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My fiancee's 2013 XLE had a total transmission failure the other night while crossing a major highway bridge with no shoulder or breakdown lane. RPM's went to 6K and absolutely zero power to the wheels. Thankfully she was able to coast to an exit ramp and get off the road. Restarting the car and putting it in drive did nothing, the car would just roll backwards. No warning signs at all, and no CEL or other lights came on. Had it towed to the dealer who confirmed the transmission is shot. They couldn't diagnose more other than saying the fluid smelled and looked "burned".

Replacement with a rebuilt unit is $6700, absolutely astronomical for a 4 year old car worth $13k. The car is nearly totaled and its barely lost its new car smell. Miles were predominately highway, never towed a thing, and spent 3 out of 4 years in garaged. Only major work was the torque converter replacement which we had done under warranty at 45k.

I reached out to Toyota corporate but as of yet they are unwilling to help other than offering me $1500 to trade in for something new. No one seems to have heard of this transmission failing this early; the local rebuild shop hasn't even started rebuilding them yet. Used market is also sparse, best I could do is a replacement with 50k already on it.

Has anyone heard of a 2013 failing this early, or have any suggestions to ease the blow? I understand I'm out of the warranty, but we would have never bought a car that had a designed life of 80k.

Thanks for the help.
 

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Sorry that the trans failed, but your fiancée had the presence of mind to coax her RAV to a safe place. The presumably Toyota rebuilt replacement cost is outrageous. Can your local rebuild shop rebuild the trans and install it - can they give you a price quote?
 

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I appreciate the responses guys. The few rebuild shops I spoke to are between $5-6K, so a little bit cheaper. but not the $3-4K you'd typically expect for this kind of job. I spoke with Toyota corporate again today and had a less than pleasant conversation. Right off the bat they sent their "No" person in to shut me up and she had zero interest in trying to compromise or help in any way. Fortunately, the dealer seems to be much more sympathetic and will try and reach out to the regional service manager and see what they can do. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet, but I'm really discouraged by the customer support.

I did notice that in the thread about transmission fluid, several people reported that their fluid smelled and looked burnt when they did a flush. I've only flushed one transmission myself on a 98 Silverado, but the fluid looked perfectly fine coming out. Can anyone tell me if the fluid is supposed to look and smell burnt like it did in a normal transmission? The service techs thought it was unusual, and I'm wondering if there is an inherent problem that hasn't become widespread yet.
 

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Sorry to here about your Rav4. One thing you want to watch out for, is WHO rebuilds your trans. These foreign trans are so sophisticated that you need a PRO who has built many of the exact trans and has a good track record. Example: The video I posted on the TransProtector trans filter. The author of the video (NOT the designer/and owner of Russel Transmission in Massachusetts who designed the filter) The video author owned Certified Transmissions in Utah, he went out of business because his "pro" trans builder moved to another shop and he could not find anyone who could perform quality rebuilds. His comeback rates sky rocketed and after 2 years of trans coming back at a very high rate, he went under. He said you don't know your tech sucks for at least 4 to 8 months , when they all start coming back on warranty. In his video talking to his subscribers he stated that unless you can get a brilliant/gifted tech with the newer high tech auto trans or a transmission engineer that rebuilds, it will be tough to make it in the foreign rebuild trans business. They are not an easy GM Turbo 350/400 rebuild. So if you can find out if Aisin (your transmission manufacture that Toyota has interest in) itself sells rebuilds, you are playing Russian Roulette with your checkbook. The key here is take care of these trans before it is an issue. My 2014 lease return had horrid trans fluid in it at 22,000 miles. I couldn't get that crap WS out quick enough. I external filter my wife's Rav4 with the TransProtector and will be adding an external trans cooler with bumped up 1/2 inch from 3/8 line after the hockey puck. I have not hauled my boat farther then 10 miles so I have no issues with getting it on til my vacation time around the 4th when I do the same thing (trans cooler) to my Hyundai Elantra GT that I tow the boat with too. Good luck.... on what ever you do. But really they offer you $1,500 for your Rav4...... Get a cheap trans rebuild and trade it in at a Toyota dealer so they get stuck with it, if it fails right away. .
 

