For years, the Toyota Camry has been the choice car for many families. It offers a spacious interior, competitive fuel economy, and excellent reliability. The Toyota-produced vehicle has been wildly successful since its debut in 1983 and remains one of the best-selling vehicles ever.
However, like every car, the Camry has faults that may put its reputation as a reliable vehicle in jeopardy. In this article, we will review some of those faults.
After extensive research, we found the following issues to be common to the Camry models across some generations…
1. Car Consumes Excess Oil
Owners of Toyota Camry models (2006-2011 models in particular) claim the engines of these vehicles burn oil at a rapid rate. According to the aggrieved owners, the cars use as much as a quart every 1,200 miles and constantly needs oil refills, which is absurd. Users say there is often no signs of internal or external leaking, pointing to a defect in the engine.
Problems linked to the excess oil consumption include smoke pouring out from the tailpipe, weak acceleration power, and poor vehicle performance. Others have reported premature car stalling (because of engine failure), engine seizures and damaged catalytic converters. In extreme cases, the engine blows up or knocks because of low oil levels.
Toyota released a Technical Service Bulletin in 2011 acknowledging that the engines on some Camry models were consuming excess oil.
The TSB states that the 2AZ-FE engines on vehicles released between 2006 and 2011 may be prone to excess oil consumption.
While Toyota initially offered an option for owners under warranty to repair their vehicles at no charge, many drivers were left out as their cars had exceeded the warranty limit.
Possible Causes and Solutions
Multiple diagnoses carried out by technicians trace the oil consumption problem to faulty oil pistons and piston rings. These components seem to have a design defect that causes the engine to use up oil rapidly.
At a time, Toyota agreed there was a problem with the oil piston assembly and offered to outfit the Camrys with modified piston assemblies. However, it is possible that your car is not within the warranty limit. Therefore, here are some tips for you to handle the problems:
1. Check Oil Levels:
Your engine can knock if the oil is low.
To prevent engine damage and expensive repairs, check the oil level regularly to ensure your engine gets optimal lubrication.
Do not depend on your car’s oil pressure monitor to tell you when you need to add oil to the engine. The “Check Oil” light will not come on until there is little or no oil left in the engine. By then, it may be too late. Instead, remember to check the oil level yourself (do this every week).
2. Replace Oil Pistons and Piston Rings:
If the mechanic traces the fault to the piston assembly, you will need to replace it. The complete piston set costs about $200-$300, which is affordable. What is not cheap is labor.
Replacing the pistons is a complex task. It requires a mechanic to disassemble the engine to remove and replace the faulty pistons.
The total cost of oil piston replacement is usually around $800-$2000, depending on the mechanic’s hourly rate. Most mechanics charge around $100-$200 per hour, hence the $800-$2000 estimate.
3. Rebuild the Engine:
In some cases, multiple parts of the engine will suffer damage. Instead of replacing the engine, you can rebuild the damaged parts.
While this is a better option compared to an engine replacement, it is still expensive. The average cost of rebuilding an engine is $2000-$4000, labor and parts costs inclusive.
4. Replace the Engine:
You may have to replace the engine under these scenarios:
- The problem has persisted for a long period and has caused extensive damage to the engine.
- The engine seizes or blows up and stops running.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, the best thing is to replace the engine. An engine replacement is as complex as an engine rebuild and is even more expensive. Total costs for engine replacement is between $3000-$7000, labor and parts inclusive.
2. Recurrent Transmission Problems
Transmission problems are one of the most common problems affecting Camry models. This rings true for models in the 2000s (2000-present). Multiple consumers have filed complaints regarding faulty transmissions. Some issues reported include:
1. Transmission slipping:
The transmission slips in and out of gear, causing erratic deceleration/acceleration. According to users, the car will stop without warning and afterward, jump forward when they depress the gas pedal.
In addition, the gears can switch with no action from the driver. For instance, the car may be in fourth gear and suddenly downshift to first gear. This can make the car lose speed and endanger the vehicle’s occupants, especially when driving on highways.
2. Difficulty in shifting gears:
Drivers say that the gear-shifting process on the affected Camry models is rough and difficult. Any attempt to shift between gears results in shaking and lurching of the car.
