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Old 06-01-2005, 04:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Idle speed too high upon start up... how to fix???

Greetings,

I own an `04 Highlander V6. Whether winter or summer, when you first start the car after sitting overnight, the idle immediately races to 2,000 rpm, then drops to 1,800 rpm. It will then idle at 1,800 rpm for another whole minute or so, and then slowly start to drop off to 1,600 etc until it reaches about 1,300 rpm after about two full minutes. Of course there are no idle speed screws on this car... this is apparently all being fully controlled by the computer.

Is there any way to trick the car into not idling so fast upon start up? Or does anyone know of a chip tuner place that can perhaps make me a custom chip or somehow go into the computer and change the cold idle speed parameters?

Gee, my `04 Mustang will start up on a winter morning and immediately idle smoothly at about 700 rpm... nice. The Toyota is a serious headache... I cannot put it in gear unless I wait at least two full minutes. Otherwise the car will lurch forward pretty violently.... this CAN'T be good for the tranny!

Any help greatly appreciated. Thanks
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Old 06-01-2005, 04:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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fast idle is normal... I'm actually wondering why your Mustang isn't idling a little fast in the mornings
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Old 06-01-2005, 04:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My girlfriend's Chrysler is like that.. it could be -30 outside in the winter and it still idles at 700rpm.. its a bitch to get it warmed up in the winter.

As for the car lurching forward.. that's what your brakes are for. Fast idle is normal, specially on japanese cars, my car will start at 2000rpm even in the summer too.
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Old 06-01-2005, 10:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks. The problem is that, being an auto transmission, I do not want to shift into drive if the rpms are over 1,500 rpm, and thus do a "neutral-drop". And the engine revs over 1,500 rpm for almost two whole minutes after start up. This means I cannot shift into gear for about two whole minutes every morning. Two minute does not sound like a lot, but it seems like forever when you start your car and are on your way to work or whatever on a cold morning. I normally warm my cars by putting them in gear right away and then driving very gently until the engine is warm. This is the best way to warm. Some people start their engines, then go back in the house and let the engine idle for 5 or 10 minutes on a cold morning... this is not good as we all know that any type of idling, in theory, is bad for an engine. An engine should always have load. Anyway... I am hoping that I can get my engine to idle down quicker than it does so that I do not have to sit and wait for two whole minutes until the rpms drop below 1,500 or so rpm so that I can shift into gear without doing a "neutral-drop". Any ideas welcomed. Thanks.
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Old 06-02-2005, 02:12 AM   #5 (permalink)
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like I said.. that's what BRAKES are for.. if you press on your brakes your car shouldn't lurch forward.. the transmission should be able to take it.. after all a Highlander can tow what? 5000lbs or something like that? I'm sure that little lurch forward is nowhere near the stress that towing 5000lbs would put on the transmission.
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Old 06-02-2005, 05:30 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The high idle after start up is one of Toyota's way of reducing emission. A warm engine emits less emission than a cold one so Toyota and other manufacturers put in this feature to help get the engine to operating temperature quicker and thus reducing the higher emission that would have been emitted if the engine was still running cold.

My '89 Toyota truck has this feature too. Its engine racked up over 290,000 miles before I killed the engine (driving with a leaking radiator and blew head gaskets) so I don't think engine wear would be a problem. The original auto tranny is still running fine and it now has over 320,000 miles on it with no work ever performed on it other than routine fluid changes.
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Old 06-02-2005, 09:38 AM   #7 (permalink)
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MenaceSQL.... so you are saying that your Toyota had the same symptoms that mine has? You started up your Toyota everyday and shifted it into "drive" while the engine was spinning at 1,800 rpm?

I agree that the transmission can take the shock of shifting to drive at 1,800 rpm, but this sure as heck isn't a wise thing to do in general. Doing so beats the heck out of, not only the transmission, but the entire driveline, CV joints, etc.

