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Toyota Camry Basic Maintenance Questions



  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I fully agree on the trans fluid -- why take a chance on your transmission for the relatively small extra cost of the proprietary fluid?
  • you are so right. I asked the toyota guy and he said the T-IV ATF is some synthetic blend. It was $4 a quart. At least they just say drop the ATF and add back fresh. In the honda's, they say to drop and refill 3-4x to completely or nearly completely remove the old fluid. I got a qt of honda about a year ago and it was $4, last week it was almost $5. At 3 qts per drop and 4 drops that's 12 qts or 60 bucks. What sucks is you're tossing a lot of good fluid out to just dilute out the bad and "manually flush" the system. I read at valvoline that they have ATF's for some special cars that require the OEM fluid. Didn't see one for honda or toyota but like others on the car talk have said "it's insurance and you don't change it that often". I won't use anything other than the OEM's in that department but I'm going prestone extended life in the accord and toyota after the warranty is over. Same with DOT 3/4 brake fluid and PS fluid. I use castrol in both cars exclusively now. Might change once they get past 100K to other name brands. Thanks for your reply. Oh yeah, the sonata (hyundai) says dex III can be used for the trans.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    "I'm going prestone extended life in the accord and toyota after the warranty is over."

    Funny you should mention that... I'm using Wal-Mart's "SuperTech" extended life antifreeze in my '03 Sonata V6. SuperTech is made for Wal-Mart by Prestone and is chemically identical to the Prestone branded product. (Much of the back-of-the-jug blather is word-for-word identical on both jugs, too.) $5.84/gal.

    "Oh yeah, the sonata (hyundai) says dex III can be used for the trans."

    Careful there - not sure what model year you're referring to, but Hyundai hasn't recommended Dexron III for over a decade in their automatics. Hyundai specificaly recommends SP-III for all automatics from model year 2000, now - even those originally calling for SP-II. Speaking of SP-II, it's an obsolete classification, now, but when it was current, Mitsubishi and Hyundai both allowed Chrysler ATF+3 as an acceptable substitute. Chrysler's since superceeded ATF+3 with ATF+4 - around 1997 or 1998, I believe. I've seen nothing in print that qualifies ATF+4 as equivalent to SP-III, but one of the members of the oil forum I hang around on posted that his Hyundai dealership's service manager told him that ATF+4 would not void his powertrain warranty. On its face, this has the ring of truth, but I'm always leery about second and third hand information... (especially on the internet) Besides, ATF+4 has typically been priced in the six-to-seven dollar/qt range - definitely pricier than SP-III. But, here's where the picture begins to clear: Chrysler just recently announced that the company'll license the ATF+4 formula for aftermarket blending and bottling, and sales through mass market retailers. Presumably that'll result in some serious discounting. Once that happens, and IF Hyundai issues a TSB that ATF+4 is an acceptable substitute for SP-III, I won't hesitate at all to flush and refill my Sonata with ATF+4. Sorry to get off topic on a Toyota discussion, but just maybe we're seeing the first cracks in stealership proprietary fluids extortion among all makes. (And, golly, wouldn't that just be too bad?)
  • does anyone know how and where to replace a cabin air filter. there are no instructions or mentioning for a cabin air filter.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    I don't know for certain, either, but my first guess would be in the heater core-A/C evaporator casing behind the dash. I would expect removing the glove bin would allow access - look for a "door" or removable panel that allows access to the filter.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I answered this already in "problems and solutions." Access is behind the glove compartment, at least in 2002-06 Camry sedans. See your owner's manual.
  • Hi pals:

    I've recently bought a '01 Camry with 46 K miles on it. It was previously a lease vehicle and does not have any records of maintenance. I've driven about 1500 miles by now, 90 % interstate....and see no problems. What maintenance would you all advise?

    1. Auto transmission flush & fill ?
    2. Radiator flush?
    anything else...please advise.

    I would appreciate any answers.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    "I've driven about 1500 miles by now, 90 % interstate....and see no problems."

    By the time you do experience problems, it's too late... Both services you listed (as pre-emptive maintenance) are excellent ideas. If you take your car to an independent shop (or do the work yourself), INSIST on Toyota's pink long-life antifreeze/coolant concentrate, and Toyota's "T-IV" ATF. I'd also consider having the brake system flushed and refilled with fresh fluid*. (You don't have to be brand-anal, here, but stick with a well known brand such as Wagner, Prestone, Castrol, etc., and be sure that its "DOT" specification [(Department of Transportation]) is listed. DOT 3 is adequate, but for just fifty or seventy-five cents more per pint, DOT 4 has an even higher boiling point for enhanced performance.)

