Michael Chan

2001 Ls430 Engine Ticking Noise

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Hello everyone. I need help. I have just recently purchased a 2001 LS430 with 85k like two months ago from a Ford dealership. Long story short, I brought it into a lexus dealership for a timing belt change, oil change and trans fluid change. After the car was done, the mechanic test drove the car and noticed low oil pressure light came on and the engine has ticking noise. He then look inside the hole where the engine oil goes in and notice sludge is in it. He took the oil pan out and sludge was everywhere and the filter screen was clogged. He also notice pieces of metal shavings in the sludge. He told me that engine failure is imminent at this point because it looks like the previous owner did not change the oil frequent enough and causes engine sludge to develop and therefore the engine damage. The thing is the car runs fine (no smoke, no loss of power and runs smooth). It just has this annoying ticking noise that is coming from the valve area on the driver side. I can heard it at idle and if i rev the engine past 2000rpm i dont hear it anymore. The thing I dont get is how come I didn't hear any ticking noise before I brought the car in for service? I mean If the damage is so bad won't I have heard the tick before the timing belt change? The car ran perfectly fine with no ticking noise before. Could the mechanic have screwed up the timing belt job and cause all this? Is the timing off by any chance and the mechanic just didnt know what he was doing? Any input would be a great help. Thanks you all in advance.

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has no one answered you ,, oh dear ,, you did not say if it was making the noise before you took it for its service , i presume it wasnt ,,and yes ,he could very easily have damaged your engine ,, better if you had done nothing ,

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We rarely hear of cases of sludge in a Lexus. To have sludge, the engine would necessarily need to be neglected by missing scheduled oil changes and/or severe overheating at some point.

I rather doubt that the Lexus dealer caused any damage. However, you mention that the dealer did change the oil and they most likely put the correct viscosity back in and the "ticking" appeared. I suppose it is possible that a thickened concoction was put into the engine prior to your purchase to mask the issue. If it were me, I would be back at the Ford dealer looking for some answers. A second mechanic's opinion would be in order.

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Thanks for the input guys. I was able to better locate the sound today upon closer inspection. The noise doesn't seem to be coming from the top of the engine but rather from the bottom. I can actually heard the ticking noise the loudest behind the driver's side front tire. Is that where the oil pump is located at? Maybe that is failing? or maybe the belt that is driving the oil pump is going bad? Thanks again.

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I'm not sure why you are trying to diagnose it. Your best option is to go back to the dealer and claim fraudulent selling and see if they will put it right. You're looking at a major engine repair or replacement here. Not an oil pump replacement. Think >>$4,000.00 of repairs.

Mark Rechtin - Automotive News - January 8, 2007 -

LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. has quietly settled a class-action lawsuit that covers about 3.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles that may have been damaged by engine oil sludge.

Details of the settlement, which allows for third-party mediation of sludge claims rejected by Toyota, have been mailed to 7.5 million current and previous owners.

Critics contend Toyota has told customers and dealers too little about sludge issues. They say some customers took vehicles with dead engines to dealers who had little or no knowledge of the problem and often assumed it was the owners' fault.

Unhappy customers had no remedy other than hiring a lawyer to go after Toyota.

Under the agreement, owners whose claims have been denied by Toyota may submit them to a third-party mediator at no cost for binding arbitration.

"This settlement breathes life into claims that have been dead for years," said Gary Gambel, a lawyer for plaintiffs who sued Toyota. "This is not a settlement that gives a few dollars to everyone. The relief is exactly tied to the problems and damages that someone might have."

About 3.3 million Toyota vehicles are susceptible to oil sludge, which can cause thousands of dollars in damage and require replacement of the engine.

Sludge is gelled oil that fails to lubricate engine parts. It can lead to damage, often requiring a new engine at a cost that can exceed $10,000. Complaints about sludged engines have plagued several carmakers, but Toyota's troubles have been especially controversial in light of its reputation for vehicle quality.

