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Hi there:

I am thinking about buying one of our friends 1997 4 cylinder automatic FWD RAV4 with 113,000 miles on it. I have few questions that I would appreciate some guidance:

1-Based on what I have heard and read, it seems there are couple of different engines and/or auto transmissions on these vehicles. How can I identify what kind of engine and automatic transmission this car has? I have used some of the online VIN decoding with no useful result.

2- when I look under the vehicle, I see some fresh oil residue on the back of the engine block. Do these vehicles have any gasket issues?

3- Our friend has mentioned they have noticed some wetness on front passenger floor after some rain this past winter. The car is in Los Angles and we don't get much rain here but considering that car sits outside, I was wondering if there are certain seals/gaskets that are prone to dryness or failure.

Thanks,
 

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Well, I dont know about the states but as far as I know in japan on the first rav4 they had the 3sfe engine and the twin cam 3sge engine, which is a wee devil, btw... transmission is manual or auto, notmal. I think every car has leaking issues at some point, mine had on oil pump gasket. Moisture can be caused by a few reasons... this video show you one possibility.

 

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All US models use the same engine. Transmission could be a four-speed auto or a 5-speed manual.
I wouldn't expect a 19-year old car not to show some signs of oil weepage but any rust on the underbody in particular the suspension components is a deal breaker IMO.
I agree the floor being wet could simply be a plugged A/C drain line or a more serious windshield seal issue. In any case the main concern is if there is any rust under the floor mats.
 

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'99 RAV4.1, 3MZ-FE, E250F 4x4, Torsen Dif
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If it smells of radiator fluid it may be a heater core leak as well. Check the drain holes for the doors, they may be plugged which may cause leaks into the interior.

Oil on the back of the engine block could be from the power steering unit or one of it's hoses. The power steering unit uses ATF transmission fluid for your information so if you can tell if it is ATF transmission fluid or motor oil you can get an idea from where it is from. Because of where the oil filler is at the rear top of the valve cover, it could just be from sloppy oil fills. Or it could be from a leaking head or valve cover gasket.

I have a 1999 RAV4 and I haven't had any oil leaks to date.

I did blow my 5 speed manual 4x4 transaxle because I blew a cooling line, inspect those well.

I found terrible corrosion on the rear brake lines and fuel line that run under the driver side of the car so inspect that area well.
 

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Hi there:

I am thinking about buying one of our friends 1997 4 cylinder automatic FWD RAV4 with 113,000 miles on it. I have few questions that I would appreciate some guidance:

1-Based on what I have heard and read, it seems there are couple of different engines and/or auto transmissions on these vehicles. How can I identify what kind of engine and automatic transmission this car has? I have used some of the online VIN decoding with no useful result.

2- when I look under the vehicle, I see some fresh oil residue on the back of the engine block. Do these vehicles have any gasket issues?

3- Our friend has mentioned they have noticed some wetness on front passenger floor after some rain this past winter. The car is in Los Angles and we don't get much rain here but considering that car sits outside, I was wondering if there are certain seals/gaskets that are prone to dryness or failure.

Thanks,
Regarding what vehicle you have is easy. Just go to ToyoDIY.com .
Just answer some easy questions and they'll indicate what you got by just filling in the VIN #.

Regarding the oil residue, you will have to be specific where is the oil coming from.

The water on the outside passenger side floor is the A/C hose that it will always drip water in that area, no big deal. But also, it will eventually need to change the bushing just under it. I've change mine once, using a rubber bushing. The second time I installed a Polyurethane Bushing, You'll change it every 5 to 7 years.

Regarding millage, which is pass the 100,000 mark, yes, it will need some care. Check Shocks and Struts. Change oil fluids to a synthetic like Royal Purple or Amsoil for the trasaxles. Mine is a 5 speed stick, so I had to change the Shifting wires (pricey, 100.00+ each and it used two). But the rest is regular maintenance, no big deal. The jewel of the RAV4 models, IS the 1997. I've hammered mine and touched it and it still running very well. But I do take care of it. Oh yes, always use Toyota (Red) Coolant, and NEVER, EVER, EVER USE WATER. If you do, you'll be changing the water pump sooner or later.
 
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