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Be afraid, be very afraid ...

Just joking.

This is a "normal" valve train rattle of the Toyota AR-family engines. It's "normal" in the sense that most of the AR engines do that to some degree. However, it doesn't mean that it's good. Toyota has issued a TSB on how to correct the problem (it requires replacing some components in the VVTi system) and will fix it under warranty at no cost to you. If you want to get it fixed after the warranty has expired it will cost you about $600-800.

Although annoying, there is no evidence that it actually has any long-term negative effect on engine's durability. There are many AR engines with well over 200,000 miles that have been displaying this behavior since day one. I have/had three cars with AR engines and all three did it. Two of them did it since new, the other one started at around 20k miles.

Given that this does not seem to affect the long term durability of the engine, my choice has been to just leave it as-is. If it gets worse with time, I will get it fixed before the engine warranty expires at 60k miles. I consider that the risk that the dealer will screw something up when making a major repair on the engine is more worrisome than the noise.

It's really up to you. If it bothers you, take the car to the dealer and mention that there is a TSB about this issue. They should be able to find it easily in there system. However, consider that:

1) Even if you get if fixed, odds are that the problem will come back again
2) The dealer will have to perform a major repair on an otherwise perfectly good engine, and there is always a possibility that they will screw up something else in the process.

This valve rattle is not to be confused with another, more serious problem associated with the VVTi which occurs when the VVT actuator gets stuck. It is an intermittent problem that causes a much noisier rattle and the engine will shake violently. It also usually last longer - about 3 to 5 seconds. Unlike the "normal" rattle that occurs every time you start the engine, the "stuck" VVT actuator problem is usually intermittent. It happened once in my wife's car (with a different Toyota engine) at around 20k miles, but never repeated itself until we sold the car with well over 60k miles, so we never got it fixed.
 

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It's very short (less than 1 second) and not very loud. If you have a RAV with an AR engine you probably have it as well, you just consider it "normal" start-up noise.
Yep, it's very possible that I consider it normal, especially if it's somewhat faint. I'll pay closer attention the next time I start the RAV.
 

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My 2015 does it too, every time I start it, I chose to go the same route as katekebo and let it be, in other words, leave well enough alone, I don't want someone tearing down the engine for no reason, just to have the same noise come back later!


I was told it's just valve noise at startup, and most if not all do it at some point. Maybe heavier weight oil would make it less noticeable.
 

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I started a thread back in 2013 regarding this noise; I was probably one of first purchasers, with the VIN showing it as number 669 from that Japanese plant. I noticed the rattle easily upon startup probably as we have a carport and the echo off the brick wall made it louder.
It hasn't changed in three years; I tried a quick oil change at 6 months with Mobile 1 synthetic (no filter change) and it didn't change anything. Thicker oil probably would make it worse.
So I just ignore it.
 

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VVTi Rattle.......I own 3 RAV4's with the 2AR-FE 2.5 ltr Engine and they all do it. When I first got my 2010 I had the dealer change the VVTi gears, tearing apart the top end of the engine with only 5000 miles on it only to get it home and hear the same rattle at start up. The 2010 now has 70,000 miles on it and running fine.
 

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This is good to hear. My 2011 2AR-FE has done this since I bought it used in 2013 and I just considered it valve train noise due to no lubrication at start up. I just came across the TSB and that had me thinking it was a problem that needed fixing. I agree that the bigger problem is the dealer going into the engine to "fix" a little noise.

In my experience, the local dealer in my town is not trustworthy. As a result I started doing my own oil changes using Mobil1 0w20, and the noise became a little more pronounced. But after a 1/2 second it stops.
 
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