The issue highlights a possible !Removed! in the company's armor. Executives fear Toyota is growing too fast for its engineering resources. That could lead to quality snags and a tarnished reputation.

When a customer takes a sludge-caked engine to a dealership, there is usually a "clean-out" procedure. The head is pulled and a service technician tries try to steam out the sludge. If that doesn't work, the engine must be replaced.

Sludge can result from poor engine design; overly tight tolerances between moving parts; improper cooling; and poor maintenance by consumers.

Toyota insists the problem arises mainly when owners fail to change their oil frequently enough.

The agreement does not find Toyota at fault.

Damages that can be recovered include loss in value of the vehicle and incidental costs, such as rental cars. Past lawyers' fees, mental anguish and bodily injuries are not covered.

A Toyota spokesman said the agreement is not a defeat for the automaker.

"The settlement validates the customer support program we implemented four years ago," Xavier Dominicis said.

"The terms of the program remain unchanged. There always was a way for customers to appeal our decision."

Plaintiff lawyers disagree. They say Toyota failed to communicate the extent of the problem to its dealers and customers. Toyota's appeal process also meant hiring a lawyer, which many consumers could not afford. It costs nothing to file an appeal with Ates.

"The consumer only needs to show reasonable maintenance in terms of oil changes," Gambel said. "You don't need to prove where the sludge came from, or explain your driving habits. If you have oil sludge, Toyota pays" the consumer.

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Good point Curious B but I am not sure if the LS430 is covered under this. As far as I know, it was the six cylinder build from 97-02 that were covered. Also I really dont know any LS430 owners who I know complaining about sludge problem. But who knows... maybe the LS430 is affected. I will def look into that. Thanks.

So I did more research in regards to the LS430 engine. It seems the oil pump is located behind the front driver's tire. I am also suspecting the bearing that drive this pump from the crankshaft maybe starting to go bad? One interesting thing I also noticed today is that the ticking noise is irrelevant to the engine's temperature but rather how long has the car been sitting. The longer the car sits the longer it would take the ticking noise to come on. So I think this makes sense b/c the longer you let a car sit the longer the pump will be pooled with the oil and the noise from the damaged bearing would softened as a result.

I think the past owner must have changed the oil at a regular interval in terms of mileage but not the time. The fact that this 11 year old car have such a low mileage (85K) means it wasn't driven much and the oil most likely have sat longer than it is intended to. This resulted to sludge formation and therefore the oil pump is starting to fail. I am truly convinced that this noise is not from the valve/camshaft/crankshaft as the performance of the engine is very good and it is not blowing heavy smoke from the exhaust. Of course, I can be wrong as I am no mechanic. I can only speculate at this point. The only question I have is that is there anyone out there who has experienced an oil pump failure and does this scenario sound like an early sign of it? Can anyone also give me instruction on how to change an oil pump or have a diagram of the oil pump? Thanks.

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The oil pump is probably the least of your worries. The Lexus mechanic took the oil pan off, saw the sludge and advised you to give her last rites. The "ticking" could be from a number of components that are not being lubricated as they should be. The metal shavings suggest internal damage that would require a rebuild to correct. At the immediate time, your 'beef' is with the Ford dealer that sold you the car. That dealership should have done an inspection on your Lexus and known about this problem...and refused to resell it to the public. You know any good lawyers?

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I think Landar's right. Even if you figure out what it is, at this point you're probably looking at some level of rebuild, if not soon then somewhere down the line. I know there are some ways to try to remove the sludge that's there but if it comes back then something's blown; a gasket, seal, pump etc. Which probably means rebuild.

This is I believe the 3rd posting we've seen on this forum relating to sludge in a 3UZ engine. I think there was some debate about the credibility of the first two postings; but I'm sure there are occasional examples of any engine turning itself to crap.

