• Jul 2nd 2010 at 3:31PM
  • 82
Failed Lexus IS350 valve spring – Click above for high-res image gallery

Toyota's announcement of plans to recall 270,000 of its V8 and V6 models, including a number of Lexus sedans, was a little light on information. The company didn't say much about the issue other than faulty valve springs could cause a vehicle's engine to stall while driving. Fortunately, the same anonymous source that came through with some information during Toyota's recent pedal recall crisis has stepped up to fill-in some of the blanks.

Apparently, Lexus dealers have been encountering the defect for a few years. The fault typically manifests itself as a zig-zag break about three-quarters up the valve spring. This means that typically, the spring still has enough tension to keep the valve retainers in place, preventing the valve itself from going all hari-kari on the cylinder, cylinder wall and head.

That's not always the case, though. If the failure happens at high RPM, the valve can come loose, causing significant damage to the engine. According to our source, one Lexus GS350 incurred $12,000 worth of damage (in parts alone) during such an incident. And there's no word on who footed the bill.

Toyota hasn't said exactly what's caused the issue, though our source indicates that a Field Technical Specialist within the automaker believe the bad springs either have a manufacturing issue or a deep scratch – weak points that allow the part to fail prematurely. As for why the issue effects the company's 3.5-liter V6 as well as its 4.6-liter and 5.0-liter V8s, we're assuming that all three engines use the same valve springs.

Click through to the jump for more details, including updated information, and a video.

[Source: YouTube]

Either way, when one spring fails, Toyota typically recommends replacing every spring in the engine. Meanwhile, another Autoblog tipster was good enough to tip us off to YouTube user Maxseek's video showing the carnage that can occur when one of the valves decides to go kaput on a Lexus GS460. It's not pretty, but you can see the fallout in the video below..

We're not sure whether Maxseek is a Lexus tech or simply unfortunate enough to have the issue crop up on his own personal vehicle. Either way, he says that the problem began showing itself after a mere 5,000 miles, and what started as a rough idle eventually lead to the vehicle not starting at all. After watching the video, there's little wonder as to why. Unlike the valves in the photos supplied by our anonymous source, the valve spring on one of the intake valves on the GS460 has split into three pieces, allowing the valve to come in contact with the cylinder and become bent.

Luckily for the owner of this particular GS, there was no damage to either the block or the head, but the cost of repair was still around $2,150, including parts and labor. Multiply that figure by the 270,000 potentially affected vehicles on the road, and Toyota could be looking at a $581 million price tag for quality flub – if not more. That assumes, of course, that all of these incidents cost about the same to remedy. Thanks for the tips, Anonymous and FYI!

UPDATE: Toyota has announced that it will send the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration a Defect Information report starting next week. A total of 138,000 vehicles will fall under the measure in the US, including 2006, 2007 and 2008 GS, LS and IS models powered by either the company's 3.5-liter V6 or 4.6-liter V8.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      holy crap at the video.

      How much of the engine do they have to tear apart to get to the valves?

      it looks like half the engine was removed from the bay.

      aren't the valves near the top of the engine?
        • 5 Years Ago
        The valves are in the head. They could probably get the top ones off by just removing the valve cover and cams, but to get to the bottom ones, they most likely had to pull the whole head. With the right tools, it doesn't take that long to pull a head...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Classic fatigue fracture...45 degree helix. Either a poor manufacture/stress concentration caused by a nick in the spring surface or bad batch of material...inclusions in the spring metal.

      The inclusions wouldn't have to be particularly big either. Today's valvesprings, especially high-po springs, are ultra-pure metal and carefully finished.
      • 5 Years Ago
      wow toyota is going down fast huh, what happened to this company and their quality products lol i have a 05 corolla never had a problem with it til it hit 70,000 miles and kept shutting off turns out there was a recall on the ECU and now hearing all of this stuff going on, i dont think i would buy another toyota again also cause the fact theres nothing to exciting about them there getting pretty dull in appearance and there interior is the same too
      • 5 Years Ago
      Although the recall focusses on IS350, GS and LX models I just had the same issue on my Lexus IS250 AWD. Characterised by loss of power, engine light flashing and bizarrely the Check VSC text warning. After much persistence, the dealer finally diagnosed the issue and the misfire in two cylinders. The valve springs were replaced. I'd suggest IS250 owners monitor their vehicles carefully for this issue.
      • 5 Years Ago
      yea Toyota cares about your safety alright, that why they won't tell the whole truth. that like a doctor finding out you have cancer but he just say well you may be sick., it just not good enough if you don't get the full details..toyota has learn nothing from all their mess in the last 2 years they have gotten worse. Toyota better look at how the big 3 refuse to address all their problems in the 80's..toyota is doing the same thing ..Oh well food 4 thought

      ford, built ford tough
      Chevy, the heartbeat of America
      dodge, ram tough
      Toyota, death traps on wheels
        • 5 Years Ago
        > ford, built ford tough
        > Chevy, the heartbeat of America
        > dodge, ram tough
        > Toyota, death traps on wheels

        Ford, GM & Chrysler are still built with UAW labor. Above statement should be revised to the following:

        FORD - At least we're NOT GM or Chrysler
        GM - Chapter 11, part deux
        Chrysler - Do we still make cars?
        Toyota - Death traps on wheels.