I understand all about the emissions strategy. For a manual transmission car, this would all be fine... you could always let out your clutch gently at 1,800 thereby not really "banging" the driveline. But with an auto tranny, there will be a high level of shock to the driveline.

Well, glad to hear that your Toyota lasted a long time with you apparently shifting to drive at 1,800 rpm all its life. Makes me feel a bit better. Like you, I am also very much into trying to get my cars to last forever. I bought my Highlander outright and plan to get at least 10 years or over 200k trouble free miles out of it. Thanks.
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Old 06-02-2005, 07:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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highlander04, I think you're thinking too much about tecnhical details and making up thoughts based on previous experiences. You won't be "neutral dropping" by putting your car into gear at startup. In fact, by the Toyota manual, you shouldn't even let your car warm up that long. Just make sure your foot is firmly on the brake when you shift into gear and the revs of the engine will slow down because of the friction caused between the power being sent from the engine to the tranny.

If you think your car wasn't designed to handle shifting into gear when you start up your car, then I think it's about time you invest in an autostarter.
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Old 06-02-2005, 11:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I appreciate the replies. All I know is that putting a car in gear from neutral while the engine is revving at say over 1,500 rpm cannot be a good thing. Sure, I can put my foot on the brake to keep the car from leapinig forward when going into gear, but this doesn't reduce the shock to the driveline. As well, as I drive along my driveway at 5 mph or so, the engine is racing as if it wants to go 35 mph, so I have to ride the brake hard to keep the car from picking up speed, and this is just stressing the entire driveline, torque converter, and even the brakes. Of course, once the engine is warm, everything is fine and it idles properly as it should.

I was at the toyota dealer today and noticed a brand new Avalon that appeared to act the same as my Highlander... so I guess that's just the way they make `em. Gone are the good old days when you could just pop the hood and go in there with a screw driver and adjust things the way they SHOULD be. Oh well, no use complaining about it, right? Computers drive these cars now, not humans.
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Old 06-03-2005, 12:24 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Also... I did cross post this issue and my other thread got "closed". Sorry for the cross post but it made sense to me that this issue is a "cross-over" issue and would be relavent in both catagories. As it is, I received different responses from different people under each of the different identical posts, so, cross posting turned out to be helpful in my situation. Ok, NOT debating, just explaining. I won't do it again.

To answer the last post in my other thread... the poster asks if I think I can design a car better than Toyota. My response is, YES! Well, sort of... here's why: I've been bulding engines and restoring cars from scratch for 20 years. Ok, realistically, I CANNOT design a car better than Toyota, but I know enough about cars and engines to know what's good and what isn't for the car itself and the driver/ consumer. This is sometimes in conflict with what the gov't and EPA prefer.

Toyota (and all manufacturers for that matter) do what they need to do in order to get the cars to meet federal mpg and emissions requirements. However, the things they do to achieve this are not necessarily good for the car itself or for the driving experience. When I pay $30k for a car, I want a 100% perfect driving experience and a car that functions in such a way that it will last as long as it can and should.

Toyota makes the car rev high for two minutes upon cold start up primarily for emissions purposes... engines produce less emissions per rpm at higher rpm, plus the high rpm helps the engine warm up faster.... thus less emissions. Fine. Yeah, I care about the environment, but in the end, I do NOT want to do neutral-drops every morning in my $30k car, period. A few extra PPMs of CO2 for one minute is not going to hurt anything, but neutral-dropping a few times every single day is going to wreck my driveline after a while... so guess what I am more concerned about. Call me selfish, but if so, please write me a check for $30k and I won't be selfish anymore.

In my old cars back in the `70's, I'd simply reduce the fast idle speed on the carburetor, and the cars would run great, no neutral dropping, etc... and they'd still warm up just fine because I know how to warm up engines properly. Now with these new computer controlled cars, I can't adjust anything... and it's quite frustrating. If I was younger, I would surely look into a career in automatiove computer engineering so I could learn how to MODIFY auto computer parameters. I know guys do this now, but not for all cars. I would give ANYTHING to be able to hook my car up to an external computer and modify the control parameters, such as idle speed, ignition timing, etc, etc, etc. Oh well.... in another life. But... I'd be willing to pay a large amount to have someone go into my Highlander's computer and fix this fast idle problem... so, for you younger guys, might be a good business to get into.