Toyota has built (and still builds for Japan) the UZ engine series for 20+ years so if it was a design issue I think we would have heard about it by now. This is most likely due to poor maintenance or use characteristics by the PO. I'm interested b/c my LS only has 96k miles on it and sees on average 5-6k a year on the road.

Michael it doesn't say where you are. Did the car live in a cold climate? I know one cause of sludge can be repeated short drives in cold weather. The engine temp doesn't get high enough to burn off any accumulated water in the oil and that over time can lead to sludge.

I'm sorry this is your introduction to the LS. You can try contacting Lexus corporate and see if there's anything they can do; but since you just bought the car and probably don't have the prior maintenance history they might not feel obligated to help you out (and by help out I mean replace with a free rebuilt engine and bill you for the labor). it might be worth a try though; perhaps you'll get lucky and the previous owner's maintenance is in their database; maybe call a dealer first and then escalate up the chain.

If you want to keep the car you might look into buying a used engine from a low-mileage wreck and swapping it in. The UZ is (generally) a bulletproof/grenade resistant engine so this might be the cheapest option. Maybe the Ford dealer would be willing to pay for it (if gently suggested by your lawyer).

Good luck, let us know what you find out.

The oil pump is probably the least of your worries. The Lexus mechanic took the oil pan off, saw the sludge and advised you to give her last rites. The "ticking" could be from a number of components that are not being lubricated as they should be. The metal shavings suggest internal damage that would require a rebuild to correct. At the immediate time, your 'beef' is with the Ford dealer that sold you the car. That dealership should have done an inspection on your Lexus and known about this problem...and refused to resell it to the public. You know any good lawyers?

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I think your best recourse is to demand that the Ford dealer buy the car back from you. You've had the car only two months - don't spend any more money or energy on it. Dump it and run.

Did you verify the car's maintenance history before you bought the car? Did the car's maintenance booklet have all the appropriate stamps, dates and signatures? Used cars with documented maintenance histories generally cost more but they are worth it.

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Hey guys thanks for the inputs and advices. This car was bought as-is with no warranty so I dont think Ford will take this car back... also I live in NJ so this pretty much mean the lemon law doesn't apply to my scenerio (In NJ, lemon law does not apply to cars that is sold as-is ). Besides, i don't really want to focus my time and energy to sue someone anyway. I just want to focus on how to fix this problem. Also, I am not angry with lexus. The LS 430 is a well build car and the sludge problem was most likely due to PO negligence with the oil change. Sadly, I do not have any maintance records to confirm that (Funny thing is I actually found the PO's number inside the owner's manual... I called and left a message yesterday and have not gotten any response yet... I know I am lame but I really want to know lol )

I am not sure if I can agree with one thing with you guys (and again I am not a mechanic so this is only strictly my humble opinion) and that is if the engine needs a rebuild or a "new" engine. Maybe the metal shavings are from the oil pump's bearing breaking apart. Again, the fact that this engine is running well with no smoke points to me that the internal mechanism is still intact. I am still convinced that this is an oil pump's bearing going bad or something due to the location of the clicking nose at the bottom left side of the engine (by the way, I have a clip of the noise here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG1yJb-fR7w please feel free to comment). I know it is not the AC b/c noise doesnt change with it on/off. Thanks again everyone.

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It sounds like a valve making noise - which is probably the most common cause of a ticking sound like you are having. It would be interesting to pull the valve covers and see how much sludge, if any, is in that area. And check the valve clearance. The engine shroud could be making the noise seem like it is coming from the lower part of the engine.

The 90 LS400 I sold in 2003 made a similar clicking noise when the engine was cold but it mostly went away as the engine warmed up. My mechanic said it was valve train issue but didn't think it was worth trying to fix.

I think it was on this forum perhaps a year or two ago that someone posted photos of an incredibly sludged up LS430 engine. One theory was that the engine had lost its coolant and became severely overheated.