    *Brake fluid is a polyglycol alcohol and readily absorbs moisture from the atmosphere over time. Since water has a much lower boiling point than brake fluid, in severe conditions, when the accumulated moisture content boils to vapor, the brake pedal will go spongey on you - not at all a very reassuring experience, especially in hilly or mountanous terrain.
  • Thank you Haefr !!!
  • lmacmillmacmil Posts: 1,758
    I'd look at the air cleaner also and replace if it looks dirty. Also look at the front brake pads to see how much is left. Lube all the hinges and the weather stripping. Check the pressure in the spare tire. See what the owner's manual recommends at 45K.
  • Okay, this is really silly -- but where in the world do I find the air filter on my 05 Camry XLE? The one under the hood, not the cabin air filter. I bought a K&N filter and went out to install it yesterday and I'll be darned if I can find the air filter. The owner's manual says nothing about it. It's in plain sight on my Grand Marquis. Thanks for the help.
  • jdeibjdeib Posts: 70
    That's not a silly question. On the 4cyl Camrys it is directly behind the Battery. The big black rectangular box. It is a little tricky to get the top off though. You need to loosen a bolt on the front and one in the rear of the box. Then, pry it open, but be careful because the left side interlocks and you need to gently pry it apart. You won't completely remove the lid because the lid is connected to the engine via a tube. But you can open it enough to access the filter.

    But I have a question. Does your K&N require any modifications to the filter box? A lot of their filters do require a modifcation of the filter box or relocation of it which improves air flow and increases power, etc.

    Good luck.
  • My 1997 Camry needs a coolant change, and I decided to do it on my own.
    Wanted to save $40 and just wanted to try something on my own.
    I've never changed anything on my own before.
    I have the Hayne's manual, and it seems coolant change is not that hard to do.
    I have two questions.

    1. there is a splash panel that I have to remove to access the drain. The haynes manual has no picture or description of how to remove it.
    Does anybody have a experience with this? How many screws do I need to remove?
    Can I reach all the screws without lifting the car?

    2. What do I do with the drained antifreeze? Does any gas station or repair shop take this for free? or Do I have to pay for it? How much?
  • OK, I found the air filter box, and you're right, it is tricky to get the top up far enough to get the filter out/in. I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm thinking I may have to unhook the tube but I'm afraid it may not go back together properly and then I'll really be in a pickle. Since I haven't put the K&N in yet, I can't say if it needs modifications, although I don't think it's supposed to need any. The directions do give tips on fitting it properly in the box, so I hope I can get the top up far enough to play with it, if needed. I'll let you know how I make out.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    The splash panel is usually a plastic panel under the radiator. The number of screws will depend on particular body design, but it's not daunting to see how many are involved. Once the panel is off, you shouldn't have any trouble locating the drain cock. On most Asian cars it's a plastic threaded plug with an obvious finger tab. It may be pointed straight down, or toward the rear. You might need a pair of plyers to loosen it, but do NOT use anything other than snug finger-tight when replacing it. Virtually all current Japanese radiators use plastic top and bottom shells. If you over-torque the drain plug when re-installing it, you can strip the threads on the plug (minor problem that requires a new plug) and/or the bottom shell into which it's threaded (major problem that requires a new radiator). When you remove the plug, keep an eye out for a sealing o-ring. Sometimes the #@&;%ed things seperate as the plug comes free and roll merrily away. (If you lose it, you can usually find the right size replacement at any home center's plumbing department - just take the plug along to verify a snug fit.) You should be able to get to it and the shield without using ramps or jacking the car up (leastways, I've never needed to on any of the cars I've changed the coolant out of).

