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Discussion Starter #1
I have an 01 Avalon with about 85K miles on it. I use it as a winter car, for 5 months of the year at my home in Florida. During the other 7 months, the car sits in a garage, connected to a battery tender. I've owned the car for the past 5 years (it had 72K when I bought it), and it has been a great car overall. When I first bought the car, because I did not have time, I had the dealer install new air filters, and flush the power steering, brakes and coolant. The tech at the dealer did not fully tighten the brake bleeder screw, and the car leaked brake fluid all over the rear wheel. I had the dealer refinish that wheel, and I have not allowed them to touch the car since. In the time that I have owned the car, I have replaced the valve cover gaskets, and last year replaced the timing belt oil seals, and water pump.

This year I noticed a low pitched whine when I started the engine. The whine varies in pitch with engine RPM, but not with the speed of the car. The whine is noticible when the car is started, but it dissapates as the car warms up. After a half hour of running the engine, it is not noticable. The sound is like that of a hydraulic pump with air bubbles in it. I checked the power steering fluid, which looks OK, and the belt tensions, and the alternator bearings. Everything seems OK..

Any other ideas?
 

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It certainly sound like a Power Steering issue. I had a 87 Camry that made that noise since new. despite changing the fluid yearly it returned intermittently, especially when it was cold. Car went 870,000km. Never changed a pump, rack & pinion. Try changing the fluid again and add some Lucas PS additive...it's good stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Follow up - the issue was the alternator. @flyingn wins!
I suspect that because the car sits unused for six months of the year, that the bearings wore out prematurely. I replaced the Denso unit with a 100A unit from Advance Auto ($200), and all has been good for the past 3K miles.
 
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