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A One Time Perplexing Isolated Oil Filter Blow & Lost All Oil So Far On My 2012 Toyota RAV4 Sport, Cause? Please Read.

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Hello. I have a 2012 AWD Toyota RAV4 Sport Edition that has over 84,000 miles on it and 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. I have had it for over 2 years now and bought it used with only 62-63,00 miles on it from a reputable Toyota dealer in NYS. It has been a good car thus far. Right after I bought it, I installed an aftermarket Draw Tite 2-inch x 2-inch tow hitch with wiring harness kit, had it installed by my cousin. With this 2012 AWD Toyota RAV4, I only towed using my Carry On 4x6 foot steel utility trailer with mesh floor a couple of miles around my home with some light items to a local steel recycling center and dump a couple of instances in the past. I have added some photos of the Carry On 4x6 utility trailer for your inspection to get an idea what my utility trailer looks like. I had customized the utility trailer with aluminum walls and some wooden framework 14 years ago as I have used this customized utility trailer with my former 2002 AWD Toyota RAV4 Limited Edition 2.0L 4-cylinder with no issues at all! After installing an aftermarket tow hitch too on my former Toyota 2002 RAV4, I had driven that RAV4 all over the US Northeast with utility trailer in tow without issues.

Now, on Friday, July 26th, 2019, was the first REAL towing I have done with my 2012 Toyota RAV4 and this very utility trailer. I had a small amount of garage sale stuff I was towing to a family member's house 40 miles away. I had 1 additional passenger in the RAV4 with a few small items in the trunk area too. I was driving on a main interstate highway traveling approximately 60-65 MPH most of the way. At first, things were fine, until the last 15 miles of the drive when I started to hear a low hum coming from the engine and getting gradually louder with each passing minute and each mile. The last 15 miles of the drive also had 5 steep hills on the interstate and when I drove up each hill, the engine hum got louder and eased off when I came down the hill. Overall, the hum got exceeding louder. I got off the exit for my family member's town and my car was about to stall with a few shutters with the oil light on the dash’s instrument cluster started flickering signaling oil issues. I drove the car to my family house only a half-mile away and stopped the car and turned off the key. In their driveway, the oil light was steadily before I shut off the car. I saw some smoke vapors coming from the hood and looked under the car and saw from the oil filter back oil sprayed all over the car. A few remaining drops of oil dripped on their driveway. I had the car towed to a local reputable garage where they later determined that the oil filter "blew" and oil itself blew out the O-ring out between the cartridge style oil filter and the lower oil filter threaded mount on the underside of the RAV4. The garage replaced the RAV4's cartridge with a new oil filter and new oil. I test drove the car after I left the garage and the car sounded and ran just fine as if nothing happened! Luckily, I did not cause any damage to the engine with no oil in the engine the final leg of the journey! The mechanic could not answer why this happened to my RAV4 and he was baffled to explain why. The mechanic never heard of anything like that happening before. IT IS OBVIOUS, MY RAV4 MUST HAVE HAD OIL PRESSURE INCREASE TO BLOW OIL OUT AROUND THE O-RING ON THE OIL FILTER CARTRIDGE? …LIKEY FROM TOWING MY UTILITY TRAILER, MAYBE? PEOPLE I HAVE SPOKEN WITH ASSUME THAT MY UTILITY TRAILER IS FINE TO TOW WITH MY 2012 TOYOTA RAV4, IS IT?

NOTES:

a. NO check engine light came on the entire time when I was towing the utility trailer with my RAV4.

b. The coolant meter level on my dashboard’s instrument cluster was normal the entire drive. A matter-of-fact, it was halfway between hot and cold on the dial; typically where it is when I do not tow with the RAV4. Therefore the engine did NOT overheat.

c. I had my last oil change 3-4 weeks ago and I did it myself knowing and recalling that I did tighten the oil filter cartridge against the underside of the motor. Therefore it was not loose.

d. I had driven the RAV4 over 1,800 miles since my last oil change 3-4 weeks ago (without ever once towing the utility trailer) driving up and down some very steep hills on vacation in nearby states without any issues.

e. I have never had the utility trailer weighed after it was customized, I would guess with all the customizations I have done to it; it would weight around 700 pounds.

QUESTION:

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENED? WHY DO YOU THINK THIS HAPPENED? I DO NOT NEED TO DESTROY MY TOYOTA RAV4 ENGINE IF IT WAS THE TOWING THAT CAUSED THE ISSUE! Too much weight for my 2012 Toyota RAV4 to tow? I find that strange that my 2012 RAV4 would have issues towing when my former smaller 2002 RAV4 with a smaller 2.0L 4-cylinder engine towed just fine without issues and I had just as much other stuff in my utility trailer as this RAV4 towed that very day. I have attached a copy of the car identification sticker for your inspection from the inside driver’s door panel on my 2012 RAV4’s GVWR and GAWR on weight capacities. I hope with all this information, you can tell me what likely happened and why?

