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Toyota Camry Check Engine Light - Catalytic Converter

Hi Folks, Can anyone help me? I have a 2001 Toyota Camry LE, 4 Cyl with 125K miles and I'm going on my fifth (that's right 5) catalytic converter. I bought the car used from a dealer and a short time later the Check Engine Light came on (42K mi.). The dealer said it was the catalytic converter and replaced it under warranty. About 1 year later, same thing (different dealer)(62K mi.). About 2 years later same thing only this time not covered under warranty and many other parts including sensors were noted. I took it to my mechanic who told me 2 Oxygen Sensors and 2 Cat Converters were bad. The sensors were probably bad all along and they would make the cat converters go bad over time. I spent the $2K+ and thought it would be fine. 6 Months later, same thing. My mechanic replaced the converter under warranty. 6 Months later same thing light came on. My mechanic says it's the cat converter again. Only now he not so sure given the number of times I've been through this. Here is my question: Could this be the oil gel problem? Note: Oil is changed regularly. No blue smoke or oil consumption evidence. My mechanic ruled this out based on his knowledge of the vehicle. If not oil gel, what else could it be? (My next step is calling the Car Guys.)
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Comments

  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Seems like you're burning a mixture in your cylinders that the cat converters don't like. You'd think the replacing the oxygen sensors would tell the computer to change the mixture, but perhaps either that isn't happening or some other sensor is bad.

    Are you loosing coolant (like caused from a blown headgasket)? or perhaps is something off in the timing?
  • Sorry I do not have an answer for you but I do have a question. I have a 2002 LE with 150,000 miles and the check engine light has been on for 4 or 5 months. I took it to the dealer last week and he is claiming that I need a new catalytic converter and possibly one or two sensors. Cost for the catalytic convertor installed is $850.00 and each sensor is $250.00, does this sound right?
    What is the downside of doing nothing? I would like to drive this car as long as possible but spending $1350.00 when the car is running like a charm seems crazy.
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Well Zoom,

    Many if not most states, will not pass your vehicle for state inspection if the check engine light is on. Perhaps where you live it is different, but you should be aware of that protential exposure.

    Secondly, you may have caused more damage already, due to not taking action at the first sign of a problem. For instance, you could have had one faulty sensor originally, and because you drove it for another 5 months you actually then damaged the catalytic converter beyond repair. The sensors tell the engine computer how well and complete it is burning the mixture, and it lets the computer adjust the mixture and timings correctly. If your engine is now running lean, you could end up burning the valves in the engine and then you are in for some big buxx. Running to rich, ruin the converter. Hard to know how many miles you put on in 5 months, and how much fuel was put thru the engine.

    If it was me, I'd clear the error codes and then after the error code sets again take it to an autoparts chain where they will read the codes for you. I personally have a reader as they are now relatively cheap, but many of the chains (pep boys, autozone, etc) will read it for you for free. That code (search on the internet if you don't have the service manuals) will suggest the first failing component, which very well might be the first in line Oxygen sensor.

    I don't know the cost of a sensor for your car, but they typically run around 50-100 bucks, plus installation which is usually pretty easy. I would not delay getting this problem identified and resolved, and you may find it doesn't need all of the parts suggested.
  • Zoom500
    The prices sound about right for a dealer. From my experience go with the dealer installed opart and get the longest possible warranty. My mechanic did some research about using after market parts for the catalytic converters and they typically don't last as long. In my case, as Kiawa pointed out, the mixture seems to be "destroying" the after market cat converters.

    Make sure you have a dealer you can trust and if they suggest replacing the O2 sensors then you should as they will cause the cat converters to fail if they are not fuunctioning properly. (The sensors are used by the computer to adjust the fuel mixture.) If you're not sure the dealer is being straight, take it to your local mechanic for 2nd opinion. If he is reputable he will charge you a nominal fee to diagnose, $50 or so, and it may be worth it for the piece of mind.

    Best of luck.

