The Toyota Previa or Toyota Estima is one of Toyota’s minivan offerings, commonly known as the Toyota Previa in North America. It was in production between 1990 and 2019, with three generations within that period of time and in this post we bring you the common faults of the Toyota Previa so stay with us and keep reading.
The Previa is also Toyota’s second largest MPV, sharing the honor with the Toyota Sienna. It is known for its power, efficiency, durability, and low running costs.
Common failures of the Toyota Previa (Toyota Estima)
Although it is a top-tier minivan, the Toyota Previa is not without its faults, and below we will examine some of the most common problems with this car.
1. Noise at idle
One of the most common problems with the Toyota Previa is a rattling noise when the car is idling. Owners who have directly experienced this have described the noise as unpleasant.
Possible causes and solutions
Here are the possible causes and solutions to this problem:
1- Defective catalyst
It makes sense to assume that the rattling noise that follows the engine idling is the result of a problem with the engine, right? Well, although this is a logical assumption, it is not always the case, below, you will know why.
If the engine makes a rattling noise at idle, it could be due to a problem with the catalytic converter.
The catalytic converter is an integral component responsible for emission control.
It has a core, and like most other components, this core can break over time. Core failure usually involves small pieces falling out, causing a rattle inside the catalyst.
If this happens, it would be best to get a replacement catalytic converter as soon as possible. Driving with a faulty CC is almost certain to guarantee failure on a smog test.
2- Defective exhaust system
The Previa’s exhaust system can deteriorate over time, often due to corrosion, which can eventually lead to rattling. There are times when the heat shield loosens randomly, and this can cause a rattle.
In situations like this, you may need to replace your muffler or exhaust pipe.
3- Problem inside
Another reason your Estima may make rattling noises is due to items stored in the door panel pocket or cup holder can. It could also be due to a loose center console lid or a damaged glove box.
This reason is often overlooked, and for this very reason we have considered it worthy of mention. If you have a rattling noise problem in your Previa, check the interior of your car, including the trunk.
4- Low oil levels
Lack of sufficient motor oil is a possible reason for a rattling noise from Toyota Previa. If you have low-quality oil or the car has a leak, oil levels can deplete quickly.
Lack of oil causes a lot of vehicle problems and sometimes rattling noises are accompanied by them.
5- Weak lifters
Vehicles often feature a component known as engine lifters that open and close the valves. Lifters often collapse on older vehicles, and their collapse can cause a loud rattling noise from the engine.
If this is the case with your Toyota Previa, you will have to replace the lifters.
Rattling noises are usually the result of failures in the engine and other sensitive components, so it is advisable to seek the services of a technician if you are inexperienced in this field.
2. Car engine failures
Another commonly reported fault in the Toyota Estima is the malfunctioning of the car’s engine. Several owners have complained about this while bemoaning the lack of proper service action on the issue.
Possible causes and solutions
Here are some reasons why the Toyota Previa engine fails:
1- Damaged spark plugs
Spark plugs are crucial to every vehicle’s ignition system, and like most other components, they are vulnerable to damage.
The damage could be the result of an oil leak in the combustion chamber or abnormal carbon buildup. It can also be due to improper separation or overheating.
The point is, when the spark plug goes bad, the Estima’s engine is likely to start misfiring. The best way to fix this problem is to simply replace the spark plugs.
2- Imbalance in the mixture of fuel and air
There is a fuel/air ratio that engines must maintain for proper combustion, and if this goes wrong it can trigger an engine misfire. The imbalance can be the result of a blocked fuel pump or blocked fuel injectors , both of which obstruct the flow of fuel into the combustion chamber.
3- Lack of compression
The cylinder needs compression to function effectively, and a lack of compression could precipitate a misfire.
Lack of compression is usually caused by a blown head gasket or leaking exhaust valves. If it is a problem with the head gasket, the engine will randomly heat up as the coolant runs out.
However, the exhaust valves are responsible for most cases of compression loss.
4- Defective fuel pump shut-off switch
The fuel pump shutoff switch is designed to shut off the fuel pump during accidents, collisions, or unusual stops. Like most components, the kill switch can fail after some time, and one of its symptoms is an engine misfiring.
A misfire has many consequences, such as worsening fuel efficiency and loss of power. The problem must be handled carefully, so we advise hiring a trusted mechanic for the job.
3. Control Arm Problems
There have been several complaints about the Toyota Previa’s suspension, particularly the rear control arm.
Control arms connect the vehicle’s frame to the suspension system, and like other components, they can develop failure.
The main symptoms of control arm damage include steering wheel vibration, vehicle instability and knocking sounds.
