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Toyota Camry: Problems & Solutions



  • I just purchased this car (84,500 miles) and was wondering if this year and engine has the infamous Toyota oil gel/sludge problem that I've heard about. Thanks for any help.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    I'm a little suspicious of your shop's recommendation, too. "Clear cherry red" used to be the definitive observation for useable ATF. But with the advent of kevlar-based friction facings, appearance is no longer a reliable indicator. It's not at all uncommon for perfectly viable ATF to take on a dark gray or brown murky appearance in as little as 12,000 to 15,000 miles these days. Smell the fluid on the transmission fluid dipstick. If there's a characteristic petroleum odor, no problem. If the fluid smells burnt (regardless of appearance), then it's definitely time to have it drained and refilled along with a filter change for those trannies still using a serviceable ATF filter. In any case, you can enhance your trannie's life expectancy considerably by having the fluid changed out no later than every 30,000 miles - that's generally the "severe service" recommendation among all car makes. I'd be inclined to at least get a second opinion. An exchange transmission will be around $2,500.00 through a dealer if you have a rebuildable core. If your shop does the rebuild itself or acquires through an independent rebuilder, I have no idea about the pricing, and YOU have no idea of the final quality. Most independent shops don't warranty beyond a year, and many considerably less than that. Final point, your 2002 Toyota transmission uses a proprietary Toyota ATF: "T-IV". There are NO acceptable substitutes because Toyota has not released the forumula for duplication. Substitutes are just their blenders' best guess. Be particularly wary of shops which say it's OK to use Dexron ATF with a supplement that'll make it "just like Toyota's overpriced fluid". It won't. But that shortcut will get the transmission past the shop's nominal warranty period - and, next to making sure your check clears, that's all that type of repair shop cares about.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    Get movin'. One or both rear wheel bearings are shot. Even if only one is going, get 'em both replaced - the other can't be far behind.
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    Yeah, it could be. The only reliable way to tell whether your sample is affected is to pull the cam cover and have a look-see. Black goo on the underside of the cam cover, the rockers and the head "floor" is conclusive proof of oil gelling. If it's on the head, it's in the sump and the oil galleries, too. Do you have a service history on the car? Toyota learned the hard way that 7,500 miles between oil changes is just too long. Their current recommendation for "normal service" is 5,000 miles - even for post-sludgemonster motors. If your motor is sludged up, since you're not the original owner, I don't know whether Toyota's extended warranty for this problem will be applicable. On the other hand, if everything is bright-shiny squeaky-clean (with perhaps just a bit of orange-ish varnish deposits), you lucked into a vehicle who's owner was anal about 3,000 mile oil and filter changes. Best of luck.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "....if the fluid smells burnt..."

    It occurs to me that recognition of ATF smelling burnt or not might be a "learned" thing. Having been around for more years than I like to say I'm sure I know what it smells like but I don't know of any way to relate the "smell" charactoristics in words.

    And "cherry red" is far from how I would describe Toyota's ATF color. More like transparent deep pinkish.
  • That is what I thought it was, but since I never had rear ones go I did not know what to really think. Really bad at between 30-60, not so bad above or below that. That is pretty much all it could be right?
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Camry 4 cylinder engines of that vintage weren't affected as much as 6 cylinder engines.
    Nevertheless, it's not a bad idea to have the check done by removing the valve cover to examine for goop.
    Better still, try and get the maintenance records either from the previous owner or from the dealer who serviced it--if available.
    This sludge issue received much undeserved publicity in the early 2000s, so much so that Toyota issued a SPA (special policy announcement) in 2002 providing free repairs up to 8 years--provided there was proof of at least one oil change per year.
    History has now shown the vast majority of sludge problems occurred in vehicles which were not well maintained. Owners weren't changing oil at all, or going well beyond recommended intervals.
    A number of other makes were plagued with the same undeserved publicity, for the same reason.
    The so called "sludge prone" Toyota engines are reliable as they come--given reasonable maintenance. It's no different for anyone's engines.
  • mca2mca2 Posts: 20
    Well, last night the Check Engine light came on. I have a 2002 Camry V6 SE with 107000 miles. I took it in to the Atlanta Toyota and they stated that both Catalytic converters needed to be replaced and it would cost around 1,600 dollars. This seems a little steep and does this Camry really have two catalytic converters?
  • Hi,
    Looks like the thin shiny plate is missing!
    See the snap below.
  • I can't say specifically for the camry, but it would not surprise me to have a converter on each bank of cylinders. Factory converters will be very expensive, try going to aftermarket. Autozone, Advanced, or Midas should have less expensive converters. It also wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion on whether both are bad.
  • w9cww9cw Posts: 888
    A little steep is an understatement . . .

    I just did a quick lookup at one of my favorite internet parts suppliers, and your Camry V6 has a left and right-side converter, i.e. two converters. The price is $177 each ($354 total); so, yes, I would strongly consider going to aftermarket converters, and also to consider another shop as well, preferably an independent one! Or, consider doing the work yourself, it's not difficult. Time consuming and dirty yes, but not difficult if you have the time and the tools.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The most obvious way for a mechanic/technician to detect that the catalyst is/has failed is via the two oxygen sensors, one each side, downstream of the catalyst.

