I have a 2002 with `138 000 KM. Had all the classic symptoms: starting off in limp mode or 3rd gear, erratic downshifting, clunking from transmission, felt like it was slipping.
I took it to my local Toyota dealer in Victoria and explained in detail the problems. One hour later they called me with the bad news, I need a transmission and ECM, for a total of $6000 CAD. "Wow", I said, really? I asked if this repair fell under any TSB's or if it was covered by Toyota, and she said "No, I'm sorry, the mechanic would have checked for any bulletins or technical service notes. It is not covered, I am sorry".
"Wow", I said again, and continued to explain how I had seen documents online relating to this exact repair, and that the documents showed that there is a technical service bulletin regarding this repair, as well as a lawsuit, and that Toyota had extended the warranty for this repair, and I was surprised to learn from her that my car was not included. I asked her to check again, she agreed.
Five minutes later, another call from her, and WOW, it IS covered, and will be ready on Wednesday, free of charge!
How do you like them beans?
While I had them on the phone, I explained about a previous problem regarding the serpentine belt tensioner. It had started making noise some time ago, so I took it to them to have it repaired. I said, "it sounds like an exhaust noise, but it is not an exhaust noise, I can tell".
I go to pick up the car later and they say that it sounds like an exhaust noise, but not sure, and they did not want to spend any more time/money on it, and that if it gets worse, come back, here is your bill.
I paid the bill and went home, once in the driveway I hear the noise again and decide to look for myself (which I had not done earlier, as I wanted the dealer to fix it) I grab a flashlight, block the wheels, put the car in reverse, parking brake on, and crawl under the vehicle with the noise at full volume. The first thing I see is the serpentine belt going around the crank pulley with a definitive swagger, consistent with the noise. I push the butt of my flashlight against the belt, very carefully, and the noise disappears!
I found the problem in 10 seconds, what did I pay Toyota for?
I change the belt, notice it has a hydraulic/automatic, belt tensioner, and therefore no adjustment. Sure enough, 2 weeks later, the noise is back, the tensioner is bad. I call Toyota, they offer me 10% off labour, because they mis-diagnosed it. I pass and decide to replace it myself.
I have not done this repair yet, and I asked them to do this as well, they passed me on to their Lead Technician, and he said he would try. I will keep you all posted.