Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Myths About Maintaining Toyota Alphard

During the last TT I had several questions from fellow AOC members on the maintenance of our giant. They wanted to know specifically where I send my car for service and if there is any specific knowledge needed to service our giant. Well it seems that there is this myth that since Toyota Alphard is a fully imported (used) car then there might be some specific requirements to service the giant. Another myth is that since this is the flagship minivan than the quality of the car should be at par or better than those assembled locally hence there shouldn't be that much annoying noise coming from the car!

The 1st generation Toyota Alphard uses the 2AZ-FE engine on the 2.4L model and the 1MZ-FE engine on the 3.0L model. The 2AZ-FE is the same engine used in the local Toyota Camry model, 2.4L model of the 2nd generation Estima, Harrier and Ipsum. There is no 3.0L model of Toyota Camry available locally but the same 1MZ-FE is also used in the 3.0L model of the 2nd generation Estima and Harrier for a long time.

Since the local distributor of Toyota, UMW, doesn’t accept imported used car for service, which means the owners of these imported used car has to send their cars to other workshops. Actually because of this reason there is a mushrooming of workshops specialize in servicing imported used car from Japan as well.

On the higher end, there is workshop like Vision Motorsport in (Sunway and Bangsar) that carry the Tom's after market performance product and has servicing agreement with the principal which is Toyota Motorsport in Japan. They specialized in servicing and selling after market performance parts for Toyota cars. Of course their charges will be much higher as they used only original parts from Toyota or from Tom’s. They even have come up with service package for imported Toyota model like Alphard, Estima and Harrier that offer comprehensive maintenance for these cars which runs into thousands of ringgit on per annum basis.

There are also other workshops that specialized in servicing only Toyota vehicle such as Hong Lee Motors Sdn Bhd. This workshop made a name for taking the risks to start the servicing of high end Toyota model like Lexus LX470 or Lexus LS430 when it was brought into the country back in the 1990s. They also have the diagnostic equipment for Toyota model while providing reasonable maintenance charges. This attracted a long list of loyal customers who bought imported used Toyota car and find this workshop as a good source for maintenance service.

At the low end of the scale, there are many smaller workshops that provide cheaper alternative as they focus on cheaper labour charges and give the owner the options to bring their own spare parts. In fact there are AOC members who buy their own spare parts and send it to these so called “bawah pokok” (refer to workshop without a proper shop outlet) mechanic for service.

Even my own mechanic has been doing servicing for imported Toyota car for one of the used car dealer near his shop since 1990s. There is really nothing special about the 2AZ-FE and 1MZ-FE engine that required specialized knowledge to service it.

On the other hand, there is also some accessory shops that has branded themselves as a one-stop-shop. What they will do is that for those customer who buy accessories (well at some quantum) they will help to arrange to have the giant also serviced by one or two nearby workshop that they trusted.

What is important is that these workshops should follow the maintenance specification that Toyota specified in their workshop manual. For example Toyota specify that the viscosity of the engine oil for the 2AZ-FE engine should be SL 10W-30 while the viscosity of the engine oil for the 1MZ-FE engine should be SL 5W-30. Whether the owner uses mineral, semi-synthetic or fully synthetic oil is more of a maintenance interval preference rather than the quality of the oil. Similar another example would be that the quantity of engine oil required for just engine oil change for the 2.4L model is 4.1L and 4.3L if the engine oil and oil filter are changed together. The 3.0L model would require 4.5L and 4.7L respectively.

The second myth is really related to the question of “what are those sounds that come from the front or from the back when I drive my car”. The steering rack on the Toyota Alphard and Estima is known to have quality issue. In fact during my search for the giant I have spoken to some dealers and they admitted that they do stock some spare steering racks in case the buyer of these imported used car claim warranty from them. Many owners did post in the AOC forum that when they turn the steering during the start of the day they hear some squeaking sounds from the front. This is very common and from the description of those who experience it, it seems like the problem could be emanating from the steering knuckle.

The question than can this problem can be resolved all together. Yes I think it would be possible but then it would take quite a bit of time and effort for the mechanic to pin-point the root cause and fix it. My take on this is that if the steering knuckle is not really broken, don’t fix it. In fact on my car, there is this one time squeaking sound coming from the steering knuckle whenever I turn the car steering for the first time. After that the sound won’t appear anymore as I drive for the rest of the day. I come to live with it as it is not affecting my drive at all.

For those who are driving a 4WD model, one of the common complain is they can hear some squeaking sound coming from the back when they drive the car. Since 4WD model has two drive shafts at the rear, if there is any likely hood of anything generating the sound, it is most likely coming from the drive shafts. It is not easy to isolate exactly which component of the drive shafts that make this sound so again time and effort is required to really resolve this.