    PS - Thanks for the input Kiawa. The mechanic did check the things you suggested and was not able to find a problem. The cat converter will be replaced under warranty (again) and I will see what happens in 6 months. After that I will get the dealer replacement. Even at $2K for a fully warranteed repair it is still cheaper than buying a new car.
  • sunporchsunporch Posts: 1
    Chet,
    I replaced my cat converter at 107,000 miles Oct. 2006 on my 2003 Camry. That was after a year of an off and on check engine light. It cost me right around $250.00 which was mostly labor charges at the dealership. I've since found an excellent Toyo mechanic that happens to be a Master Toyota mechanic that does all my work for a third of the cost.
  • sratliffsratliff Posts: 1
    i took my 2002 camry to the dealer for the check engine light and was told i needed a new cat converter. the price was high so i called a different place. the person told me it could be $200 or $800 depending on which one it is. is there more than one cat converter on a toyota camry or is he shooting me load of crap?
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    There's almost certainly a difference between the 4-cylinder and the V6. There's also a possibility that cars sold under California's emission standards may have different cats.
  • noa123noa123 Posts: 1
    Sunporch,
    I have a 2001 corolla w. over 112k miles. I was just told by my dealer ( in NJ) that I need replace my cat converter for my car w. $23K after they diagnosed my check engine light. Why the cost you paid and the one I was told is 10 times different?
    I went to autopartswarehouse.com searching the cat converter for my car. The highest parts price is about $400, and the lowest is around $70. I know those are after market parts, but who can tell me the difference? ( I searched the online, there is no official toyota parts price online.)
    I paid 100 bucks to my dealer for my check engine light diagnosis, do I need pay another 50 bucks to another mechanic for a 2nd opinion?
    On April 2007, that dealer just changed the 222204-15010 meter sub-assy, INTA for my car since the check engine' light was on. Is the present problem can be related to the previous one?
    What should I do next? The light has been on since July 10, 2008, should I still drive to the place 100 miles away from my house?
  • reppyreppy Posts: 3
    I have a 2006 Camry LE V6 with about 90k miles. It drives fine BUT for this problem. When ever I accelerate, it vibrates. The harder the acceleration, the harder you notice the vibration. If i am maintaining same speed irrespective of how fast, it rolls just fine. if i accelerate slow, you might not notice the rattle. I have had my check in engine light on for some weeks now. I have been to the dealership about this vibration and they say its the catalytic converter. I am wondering, can this really be the cause of the vibration on acceleration? I am thinking after reading posts here, that something should have made it go bad. However, these guys are not telling me anything thing like that. They just told me I need to change the front and the rear and slam me a bill of $1900 to get both cat converters replaced. I really want to be sure this is the cause of my problem. any suggestions to the cause of this vibration? Thanks folks.
  • chovichovi Posts: 1
    My Camry is a 2001 and has a little bit over 150,000 miles. A week ago I went to my mechanic an he told me that needed to change the 2 O2 sensors, which he did and an hour later the light went on again, the cat was changed a little over 2 years and did not a problem until last couple of months. My question is, do you think I will need to change the cat again?
  • Doubt if Catalytic Converter is causing the car to run bad.

    The exhaust is already gone and in the converter and doesn't effect engine unless there is a back pressure issue. This could cause loss of power and backfiring and eventual shut-off.

    Instead get the code for the Catalytic Conv. problem. The code can be read with a tool at Autozone. They will check it for you for free. Theres so many codes for the electronic ignition and emission system. This will narrow it down to a specific symptom.

    The converter could effect the pollution if raw gas gets in it. A bad ignition coil causes raw fuel to go out the exhaust ruining it over time. This would may cause a higher reading of Nitrous gases or the Hydrocarbons it is suppose to burn in the converter.

    The post before mentions poor acceleration. This could be a bad ignition part like the wire or coils if it has separate coils for each cylinder. If not it might just be a spark plug wire going bad.
  • I've got an 02 Camry LE 4cyl with ~ 254k miles and just had to replace the catalytic converter for the second time.

    Had to replace the catalytic converter when the check engine light came on for the first time back in 11/04 when the vehicle had 139k miles. Toyota was kind enough to do a "good will" no charge warranty replacement.

    Once again within the past 6 mos or so, the check engine light came back on again and catalytic converter needed replacement again. Total cost to repair at Dealer this time around was $617 which included $377 for the part, $53 for gaskets and $187 for labor.

    According to my dealer, I should expect this to occur every 100k miles give or take. He further explained that today's fuel mixtures are harder on the cat converters, thus causing them to fail earlier/more frequently. Don't know if this is true or not, but this is what my dealer told me so take it FWIW.

