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We have a '99 Rav4. Last week, we took a trip from our home to Las Vegas (roughly 5 hours). Everything was fine until the last day of our trip when the car started making popping sounds and had trouble getting up to speed. He realized we had gotten some bad gas and put some gas treatment in and it eventually started running a little better....but not much. We ended up not using the AC the entire way because after a few minutes, the engine would make a weird noise and starts to shake a bit(I can't really describe the noise...it's just not right.). However, since we got back, we've had a problem when backing up - esentially, there is a loud metallic rattling noise and the car shakes really bad...think of it like a slooow motion roller coaster. Also, when idling (like at a red light), the engine seems to struggle unless it's in park and when going at lower speeds, sometimes there's a popping noise.

Someone said that maybe the fuel filter needs to be replaced, but I'm not sure that's entirely the problem. Does anyone have any idea what it might be. We are going to have my boyfriend's stepdad look at it (he's the one we bought it from), but I'd like some ideas so I can gage roughly how much it's going to cost to fix it (assuming it's not something major). There is a check engine light on, but it's been on for literal years and no one has been able to figure out why. Thanks!
 

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If you think you got bad gas just some fix-in-a-bottle won't clean all the crud out. The filter will definitely have to be changed because it's likely clogged. Hopefully the fuel pump wasn't damaged. Draining the tank would be the first step but I don't know if there's a drain plug on yours. The tank may need to be removed and flushed or the new filter may just clog again.

If it's a 4WD the noise in the rear could be a failing driveshaft U-joint - easily checked on a lift. I failed to do that on my '99 F-250. I'd attributed the vibration to old rear tires. When the rear u-joint broke on a busy section of I-95 I coasted to a stop in the breakdown lane. To get off the highway I put it into 4WD which was now FWD and crawled to a parking lot with the driveshaft dragging on the road. Wife brought tools so I could remove the shaft and drive home. First call this AM is to RI Driveshaft to see if the replacement is ready! So my advice is get ANY odd noises checked out before they strand you.
 

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Sounds like you have at least 2 problems, an engine problem and a rolling problem.
For the rolling part I would check out the shafts between the wheels and the rear-end. The shafts are easy to replace. Available from Toyota, Rockauto.com and other part stores.

The fuel filter is easy to replace, just hard to reach. The air-filter box and the fuse box behind it need to be unbolted and moved to the side. I also unlocked the wire looms from the clamps to have better access. Take your time and move what you need to move, to get easy access to the filter.

Dr. Dyno:
When my F-250 had 3 bad u-joints, it felt perfect until I unbolted one end of the driveshaft, then all 3 joints rattled the were so bad. Glad you have a nice wife that brings you tools, and that it ended safely.
http://Rockauto.com
 
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