Would these symptom described above impede the driving performance of the car? Would things fall off the car if it is not fixed? Of course it is a resounding NO. Toyota is known for it reliability and it is inconceivable that a Toyota Alphard would suffer such a fate given than it is the flagship minivan from Toyota. A bit of sound can be a nuisance at first but should not be an alarm for concerns for the owner on everyday driving unless it has really deteriorate so bad the sounds come on consistently.

On the subject of spare parts it is interesting that even though the model like Toyota Alphard, Estima and Harrier are not imported directly by the local Toyota distributor, because of the volume of cars brought into the country by the parallel importer over the years, the local spare parts suppliers understood the supply and demand, and actually carry most of the spare parts for these models. Therefore there shouldn’t be any concerns in terms of availability of spare parts as there are several major spare parts suppliers for Toyota car in the country.


  1. Hai AskDS,

    1st of all, i found ur blog are so infomative for a new person like me. Acctually im planning of buying 2nd hand MZG year 03. But till now im still thinking of maintenance of this giant, how bad or gus is he?

    I did go through AOC, but i wonder to know if u have any refrence for maintenance of ur giant?

    Some said, the spare part are expansive, and some said sometime we have to wait quite sometime for certain parts, is it true??

  2. Hi,

    I was planning to reply to you but you didn't leave an email so I will respond here.

    For routine maintenance, the cost is not high as it is just change of engine oil and oil filter. If you do quite a bit of driving then you can opt for mineral oil and change it at 5,000km interval. You may choose to use semi-synthetic or fully synthetic oil instead but it just prolong the maintenance interval only.

    If you use regular spark plug, you can choose to change it at 20,000km interval or if you choose higher spec spark plug some will last you for 100,000km. You'll need six of them as the MZG 3.0L model has a V6 engine.

    Do note that the Toyota Alphard 3.0L engine uses timing belt instead of timing chain. The recommended interval to change the timing belt is about 80,000km. As you may have read from AOC, changing the timing belt is a major work and sometime the workshop might also ask you to change the water pump as well since they have to remove the water pump to access to the timing belt. The total cost will exceed RM2K depending on which workshop you send your car to.

    If you worry about the timing belt, do negotiate with the owner as the condition of the purchase.

    One of my reader also recently gotten a 2nd hand 03 MZG and he thoroughly enjoy his ride now.

    If you need help to verify if that car is a true MZG, send me an email and I'll help you on that.

  3. Hi, how much quantity for the transmision oil for 2.4 engine 2AZ-FE?

  4. Hi,

    For 2WD model it is 8.8L for 3.0L (1MZ-FE) and 8.6L for 2.4L (2AZ-FE).

    For 4WD model, it is 9.0L for 3.0L (1MZ-FE) and 8.7L for 2.4L (2AZ-FE).

    Please use original Toyota Automatic Transmission Oil (Type-IV).

    For 4WD model, you also need 0.9L for the rear axle. Use any rear axle oil that conform to SAE 85W-90.

  5. could you tell what is the routine check-up necessary for longevity of the 4wd model?Tq.

  6. Hi rodin,

    I only think of the extra check-up required for 4WD model are

    1. Rear axle differential oil change.
    2. Inspect wear and tear on the rear drive shafts

    Technically you don't have to change the differential oil, just check the levels. Since you already opened the plug for checking you might as well change it.

    Realistically, it you want to follow generally accepted practice for a long differential life, you'll change every 60k. However if you don't use your car to tow anything (not likely) then you can prolong that depending on your driving style.

  7. Bro Nighto..

    Tnxs for d reply..btw,being 4wd,so it goes together with 4 drive shaft,isn't it?..xtra maintainance for d shaftsla..

  8. Hi rodin,

    I trust Toyota for their quality and this being their flagship model they have to use quality drive shafts for the giant. Your drive shafts should last a long time. I wouldn't worry about them for now as your giant have not clocked high mileage yet.

  9. Thank you Chan for the explanation,

    yes,i did notice 3.0 (AOC forum) using timing belt, but is it nessary to change the water pump also? tho the pump still ok?If u in my position, what it would be?

    how bout other belting like accond,power stereng, alternator?should change it also rite?

    for all this sparepart, how easy we can get it? Is it easily available at WingHin or we have to special oder it?

    yeah,that would be nice if u could reconfirm or giving me some guide / tips to verify true MZG! Really appreciate on that :)

    my email jaira_rasengan@yahoo.com , but now im having difficulty to access my account for the past 3-4 days, must be Yahoo doing some maintenance on this, coz couple of my fren also can't access.

