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Toyota Camry Check Engine Light - Catalytic Converter

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  • I actually got ripped off on my converter repair by Tuffy Muffler...they quoted me $300 less than Toyota for an aftermarket converter, so I told them to go ahead and repair it. They supposedly thought it was the rear converter and repaired that one. My son drove it away and called me 5 minutes after I paid for it and said the light had come back on. It failed the emissions test and I had to get a waiver to get my new plates on time. Took it back to Toyota dealer and they said Tuffy fixed the wrong one, the main front one was the one that was bad. Tuffy said it would cost $800 more! So I filed a complaint with Better Business Bureau. The only reason i took it to Tuffy was they offered a better price. Toyota wanted $700. Lesson learned...take it to the dealer to repair.
  • aub789aub789 Posts: 19
    Current vehicle is 2001 Camry with 172,000 miles. After almost a full year of on/off again CEL, light came on for good a few weeks ago. Code read P0420. Dealer technician said I needed a new front cat converter (for $1300), so I took it to a local national franchise shop where manager agreed new front cat needed, but only $500. Repair done there, but one week later light back on with same code(PO420). This time he said I needed a front O2 sensor ($250), which was done. (The back O2 sensor was replaced 2 years ago.) Two weeks later, and now CEL on again, same code. Franchise shop has ordered a new converter, and will replace it again at no charge, but I'm worried how long will this fix last? The shop manager says he has never seen a converter go bad so quickly. Is this a problem that will never get fixed, and should I therefore trade/sell this car as quick as the second new converter is installed? I don't think the shop is going to continue replacing a new converter every month. Any advice from others who have fought this demon will be appreciated.
  • mmoenmmoen Posts: 5
    Toyota is the only one that can get the real converter. All others are knock offs and will not last. Any muffler shop that says they can do it, do not trust. I tried 5 different shops in California and was told the same thing, in fact in California it is illiegal for a shop to install knock off converters. Toyota should not charge more then $1000.00, mine cost $930.00 if they do go to the service manager, if that doesn't help go to Toyoya themselves, they do not appreciate dealers trying to rip off there customers.
  • aub789aub789 Posts: 19
    Thanks for your insight. It looks like you may be right on the money. Just had second cat put on today (at no charge) and it lasted all of 23 miles before CEL came back on again. I'll take it back next week and see what the shop manager wants to do now. He acts very nice about this problem, but I know he is sick of seeing me and my Camry. There is a Toyota dealer 1/4 mile from his shop, but I'm going to let him suggest taking it there for further diagnosis/fix ( on his dime). He's already got over $800 of my money. I'll let you know what happens.
  • mmoenmmoen Posts: 5
    One more thing to note, when the converter is replaced the ECM needs to be re-programmed which the muffler shop probably can't do. You need to make sure whoever does this knows how to flash the EPROM properly. If they let the battery voltage get below 12 volts during the process it will corrupt the EPROM and destroy the ECM for which they may try to charge you for. If this ever happens to anybody, don't let them get away with it!
  • ugajustinugajustin Posts: 3
    edited January 2011
    I just wanted to point out our experience. We noticed the CEL (confirmed to be the same code in question here) coming back from my wife's folks house in South Georgia, we live in metro Atlanta. Metro Atlanta is part of the "clean air force" and I assume has different mixes for gas to meet clean air standards. So, we fill up in Atlanta, drive down and back filling up on the way back in central Georgia- with a different gas mix- and the CEL comes on. We reset in Atlanta and fill up no problems for 6+ months. This has happened three times now. This last trip, we did not fill up until getting back to Atlanta, so we isolated the long drive as a cause, and the CEL never came on.

    I think that the sensors in the Cat. or computer are set too strictly in that they do not allow enough variations in gas and the emissions there from.

    I would be interested to hear if others have issues going from one type (area, I hear gas mixes vary by county here in Georgia) of gas mix to another, less "clean" mix. Is the programming to blame?
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I would guess that something isn't right, because the difference in gas mixes shouldn't be enough to cause the check engine light to come on.
  • Sat. Jan 8, 2011 – Emissions Test failed on my 2002 Toyota Camry SE w/ 162k miles (Code P410)

    Fri. Jan 14, 2011 – My trusted mechanic is replacing the cat converter (part + labor = $765)

    Needless to say, I haven’t had a good day today! Looking on the bright side, this car hasn’t had any major problems since purchased except for the routine oil changes, brake and tire replacements.
  • aub789aub789 Posts: 19
    Took car back to local franchise shop yesterday. This time they replaced the second oxygen sensor (at no charge). So far I've put about 100 miles on the car and the light is staying off. So, at this point I have spent $800 and have two new oxygen sensors and a second new cat converter. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the current fix will hold up.
  • My sensor light has been going off and on for about 3 yrs. When I first took it to Toyota, they said they "thought" it was my catalytic converter ($600) and the sensor would probably break and need to be replaced ($200). I didn't appreciate the fact that they could not definitely diagnose my problem, and left. My long time trusted mechanic checked it last fall and could not get past the sensor. I hate to think what Toyota wants now to replace it. My light has not been on for several months (the weather is cold again, and I am using name brand gas), but I am noticing a 'sluggishness'. Any suggestions? I own a 2002 Camry with 131k miles. Has been a wonderful car and I really do not want to replace it!
  • I should have added that my 'long time trusted mechanic' told me that the converter on my Camry is a factory job....has to be done by Toyota!!!!
  • Hello,
    I own a Camry 2002, 4 Cylinder LE Automatic with 140 K miles. I am the first owner (from MA).

