Owning a Toyota Previa/Estima/Lucida/Emina

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This guide pertains to ONLY 1990 - 1999 models.

The good points

a. The wide body Previa is the most spacious MPV on the market without a doubt (and yes I have driven the Chrysler Grand Voyager and Kia Sedona)
b. Very comfortable to drive
c. Drive very well if looked after.
d. These are back wheel drive so no CV joint/boot issues as with the other MPV's on the market. (although the independent suspension models do have rear CV boots but as these run in one plane of motion they are pretty durable.) Actually one exception to this is the 4x4 versions that have CV joints on the front driveshafts.
e. On the 8 seaters the rear seats fold down into a double bed.....very cool (7 seater variants are a bit limited when the rear seats are up)
f. With all seats occupied there is still plenty of luggage space in the boot.
g. Because of the space between the rear most seats and the rear window your passengers will be unlikely to suffer head injury if you are rear ended.

The bad points

1. The Petrol versions are known to blow head gaskets although this is not that common and spares are readily available.

2. The diesel versions are well known for cracking cylinder heads, this is an expense issue to have resolved and can cost upwards of £1000

3. Getting insurance on the imports can be expensive although this is changing as imports are becoming more common. Shop around and take a look at the bottom of this guide.

4. There are NO official English workshop manuals available for the imports but do a search on Ebay for various offerings. There is a Genuine Toyota manual for the 3C-TE diesel engine but as this book was based on the Corolla there are some subtle but important differences.

5. You may have trouble finding garages that will repair the imports and this includes some Toyota agents.

6. Spares for the Imports ( Anything with ESTIMA in the name) are mostly only available from Ebay and Toyota but Toyota can be expensive.  Some head gaskets sold are incorrect for these vehicles. NOTE: - The diesel engine used in the IMPORTS is also used in other Toyota's BUT the head gasket is very specific to the car in which the engine is installed. Put the wrong one in, whilst it may fit, and it will cause the head to crack again but sooner rather than later

So yours is running fine and you are quite happy with it. Great here are some points to try and keep it that way.

1. Change the radiator NOW. I don't care if it is ok, trust me on this one for £70 it is well worth doing. This goes for the Petrol and Diesels.

2. At the same time change the Thermostat

3. Change the coolant on a regular basis, every 50K miles.

4. Keep the car serviced regularly as per manufacturers guidelines.

5. Keep an eye on your temp gauge

6. Check the coolant regularly, if it starts dropping on a regular and alarming basis have a pressure test and a combustible gas test done on the car immediately. This is a sure sign that on the Petrol's the head gasket is on its way out and on the Diesels the head & gasket are on their way out.
Having said that though, change the radiator cap first. This is something most people overlook but they do go over time and release pressure before they should (13psi) and water loss is the result.

7. DO NOT put tap water in the radiator. Take a look at your kettle, if that happens in your engine you are on your way to a big repair bill. Buy distilled or deionised water or get rain water from your water butt if you have one. Always have a bottle of antifreeze available and mix 50% water with 50% antifreeze and put this in the radiator. You can also buy premix antifreeze to make your life easier.

8. At least once a week check the oil level and whilst at it take off the oil filler cap and look inside. If there is a milky white substance DO NOT DRIVE THE CAR ------ CALL YOUR MECHANIC

9. Personally if I had just bought a diesel Estima/Emina/Lucida, the first thing I would do is to take off the cylinder head check it and if ok, fit a new head gasket and thoroughly flush the cooling system and install a new thermostat and radiator. This may sound extreme but £80 for a new gasket is cheaper than £500 for a new head and incredibly good value for peace of mind.

As for the rest of the car maintain it the way you would any other, but note the shock absorbers need changing relatively frequently as these are heavy cars. So if when you dive into a corner the car feels like you are sailing a ship, then this is a sure sign that they are going or gone.


Firstly bummer DUDE !!!

Ok what to do really depends on what you have done. If the car overheated badly i.e. YOU WEREN'T watching the gauge. I commiserate with you and will send flowers.

Here's the deal. Heat is your enemy!!!!!! Heat causes expansion, expansion causes friction, friction causes more heat, more heat and friction cause wear, wear causes component failure. Its really a simple equation. The hotter the car ran and the longer it ran like this the more things are going to be knackered. If however you were being a good little boy or girl and were watching the gauge and pulled over right away and called the little man from the AA or RAC then well done, you have saved yourself a lot of money.

Steps upon failure.

When the AA/RAC man arrives DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET THE MUPPET PUT COLD WATER INTO THE ENGINE......PLEEEEEEASE. Yes I know they are qualified mechanics but sometimes they don't think. If you put something cold onto something very hot it will crack and this will negate all the good work you have done pulling over. Wrestle him and his container of water to the ground if need be until he agrees to tow you home.


Petrol engines

Ok, these are relatively simple. The most likely cause is a blown radiator or stuck thermostat-- Best case-- or blown head gasket --- Worst case. The first two are simple enough to fix and I would try these first before delving into the engine.

If it appears that the head gasket has failed the head will have to come off and a new gasket fitted. This can be done with the engine in situ so don't let anyone convince you to pay more to have the engine removed. Once off the head should be checked for cracks but this is unlikely on the petrols. Warpage is however possible so the head should be checked for this and if need be skimmed. It should then be cleaned and resurfaced as should the block. This ensure that the new gasket has good purchase. Whilst the head is off I would thoroughly recommend that you have the valves reseated and new valve stem seals fitted at the same time. A FULL top end gasket set should be bought and all gaskets replaced. It is false economy not to do this as eventually you will be revisiting these gaskets if you don't. You MUST buy NEW CYLINDER HEAD BOLTS!!!!!!

Word of advice, if you are doing the job yourself take pictures of all the tubes and pipes so you know where these go when the time comes to reassemble!!

That's it, reassemble and you have a nice car again.


Well the same process should be followed as with the petrols but here it is highly likely that the head will be cracked and even if it isn't I would recommend you have it pressure tested and if need be welded. Best case scenario is a new head. DO NOT USE A SECOND HAND HEAD!!!, really this is a big job and you don't want to do it twice because you decided to be a Scrooge. I cannot advise whether or not to buy a genuine Toyota head as in my mind the genuine Toyota one is the one that has just cracked so why would another one of theirs be any better, so this I will leave up to you to decide, however a Toyota head gasket is probably wise.

If you choose to buy an after market gasket the thing to watch for is the water ways in the gasket. Make sure you strip your head first and keep the old gasket to compare. Make 4000% sure that the gaskets, new and old are identical in every respect before fitting. ONCE AGAIN BUY NEW BOLTS.


Here again reassemble and drive with a smile.

Now what if you were a silly Muppet and drove a long way with the car in the RED. TUT TUT

Well chances are you now need a new engine, as almost certainly either your liners, pistons, rings or all three will now be knackered. I doubt you will find a new engine so your only recourse will be one of the used ones off Ebay but remember that these are pretty much all second hand so make sure you get a decent warranty.

If you have an Estima/Lucida or Emina you would be wise to join the www.estima-motoring.co.uk forum. Here you will find help and advice as well as information as to where to get spares and even discount on Insurace.
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