Toyota Granvia: At the Mercy of the Computer

About the worst car problems anyone can run into are the ones caused by electrical problems caused by faulty electronics. Long gone are the days of cars with simple electronics where most problems are typically mechanical where a workshop mechanic can easily fix. For almost a year now, my 1996 Toyota Granvia car suffered a problem that left me manually shifting an automatic transmission vehicle from L to D to get it moving. In the beginning it would only happen intermittently (the worse kind of trouble) and if you can relate to this problem, the transmission would not kick down to L when it should so the car pretty much stayed in D and vehicle would be too heavy to leave the line at a junction or traffic light—this isn’t only extremely annoying but potentially dangerous.

The fix. It wasn’t until this Christmas holiday when my dad decided to look at the ECU (electronic control unit), the computer that manages the entire operation of the vehicle and often has capacity to learn and adapt to driving patterns. It was discovered that one of the two condensers had leaked onto the printed board and inadvertently shorted the circuit that controls the transmission functions.

granviaecu-1.jpg

Don’t rule out the possibility of faulty electronics in a vehicle that has clocked several hundred thousand kilometers. It’s often difficult to narrow it down but when they start to leak like it makes troubleshooting a lot easier.

granviaecu-2.jpg  granviaecu-3.jpg

Update: 15 February 2011 | On the 5th Feb 2011, third day of the Lunar New Year celebration, the glow plug warning light came on and would not extinguish (normally disappears in a split second). Worried that the glow plugs might be over heating (worse case scenario) I made sure they weren’t glowing red risking breakage and imminent engine damage. It was only a few days later when the real problem reared it ugly head—the engine started to rev really high on start-up. Checked all fuses and relays to no avail until a close look at the ECU and my dad once again located the culprit.

The culprits—two faulty condensers—that triggered the high revving engine symptom.

Toyota Granvia 1996 ECU model made by Denso

Although there’s a wealth of information on the web, it seemed no one has encountered a problem like this or published a report of one that I could find. I decided to post this article as a contribution to the growing list of problems owners encounter, no matter how unique it may be!

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32 thoughts on “Toyota Granvia: At the Mercy of the Computer

  1. If we had a reliable and efficient public transport system much like our neighbours, I would be a regular commuter and time-share the family vehicle. I would probably still own a car but drive it much less when it isn’t needed.

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  4. Pingback: Jessie

    • HI CAN ANYONE HELP WITH A CONTINUING PROBLEM WITH MY TOYOTA GRANVIA PROBLE.I TAKE OUT THE CAR,COME BACK HOME AND WHEN I SWITCH OFF THE ENGINE AND TRY AGAIN IT WILL NOT KICK IN THE BATTERY IS FINE.I AM DESPARATE FOR INFO.HAVE HAD THE CAR ALMOST 1 YEAR AND HAVE HAD PROBLEMS WITH WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE ALARM SYSTEM,I HAVE NOW DISCONNECTED THE ALARM AND STILL NO LUCK.VERY GRATEFUL FOR ANY HELP.KINDEST REGARDS,NICK.TOYOTA GRANVIA AUTOMATIC 3 LITRE.

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      • Nick,

        Just curious, how long do yo have to wait before the engine would start again? I imagine at some point, you managed to start it before you discover it wouldn’t start again. Aside from alarm, does it have a turbo timer installed too?

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        • HI JAN,MANY THANKS FOR YOUR REPLY.THE GRANVIA IS STILL AT THE GARAGE.HAD ITS FULL SERVICE,FILTERS ETC.NOW WILL NOT START AT ALL.THEY HAVE HAD MANY MECHANICS AND NO-ONE CAN FIND THE FAULT.WHEN IT WAS WITH ME,IT WOULD NOT REATRT AFTER A DAY,BUT LEFT FOR A FEW DAYS WOULD THEN START.I REALLY DO NOT WHERE TO GO WITH THIS NOW JAN.ANY FURTHER SUGGESTIONS.KINDEST REGARDS,NICK

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          • Nick, I feel your frustration. The trouble with cars driven by so much electronics is the inability to trace the source when problems occur even with a compatible On Board Diagnostics sometimes. Error codes are vague at best and unless you have a trained mechanic, it takes a lot of trial and error before you finally see the light. It would be quicker if they could find another similar model, swap the ECU etc to see if that changes anything.

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          • Hi I had the same problem with a Nissan van would start and run all day but when it was switched off it would restart for many hours after trying many garages sort out the problem my self it had a cracked air mass meter it would expand when hot but was o k when cold so that what you should try if it has an air mass meter. best of luck

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  5. I found you while searching google today. You’ll be happy to know your site was at the top of the results. Anyway. I added you to my Digg bookmarks. Good stuff!

    Thank you Jessie. Your comment got buried in an avalanche of comments that poured in and I think I missed it earlier until Johnny’s comment that steered me to this page.

    thanks for the hints about dodgy electrics,you can spend a lot of time looking in the wrong direction !

    The new generation vehicles are all computerised and that scares me! It scares me to think that in a matter of 10-15 years when all the old school cars are no longer road worthy and scrapped, many jobs will be lost! I used to hang out at workshops enough to see the kind of problems that plagued cars, quite an alarmingly number of cases were ECU related. With today’s electronics sophistication and manufacturer adament to stop unauthorised removal of the computers, what’s there left to do besides oil and filter change!

