If you’re reading this, chances are good you own a Toyota Camry and you already know how awesome it is. The Camry is one of America’s all time best selling sedans, and one of the most reliable vehicles ever made. As with any machine, it will require maintenance, and occasionally a mechanical repair. We’ve put together a very thorough maintenance schedule to keep real life Phoenix area Toyotas safe and reliable, so let’s talk about some of the needs that are more specific to your 2002 or newer Toyota Camry.
A Valve Cover Gasket Leak
The engine valve cover is located on the very top of your engine, and covers the camshaft and upper engine components. It is most easily located by finding the engine oil cap, which screws into the valve cover. If you drive a 4-cylinder you will have one valve cover; if you drive a V6 you will have two. The valve cover has a rubber gasket that seals it to the cylinder head, and this gasket will leak over time. When the gasket starts to leak, oil will run down the top of your engine, and in many cases down onto your exhaust manifold. When the oil reaches this very hot exhaust manifold, it will smoke. If you are noticing a burnt smell when parking your Camry in the garage after a long trip, you might have a leaking valve cover.
What does it cost to replace the valve cover gasket on a Toyota Camry? While shops will vary slightly, you might expect to pay $150-$175 to replace the gasket on your 4-cylinder and $400-$450 to replace the gaskets on your V6.
Replacing Your Timing Chain Tensioner
If you drive a 2002 or newer Toyota Camry 4-cylinder, the chances are good that you may eventually need to replace the timing chain tensioner and/or tensioner gasket. The tensioner is located on the rear of your engine, and is a bit tricky to reach. It is sealed with a rubber O ring that will dry up over time, and eventually leak oil down the backside of your engine. This will not cause your tensioner to fail, but can make a pretty nice mess in your garage.
Toyota Camry timing chain tensioner and/or gasket replacement will cost you anywhere from $125 to $200.
A Failed Alternator
Many years ago (maybe 2004-2005), Toyota decided to reengineer their alternator. They added a clutch in the alternator pulley that engages and disengages as needed. This means that when your battery is fully charged, the alternator can disengage and thus cause less draw on your engine, resulting in better fuel economy.
This system works pretty well in theory, but we have seen these alternators fail prematurely and with no heads up. You might be headed to work one morning, sipping your Starbucks (or Dutch Brothers if you’re like me), and BAM! Your battery light and brake light illuminate on the dash.
Side note, these two lights illuminating simultaneously nearly ALWAYS mean your alternator is not functioning properly. Turn off your radio, air conditioning and lights (if safe to do so) and find a safe place to park very quickly. When your alternator stops charging, your car will run off of the battery for a short period of time (1-10 miles). Your car will eventually die once the battery’s reserves are depleted.
What does it cost to replace the alternator on a Toyota Camry? It will vary based on your engine size, but you might expect $375-$575 as a ballpark.
Power Steering Rack & Pinion, Power Steering Pump, Power Steering Hoses
There are several common failures to be found in the Toyota Camry power steering. First is the rack & pinion (or steering gear). This steering gear is responsible for translating your input on the steering wheel to both of the front tires – it is constantly working to keep your vehicle pointed the direction you want to go. It is powered by your power steering pump. The power steering pump sends pressurized fluid through lines and hoses which assist your rack & pinion to help you steer your 3600 lb vehicle nearly effortlessly.
There are three types of power steering lines/hoses: a power steering feed hose (or suction hose), a high pressure hose (pressurized hose from the pump to steering gear) and a return hose (used fluid, returning from the steering gear and to the pump to be reused). When any one of these items wear out, you will have a power steering leak. This leak is most often noticed by a whining noise under your hood, and also sometimes by a jerky steering wheel.
If you didn’t notice the puddle of power steering fluid on your garage floor and your power steering begins to whine, pop the hood and check the fluid level. You don’t want to run out of power steering fluid as it can damage the pump, and also make your vehicle very difficult to steer.
What does it cost to repair the power steering system on a Toyota Camry? This is a very open ended question, which depends on which item has failed. For an exact price, we recommend you stop by and let us take a quick peek.
Your Cylinder Head Bolts Failed
This issue is not quite as common, but is definitely worth mentioning if you drive a 4-cylinder 2AZ-FE Camry. Your cylinder block is made of aluminum which is a fairly soft material (compared to steel). You have 12 bolts that hold your cylinder head to the cylinder block, and are under extreme pressure. In some situations, these bolts can pull the threads right out of your cylinder block. This is BAD, as these bolts are holding the top part of your engine (cylinder head) to the lower part of your engine (cylinder block).
The first sign these bolts have failed is a massive oil leak. If you catch it soon enough, your engine is likely repairable. At Highline Car Care, we have invested in the tools to repair your cylinder block and make it stronger than new. We will remove your cylinder head and enlarge the 12 bolt holes. We then insert 12 hardened time serts into your cylinder block that have new threads for your bolts to lock into. This process is not cheap, but it beats the alternative – replacing your engine.
You might expect to pay $1,600-$2,200 to have your 2AZ-FE cylinder block repaired.
Rattle From Your Strut Mounting Plates
Your Camry has a very nice riding suspension, and can normally cushion you from potholes, speed bumps and the like. But on some occasions the strut mounting plates (or strut mounts) will fail. You’ll notice a failed strut mount by its telltale rattle that is heard when riding down a choppy road.
In beginning stages, a failed strut mount is not much more than an audible nuisance, but it will eventually become a safety concern. Your strut mount holds your struts to the body of your car via a rubber cushion. This cushion will crack and fail over time, and in a severe situation will allow your strut to separate from your vehicle. You don’t want your strut to separate from your vehicle – trust me.
Try to schedule a time to have your car looked at if you suspect the strut mounts are failing. Your mechanic will most likely recommend replacing your struts at the same time, as there is no additional labor to do so. Prices can vary, depending on the condition of your suspension. But remember, this is a pretty labor intensive job and will likely cost you $500 or more.
And lastly, make sure to ask for an alignment at the same time. Any time your suspension is worked on, parts will get shifted around, and your alignment will need to be dialed back in.
These are just a few common issues I have encountered over the years. Some of them may seem pretty extreme, but remember you are driving one of America’s most reliable vehicles. Yes, it will need some attention from time to time, but with a little love it WILL live to see 200,000 or more miles.