February 28

2004 Toyota Sienna Rear Wiper Motor Repair

Toyota, Podcast


Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive video and podcast series. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Auto Repair in Vancouver, BC. 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers, and of course, we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So 2004 Toyota Sienna is today's victim. What was going on with this? Wiper motor problem? What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, the rear wiper on this vehicle had quit working. We'd done some diagnosis and found the motor was dead. Actually, this client brought this vehicle to us quite a while ago and so he'd been living with a dead motor for a while. This was the day to repair it.

Mark: So what might have caused the motor to die like this?

Bernie: Well, if you looked at our podcast we produced last week about some tips on preserving your windshield wiper and motors, which I mean a possible cause of this could have been that there was a lot of snow on the back window when he went to use it, burned the motor out. Could also be that he left the motor on the windshield wiper was iced and frozen onto the back window at some point in the past and caused the motor to burn out. That's a common cause of these kind of issues.

Mark: Any other causes?

Bernie: Other items that happen is of course, it's just things just get old and wear out, and that does happen. The other thing, too, is rear wipers are one of those things where sometimes people will very rarely ever use them and it's kind of like a parking brake, where if you don't use something for a long time it may actually just stick and gum up and not work. We see that with parking brakes, for example. People with automatics, they never use the parking brake and all of a sudden one day, they're on a steep hill and they say, "Hey, I better use the parking brake." It hasn't been used in five years, they put it on and the cable sticks. I mean, the wiper motor's a little different, but it can have the same kind of issue if you don't use it for a long time.

One other item we do find with wiper motors, too, is moisture intrusion. A seal can get weak and then water can seep down the shaft and into the motor and jam it up. In the case of this one, and I'll show pictures in a few minutes, it didn't look like there was any evidence of that. Hard to know, but those are some of the causes.

Mark: Is this a complicated replacement?

Bernie: Not particularly on this vehicle. There's a panel that needs to be removed on the back and then the motor sits right there. Wiper linkage and the wiper arm has to come off, but that's pretty much it. We can actually get into some pictures right now.

2004 Toyota Sienna Rear Wiper Motor Repair
2004 Toyota Sienna Rear Wiper Motor Repair

There's an 04 Sienna. This is not the vehicle we worked on, but I like this picture because it actually shows the back of the vehicle and there's your rear wiper with the motor. The motor will be located right back in here. When you pop the tailgate open, there's a panel and that can be removed and that's where the motor's located.

There is the motor. This is the old one, out of the vehicle. I mean, it really doesn't look ... it looks to be in really good shape, but somewhere inside the motor's burned out or something's happened that's causing it not to work. You know, sometimes if it'd been rust and moisture damage, you'll often see some rusty, sort of evidence of rust around the shafts or seeping out of the motor. This is just one side of the motor, but the other side looked fine, too. That's basically it. Pretty simple device.

This is a motor. It's got the linkage, well it doesn't really have linkage because it's one piece, but it has all the gear mechanisms and whatever causes it to move back and forth, the gears, they're all in one assembly so pretty straightforward.

Mark: And how did you replace it?

Bernie: So we used a used part in this case. You know, it's an older vehicle. A new motor was really only available from Toyota and really quite expensive. We were able to obtain a used motor for about half the price of a new one and the owner was good with that. That's what we did and it worked great.

Mark: Are used parts always a good option?

Bernie: No, they're not. You know, we do it on a case by case basis. Based on experience, certain items ... say a wiper motor like this. We can test it, we can listen to it, make sure it's not growling and making weird noises before we install it. Then it's a pretty good guarantee at least that the motor itself is in good shape when we install it. There are certain items that are not worth risking used. Over the years, I've seen cars where they have, certain engines will have very common failures and it doesn't make sense to spend the money and the amount of work involved putting a used engine in whereas a remanufacture engine would just make so much more sense, although a lot more money. The possibility of failure is quite high.

So that's kind of what we look at. There are other used parts where, I mean, it's just basically a solid piece of metal and you can be pretty assured it's going to work. Used parts, again, it's on a sort of as ... you got to kind of do a cost benefit analysis of doing a used part.

Mark: And of course, after replacement, works everything works fine and this fifteen year old Toyota Sienna has a lot of life left in it, is that right?

Bernie: Oh yeah. Yeah. It's a good vehicle. Definitely very reliable vehicle. I will say, in terms of cost for repairs, a lot of these vehicles, they can be a little costly. As I was saying, the new wiper motor was a pretty expensive piece. We'd done some repairs on one of the sliding doors in the vehicle, this has power sliding doors, and there was some pretty expensive latch ... I can't remember exactly what we did on it it, but the final bill was quite expensive and so I'm going okay, it's ... sometimes we think Japanese vehicles are so much cheaper than a German vehicle, but often they're not. They just tend to last longer before things tend to go wrong. You can be faced with some expensive repairs on Japanese vehicles. Just often, things are built as assemblies and you can't buy just a little piece for it.

Mark: And wiper motors can be pretty expensive as well. I think we mentioned that last week.

Bernie: They can, absolutely. And it really depends from car to car. In some more common cars, I think of American cars as being more common, which is not necessarily true, but in more common, there's a lot remanufacture options available. Things like rear wipers, for instance, they're not a very common replacement item, so they, a lot of times there's not a lot of aftermarket replacement pieces for them. Front ones, there's a lot more options.

Mark: So there you go. If you're needing some service on your Toyota Sienna, or any Toyota product in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They are busy always. Or you can check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Literally almost a thousand videos on there now of different makes and models of cars from the last 8 years of our doing these kind of broadcasts, as well we don't give over the phone estimates and we don't really like giving advice because we don't know your particular situation. So please enjoy our podcast and videos. Thank you for watching, and thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark, and thanks for watching. We totally appreciate it.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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