As someone pointed out, the one good thing about the fast idle on a cold engine is that it helps pump oil to all areas of the engine (higher revs means higher oil pressure). But, I don't need the car to rev up for me because I warm all my cars up this way anyhow. What I do... start vehicle, shift into first gear, then immediately drive slowly through the side streets at say 20 mph, about 1,500 rpm, for maybe 5 or 10 minutes... this warms up the engine quick while distributing the oil well, plus puts enough load on the engine to keep the pistons from "rattling" around yet not enough load to hurt anything prior to full operating temperature. This is the best way to warm up an engine. Letting an engine idle only for a long period is not good. Over-revving or beating on a cold engine, also not good. I've built enough engines and done enough experiments with engines to feel quite confident that this is true. I will accept a debate on this, but ONLY if you're a professional engine builder.

So, I guess all I want to do is be able to have full CONTROL of the engine speed at all times. I'd like to start up a cold engine, then shift to drive at LESS than 1,000 rpm (thus no neutral-drop), and then drive off in first gear at 1,500 rpm so I can warm the engine myself. I guess this is too much to ask since Toyota must figure 99.9% of Toyota owners do not know or care about any of this stuff.... ok, I understand that and it makes sense. I still wish I could have full control over my new $30k+ car though. I guess I am just too used to rebuilding engines from scratch and having full control over ALL parameters, adjusting things to perfection (the way I like it, not the way the federal gov't and EPA want me to!). Big Brother!!!


I realize that shifting into drive at 1,500 rpm isn't the END of the world, the tranny is not going to split in half, but... it just bugs the heck out of me.

By the way, I tried turing the ignition on for two minutes prior to starting the engine.... this did not help.

I think what I will do is make some small custom ramps for my garage. When I pull in at night, I will drive up on these small ramps and park the car. THen in the morning, after I start the engine, I can put the car in neutral and allow the car to roll down the ramps picking up speed... then shift into gear while the car is already rolling at 5 mph or whatever... that will reduce shock on the driveline. If I can cut the shock in half, that's better than nothing. Realize that I plan on keeping this car for at least ten years... and at 2 "neutral drops" per day, this means over 6,000 neutral drops over the life of the car... so, anything to reduce shock to the driveline each morning will help in the long run.

Am I obsessing? Yes. But I enjoy cars and am sensitive to how they operate.... and if something isn't operating "correctly", it bothers me. I can't help it.
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Old 06-03-2005, 01:49 AM   #11 (permalink)
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oh geez.. sell the damn thing and get a GMC or Ford.
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Old 06-03-2005, 05:08 AM   #12 (permalink)
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The temperature of the engine coolant most likely controls the idle especially the high idle at startup. Over at Yotatech, there is this mod known as the ECT mod. The ECT mod is designed to raise the idle by altering the signal from the engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor to the ECU. Maybe if the pot used in the mod gets wired different or if other components are used, that may help you lower the idle. Just a suggestion to help you get started in your quest to lower your idle. Total cost for this mod is usually around $20 only.
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Old 06-03-2005, 10:07 AM   #13 (permalink)
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MenaceSQL, thanks for the very informative post! Extremely interesting. This info will help me. Ironically, the guys doing this mod are doing it for the opposite reason... to trick the car into thinking it's cold when it's hot.... and I of course want to do the opposite. Pretty funny. And very interesting. Glad to see guys out there trying to and succeeding at modifying computer controlled cars. Nice. Menace, I appreciate your input. I have something to look forward to now. Not sure yet exactly how I will apply this information to my situation, but at least I have something to go on.