    By the way, u can call me Mc'D

  10. Hi Mc'D,

    Since you are going to change your timing belt probably once in your ownership of your giant, if I were in your shoe, I would change the water pump as well. This way you only need to open up the engine cover once!

    Yes, you do need to change the other belt as well but the work to change them is not as complicated as changing the timing belt.

    WingHin do stock most of the maintenance parts for Alphard so you should be able to get them easily. Unless they run out of stock or you are sourcing for a part that hardly anyone change then you can do a special order from them as well.

    My email is at the top of this blog. Send me the model code of that car you are planning to get and I can help to verify if it is a genuine MZG. The other option is to check my post on model code for MZG in this blog.

  11. hai Chan,

    Thanks 4 the explanation,agree with u on maintenance wise.Now im feel much confidence.

    I will try to get the model code once i meet with the owner. I need to find a right time to meet him, as he living at Shah Alam and i @ Terengganu,
    will let u know if i got anything.

    by the way, i could't find ur email add :)jariya

  12. Hi Jariya,

    You can send it to chanklhm@hotmail.com


  13. Hi AskDS,
    I just bought a 2005 Recond Alphard. Mileage is 24,000. Engine looks clean. Should I change the timing belt. Please advise

  14. Hi,

    If the mileage is genuine than I don't think you need to change the timing belt yet. Typically the timing belt can last a long time and some owner only change it after more than 100,000km. I assume your is a 3.0L model. If not then the 2.4L uses timing chain so you don't need to change it.


  15. hai Chan,
    i have a few questions.hope you can help me.

    1. Where can i get an Alphard MZ 3.0L maintenance manual book?What is the cost like?

    2. What are the procedures to change my engine oil? How many nuts should i open?

  16. Hi,

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    I don't think Toyota has ever release a maintenance manual for their 3.0L model in English. I don't know if they has a Japanese version either.

    If yuo are thinking of changing the engine oil on your own, then you'll need to find the oil plug at the bottom of the engine, drain it, tighted it back and then pour in the new engine oil. You shouldn't have to open too many nuts!


  17. Hi, if i use semi-synthetic oil for alphard 2.4 VVTi (2005), my next oil change will be the next 10,000km?
    Interval for oil change for Vios with VVTi engine is 10,000km when semi-synthetic oil is uesd.
    Please advice.TQ

  18. Hi,

    I would think that the frequency of oil change really depends how you drive the car. I also would not use the Vios engine oil change frequency as a guide for my Alphard.

    It take less power for the Vios 1.5L engine to drive the body of a small sedan compared to the power requires to drive the (close to) 2 ton weight of the Alphard, I would think that I need to service my Alphard more often than the Vios. My own preference is to do it at 7,000km interval.

  19. Hye.i own 2.4 alcantara 2002 Toyota Alphard.I just bought PLUG CONVERTER for the plug points (since the plug type is for japanese region).However,it doesnt work. The Plug Converter is functioning and in good condition (i've tested it). So what cause the failure?TQ-Anwar,Malaysia.

  20. Hi Anwar,

    I am not familiar with plug converter so I am afraid I can't help you with this.

    I typically will stick to original Toyota parts when it comes to anything to do with the engine compartment.


  21. Hi, looking at buying something to replace my very tired 1991 estima. One requirement is to tow my boat , which the estima does fairly well. ( 2.4 petrol , manual).The rear wheel drive helps allot. I think the Aphard 4 wheel drive 3 litre would be the best option ( I need a 7 seater) but I can't find any info on the tow rating for the Alphard.

    Do you have any idea of the braked tow rating for these. I saw one advertised imported with a tow bar, but the person had no idea of the rating.

    Many thanks

    Rob from New Zealand.

  22. Dear Anwar,
    for the plug points,i bought universal travel adapter from senheng and it works just fine.

  23. Very good blog,
    can you please send more info on the TRUE-MGZ specs to my email please?


    1. Hi Nasrul,

      I don't know if there is such thing as True MZG specs. The best I can think of is to refer to the original Alphard brochure that state what is included as stock feature in a MZG model.

      Please check this post to download the brochure.


  24. Hi Rob, thanks for visiting my blog.

    Unfortunately I don't have the info on the braked tow rating of the 3.0L Alphard. I don't even have the owner manual with me now so I can't even begin to search for it.


  25. Hi. I would like to get some advice from all the PROS here. There were some weird sound coming from my engine. Btw mine is 3.0alphard. Is it normal having this noise? Its sounds like pump sound or belt sound or i also dunno what kinda sound is that.

  26. Hi, I guess any abnormal sound coming from the engine bay is not good. Better to take it to your regular workshop to have a look to check it out.