    Other then the issues with the cat converter, I can't complain much about the reliability of my Camry as I've pretty much had 254k trouble free miles and going strong.
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Where do you live that you are racking up that many miles each day? That's great service from that 4 cylinder, hope I'm as lucky!
  • Charlotte metro area... Wife drove the Camry first couple of years and logged a ton of miles due to multi-state territory. Now, it gets driven as daily commuter car up and down I-77. At 255k miles, it shows no signs of slowing down. People that get in it can't believe the mileage it has on it given its condition. Here's wishing you as many trouble free miles with yours as we've had with ours...
  • ssubssub Posts: 2
    FYI: I have a 1999 4Cyl Camery LE. Check engine light came ON at 56k, took it to the dealer. They asked $110 for the diag. & end of diag. asked to replace the Cat. converter $850. I took the car to my mechanic and he suggested that it could be sensor or converter, we changed the sensor first (sensor+labor $250) and re-seted the check engine light. so far its running good 57500miles now.
  • I have a 2001 Toyota Camry LE w/124k miles(Original Owner) and the check engine light came on about a week ago. I took it to a auto parts store and they checked the computer with a code reader. The Code P0420 appeared and said 'Catalyst Efficiency Below Threshold, Bank 1'. Both O2 sensors have been replaced within 25k miles. In the Haynes book, it talked about A/F sensor. I would like to know if could be this sensor, the catalytic converter or the 2 other O2 sensors(Upstream sensor replaced by Dealer and downstream replaced w/aftermarket). Is it normal for a catalytic converter to go bad...I thought they last pretty long. I would like to take care of the problem myself...especially how the economy is but at the same time if I have to go to the dealer, I will go because I like my car. Which sensor should I replace or is the catalytic converter bad?
    Thanks!
  • ab4dab4d Posts: 4
    I am dealing with the exact same issue on my 04 Camry with 152k on the odometer. About a week ago the check engine light came on. I own a code reader which indicated that the upstream O2 sensor had failed. I went to the local autoparts store to purchase the sensor and was advised that I should replace both the upstream and downstream (below the converter) sensors at the same time.
    The funny thing is the sensors were boxed as aftermarket Bosch, but actually the upstream was stamped "Toyota" and the downstream was stamped "Denso" which I believe both are OEM Toyota.

    I went ahead and installed both sensors and the check engine light disappeared for about a day. The next day about halfway home from work (80 miles one way) the check engine light came on again, this time giving the code of P0420 which indicates the converter has failed.

    I took the car to the dealer and asked them to check the new sensors to ensure that I had not recieved a bad sensor. The dealer did not bother to test them, and just assumed that they were good. He quoted $795.00 to replace the converter which he did not have in stock. I asked him how did he know that the converter was bad, and did he test the emissions from the tailpipe? He advised that he did not have the equipment to test the emissions and also admited that if the downstream sensor was bad it would indicate P0420.

    My advice is to get the emissions from the tailpipe checked before you shell out for a converter, I know I am.
  • toptechtoptech Posts: 11
    First Id like to say I have fixed a lot of the po 420 codes on california and fedaral emission camrys 4 and 6 cyl. 9 out of 10 times it is from a failing cat. I have never ever seen a rear sensor cause a po 420 code. As a sensor fails It generally gets lazy not switching fast enough. On a car with a working cat the rear 02 sensor should look lazy and have very little activity at all, unlike like the frt air fuel sensor on a calif car, or an 02 sensor on a federal. If u have not noticed way to many waste money on the sensors because they have no clue what they are looking at It is very easy to diagnose this code if u have any clue what u are doing.The frt air fuel sensor can only be tested using a lab scope. Also aftermarket cats absolutely do not work on california emissions vehicles or they work for an extremely short time .On the later model camry 4cyl around 97 to 02? They have 2 cats one in the manifold and one in the frt pipe. If u are having the 420 code u could opt to try changing the front cat ( part of the frt manifold) As it is substantially cheaper then the rear. But both are monitored by the computer. I bet these people changing cats every 6 months are putting on junk aftermarket!!!!!!! The rear factory cat is around 1100 no way u are changing that every 6 months. And if the vehicle is running correctly easy to ck by cking fuel trims should last 100k or more. Please any questions u can e mail me.brad2500hd@aol.com
  • tmoney4tmoney4 Posts: 8
    I have a 2001 4cyl Camry 125kmiles and had the ck engine lt on and live in the northeast area. I went to autozone to ck the code and of course the P0420 popped up. Both sensors were replaced( 1 by the dealer at 90k miles and the 2nd by myself w/aftermarket sensor at 110k miles) I wasn't sure if it was the catalytic converter or not(maybe in denial cause it cost a lot to replace) but to make sure, I disconnected the battery overnite to reset the computer. The next morning, I connected it and the ck eng lite was gone and it hasn't come on ever since. The question is that is my catalytic converter bad or what? Did I do more damage by just resetting the computer or was it just an error? I assume if the cat was bad, the code would pop up. If I'm doing an injustice by resetting the computer tell me so, if not i guess nothing was wrong. I just hope i am not doing any damage.
    Thanks
  • toptechtoptech Posts: 11
    Belive it or not it will be back on. If u had the code cleared it may stay out for several weeks or even a month Trust me it will be back. U will do no more damage to ur car if u clear it everytime it comes back on. But in most states it it has a code current ot in memory it will fail for an emissions sticker. I bet u have a cat that is borderline bad and under the rite circumstances ie load emgine temp fuel trims. The comp will pick up on it and trip the light again. Same thing happens when people replace an 02 sensor thinking they fix this problem and clear the code sometimes the light will stay out for a month til the computer sees the circomstances where the converter is not working the way it should it will put the light back on. Just ck back here when the light comes back on. The 420 code is an emissions code and it wont get u stuck or cause any problems but put the light on and maybe polute a bit more then it should in california standards.
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