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#1 (permalink) Old 12-19-2013, 08:48 PM
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Question Delay in acceleration - 97 RAV4

I recently got this 1997 RAV4 for my boyfriend to drive around as he has a cavalier which keeps getting stuck with the crazy snow storms we've been having. 330k km but in good enough shape to make it worth fixing up. I have a 1998 RAV4 which has been great so figured I'd get him the same thing.

It seems to have an intermittent issue with low idle and a delay when accelerating from a full stop. Happens more when the engine isn't fully warmed up. The delay seems to be around the same duration each time, roughly 6 seconds. It will then respond with normal power and accelerate as you would expect. When it lags like this the idle speed drops down to around 600 RPM which is very near a stall. Working the gas pedal up and down, or just a steady pressure doesn't seem to change the lag.

When I first got it, it would idle normally until the engine warmed up. Then it would idle so low that it would continually stall if you took your foot off the gas pedal. The gas pedal was also very sloppy in terms of being responsive. Sometimes it would do nothing, other times it would spike the RPM up way too quickly.
In any case I figured it was worth doing some checking under the hood. I noticed the accelerator cable was extremely loose and hanging down so tightened that back up to snug. Also noticed the idle adjustment was set very low. I readjusted it up a bit so now it idles around 900-1000 rpm when warm. And might I mention that was a wretched job! Had to remove the flywheel just to get at it. Tiny little nut to loosen off in the most awkward location and then a 2m allan key to turn the screw. I lost two allan keys down into the undercarriage and had to go buy another just getting it done lol. On my old toyota truck you could adjust it with the engine going without moving a thing so much easier oh well.
Anyways that has solved the stalling issues and the sloppy gas pedal but has not solved this lag when trying to accelerate from a full stop. Also, the lag is worse when in 4 wheel drive.

This is what's been done on it so far:
Dist cap
Dist rotor
O2 sensor
Fuel filter
Air filter
And oil change
So pretty much a basic tune up.

The RAV was sitting for 6 months with a nearly empty tank and had bad gas when we first got it. I filled it up, took it on a long drive and am now on the second tank of gas which it is running a lot smoother on but also did not solve the intermittent lag issue.

Also, may or may not be related, it is slow to start. Usually chugs a couple times before it gets going. It always starts eventually though, even at -18 without being plugged in. Tends to blow some black soot out the tail pipe after start up. It may be burning a little oil but it looks more like unburnt gas to me as its powdery carbon for the most part. This goes away once it warms up and has been getting less so with the new gas.

Only other issue, which may or may not be related, is that if you leave it idling for more than 20 minutes or so the engine light will come on and stay on. If I disconnect the battery for a minute then restart there is no engine light. Even took it to work today and no engine light until I went to get my friend and her kids (her car died) and we sat and idled for 40 minutes waiting for the bus (its been horrible weather here in Calgary) and near the end the engine light came on again.

I am reasonably handy and will do most maintenance myself although I tend to weigh my time money or buying special tools with just taking it into a mechanic. For instance the tune up was done at a local mechanics since I had to take it in anyways for the insurance inspection. Also it happened to be -27 that week and I didn't feel like freezing outside since I have no garage at the moment. They did a scan and according to them thats what came up so thats what they replaced. I didn't get the scan codes from them but I could go back and do that.

Anyways thanks in advance if anyone has any ideas.


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#2 (permalink) Old 12-20-2013, 04:32 PM
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First thing I would do is call and post what codes they found,remember they show the AREA where trouble is.
2nd thing is clean throttlebody and IAC
3rd thing is look,listen for a vacuum leak. A stethoscope works real good for vacuum leaks,rattles and knocks.
RAV4 has a weak ground and I always tell people with 4,1s to run extra grounds from battery to firewall and to motor. It is easy and cheap to do and all you need is 4 good connectors,2 pieces of wire a short metal screw to go into firewall after you clean a spot down to bare metal,do not use too long of a screw or drill too deep. Spray with clear paint after. Go to metal part of motor.
No you will not get 20 extra HP but I and others have found it starts quicker and is more responsive. Everything still works with a weak ground but it is hard on it.
If you used bosh wires,other cheap ones also do not last on our RAV4s
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#3 (permalink) Old 12-20-2013, 07:19 PM
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Did not know about the ground. Sounds easy enough to buff up though. Since I have the same vehicle (a few small differences under the hood but nothing major) I'll give them both the treatment.
I was wondering about the IAC and throttle body since the engine wasn't well maintained everything is pretty dirty. Next nice day I'll get in there and give it a cleaning. I noticed there are several posts here giving detailed instructions.
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