One thought... if I decided not to cut into the wiring harness at all, a simple old school engine block heater would also cure the problem... anything to raise the coolant temperature prior to start up. I just need to find the coolant sensor location and work around that. Or, I can try the potentiometer trick, except need to find one with the correct values to achieve my goals, which will be a little different from what the other guys were doing... but easy enough.

Now knowing that the coolant temperature sensor is governing the cold start up routine, I can plug in my code scanner at start up and find out at exactly what coolant temperature the engine finally returns to a reasonable low idle speed. Then all I need to do is either get the coolant up to that temeprature prior to start up, or trick the computer into thinking the coolant is at that temperature.

Of course some will suggest that using a block heater is the best way to deal with this problem since it is actually warming the engine prior to start up which, in and of itself, is beneficial for both engine wear and even emissions.

I suppose I should have realized all this earlier, but these new cars are so complicated now that you cannot ASSume anything. I figured that the coolant temp had something to do with it, but wasn't sure if intake air temperature was also involved... and/or a mere timer, holding idle high for say exactly two minutes after any cold start-up. The one thing that did fool me... the car does seem to idle high for the same amount of time each start up, winter or summer, which got me thinking about the possiblilty of a "timer". I have the official Toyota repair manual for this car also and it does not explain any of this stuff... or I haven't found it yet anyway.

Thanks again Menace for understanding and respecting my goals and providing useful info. See ya on the road!

Last edited by highlander04; 06-03-2005 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 06-05-2005, 04:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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In my opinion, if Toyota thought it would harm the transmission, they wouldn't have added the feature.

Our Camry revs at about 2000 RPM as well and then slowly drops. Even my Hyundai Excel did that. The only thing I don't like is how the car wants to race for the first few minutes when driving. When going around town for example, I have to drive down a small hill. However, the car wants to reach 30 when the proper speed limit is 15.

I always wondered why I seemed to drive faster reaching my destination than coming back.
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:26 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epinionator89
In my opinion, if Toyota thought it would harm the transmission, they wouldn't have added the feature.
This makes sense, but for Toyota, meeting federal regulations is of prime concern. Transmission longevity is secondary. Needless to say, the fast idle when the engine is cold is not good for the tranny, period. Apparently, the transmissions can take it, at least for a while, but in theory, it's still not good.

Quote:
Our Camry revs at about 2000 RPM as well and then slowly drops. Even my Hyundai Excel did that.
Yes, this is fine for cold start up. But I'd like to see the idle come down from 2,000 to say 1,200 in about 45 seconds maximum as opposed to nearly two full minutes. I am not comfortable shifting into drive unless the revs are at about 1,300 or less. Any higher than 1,300 or so and the shock on the drivetrain is quite noticeable when you shift to drive, the car lurches forward, wants to speed away, etc. Not good.

Quote:
The only thing I don't like is how the car wants to race for the first few minutes when driving. When going around town for example, I have to drive down a small hill. However, the car wants to reach 30 when the proper speed limit is 15.
Right, just that much more wear and tear and strain on everything. If the car is racing ahead faster than you want and you need to apply the brakes to slow it down, this is not a good thing. Think about it.

One system that would be good.... start cold engine, engine revs to say 1,800 rpm, within 45 seconds it drops to 1,200 or less. OR, if you shift to drive, the computer senses you shifting and immediately drops the idle down at that moment so shock to the drivetrain is less. An `89 Honda Accord I used to have did this... was excellent.... when cold, the fast idle would drop instantly if you moved the shifter out of park... very smart idea. This way the revs would be lower before you'd hit any gear.. and then once driving, the car would not be trying to speed along faster than you wanted. Too bad Toyota does not do this now. Oh well. I guess they need to do whatever possible to get these cars to pass the super strict federal regulations. It's getting like 1975 all over again.... manufacturers having to do ridiculous things to get the cars to pass. Fortunately though, things are way better now than they were in 1975, so can't complain!

Thanks for your input!
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