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But really they offer you $1,500 for your Rav4...... Get a cheap trans rebuild and trade it in at a Toyota dealer so they get stuck with it, if it fails right away. .
This was my first thought
 

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I appreciate the responses guys. The few rebuild shops I spoke to are between $5-6K, so a little bit cheaper. but not the $3-4K you'd typically expect for this kind of job. I spoke with Toyota corporate again today and had a less than pleasant conversation. Right off the bat they sent their "No" person in to shut me up and she had zero interest in trying to compromise or help in any way. Fortunately, the dealer seems to be much more sympathetic and will try and reach out to the regional service manager and see what they can do.
For what it's worth, I had my whining transmission replaced with a factory Aisin rebuild at the Toyota dealer under warranty in 2011. I peeked at the invoice, and it would have cost me $3300 for the transmission, and $1117 for labor. This was for the 5-speed transmission. So $5-6K sounds high.
 

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Suggest checking with the guys I trust, The Transmission Shop 30 Newell Ct, Coventry, RI. 401-821-5160
 

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I wanted update this thread when our issue was resolved, but unfortunately we're still in the thick of it.

After calling around to several transmission shops, I had it towed 25 miles to one that offered $2000 flat fee rebuilds including all wear parts, seals, and gaskets (no electronics or major structure). They also had a used unit with ~26k on it for $3000 installed. I figured if it was something like the valve body or input shaft we would replace those up to the cost of the used unit, if that got too expensive we'd put the used one in (with a 3 year, 36k mile warranty, 3 times what Toyota offered) and ride that out until we could trade it in.

Lo and behold, the culprit was in fact the torque converter. We don't know exactly what failed inside, but the stator spline spins freely and is completely loose in the housing. Without cutting it open, we're guessing the weld between the female spline and stator failed, or the overrunning clutch failed. They did the full rebuild on the transmission but found no other damage. Our assumption is that the failure was abrupt and there was no significant stresses placed on the other transmission components. Total repair cost with a new torque converter was $2700.

I brought the TC back to to the dealership to explain that the part that was just replaced less than 2 years ago (and I was assured could not be the root of the problem) was in fact the sole issue. The dealer wouldn't offer much other than to call their field service tech, but the field service tech said he wouldn't even look at it because it was replaced by a third party. I got back in touch with Toyota corporate and was this time assigned a case manager. Based on my initial call Friday I thought I'd at least get some compensation. Unfortunately, today they called and and stuck to the 1 year, 12k mile warranty on parts and labor and said I was out of luck. I was about to give up, but decided to keep prying with the dealership and Toyota. I'm finding now they they were both trying to point me to the other guy to get me to go away. Toyota claims only the dealership can help, and the dealer says its a parts problem and thereofore I have to go through Toyota becuse "customers have better luck than we do."

Toyota finally agreed to call the dealership to get confirmation that it was a bad part; sadly I doubt this will result in a positive outcome. They kept repeating the line "we don't refund third party repairs" which to me is crap - the dealer told me they couldn't rebuild my transmission and what they offered would not have fixed the problem. Their approach would have cost me $6700 + $1800 = $8500 for an unnecessary new transmission. This isn't some random part that failed and now I'm trying to come back to Toyota for the cost - the dealer was involved from Day 1 with this problem.

To make matters worse, I found a significant leak coming from the new rebuilt tranny, so its back being torn apart and we're down to 1 car for another week.

