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I have a 2003 Toyota Matrix XRS, with an automatic transmission. I bought it pre-owned from the dealer in 2007. They had used it as a "runner", because the automatic simply wasn't popular in a "sport compact". (The reason it was produced only 1 year.) I always took really good care of it, and for the most part, it was trouble free for a very long time.

I added a CAI, cross drilled rotors, and Hawk ceramic pads. The maintenance was always done "on time", or even before a problem really occured. (Bearings and axles)

I had some transmission issues (shift solenoids), which I replaced, and added a transmission cooler (it was running high). I had finally gotten my California legal DC sports exhaust header installed. On my first long drive, I noticed that the "lift" over 6k rpm was not engaging. I checked the oil, and every thing seemed good. A little research suggested the OCV filters may be gummed up. They were clean, but I replaced them anyway. Next, I replaced the OCV. I took her for a run, and still no change. I returned to the house, and checked the oil. 1/2 quart low, not much to worry about, but I figured "maybe because I had everything apart".

Again, I drove her down my dirt road to the hwy. I turned left, put my foot on the accelerator, and instantly.. MARBLES! It sounded to me like an engine with really bad timing.. valve and piston colliding. I immediately flipped around, and babied her the 1/2 mile home. Oil level still fine. OCV pulled and tested ok. Valve cover removed, bolts and clearances checked out fine.

The noise while there at idle, gets louder as the throttle is increased. Not louder with higher rpms. You can open the throttle at any point on the tachometer, and the sound will get louder. I know the timing is controlled by sensors and the oil pressure. There was no check engine light, and no codes were thrown. I'm at an impasse. A bad oil pump should have thrown a code. It's possible it didn't. If it were bad bearings, wouldn't the noise have "developed", rather than started instantly? I also read a possible issue with a bad oil filter, so I'll do another change. I had just done one about 1000 miles before.

Any suggestions? I'm looking to sell it, and really don't want it to need an engine rebuild.
 

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Bad dream of a situation... some questions:

On my first long drive, I noticed that the "lift" over 6k rpm was not engaging.
Not familiar with this dual-valve-timed engine (quoting Wikipedia a "second cam profile at higher RPM.") How do you know when the second valve train kicks in? Also, are you using premium gas?

The noise while there at idle, gets louder as the throttle is increased. Not louder with higher rpms.
?
How did you increase throttle without increasing RPM?


If it were bad bearings, wouldn't the noise have "developed", rather than started instantly?
Well, a spun bearing can happen instantly, but the resulting noise, AKA the knocking, would be at the bottom of the engine. More ordinary bearing wear would be, as you say, developed over time rather than instant.

Any chance that your timing chain tensioner crapped out?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Of course I am using premium fuel. It calls for it, and I have never cheated on that.

The valve lift is supposed to come in at 6,200 rpm. Mine always came in around 6k. How do you know? You sink into your seat is how you know if it's functioning. There is also a growl that reverberates through the CAI. It can be a little beast.

To be clear, if it's running at 1,200 rpm, and I romp my foot on the gas, the noise will be louder until the revs match up with the new throttle position at 4k a second later. The noise is only louder when it's trying to catch up.. as if "under load" for lack of a better description.

I pulled the valve cover and checked for play everywhere. The chain seemed pretty tight, and the valve clearances were all fine.
 

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Yes, that would be a load, not a heavy one, but a load.

If would appear from your previous work that the VVT valves and filters are ok. Any way to verify that the oil passage from the oil pump to the VVT (OCV) filters is clear? And it's clear from filter to valve?

Did Toyota give you an oil pressure gauge, or have you added one? Any possibility of oil starvation (pickup, filter, oil galleries)?

You mention a dirt road. Does your CAI have a prefilter?
 

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Check your lift bolts, which are probably broken. Broken lift bolts is very common in early 2ZZGE engines.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I don't know if there is any way to determine if the passages for the valve life are blocked, but considering I would not have needed to clean the filters in the slightest bit, buildup would be doubtful. I only replaced them because they were cheap, and I had already bought them.

@hardtopte72, the valve cover has already been removed, and everything checked out fine.

Sadly no, Toyota did not supply an oil pressure gauge, but putting one in is certainly a good idea. It would read regardless of a warning indicator, and at the very least let me know if I am on the right track. I'll just pull it out after, and install it in my Range Rover.
 

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Sadly no, Toyota did not supply an oil pressure gauge, but putting one in is certainly a good idea. It would read regardless of a warning indicator, and at the very least let me know if I am on the right track. I'll just pull it out after, and install it in my Range Rover.
Design oversight on a performance engine; yep; and yep. Assuming there's an easy place to insert a nipple for an analog gauge or sensor for a digital one.

Dept. of what goes around, comes around: variable valve timing was part of steam locomotives by 1880, maybe earlier. And for the same reasons -- increased power and energy efficiency. On the locomotives, of course, the variations were dialed in by the engineer, not by any automatic means.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well, most people wouldn't know how to read it anyway. I have a 1990 Range Rover classic. Lifted, guards, racks etc. I bought her that way, but still no oil pressure gauge installed... yet. Just not sure if I want to use the cluster I have, or a separate pod.
 
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