RIGHT NOW, I HAVE THE TRAILER AT MY FAMILY MEMBER’S HOME. I AM SCARED TO DEATH TO TOW IT BACK TO MY HOME FOR FEAR I COULD NEXT TIME BLOW AND DAMAGE MY RAV4’S ENGINE!!!
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I am not sure why you can't figure this out. You did an oil change yourself and later the oil filter loosen and fell off.
You probably did not use a torque wrench. This is why it is very important to use a torque wrench since it is difficult to know how tight it is. It can be tight just enough so it does not leak but it was not tight enough which can loosen. You were lucky the engine did not get damaged.
 

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I have to agree with DL175 on this one. Sounds like operator error.

For one, oil pressure doesn't really change because of towing. Oil flow (generally speaking) increases with RPMs and with increased flow you get higher pressure (resistance to flow). So yeah, you gotta make more rippums to tow and that increases oil pressure but so does any sort of mashing on the gas pedal.

Towing does increase the load on your transmission, AWD system (when in use) and brakes so if you were having an issue with one of those i'd say yea... maybe. But if you're weighing things right you should be ok there.

I will point out that at least for me, my RAV was the first engine where i didn't have a can oil filter and I think you've got the same engine as me. Changing o-rings is relatively trivial but that doesn't make it immune from mistakes. I would have wanted to see the o-rings. It could help you figure out what you did wrong. I haven't measured the grooves on my RAV but i'm guessing Toyota got them right.


Some other causes could be wrong oring material. Where'd you get the parts?
Some folks don't think you have to swap out old orings for the new ones. You do.
 

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Towing would not have caused the problem. In the past a few owners who have had oil filter problems after having oil changes done by some oil change franchise shops have found that the tech had failed to remove the old O-ring and had installed the new one on top of the old one, with leaks resulting. Or as others have suggested the oil filter may not have been torqued properly.

If the oil light comes on it is vital to switch off the engine as soon as the vehicle can be stopped in a safe place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@ ALL That Have Responded So Far:

Hello. Nice to meet you all!

Okay, I am going to respond and answer some of your thoughts and questions. I need to get technical as I now see what may have likely happened!

TO D175: Yes, you may be right. I did NOT torque my oil filter canister system. I am thinking this now as it has come to me… …but I do NOT think that was the cause you address – the oil filter canister that is specifically threaded onto the threaded spindle from under the engine that you address. I did indeed tighten the oil filter canister system against the threaded spindle with my typical extra quarter turn. This would take into account the needed extra tightening to seal the oil filter canister system against the engine. I am sure the leak would have not come from there. HOWEVER, THERE ARE TWO (2) AREAS THAT NEED TO BE “PROPERLY” TIGHTENED (TORQUED) WHEN IT COMES TO THE OIL FILTER CARTRIDGE SYSTEM!!!! NOT JUST ONE (1) THAT I AM USE TOO as I just mentioned above and as the old metal oil filter cartridge system has been replaced by this oil filter canister system. With the old metal filter cartridge where one just threads the metal filter cartridge on a spindle at the base of the engine and tightens it as I was focused tightening with the new oil filter canister system somewhat overlooking the tightness of the engine oil filter drain plug at the bottom. With this new oil filter canister system that Toyota started in most of their cars in 2009, there are TWO (2) parts that need to be properly tightened. That is, engine oil filter canister AND the one I am not considering -- the engine oil filter drain plug (Not the drain pan plug.)!!! Yes, the engine oil filter drain plug located at the base of the engine oil filter canister, also has an O-ring as well to seal the oil from escaping at the base of the engine oil filter canister. The mechanic never alluded to the fact about the latter one, and I did not torque that latter one to specifications too, only hand tight and then turned the engine oil filter canister at top until hand tight then followed word of mouth instructions from mechanics similar to the older simpler metal oil filter cartridges to turn it a quarter turn with an oil wrench after being hand tight. The engine oil filter drain plug threading IS INDEPENDENT of the engine oil filter canister’s threading when loosening and tightening! The Toyota oil wrench fits over the oil filter canister system’s tabs and never comes in contact with the engine oil filter drain plug. I did not tighten to torque specifications on the engine oil filter drain plug then that could have gotten loose over time as the oil filter drain plug was only hand tightened. I cannot believe in my right mind that the sheer tightness I placed on the oil filter canister against the engine would of in any sense of the word, loosened at all! So I have now learned, not only torquing ONE (1) at engine oil filter canister at the top, but also torquing the oil filter drain plug as well (part of the engine oil filter canister) at the bottom. I am sure I just hand tightened the oil filter drain plug with much less care I placed on that one over the engine oil filter canister is more likely where the oil loss came from. NOTE: I have never had a problem with my quarter-turn method keeping the oil filter and even now this oil filter canister on the engine. It is tight! For each oil change so far, I have to use a breaker bar to loosen the oil filter cartridge. That is how tight that one is! So let this be a lesson to all of you too! Watch out for the bottom engine oil filter drain plug too!