I'm usually understanding with companies' rules and policies, but I feel this is that exceptional circumstance where Toyota should do something to keep a loyal customer. We've gone through 2 TCs in 78k and Toyota seems okay with that. I'm also really frustrated with their customer support. The way it works is this: you talk to the initial guy who is very understanding, friendly, makes you think you might get somewhere. Then, 24 hours later you get a call back saying they've "thoroughly" reviewed your case and will not be assisting. I left this out of the initial post, but the reasons I was initially denied assistance was 1. They claimed I didn't perform the necessary maintenance on the transmission and 2. there was no way to tell what the previous owner did to the car. This really sent me over the edge because 1. there is no recommended maintenance, its a sealed transmission, I even had the service manager confirm with with the rep prior to getting denied and 2. my fiancee bought the car brand spanking new and its been babied every single mile. I'm not giving up the fight yet, but its clear they have no intention of helping.

I realize there's probably not a lot more I can do but cross my fingers, but it was somewhat cathartic to type that all out and vent. I will update if and when we ever get a final resolution on the problem.
 

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Many thanks for keeping us updated. Good luck with Toyota - your persistence hopefully will pay off. The failures don't make much sense, given that the RAV has been looked after well and the Owner's Manual (at least mine) doesn't have any required transmission maintenance requirements.



Please continue to keep us informed, and good luck with the apparent Toyota corporate bureaucrats!
 

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More bad news.

Got a call from Toyota today while I was at work. Toyota had spoken to the dealer and essentially reiterated what they already told me. Field Service Tech wouldn't come out because it was a third party repair. I shouldn't have expected anything different. I tried pleading my case again, asking how a supposed OEM replacement barely made it halfway to the OEM warranty, etc. i brought up the related issue with the Camry torque converters, but he 'wasn't aware' of that issue. Finally, I asked what kind of special circumstances would actually warrant goodwill from Toyota, and his answer was one of the most obtuse things I've ever heard:

He said, "We look at customer loyalty. Based on your service records you've only spent $16.43 on service at a dealership, so we don't consider you a loyal customer." Never mind my fiancee has had a Rav4 since she was 16, or that we were even considering trading this one in for a 2017 due to this issue, or that we would probably upgrade to a Highlander when we started having kids. No, Toyota does not consider you a loyal customer unless you spend lots of cash in their service department. They are screwing me out of $2700 because of the $150 in oil changes I did myself.

I clarified many times so there was no misunderstanding - Toyota agreed there was no maintenance that would have prevented my issue. He wasn't trying to argue that our car wasn't serviced properly. He was literally saying they only care if you spend big bucks getting service done, even if its completely unrelated to the issue at hand.

For a painfully ironic anecdote, after the first 2 oil changes we got free from the dealer after purchasing the car, the dealer put the cartridge on so tight I was starting to strip the wrench flats trying to get it off (and yes I had the correct 17?-side socket). I took my torque wrench out and got it to 50 ft-lbs (spec is 18) before backing off as to not damage anything. I took it back to the dealer who replaced the cartridge free of charge. That was the last service I had done there, next time it was at the dealership was for the torque converter. For them to tell me I'm not loyal because after that I did all my own oil changes is beyond insulting.

So word of warning to all you DIYers - better bring it to the dealer for a $25 cabin air filter or $200 blinker fluid flush or else if your TC goes north of 60k you're going to be SOL.
 

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Hmmm- so how much money does one need to spend at Toyota dealers in order to qualify for Toyota corporate's consideration? :serious
 

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I would contact corporate and your local BBB and wage complaints. A lawyer's intercession might be needed too.

That train of thought is total BS. Discrimination comes to mind!
 

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I would contact corporate and your local BBB and wage complaints. A lawyer's intercession might be needed too.

That train of thought is total BS. Discrimination comes to mind!
Yea it sucks. But that's not how discrimination works...

I don't like it either I have a 2013 with 93K+ miles and I'd hate to have a catastrophic failure like this. But, it seems as though Toyota held up their part of the deal, again not to say it's right but legally speaking.

If Toyota was smart they'd fix what shouldn't have been an issue and keep a happy customer. Even if they aren't obligated to fix it.

OP could try talking to a lawyer to see what they say but unfortunately I think it will just end up costing him more money.
 