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  6. Thank for the info.
    Hey, your father is good in electronics. Got problems with the ECU too. I think this is the worse that can happen while using your van intermittent stoppage. Totally dead engine while on the road but when you start it start again.
    Do you have any more stuff related to the ECU?

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    • I don’t have much experience dealing with faulty ECUs in the past.
      Even as I was messing with an aftermarket ECU in my Subaru WRX years
      ago, engine stalling came from user error when entering parameters
      that controlled engine behaviour. As for the Granvia’s ECU, I was
      fortunate that the problem (leaky condensers) was obvious. Like my
      mom who has green fingers, my dad is extremely knowledgeable with all
      things electronics and sometimes his approach to troubleshooting just
      baffles me. I’m glad you stopped by and I have very little
      information to offer you with regards to ECU. I’m sure you’ll fare
      better with Google.

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  7. If it is not asking to much Ian, does your ECU have this Toyota part # 89661-26170 or Denso 175800-1333 12V?
    The toyota service manual indicates some outright problem in the ECU which is a very costly option for a poor Filipino like me. So I am looking out for the other sources of information like you and the internet.

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    • Well, my unit has both TOYOTA & DENSO numbers on
      the top sticker. Not sure how this information is
      useful but here you go. These cars are sold as
      gray import only so there’s no real support for Granvia’s in Brunei.

      TOYOTA 8966126280
      DENSO 1758001543 12V

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  8. Is your granvia from japan model 2000 and 4WD? because your ECU is similar to the toyota prado 1KZ-TE.

    Mine is a toyota super custom 1kz-te 3.0li. yours being a newer model uses a much newer ECU. I wonder how much that ecu cost in brunei.

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  9. As far as I am aware, all Granvias are Japanese domestic-spec vehicles. I may be wrong but I noticed that the Granvias that are sold in the UK, New Zealand etc are gray-imported from Japan. The registration papers from Japan has my car stated at 1996 which makes the car 12 years old this year. Interesting that the 1KZ-TE ECU has enjoyed a long and useful shelf life.

    As for cost of the ECU, provided it’s at all available in the used market, I can help you check. My car is RWD. Reply with details of ECU part number and I’ll see if the shops have them. They are located in the Brunei capital and are a little over an hour’s drive away.

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  10. Sorry for the late response my kids had school works to research. Here is my ECU. It have this Toyota part # 89661-26170 or Denso 175800-1333 12V?
    Good for your units that comes from Japan there is no need for conversion.
    Well thanks for taking the time and trouble of looking for the price for me.

    Some how I hope this diagram will help you in your future ECU troubles. If not you your father perhaps.
    this diagram is for Toyota part # 89661-26170 or Denso 175800-1333 12V? japan’s super custom model’94
    I hope that it is similar with your TOYOTA 89661-26280
    DENSO 175800-1543 12V. Please tell me if they are different
    http://ferrit.ozonejunkie.com/gallery/d/11701-1/1KZTEWIRINGKZN130.png

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  11. tengo problemas con la instalacion electrica de la ECU 88661 – 26170 si alguien me podria facilitar el diagrama de conexion se lo agradeceria mucho o por lo menos donde encontrarlo

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  12. Hi
    Don’t know if anyone is still following this post ?
    I have a problem with my Granvia. It is a 2000 3 litre auto with the KZ-TE engine.
    some time ago the engine warning light came on, and the car went into ‘limp home mode’.
    I have had it diagnosed by several garages and all tests point to a Fuel/Timing problem.
    I have had the whole fuel pump stripped, the injectors tested, the timing tested and the sensors checked, but still no one can find the sourse of the problem.
    I have also had the EGR blanked to test that side of things to no avail ?
    Has anyone else had a problem like this ? Could it be the ECU itself ? I personally don’t fancy opening up the ECU..
    Any comments are truly welcome…Cheers

    stevijacksonATtalktalkDOTnet

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    • Hello Stevi,

      Sure sounds like you’ve gone through a lot. I have had my share of troubleshooting over the years and just a few months ago, pre Japan earthquake and tsunami, I had an ECU shipped to me and that fixed the erratic cold start, high revving, glow plug warning issues I had.

      I think you’ll have better results at http://www.toyota-granvia.co.uk/

      All the best.

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      • Jan
        Thanks for the reply. The van is going under it’s 3rd diagnostic check tomorrow, here’s hoping.
        If no luck then a replacement ecu will be my last resort i think.

        Thanks again..

        Stevi

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  13. Hello,
    Really useful info here – thanks. I have a Granvia and I want to access the data from ECU so I can pull off RPM/Speed etc rather than fault codes. Do you know if the Granvia uses the standard OBD1/2 connectors or has it’s own connector?
    Thanks
    Ben

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    • Hi Ben, I have no idea. The only car I’ve ever had any experience OBD-ing to was my Subaru Impreza WRX, a much newer manufacture than my Granvia. Unfortunately, with the Granvia, I don’t spend much time with it other than drive and change its oil unlike my fascination for the Impreza and even that was sometime back. Sorry I can’t be of much help.

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