A warning and good advice for all existing and potential TOYOTA owners!
The purpose of this website is to warn all existing and potential TOYOTA RAV4 owners of my

with my



To give advice on how to avoid the mistakes I made that cost me dearly - R71,506 (about US$8,650)

Click here to see a copy of the invoice


In September 2011 I took my 2008 Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4D to Halfway Toyota, Fourways, Sandton for what I believed to be a minor problem – lack of power at low revs and belching black smoke from the exhaust. The vehicle was 3 years and 7 months old with only 78,895 kms (49,023 miles) on the clock.
I was told that the entire engine needed replacement! It was stated that the engine could not even be repaired or reconditioned.
I asked for Toyota South Africa to get involved and to provide me with a second opinion.  What a waste of time! Their “expert” apparently inspected the engine and agreed with the dealership that the engine was damaged beyond repair and needed to be replaced. Surprise!
To this day nobody has been able to explain exactly what caused the damage to the engine (if it was damaged at all, of course!).  The best explanation I got was that the “water pump is leaking and at this point seems to be the cause of the damage.” No other explanation has been forthcoming as well as no answer to the fact that the vehicle never over-heated despite the temperature gauge being fully operational!


My Complaint to the Motor Industry Ombudsman
of South Africa

On 18th October 2011 I lodged a complaint against Halfway Toyota and Toyota South Africa with the Motor Industry Ombudsman in Pretoria.  In December 2011 the Ombudsman appointed independent engineers (JPA Mechanical Appraisals) to inspect the “damaged” engine and to report their findings.
Their detailed report dated 14th December 2011, including photographs of various sections of the engine, concludes that the “water pump did have a leak but this did not result in the engine overheating or being damaged” and “I am unable to find any reason for the vehicle to have overheated.”
Their final conclusion is “It is my opinion that the diagnosis was incorrect and that the engine did not overheat.  There was no reason to replace the engine.”





Eventually, after some threats, I received the decision of the Ombudsman dated 24th May 2012.
(I find it strange that I am the one who lodged the complaint but the finding is addressed to the Dealer Principal of Halfway Toyota and was sent to him before it was sent to me!)

The finding of the Ombudsman is that, “despite being knowledgeable about this product, Halfway Toyota Fourways made efforts to seek a second opinion to confirm their findings.  It is through the findings and recommendations made by Sartor Bros Engineering that they made a decision.”
The decision of the Ombudsman is that Halfway Toyota Fourways should sell the old engine and use the proceeds to compensate me and to refund me the costs of the labour only R8,549 (US$1,028) out of R71,506 (US$8,650).  
Subsequent to this decision, Halfway Toyota did contact me to tell me that they could do nothing with the old engine - it was worthless - and I could have it and they tendered payment of the labour costs.  Needless to say, I have rejected this less than generous offer!


The reasons why I believe the Ombudsman’s finding is incorrect and, in my opinion, a biased “home town” decision are as follows:
1      Why was I, as the Complainant, not given a copy of Toyota’s reply to my complaint?  Surely this flies in the face of common rules of justice? To this day neither Halfway Toyota nor Toyota South Africa have informed me of their side of the matter;
2      The reference in the finding to Sartor Bros Engineering was the first I heard of them.  If, as the Ombudsman states, Halfway Toyota based their decision to replace the engine on the recommendation of Sartor Bros, why was I not informed of the existence of their report?  Why is their report dated only 1st March 2012 when the engine was already replaced in September/October of the previous year? In their letter dated 1st March 2012 they state that the “sub-assembly and cylinder head” was sent to them.  Does this not indicate that the engine had already been removed?
3      If you read their report (click the link above), you will be amazed that it is totally different to the report and findings of the independent engineers appointed by the Ombudsman (paid for by me), namely JPA Mechanical Appraisals, whose very detailed report can be viewed above.  It is almost as if they inspected different engines!  Could it be possible?  No, surely not, we are dealing with honourable people, aren’t we?
4      Why did the Ombudsman totally ignore the report of the independent experts he himself appointed?  He chooses rather to accept the opposite opinion by Toyota’s own “experts”.
5      Why should it be necessary for Halfway Toyota and Toyota South Africa to utilise the services of a firm such as Sartor Bros Engineering in Selby, Johannesburg when it comes to examining a Toyota engine?  Does Toyota not employ engineers far better qualified to pronounce judgement on a Toyota engine!
6      The Ombudsman's decision to award me a partially used motor vehicle engine leaves me speechless.  I was immediately told by Halfway Toyota that it was worthless to them - Toyota dealers - as there was no market for used engines.  What did the Ombudsman think I could use it for?  
In my humble opinion, the Ombudsman’s decision is an indication of a deplorable lack of independence as well as ignorance of the common principles of human justice.

