as not all of their synthetic premium filters cause issues. Many do and on many engines.
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#55 Old 01-03-2013, 01:07 PM
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I do not think its dry starting, do not think the engine is going without lubrication. The rattle is caused by the controller sticking or beginning to fail. The rattle may be caused by the controller, but whats actually rattling is likely the valve-train with the cams in the wrong position IMO. No noise should be ignored no matter what it is.

You can't see deep down in the engine or inside the controller. As stated I don't argue M1 is a clean running oil, but you can't say you don't have deposits. All engines do, you can't stop it no matter what you use. I would make an attempt to resolve it. Up to you how.
I'd like to know for sure what exactly actually causes the rattling (clatter/chatter) noise in the VVT-i system. I'm not convinced that a cam is in the wrong position. In fact, that would likely throw a camshaft position sensor code.

You may not realize this, but many of the Lexus owners that had this exact same problem has vehicles with as few as 8,000 miles, and owners that made it a point to change oil and filter far more often that was recommended. There was never any indication that the root cause of the problem was caused by oil-related engine dirt, deposits, sludge, varnish, etc. that may have attributed to the VVT-i controller locking pin to randomly get stuck or become sticky.

Surrounding this whole problem is the issue that Toyota/Lexus has yet to find a permanent fix...even though they have revised their TSB five times over many years and provided different parts [obviously] in hopes of solving the problem. According to many of the Lexus owners they have taken the view (over the multiple years that Toyota/Lexus tried to fix the problem) that they do not want engine work done on their car (even under no-cost warranty) that cannot be clearly defined as resolving the problem. In other words, the most recent (current) TSIB parts and engine work does NOT permanently fix the problem. An owner could have the upper-end valve train torn into and all the VVT-i parts replaced and 3 days later experience the exact same noise. Not good! That said, how would I make an attempt to resolve it? I can use all different types of internal engine cleaning treatments (which I really don't care to ever use), even rebuild the entire engine, and it appears the problem is something that cannot be resolved. If Toyota/Lexus haven't found a fix in all the years and 5 TSIBs trying to fix it - it's doubtful there is a fix. Wouldn't you agree?
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#56 Old 01-03-2013, 01:11 PM
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Kooter, did you not solve the problem by switching oil filters? Or, does it sometimes occur with the Toyota oil filter too?

2grfe had a factory defect, as do various other Toyota engines.

Unless the '04 1mz has the same TSB, then it all means nothings.

Sorry Leaky, full synthetic oil with reasonable maintenance intervals is assumed clean.

This is still a Mobil1 filter issue. KN... also have the same issue. I'd call it 'quality control' on their part as not all of their synthetic premium filters cause issues. Many do and on many engines.
Maybe you have not read my most recent posts to get up-to-date on the latest...

This should answer your question.
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#57 Old 01-03-2013, 01:44 PM
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When the engine stops, the intake side VVT-i controller is locked on the most retarded angle side by the lock pin, and the exhaust side controller is locked on the most advanced angle side. This ensures excellent engine startability.

The oil pressure sent from the advance or retard side path at the intake and exhaust camshaft causes rotation in the VVT-i controller vane circumferential direction to vary the intake valve timing continuously.

An advanced angle assist spring is provided on the exhaust side VVT-i controller. This helps to apply torque in the advanced angle direction so that the vane lock pin securely engages with the housing when the engine stops.

When hydraulic pressure is not applied to the VVT-i controller immediately after the engine has been started, the lock pin locks the movement of the VVT-i controller to prevent a knocking noise.

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#58 Old 01-03-2013, 02:22 PM
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#59 Old 01-03-2013, 03:05 PM
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I guessing that the locking pin on the VVT-i intake camshaft gear sprocket mechanism is not always setting for [the next] engine start-up. When that happens and the engine is not used for 6+ hours the oil drains out of the VVT-i camshaft gear housing/mechanism and the result is a rapid clattering noise until oil pressure comes up and fills the camshaft gear housing/mechanism. While it is important to change engine oil and filter at recommended intervals it's also clear this VVT-i system has its problems and (according to my research) has no absolute permanent fix. My problem is not my oil filter or oil, but the VVT-i systems's locking pin does not always do what it is supposed to do.

I am now using a new non-restrictive regular Toyota oil filter and a fresh supply of Mobil 1 full synthetic oil (blended to equal 0W-28 (combination of 0W-20, 0W-30 & 0w-40), which is so clean (after just removing the previous oil and filter that only had ~800 miles on it) you can hardly see the level oil on the dipstick.

I am going to experiment whenever I make a cold start crank-up (4+ hours since last driven) by barely bumping the starter one time before cranking up the engine. By doing this I hope the camshaft gear locking pin resets itself in preparation for the engine to crank-up without the actuator free-floating inside the housing, which is (in my opinion) what is causing the randomly made (very intermittent), rapid clattering type noise (as heard on the multiple videos) that lasts for a split-second.

Based on the results of me very briefly (barely) bumping the starter motor one time before attempting to crank-up the engine - if necessary I will bump the starter a 2nd time, or possibly a slightly longer time (without the engine starting-up) in hopes the camshaft gear locking pin resets itself in preparation for the engine to be cranked-up so the actuator doesn't free-float and make the rapid clatter noise. I should be able to determine over-time if this (bailing-wire and duct-tape ) method eliminates the intermittent start-up noise. That's my plan...and something I really don't mind (too much) doing since the car (even though it still looks brand new) has some age and mileage on it. Wish me luck with my less than perfect 'fix'!

Last edited by Kooter; 01-03-2013 at 03:23 PM.
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#60 Old 01-03-2013, 03:07 PM
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Kooter - The sensor may not throw a code because the duration is so short and there is nothing functionally wrong with it. As you can see by the videos the vvt-i design is very sensitive to deposits and oil flow. How oil looks on the stick means nothing in relationship to the entire engines cleanliness. Followed a rebuild on here recently for oil consumption. What was found to be the problem? Beautiful engine, but way way down inside a bad case of varnish/carbon clogging the piston oil return holes. That was the only thing wrong with it. Not visible till the engine was torn apart. The controller had bad deposits too, wasnt causing a problem (yet). There are pictures of it on here somewhere. I'm not a oil brand loyalist, I don't believe any oil keep an engine spotless forever. (I know deadrx7conv disagrees, but thats ok, hes a good dude anyways lol) I'm hoping for a easy fix for you like it was for me, just needed a cleaning. If the test doesn't work out try the oil brand change or the cleaning additives I recommended

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Last edited by leakyseals; 01-03-2013 at 03:24 PM.
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