    The check engine light has been on and off by itself for the last 6 years(Around 70K miles it started)
    My car is due for the inspection this month and the light is on again.

    I am afraid this message will be a long one but I would like to give you the past history of the vehicle. Before the light started turning on, a Toyota dealer had to replace one of the cylinders at 49K miles at no charge since engine constantly needed to add oil and oil would turn black in every 2 K miles. It took them two weeks to do the job. I don`t know if this is contributing to engine light problem or not.

    When the first time the light came on it was around around 70 K miles, 6 years ago. I took it to a Toyota dealer. They were not able to find the exact reason but said it is due to a small gas leak from the muffler near the engine most likely. Car was taking already contaminated air and that could be the reason for misreading.

    Light turned on mostly at winter months and while driving distances more than 100 miles. And it disappeared by itself in a few months.

    Last year the light turned on one month before the inspection. I still went to inspection and failed.
    I took the car to my mechanic. He changed the oil and the air filter. Light turned off and I tried again and my car passed the inspection.

    Now I have 140K miles and the light came on two months ago. My car is due for inspection this month. I haven`t taken the car to the test yet. My mechanic scanned and the code P0420 came out. It says "Catalyst system efficiency below threshold-bank 1,
    Probable cause 1- AF sensor error 2-Fuel system fault 3-Faulty catalytic converter.
    Mechanic says it could cost up to $2000 `s. He suggests replacing the first cat. converter with an original one from Toyota. If this doesn`t solve the problem then change the evaporator and the second converter.

    I am wondering if the main cause is some kind of disfunction of the replaced Cylinder. Is it possible that the repaired cylinder has been functioning less than perfect and this has been leading to too heavy input into the catalyst system?

    Finally is it worth repairing this car or Should I sell it for parts?(I also feel I will need a new muffler very soon)

    Thank you for your patiance. Sincerely
  • mmoenmmoen Posts: 5
    First I am not sure what you mean by "replaced Cylinder". You can't replace a cylinder. Did they maybe replace a piston and rings? Anyway it doesn't matter. You said before when it failed, you then had the oil and air filter changed (I am assumming you had the oil changed to) and then it passed! Always before an Emmision Inspection have the oil, oil filter and air filter changed! Try that first and see if the code goes out.
    If the Code P0420 does not go out, you will need the 1st cat. con replaced by a Toyota Dealer, as per above posts, if a non Toyota Dealer says he can do it, Stay Away. It should cost no more than $1000.00. The cats are only rated to last for about 100,000 miles. I had to replace last year at $897.00
    -Mike
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Why would you not replace the air flow sensor first (before replacing the O2 sensor or cat), and clean that whole intake area.
  • PD701 transmission code?
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Sure it's not P0701?
  • i have a 2003 camry with about 138K miles on it and had a similar cycle with the check engine light on and off by itself for a few years. same symptoms with the winter months and driving long distances etc etc... inspection time was a stressful part of every year.

    anyways, the car had recently gotten much louder so i worried something was wrong with my muffler too so i took it to toyota to get a diagnostic. the verdict was both front and rear catalytic converters needed to be replaced and it would cost about $1900 to fix. they also confirmed there was a hole in my muffler which was causing it to run loud.

    thankfully i have a friend who used to work at a dealership so i asked him to take a look at my diagnostic before i got the repairs. he gave me a possible explanation and but warned me that it was a long shot. he said that the hole in my muffler could cause the rear catalytic converter to misread since some of the exhaust would be leaking out of the system improperly. The dealership was just seeing the error code and telling me to replace it without really thinking about the problem. And since one converter was failing (that was 8 yrs old), they could tell me the other would need replacing too since it is also 8 yrs old and probably on its way out. anyways i took his advice and replaced my entire exhaust system (cost about $800). check engine light went off and stayed off.
  • amyt12amyt12 Posts: 1
    I have had very similar issues with CEL coming on 3 times over the past 18 months on 3 of 3 trips from SC to Florida. Each time the light came on at Darien, Georgia. Thought CEL could be due to "long trip", but we have driven on many trips through other states and CEL has not come on. Took car to local shop to read (and clear) code. Mechanic suggested "bad gas," from the same station, but I know we did not stop at the same place twice. My uneducated theory was air pollution being picked up by the sensors. My kids hate that stretch of the drive because it smell so bad. Mechanic thought I was a moron!
  • Crazy, we haven't had a problem in months until a recent trip to South Georgia. Maybe there is something to your theory, we did not add gas on the trip. The gnat-to-air-to-gas mix may have been out of spec and triggered the light.
  • Your situation is exactly like mine, at 145k miles. I changed out the O2 sensors and the check engine light went out and I just passed inspection. I googled what the O2 sensors looked like, then found one in the front of the engine and the other just under the front end. It cost me $110 for one, and $125 for the other due to the longer cord to the connector-and I had to buy an 02 socket for $10. When the sensors are fouled, you get a bad reading of Catalytic Converter problems that don't exist-these sensors read Cat problems, but if they don't work they give you bad readings and the check engine light. We unhooked my battery to let the computer restart and it solved a low idle problem I had as well. I hope this helps!
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