I think that there are FOUR major reasons for the fact that I feel so aggrieved by what has occurred that I cannot simply walk away and forget about it:
1      I believe that there has been a serious injustice and miscarriage of justice and believe it imperative that others are warned that they may avoid being ripped-off in a similar fashion;
2      I truly loved my Toyota RAV and told everybody that it was the best car I had ever owned.  I know of at least one other person – still a friend of mine – that bought his Toyota RAV on my recommendation.  When the Toyota RAV let me down (or was it Toyota?), I really felt betrayed and, after my experience with Toyota, I feel as if I have been personally violated!
3      I was a great Toyota fan – I still own a Toyota RunX and my daughter bought her Corolla on my recommendation.  Her first car was a Toyota Corolla with 350,000kms on the clock.  She drove it for quite a few years before trading it in on her new Toyota Corolla.  That was when Toyota still knew how to build cars! 

4      Before I bought the Toyota RAV I owned a Toyota Verso – the one with the “experimental” MMT (multi manual transmission).  What a disaster!  The transmission was a problem from the beginning.  At one stage, the Verso was in the Toyota workshop for two months over Christmas and New Year as they tried to fix it.  When I eventually got it back, Toyota refused to guarantee their repairs and Toyota would not even give me the book value on a trade-in.   Of course, I should have realised then that it would be very, very stupid to buy another Toyota.  I admit now that I was very, very stupid to expect better from another crappy Toyota product.

Of course not! I traded the Toyota RAV in as soon as I could.  I soon found that the new engine was not a good selling point – everybody was very suspicious.  If the engine had already packed up, what could go next?  Clutch, gearbox?  Also the fact that the new engine was fitted by a Toyota dealer and not “factory-fitted” was a distinct disadvantage.
I eventually got a fair price and, after much research and shopping around, I bought a Kia Sorento 7-seater AWD – unfortunately also a diesel engine (?).  To date I am very, very happy.  It is infinitely better than the Toyota RAV.  The very best thing about it is a

Now this is an indication of a motor company that is prepared to stand behind its products!  Take a lesson Toyota!

It may strike you as strange that there has been no communication whatsoever from Toyota South Africa although I have been informed that this matter has been brought to the attention of the highest levels of management in Toyota South Africa.  I suppose that they believe that their Ombudsman has done his job and there is no need for them to intervene. Could Toyota South Africa actually care?  They are still selling vehicles daily!

My advice to prospective Toyota owners:
  • Think very carefully before you buy a Toyota and, if you still decide to go ahead, pay the extra for an extended factory warranty;
  • Shop around and look for motor manufacturers/dealers that have the faith in their products to offer 5 year warranties.
My advice to existing Toyota owners:
  • If you still can, extend your warranty – I know it costs a lot but still cheaper than a whole new engine after 78,000kms!;
  • If you are faced with a situation similar to mine, insist on a totally independent expert’s report before allowing Toyota to continue with anything;
  • DO NOT rely on Toyota’s “expertise” as even Toyota do not rely upon Toyota engineers to ascertain whether one of their engines is faulty!
  • DO NOT think that, because of their name and reputation, Toyota South Africa will come to your aid because they will not.
If there is anyone out there that has also experienced problems with a Toyota vehicle or with Toyota service, please contact me at
I will see that your problems are HIGHLIGHTED on this webpage. 

Rather than investigate my complaint and try to find a solution, Toyota SA have decided to threaten me with legal action and threats of claims for defamation!

Read the letter I received from their attorneys /admin/ckeditor/filemanager/userfiles/files/Letter_to_Mr_Sean_O_Hagen.pdf

PS : Ignore the bad spelling and grammer!