    Drain the old coolant into a large pan - something that'll hold five or six quarts. Do NOT pour old coolant onto the street or into storm drains. (The stuff's very toxic and cats and dogs will drink it because of its pleasantly sweet odor and taste. Since coolant is brightly colored, kids'll get into it, too. 3 oz. of coolant concentrate is lethal for an adult human male, so you can imagine what a couple of teaspoons full of dilute coolant will do to a small animal or child. The stuff is a neurotoxin and destroys kidneys.) Do not pour it into a septic tank system, either. Some communities will allow flushing coolant through the sewer system (this is NOT the same as storm drains) since glycols are biodegradable. Check with your local sewer department if you're on a sewer system. If they give the OK, just pour the contents into a toilet (it won't overflow since the siphon trap will automatically drain excess as it's poured in. Once you've poured out the pan's contents, one flush will send what's left in the bowl on its way. If your local sewege treatment plant won't allow disposal that way, you have no option but to pour the old coolant into empty containers and turn it in to a collection center. There shouldn't be any fee since you pre-pay a disposal fee as part of the new coolant's purchase price. I believe by law the seller has to accept the old fluid back, but check with the dealer or store from which you purchase the new coolant. Toyotas with all aluminum engines are best serviced with genuine Toyota antifreeze/coolant. Be prepared - it's usually very pricey unless the dealer is running a sale. Genuine Toyota long life antifreeze/coolant concentrate is dyed pinkish-red. Avoid conventional antifreeze concentrates laced with silicates. Those are OK for cast iron engines, but may cause problems with all-aluminum cooling systems. Use distilled water, not hose water, to dilute to 50/50 working concentration. If you really want to do the job right, refill with distilled water, idle the engine 'till HOT (the radiator fans will have come on TWICE) repeatedly until the drained fluid is water-white clear, then pour in a gallon of antifreeze concentrate. This is an afternoon killer, but you'll have removed just about every last vestige of future corrosion causing mineral content. Buy one of the Prestone antifreeze concentration hydrometer gauges at any auto parts store to check and adjust as needed to obtain the final recommended 50/50 concnetration. If you need to clean stuck crud out of the transluscent overflow bottle, remove it, pour a couple of inches of water and a 200-count pack of air rifle BBs in, and swish the combined contents around to loosen the junk. That little trick'll get the overflow bottle back to like-new condition. (Don't forget to rinse it and catch or dispose of the BBs.)

    MOST IMPORTANTLY!!! When you remove the radiator cap, if you see sludgy scum floating on top or visible scale deposits in the radiator core channels, seal 'er back up and just drive the car to a shop to have the cooling system completely flushed professionally. You waited way too long and you got way more problems than shade-tree mechanic-ing can deal with.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I had a 1997 Camry 4-cylinder. I used to change the coolant myself. You do not have to remove the splash shield at all. There is a small cut-out in the splash shield around the drain for the radiator, on the left (driver's side) of the car. If you have the V6 engine, there shouldn't be any difference with the radiator setup.

    haefr said, If you really want to do the job right, refill with distilled water, idle the engine 'till HOT (the radiator fans will have come on TWICE) repeatedly until the drained fluid is water-white clear, then pour in a gallon of antifreeze concentrate.

    I agree -- to a point. It's risky to let the engine get that hot and then drain the hot water and remaining coolant. You can easily be burned seriously. I'd recommend just warming up the engine long enough so that the upper radiator hose becomes warm - this means the thermostat has opened and the water/coolant is circulating through the radiator and engine. KEEP THE RADIATOR CAP OFF THE WHOLE TIME you are doing this. This keeps the water pressure from building up. Then shut off the engine and drain the radiator. The water will still be hot, so be careful.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    My advice, which you may not want to hear, is to return the K&N filter. I think they are overhyped. It can be tricky getting the air box back together properly. You don't need to undo the tube at all. But if you don't get it back right, then you'll allow unfiltered air to get into your engine. I'd recommend just putting it all back together now, unless someone can help you do it correctly.

    At least the current generation (2002-06) Camry is better in this regard than the last generation (1997-2001).
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    "I'd recommend just warming up the engine long enough so that the upper radiator hose becomes warm - this means the thermostat has opened and the water/coolant is circulating through the radiator and engine."

    No it hasn't and no it isn't. While the coolant in a "warm" hose may be uncomfortably warm but for the insulating effect of the rubber hose, it's by no means up to minimum temp to open the thermostat. (Thermostats on modern cars don't even begin to open until 180 degrees F. and that's HOTTER than the maximum setting of a residential hotwater heater. They're not fully opened until coolant temperature reaches over 200 degrees F. -- that's even HOTTER, yet.) The ONLY way the thermostat can be verified as having opened and is remaining open is when the radiator fan(s) have activated TWICE. (Some auto manufacturers' shop manuals advise waiting until the fan(s) come on a third time...) The first time is a "false alarm" due to a partial opening that closes as soon as the charge of uncirculated, coolant in the radiator moves through the engine and briefly closes the thermostat again. In the meantime, hot coolant has moved into the radiator so that the second time the fans come on, the thermostat will have opened and is remaining open, even if only minimally. The bottom tank of the radiator, however, is always the coolest point (relatively) since that's the egress point of cooled coolant back to the engine. Caution is always the order of the day when working with the cooling system, but a brief splash of coolant from the bottom of the tank from an engine only idling and then shut down will not scald. (though it'll get your attention...) Use of a denim/leather work glove to open the radiator petcock will elliminate even that possibility. The use of safety goggles to prevent an eye splash is a good idea, too.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I'm not going to get into an argument with you, but a first-timer does need to be especially cautious, and not just when opening the drain, but particularly when removing the radiator cap from a hot engine. Or do you agree with my advice about leaving the cap off while warming the engine? (Some of the water will bubble out with the cap off.)

