April 28

How Reliable Are Toyota Sienna Vans?



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local over here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive and we're talking cars. How you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing very well.

Mark: Toyota Sienna vans, pretty long running mark. How reliable are Toyota Sienna vans?

Bernie: Very, I like these vans a lot, I think they're super reliable. The other thing that's good about them their crash test ratings are also really good, which is a good thing to have in any vehicle, but especially if you're hauling your family around which is why a lot of people buy them. That's another bonus when you're buying a vehicle, you know it's not just a nice vehicle and it's reliable but it's also safe.

Mark: The Sienna maybe seems a little conventional compared to it's predecessors.

Bernie: It does, Toyota had some very quirky vans before the Sienna. The Previa was a very odd looking vehicle and the LE van, which was the predecessor to that one probably looked a little more conventional but again was odd. Both of those vehicles were mid-engine, the engine was actually kind of in between the passenger and driver seat underneath. Pretty neat use of space, but they were only limited to a four cylinder so they really lacked power. Some of the Previas like the LE models I mean they were really nice, they were really well equipped. One of the neat distinctions about that vehicle is it had a little cooling compartment, it was like a beer fridge in a car, of course it's not for beer but for pop but a little fridge in the car that worked off the air conditioning system so it was kind of cool. They were neat designs but really kind of odd ball vehicles, but very reliable. I mean we still work on Previas and they still keep on going, they're very good.

Mark: What are some of the issues you see with Siennas?

Bernie: Well really there's not a lot of continuous issues with these vehicles. I mean I find some of the older ones the valve covered gaskets will leak and so they need to be repaired. The only real concern over the years with these engines, if you don't maintain them properly, is sludging and the oil sludging in the engine which is not uncommon on Toyota's. You've got to do your oil changes regularly which we talk about all the time, but that'll prevent that but that is an issue if you start neglecting the engine, oil sludging will happen, it'll destroy the engine.

Mark: Do Sienna engines use timing belts and how often is it changed? If so, how often do you have to change them?

Bernie: Yes they do use timing belts. From 1998 up to 2006 there's a timing belt in the 3 litre and the 3.3 engines. The recommended interval is 144,000 kilometres or 90,000 miles, so that's an important service to do. You don't want it to break, but yes they do have timing belts up to the 2006 model year.

Mark: What engine options are available for Siennas?

Bernie: Siennas are basically all V6's except interestingly enough for two model years, 2011 and 2012 they use a 2.7 litre 4 cylinder. It's also, by the way, a timing chain engine so there's no belt to replace in that engine. As far as engine, so everything else is V6, the early years, the 3 litre, then they went up to a 3.3, and then finally this newest generation uses a 3.5 litre engine which is timing chain driven, has variable valve time and all of Toyota's nice modern technology.

Mark: Are these vehicles available with manual transmissions?

Bernie: No

Mark: Why would you want manual?

Bernie: No, they're strictly automatic in all the years, so you're stuck with an automatic but easy to drive. I got a couple pictures to share actually if we just want to have a look at a couple of photos. This is a dashboard of a 2012 Sienna LE so this is a top of the line edition. Beautiful vehicle but you can see it's got a backup camera, it's got navigation system, nice radio, climate control A/C, and it's got stow and go fold away seats in the back, nice fitted interior with fake wood steering wheel. I know that doesn't sound very complimentary but it looks nice. The interior is absolutely awesome. When we get to the engine compartment not so interesting to look at. This just a good reliable engine, but it's got your big plastic cover over the top of the engine, that's the engine underneath there. This one it's a little dirty, it's got a few years of life on it but it's really not the most exciting engine to look at, it's just reliable and it works well. It's the best thing you can expect out of a Toyota.

Mark: Any other issues with these vehicles?

Bernie: You know I'd say personally from our mechanics point of view no, but I do read a lot of things on vehicles just to keep up to date. There's some complaints of paint peeling and fading on some of the models and some dashboard cracking issues, but other than that that's really all I see. They're really just overall a really good van.

Mark: Overall this seems like, in your experience so far, this is probably a good, maybe even the best minivan?

Bernie: I would say so. I mean you can't go wrong with buying one, there's really not much that goes wrong with it. I mean if you buy an older one of course you're faced with a little more maintenance like timing belt and just an aged vehicle will have more problems and more things to go wrong, maybe some valve cover gasket leaks and other issues. I mean really overall they're just a fantastic van. I'd say really the only downside is probably the price you have to pay for one because people know they're good, they command a pretty high dollar. The good news is if you buy one they don't depreciate as fast too. You buy something like a Caravan it's cheap but the price will just go, yeah a great van, I can't say enough about them.

Mark: There you go, if you have a Toyota Sienna in Vancouver and you're looking to get it serviced the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment, or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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