Possible causes and solutions
Here are some reasons why Toyota Previa control arms fail:
1- Worn bushings
Lower control arm bushings are a very fragile part and prone to damage. The chances of them getting damaged are even higher if the bushing is old and worn. A common symptom of bushing damage is a metallic sound.
Also, if the bushing is new and not tight enough, it’s just as good as having an old, worn-out bushing, which means you can hear the same sound.
2- Driving on rough terrain
Another thing that can pose a threat to the control arm is when driving over rough terrain. These terrains often put the vehicle in erratic motion, which can loosen control arm bushings over time.
3- Excessive heat
Control arms are located in locations that expose them to extreme temperatures. Extreme temperatures, especially heat, can crack and harden the bushing’s rubber material.
5- Driving excessively fast
Stepping on the accelerator and starting very fast is certainly nice and sometimes necessary. However, this action, especially when it occurs repeatedly, can put a strain on the control arm and eventually loosen the bushings.
Driving with problematic control arms is unsafe and can sometimes cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Therefore, it is important to fix the problem as soon as you notice it.
In many cases, you may only need to replace the bushing instead of the entire unit. However, it is much better and more cost effective to replace the entire control arm unit. We advise letting a certified mechanic do the work for you, given how delicate it is.
The good and the bad of the Toyota Previa
You already know the common faults of the Toyota Previa below, we mention some good points that this car has:
Advantages of the Toyota Previa
The advantages of the Toyota Estima or Previa are the following:
Reliability is one of the most important aspects when choosing a car. Fortunately, it’s one of the qualities of the Toyota Previa, and one that critics and owners alike give it credit for.
With a Toyota Previa, running costs are very low and parts are not in short supply. Additionally, the Toyota Previa is less prone to failure than most vehicles in its class.
2. Elegant appearance
Appearance is not usually one of the strong points of minivans, but we cannot ignore the magnificent exterior of the Toyota Previa. It has features you’d think are exclusive to sports cars, like xenon lights and blacked-out sunroofs.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a handful of family vehicles that are as attractive as the Toyota Previa.
3. Variety of options
If you want to get a Toyota Previa, there is a wide and almost overwhelming range of options for you. Whether you want eight seats instead of the standard seven or prefer the 3.5L V6 engine to the 2.4L, the Previa has you covered.
4. Plush, adjustable seats
Toyota Estima models have seats that are not only plush and durable, but also adjustable to fit your family’s needs. You can have them fold down to the ground, put them in corridor mode, or do a 60/40 split. Isn’t that cool?
5. Proven durability
The Toyota Previa has an incredible durability record that most vehicles can’t beat. A well-maintained Toyota Previa can go beyond 300,000 miles (482,800 kilometers) easily, and many reviewers agree.
Browsing the Toyota Previa forums, we found several testimonials from people who have exceeded 250,000-300,000 miles (42,000 – 48,000 kilometers). It’s like they say: numbers don’t lie.
6. Thoughtful and sophisticated security features
It goes without saying that a family vehicle like the Toyota Previa has to have safety at the top of its list of priorities. The manufacturer has understood this and has provided it with excellent security features.
Security features include:
- Up to 9 airbags, including SRS curtain airbags
- adaptive cruise control
- double electric door
- daytime running lights
- Traction control
- lane departure warning
- smart parking assistance
Disadvantages of the Toyota Previa
The most notorious cons or drawbacks of the Toyota Previa are the following:
- Rattling noise when engine is idling
- car engine failure
- Control Arm Problems
What do the reviews say about the Toyota Previa?
The comments and opinions that people have about the Toyota Previa are very good, among them the ones that stand out the most are the following:
“The Toyota Previa (Estima) offers a seductive combination of design flair and engineered reliability. Both engines are excellent units, and it’s hard to point out many key flaws. Find one that hasn’t been too battered by the demands of family life, and you’ll have a minivan to be proud of.”
“It’s great to take and pick up at school. You can enjoy it on long road trips and short weekend trips. It’s perfect for shopping sprees at Bunnings and Ikea. Do you share the car with friends? No problem. Wherever life takes you, the Toyota Previa more than delivers.”
“Vans are usually boring things. You can spray paint some attractive, psychedelic valkryies on the side or buy a right-hand drive Japanese import with a name like Sambar Try Dias, but overall, they’re boring.
That’s worth triple for the minivan variety, but since its invention in the early 1980s, a minivan has been the obvious exception. The Toyota Previa was not and is not boring at all. In fact, it’s one of the most exciting vehicles Toyota has sold in this country in the last 30 years.”