    With a fully warmed-up engine, if the cap is left on, you have the very real risk of scalding fluid blowing out of the radiator when you open the cap, unless you wait a long time for the engine to cool. Having gloves on or even goggles isn't going to protect the rest of your face/neck.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    "Or do you agree with my advice about leaving the cap off while warming the engine? (Some of the water will bubble out with the cap off.)"

    Are you aware that radiators are intentionally designed with a safety pressure-vent position midway through the cap's rotation? This position is reached well before the point of actual removal, so it allows safely venting pressure while the cap is still securely held to its radiator mount (some hot liquid will burble out, too, but it's directed downward toward the radiator). The use of a workglove to rotate the cap to the vent position, as I mentioned, would eliminate a scalding splash. Since you interpreted my attempt at explanation as mere infantile arguing, rest assured it won't happen again.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Yes I am aware of the halfway point of the radiator cap, but I still think a first-timer should leave the cap off entirely, especially if the engine is going to be fully warmed up. That halfway point is not all that obvious. So it's safest in my opinion to leave the cap off altogether.

    By the use of the word "argue," I simply meant I didn't want to start any disagreement with you; I just thought the first-timer should be aware of the very real risk of a severe burn. Thanks for your understanding at keeping things civil here.
  • 2005 Camry 4cyl. Service Required lite came on. What can this mean?
    Thank You
    Ron M
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Do you mean "Maintenance required?" It comes on at 5000, 10,000, 15,000 miles, etc. as a reminder to change your oil and filter.

    Oil already changed? Your owner's manual tells you how to reset the light.
  • Alright i have a small minor problem. When i changed my oil about a thousand miles ago my mechanic recommended me in changing my air filter. the problem is i will have the 60,000 mile maitaince in about 8000 miles. It has been about 20,000 miles since i changed the air filter, which is way overdue for a air filter change, so should i wait or change it myself.

    Also when do i change my timing belt. I've heard 65000 and 90,000. Also i've heard that i should also change the water pump at the same time.
  • typesixtypesix Posts: 320
    Take out air filter and hold it up to a light bulb, if the light comes thru clearly, the filter is still good. Check owner's manual under severe service conditions for timing belt change interval, some are 60k and some are 90 k or more.Yes, it's good ideal to change water pump, especially if it's driven by the timing belt, cheaper than having to change the timing belt again if the water pump goes.
  • what is the life span of a water pump. i took my car into dealer for check-up w/ 60k, and they told me i had to change my water pump. thoughts?
  • its anywhere from 75k to 90k miles that the T-belt should be replaced depending on the driving. and as far as the water pump... keep your coolant system clean and it will last longer, replace it now and you dont have to worry about it for another 90k to 120k, under normal wear. (not accounting for pump failure)
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    i had the T-belt replaced at 100K miles and I consider I drive my car under normal condition.
    I also do my oil change every 5K and so far everything works fine to me
    My view is if a Korean car can have 100K mile maintaince free, my toyota should have the same or even better quality. Sometime the deal just want to make money from you by "suggesting" we do this and that. Hey, if somethings going to break, they will break and I just wait until that time to fix it.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    Generally, I agree with your cautious approach towards taking every little take-yer-moneyship "suggestion" with a grain of salt. But, keep in mind that when some things break, they end up taking something else equally or more expensive with them that could've been avoided. In other cases, a suggestion to take action may be in relation to something safety-related - brakes, steering, exhaust leak, etc. Only a moron would blithely ignore a safety-related warning. I may not have the take-yer-money-ship do safety-related service, but I'll sure as heck get a second opinion from an expert. Don't confuse maintenance intervals with warranties. Korean cars are not maintenance-free over 100,000 miles. (leastways, my '03 Sonata owner's manual makes no such claim)
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