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Due to the frequency of the tapping, I would say it was in the valve train. Again, I really doubt it is the oil pump, Michael. While it is true that you bought this car "As Is", it is almost criminal for a dealer to resell it in the sludged condition. Since you are admittedly not a mechanic, the best advice I can give is to take your car to a second mechanic for an opinion on the engine condition. Take lots of pictures of any parts of the engine that are opened up to expose the sludge as documentation. After confirmation of the sludge, if it were me, I would march back into the dealer and give the owner "what for". And demand reparations. But thats just me.

If you do not want to confront the Ford dealer, then you can see what can be done to clean up the existing sludge. The valve train on the LS430, being VVT (Variable Valve Timing) is very complex compared to a standard engine without VVT. And sludge is its arch enemy. Your best option may be to try to "flush" the sludge professionally. Some shops have machines to run cleaning agents through the engine in an attempt to clean the internals. But it does take special equipment and comes with no guarantees it will fix you problem(s). In fact, it could make matters worse by dislodging a chunk of gunk that later gets stuck in an orifice. Just like a stoke or heart attack.

I just hope you did not pay too much for this car. Again, get a second opinion and document this condition.

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Wow that doesn't sound like anything normal. My LS430 sometimes makes a tapping sound if it's sat for a little while and it's cold but it usually disappears after about 30 seconds (I think it's something to do with the VVTi readjusting once the oil pressure comes up).

I would take it to another mechanic and get a second opinion. If the engine runs reasonably well and it's not consuming oil it might be possible to remove enough of the sludge and salvage the engine. These motors are pretty durable so it might last for a while if you can ensure reasonable oil and coolant flow.

This real issue is (and I've heard of this happening) is what if the sludge comes back. Then there might be a coolant leak or something else that's contaminating the oil and turning it to muck. Then it turns into a real battle.

It's a hail mary pass but call the (a) dealership and have them look up the VIN to see if they have any record of oil changes or other regular maintenance. It might be a card you could play with corporate.

Due to the frequency of the tapping, I would say it was in the valve train. Again, I really doubt it is the oil pump, Michael. While it is true that you bought this car "As Is", it is almost criminal for a dealer to resell it in the sludged condition. Since you are admittedly not a mechanic, the best advice I can give is to take your car to a second mechanic for an opinion on the engine condition. Take lots of pictures of any parts of the engine that are opened up to expose the sludge as documentation. After confirmation of the sludge, if it were me, I would march back into the dealer and give the owner "what for". And demand reparations. But thats just me. If you do not want to confront the Ford dealer, then you can see what can be done to clean up the existing sludge. The valve train on the LS430, being VVT (Variable Valve Timing) is very complex compared to a standard engine without VVT. And sludge is its arch enemy. Your best option may be to try to "flush" the sludge professionally. Some shops have machines to run cleaning agents through the engine in an attempt to clean the internals. But it does take special equipment and comes with no guarantees it will fix you problem(s). In fact, it could make matters worse by dislodging a chunk of gunk that later gets stuck in an orifice. Just like a stoke or heart attack. I just hope you did not pay too much for this car. Again, get a second opinion and document this condition.

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To add to this thread, I bought a 1999 LS400 with 78k miles, out of FL, in 2010 (I live in west Michigan).  In the first 12 months, I had the timing belt replaced and was asked if I had EVER changed the oil, as it was that full of sludge.  I have used Mobil 1 full synthetic since the day I owned, assuming either previous owner screwed it up, or the change in oils did something (unlikely).  Overall it has run well for the past 7yrs, until the last week.  Low oil pressure light started coming on intermittently.  When it comes on, the lifters knock.  When I restart the car it goes away for a period of time.  Had the oil pressure checked and it measured 70psi.

Last night I dropped the oil pan and found a nasty mess...1/4" of sludge in lower pan and solid crust in upper pan.  Planning to flush engine tonight, refilling and crossing my fingers...but I fully expect to be buying my next vehicle sooner than I was planning.

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