    I think I would replace the oxygens sensors first, more likely to have failed, common failure, and a lot cheaper and an easy DIY.
  • mca2mca2 Posts: 20
    Thanks for all the feed back. I so the check engine light would have come on b/c the o2 sensor detected fumes from the CAT. Correct? I guess I should get the codes off the OBDII to see what it has recorded. Does the OBD say if the CAT is bad?
  • bobcuibobcui Posts: 8
    I have a 2004 camry with 18,000 miles. After the tire balance/rotation, I noticed a click noise while I turn the stirring wheel left/right. Any help?
  • bildowbildow Posts: 100
    I saw your message I have found if in doubt have a good transmission shop change the trans fluid. I have found that I change my own trans fluid about every 20,000 miles and never had a trans go bad up to 398,000 and still going in a toyota.
    If you sit in traffic a lot as I do I recommend the 20,000 mile trans oil change. Replacing the trans can be expensive and toyota makes good trans just keep them serviced. And another area people over look is the power steering fluid it needs to be changed around 30,000 miles also.
  • I have a 2003 Toyota Camry XLE and this morning when I tried to turn on the cruise control, the cruise control light started blinking and the cruise would not engage. Has anyone else experienced this problem or know what might be causing the problem? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I also thought the sludge thing was overblown. I was one of the participants in the Edmunds' forum in 2000-02, because I had a '97 Camry 4-cylinder, one of the cars eventually covered by Toyota's special policy.

    There was a lot more heat than light shed in that forum! Anyway, I had my car for 7 years and 111K miles, and never had an oil-related problem (and very few other problems). I started out changing the oil at 5K mile intervals (Toyota's severe service recommendation then), and then reduced it to 3K to 4K once I learned of the sludge controversy.
  • brekalbrekal Posts: 7
    Usually this is based on an o2 sensor before and after the cat, and the values are compared to measure efficiency. At least, that's how Ford did it. So you very likely have 4 o2 sensors - 2 upstream and 2 downstream. The diagnosis is usually a comparison of readings and stored codes.
  • 2k1trd2k1trd Posts: 301
    Sounds like a wheel bearing to me.Try jacking up one wheel at a time and spin it by hand and place you other hand on the coil spring or strut.You should be able to feel the roughness in the bad side as you spin the wheel.
  • dghindghin Posts: 1
    I have a 2000 camry v6 le with 70,000 miles. Within the last 4 months the check engine light came on, and I replaced 2 co2 sensors. Now it is on again. Does anyone know why this is happening. I thought a camry was reliable. The car is serviced regularly.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Almost all automatics with this lockup feature will release the lockup clutch the INSTANT you apply the brakes, even braking ever so lightly. Same as you would do with a manual transmission to prevent the engine from stalling as you brake.

    With the lockup clutch disabled you are back to a "slush box" coupling and even if the drive axles (suddenly)come to a complete stop the engine can still run.

    The torque converter, when being used, is very lossy, but due to its ability to multiply engine torque is advantagous overall when accelerating, the engine is producing a significant level of torque.

    So the lockup clutch is not by any means heavy duty, never engaged in low gear ranges, really only engaged during cruise when the drive train is under relatively light torque loading.
  • joescarjoescar Posts: 30
    You need a new intermediate steering shaft. I had the same problem and it took the dealer seven attempts to rectify. It appears that there were many of these defective shafts produced as the problem also affects some Sienna vans which use the Camry platform. The actual problem is in the universal joint of the shaft.Your car is still under warranty so get to a dealer ASAP and get that thing replaced.
  • adbsadbs Posts: 5
    I have a '03 Camry and this past weekend the AC Indicator light started flashing. I looked in my manual and it said that there was a problem with the AC and therefore it automatically shuts off and that it needed to be serviced. I took my car to the shop last night and they just called and said that the main relay switch went out and that it needs to be replaced and that part costs $140.05. He also said that sometimes this doesn't fix the problem and then I would need a new clutch for the compressor and if so, that part costs around $600.00. Should this be happening on a '02 Camry? My husband has a '96 Tacoma and has never had a problem with his air, much less anything else for that matter. Thanks for the help!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    You can probably buy that relay in the parts department for less than $25. But the more typical problem for that indication is a loose or wet accessory drive belt. If the problem is temporary, the belt got wet, the A/C should work the next time you restart the car.

    "....Sometimes doesn't fix the problem..."

    You need a new service advisor/mechanic/technician....

    It's easy enough for anyone to determine if the relay is the problem, simply bypass the relay by connecting battery voltage across the A/C compressor clutch.
  • Hi, I know nothing about cars so i bought a 99 toy camry fig i would not have to fix it.

    Well coming home on thanksgiving, something was ratiling and clicking inside of my engine. Sounded like a lose bolt or one of those kids push vaccums with poppers in it. After one hour of driving while at a stop at a light, the raditor spilled out (craked or a hose busted) and the enginge stopped right away. now i know nothing about cars and i cant even afford to take it in for a diagnostic. Any help... looking for a prayer
  • haefrhaefr Posts: 600
    Worst case scenario is that a hose or head gasket blew, the coolant emptied, and the engine seized for lack of adequate cooling. Will the starter motor even crank the engine over now? If not, you could be looking at a new engine. As to a prayer, Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard's Almanac, "The Lord helps those who help themselves."
  • dvdlghdvdlgh Posts: 9
    To #103 white smoke is moisture, dark blue smoke is oil!
  • whats the best case? is the engine designed to to cut off without cooling? should i even try to start my car? I was looking elsewhere and it says it could have been my timing belt and water pump that went, and i was due for the belt. well might go down to kragens.
  • whats the best case? is the engine designed to to cut off without cooling? should i even try to start my car? I was looking elsewhere and it says it could have been my timing belt and water pump that went, and i was due for the belt. well might go down to kragens
  • After 12,000 miles, I replaced the air filter on my 2005 Camry LE. I noticed the top cover to the air filter "box" has a wire mesh along with what appears to be another filter.

    Anyone have some insight to this ?
This discussion has been closed.