TO d6stringer: Oh yes, I agree; the placement of that O-ring can be an issue! THAT CAN BE AN EASY COMMON MISTAKE HAVING SEVERE CONSEQUENCES!!! When I did oil change this last time, I always replace my O-rings (both engine oil filter canister one and the engine oil filter drain plug one) with what comes in filter box with each oil change. By the way, I bought a FRAM oil filter for my RAV4, their high-grade one that a popular auto parts store in our area sells. Well to be honest -- when I did my last oil change, I took off the oil filter canister O-ring so fast without realizing where it was, that I forgot where the O-ring should be located as the two possible locations on the oil filter canister seemed plausible at first. I ended up calling my local Toyota service department, and they told me the location and it was indeed (I placed it in the correct position at the time.) the location that is shown in the diagram posted by Nimbus. NOW, I AM PRAYING THAT THE MECHANIC THAT DID THE OIL CHANGE PLACED THE O-RING IN THE CORRECT PLACE ON THE OIL CANISTER THIS TIME!!!

TO Blogson: When I did my last oil change a few weeks ago, I did remove both the O-rings on it. I recall both O-rings pop off or spring out at me when I take off the oil filter canister or the bottom of the engine oil filter drain plug. There is so much that can now go wrong now with the more minute parts that need to be carefully performed with an oil change than the simple old metal oil filter of yesterday. I see lawsuits on the rise with those oil change places to take your vehicle to. That is why “I” do my own oil changes and no one else, except my cousin who I TOTALLY trust. I have seen that 10-15 minute oil change places do them and they ruin the threads on my oil drain plug on past cars I have owned. However, if this happened where I did go through an oil change place WITH ENGINE DAMAGE, I could have sued them for damages. Doing it myself is more of a piece of mind, especially now with all the intricacies now with things we buy; BUT I CANNOT SUE MYSELF, RIGHT?
 

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I'll relate an experience I had on Sunday when I performed the fourth oil change on my Rav since I bought it.
Like MonteCarlo, I like to do this work myself so I will be confident it was done correctly. I don't want to put my trust in the quick oil change places.

The previous 3 times, I never remembered to pour new oil into the new filter before threading it back on the car. This time I did remember to do so, and I was surprised that when I tightened the filter canister by hand it actually bottomed out as far as it would go. That's the first time that I wasn't able to tighten it more, let alone be able to torque it to spec. I did put the torque wrench on it for good measure, and it clicked at 19 ft-lbs.

It made me nervous. Yes, I was very careful of the large o-ring, being mindful of this thread. I did notice that the canister threads had quite a bit of oil on them, so maybe that enabled them to tighten down all the way?

My neighbor has a Lexus with the 2gr-fe engine, and I asked him about it. He had recently changed his oil, and he said his bottomed out, too.

Anybody care to elaborate on your experiences? Do I need to be nervous about the canister threading down all the way?
 

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Using a torque wrench for the canister and the canister drain is important. For one thing you can't really know for certain how tight or loose it is by guessing. I learn one time I over tighten it without using a torque wrench and had a difficult time getting it off. I even broke the filter wrench thinking it was the right direction for removal but was tightening it instead. Then I wrote the arrow direction on the new oil filter wrench to ensure it is fool proof. Another thing is I have never taken the bottom canister drain off since it is too much work and takes longer to do the oil change. So after the disaster my confidence came back. Whew!
 

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I swapped out the plastic canister at my first oil change. I grease the threads on the aluminum canister and I also add a little grease on the canister "O" ring so it slides into the engine block easier and the canister bottoms out solidly.

Frank 2015 Rav4 XLE AWD with just over 28K miles
 

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I make sure the o-ring is in the right grove and put a coat of new oil on it before re-installing it. I tighten it until it bottoms out and just make sure it's 'snug' with a basic 3/8 drive ratchet handle. Probably should use a torque wrench. I don't fill the cannister before installing but not a bad idea. I also plan to buy an aluminum canister, plastic one getting beat up.
 

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For those that are using the plastic canister I know for a fact that the aluminum one I have is super strong. I have managed to turn the canister as tight as possible (wrong direction while trying to remove canister) with a 24 inch breaker bar until the filter wrench broke. It was incredible to know the metal is very strong and did not break. (breaker bar flexing using all my might too!)
 

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Not sure if this is related but my old 2010 Rav4, about 6 years ago, i did an oil change. I dislike these oil canisters as the oil seal broke. Maybe it was my fault but going on a 1,500 miles one way trip I thought I was good to go. Made it about 700 miles at midnight, while pulling off the exit ramp to pump gas, the motor clicked and turned off which i coasted luckily to a gas station. Checked under the car, oil was filled. Went to check oil on dipstick, bone dry. Went to gas station and got all the oil they had of 5w30. Slowly refilled on our way south, only made it 100 miles luckily to a walmart and got a new o ring. Installed and made it safely to destination. Sorry for the rant but these dam canisters suck balls.
 
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