        There. Much better...
        • 5 Years Ago
        What truth? They have faulty valve springs, they break. They are going to replace them. What more would you like to know?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I heard about the 270,000 defective toyota engines and I just learned from this peice it was defective valve springs,
      what the frak were these valve springs being made from, pot metal, sounds like toyota bought a whole lot of bernies basement grade raw materials to make these valve springs from ,
      toyota has been relentlessly seeking to cut thier costs and it seems thier bulletproof reputation for reliability went down with the costs. Its well known they've been using lower cost suppliers, often but not necessarily from china in particular and have deviated from using thier long standing but higher cost Japanese vendors.
      Heres a case where they saved up front has cost 10 times that in recall and warranty repair costs. Ford stupidly saved $10 when it omitted a cheap stamped steel gaurd plate from the fuel tank on the Pinto and it paid millions to shyster lawyers as a result.
      that $10 a car they saved would have been a bargain.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Since when is a twisted wire spring "cast"
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wondering the same thing...
      • 5 Years Ago
      The only thing that worries me, is I have the exact same 3.5 V6 in my Sienna minivan, and I drive that van hard.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The newer Toyotas: The Worst ----- Older Toyotas: More Reliable
      • 5 Years Ago
      If they're having problems with a simple spring...
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ tekdemon: $2K was the cost to replace the springs when the engine didn't swallow a valve. It's actually less than I expected. (At least eight hours of labor if you can keep the heads on, at $100 per. Two dozen valve springs at ~$40 each retail, plus seals, gaskets and fluids.)

        AB's math is a little off. Toyota's costs on this are going to be lower because they pay a discount labor rate on warranty repairs (about 1/5th less when I was in the business) and they won't have retail markup on the parts. But this is still going to be a hellishly expensive recall. I don't see how they get out of it for less than $1200 a car, which would be $324 million worldwide.

        And a broken valve spring should be hugely embarrassing to Toyota. We're not talking about a Honda S2000 or Ferrari 458. These are low RPM engines and valve spring metallurgy and manufacturing is a known science. Even the crappiest econobox cars don't have valve spring problems.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Because car company only ever do recalls on more complicated parts? Almost everything that gets recalled is usually a "simple" part but that doesn't mean that they're not important.

        Either way, Autoblog has some weird math going on: "Multiply that figure by the 270,000 potentially affected vehicles on the road, and Toyota could be looking at a $581 million price tag for quality flub – if not more."
        That number only makes sense if you assume that every single motor has blown out it's springs-which makes little sense since they're recalling it to prevent more motors from blowing out. So the cost is simply 270,000 times whatever it costs to preventatively replace everyone's springs, which is going to be a lot cheaper than fixing 270,000 broken motors.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have to agree about Suzuki. They have been the most under rated car maker for a long time (as long as you ignore the Daewoo rebadges).

        This recall is troublesome for me. I don't care about the average recall or service bulletin. For me they are just free servicing. I generally look up any on my vehicle and even if it isn't having that problem I say it is and let the dealer do the free work for me while it is covered. There are three problems that scare me here though.

        1) Toyota has now famously had the kind of defect that is likely to effect my ability to control the vehicle. I know how to get a run away vehicle under control but I don't care to live through the experience on a busy highway with a full vehicle.
        2) Toyota is now having the kind of problem that causes major engine failure on BRAND NEW engines. Sitting on the side of the road on your first summer vacation with your new luxury vehicle is not acceptable to me.
        3) Toyota continues to completely screw up their handling of these problems. They were apparently aware of this issue for years. Customers have been getting saddled with expensive bills. I am glad that they are coming clean about it but it is obvious that they were covering this up for some time and will face another fine. Crowded Toyota service departments will now have another bunch of customers struggling to get appointments for recall work. As it is there is no fix available at the moment so they will have to drive around this summer knowing their new baby can blow up at any time. This will happen to someone out there and be all over the news.

        Don't forget Toyota already pissed off the bureaucrats so they will be actively looking for problems like this to pounce on and punish Toyota. Public opinion is like a large ship at sea. It tends to take a long time to turn it. All of this continued bad press though is not helping.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why do you feel compelled to defend something as simple as a spring on
        Lexus's behalf? Dude, it's a spring.
        Maybe you were one that bought one of these overpriced rebadged
        Toyotas and now have huge buyer's remorse?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Compare this recently added Toyota recall this week to it's reliability failure roster to..say this other Japanese automaker, namely the smaller, underdog and under appreciated Suzuki...


        With this minor Suzuki recall problem (a Kizashi defective glove box vs. Toyota valve springs, gas pedal crisis, etc.)...

        I think you're better off with the Suzuki.
        • 5 Years Ago
        lol no I don't own a Lexus nor do I have buyers remorse but it's rather silly to make it sound like cars get recalled over super complex stuff-it's usually a fairly simple part that either gets overlooked in the design or there's a run of defective parts. Quality control is more about making sure that you don't get defective parts. It's not like bolts are particularly high tech but if you have defective bolts holding your engine block together bad things are gonna happen.
        Autoblog's math makes no sense though since it assumes that every single Lexus engine will have failed springs, and I don't think there's ever been a recall in history where every single recalled car actually had the problem.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Multiply that figure by the 270,000 potentially affected vehicles on the road, and Toyota could be looking at a $581 million price tag for quality flub – if not more..."

        CEO Toyoda must be crying again...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree. Lexus and Toyota no longer impress me with their reliability. In fact, this is a major issue, not a simple recall for a door handle or to move a wire loom, or change an electrical connector.

        Frankly, I would rather take my chances in an American or even German car, because at least with them, I know what to expect. Rock solid engines with electrical gremlin possibilities. With Toyota, they have just about covered every area of problems, and this is only because they were forced to. No good will, no honesty. Ba Bye Lexus and Toyota, I will never buy any of your cars!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I went looking for a GS460 and the salesman told me that they were having "engine production issues"

      This was almost 6 months ago too. So they have been knowing just working on a fix.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just don't mess up on the 2013 Tacoma. That's all i ask. It's the only thing i like from them.
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