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The RAV4 is the top selling SUV in the USA. Really...they do not need your business. That transmission fix could cost them the total profit they made on your car when you purchased it. Same with the dealer.

Now, had you bought a Lexus, you might have had a different experience, but a RAV4? Nope.

In Toyotaland, you buy the car hoping it makes it to 300k miles. If something happens before that, you are on your own.


One thing very different, the Lexus has a transmission cooler and the Rav4 has a transmission "heater" Look it up on the parts diagram. HEAT destroys transmissions. And Toyota WS can't take high heat, because it is only a group 3 trans fluid.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I would contact corporate and your local BBB and wage complaints. A lawyer's intercession might be needed too.

That train of thought is total BS. Discrimination comes to mind!
I put a complaint in with the NHSTA. I know it won't help me short term but hopefully its one more data point towards a campaign like they did with the Camry. I'm not going to pursue any legal action, as far I know nothing they did was illegal. Horrible customer service, but not illegal.

The RAV4 is the top selling SUV in the USA. Really...they do not need your business. That transmission fix could cost them the total profit they made on your car when you purchased it. Same with the dealer.

Now, had you bought a Lexus, you might have had a different experience, but a RAV4? Nope.

In Toyotaland, you buy the car hoping it makes it to 300k miles. If something happens before that, you are on your own.
Oh I know I'm not making any VPs lose sleep over this. When the second case manager said he would note that I was not satisfied with Toyota's resolution I told him not to bother. I'm sure the only thing that list is good for is making fun of the really nutty complaints.

But your first two points contradict each other: They are so big that losing my business is a drop in the bucket, but they can't afford to lose the profit one vehicle? Which is it? And like I said, I would have been satisfied with just the cost of the converter covered. When my Dodge Charger had an FM radio that had almost zero reception they gave me a year of XM for free. Toyota didn't even offer a discount on future service!

These are the things that turn someone off from a company forever. This isn't an isolated incident where some rep was a jerk to me. Toyota's official policy hurts everyone on this board who does their own maintenance. Why would I buy a Toyota over a Kia or Hyundai which come with 100,000 mile warranties?

You are absolutely right though about consumer expectation. I expect to have to replace my own wheel bearings, CV joints, O2 sensors, water pump, etc once the warranty is up. Those are components that will eventually go on almost every car, they don't break the bank to replace, and you can typically predict when their time is up. The torque converter is not an item that should ever have to be replaced within the life of the car (8 years, 150,000 miles according to Consumer Reports). The fact that I had to replace 2 (plus everyone else with the shudder issue) within half that time span means Toyota really screwed up either the design or manufacture of these components.
 

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One thing very different, the Lexus has a transmission cooler and the Rav4 has a transmission "heater" Look it up on the parts diagram. HEAT destroys transmissions. And Toyota WS can't take high heat, because it is only a group 3 trans fluid.
Whaaat? I look forward to authoritative literature (a link) on this. Gotta be a typo.
.
 

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When you said you had the torque converter replaced at 45000 my first reaction was they didn't do it right or they gave you a bad part. Wonder if they filled it with enough fluid after the torque converter.

I don't know if you have a dip stick or not on your transmission but no dip stick on these transmissions just scares the life out of me because you have to jump through hoops to check the fluid.

Our other cars don't have a dip stick either and after work like this how are we suppose to know they filled the transmission with enough fluid. Could take longer than 12 months to burn up a transmission if it doesn't have enough fluid.

I personally think this no dipstick on the transmission has to stop. There is no reason for it IMO.
 

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Hi
Thanks for reporting this problem and keeping everyone informed. There is a lot of interest.

Find it disturbing that Toyota has zero interest in determining what caused the failure. Two torque converters failed one at 45,000 the next at ???. Odds are that there was nothing wrong with the torque converters, something else is causing the failure.

Hopefully you be able to get Toyota involved. Point out the comments in these forums. We use to see a Suzuki driving around, all painted/lettered up with a list of its faults.
 
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