3. Delayed engagement:
The gears are slow to engage and users have to wait minutes before the car can go from Park to Drive. In cases like this, the engine will run and the RPM will increase but the car will refuse to move at all.
At other times, the transmission cannot respond, even after the driver tries to switch gears. Some users describe it thus:
“The transmission acts as if it does not know which gear to choose and takes time to respond.” According to drivers of affected vehicles, the transmission will go into neutral mid-transit for minutes and lose all speed. After some time, the gears will finally engage and the car will pick up speed.
4. Vehicle shudders/vibrates at low speeds:
Some Camry cars are said to vibrate or shudder when the car is going at low speeds (30-45mph). It feels as if the vehicle is going over a bumpy road when in fact; the road is free of obstacles.
5. Car stalls because of transmission failure:
In extreme cases, the transmission will seize and the car will stop abruptly
Owners have reported cases of their vehicle’s transmission failing while they were at stoplights or were waiting in line for something. In such instances, the only option for drivers was to tow the vehicle.
Possible Causes and Solutions
The causes of the transmission problems vary across different model years. It may be from a faulty torque converter. If the torque converter’s needle bearings, clutch, solenoid, or seal is damaged, the transmission will malfunction.
Typically, fixing a damaged torque converter costs around $500-$1000. The torque converter itself is cheap but labor costs can run into hundreds of dollars. Replacing a torque converter is a complex and time-consuming task that requires the skills of a mechanic (sorry, DIY advocates).
On other models (like the 2018 model), the problem may be from a faulty car computer (Powertrain Control Module). The PCM controls the transmission and if it is faulty, the transmission will not function properly.
If your Camry’s transmission problem is traced to a faulty PCM, take the car to a dealership to get it fixed. Toyota issued a TSB instructing dealership technicians to reprogram the PCM to correct the issue.
In extreme cases where you have to fix the transmission, there are three choices:
- Buy a used transmission
- Rebuild the old transmission with new parts
- Replace the entire transmission
3. Service Brakes Malfunction
Some model years of the Toyota Camry have problems relating to the braking system. Users have reported the following issues:
1. Intermittent Brake Failure:
Some Camry owners complain that sometimes their vehicle’s brake is unresponsive. The car does not stop when they press the brakes, leading to collisions sometimes.
Brake failure can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and is potentially dangerous. Many aggrieved consumers have described situations where they could not control their car speed, causing near-accidents and collisions with other cars.
2. ABS light/Brake Warning Light comes on repeatedly:
The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) is a part of the braking system that prevents the wheel from locking up when you apply the brakes. If the ABS light comes on, it means the system will not engage when you use the brakes. Although you can drive with the ABS light on, it is dangerous and discouraged.
The brake warning light is another sign to check your Camry’s brakes as soon as possible. Sometimes, the ABS light may come on for no reason. This is often because of a faulty ABS computer or broken wheel sensor.
3. Soft brake pedal:
Users report that the brake pedals feel “soft” and “squishy” and have to pump it multiple times before they respond. For some, the brake pedals sink all the way to the floor when pressed, leading to loss of control.
4. Stiff brake pedals:
Different Camry owners complain that they have to press down heavily on the brakes before the car decelerates. Often, the brakes become stiffer and harder to press and soon become unresponsive.
5. Car shakes when the driver applies the brakes:
Drivers report that vehicles make violent shaking/lurching movements when they press the brakes. Sometimes, the problem is severe and users find it difficult to drive the vehicle.
Possible Causes and Solutions
Potential causes of the brake problem of Toyota Camrys include:
- Faulty brake actuator
- Faulty ABS module
- Faulty brake components: brake pads, cables, discs, lines, cylinders, rotors, calipers, etc.
When you find out your car has brake problems, do not drive it. Instead, take it to the repairs shop for a comprehensive diagnostic session to identify the problem. And try to follow the technician’s advice.
General Pros and Cons
1. Spacious Cabin: The Toyota Camry, like a true family car, has enough space to fit in everyone. It can accommodate up to five people comfortably and offers occupants plenty of head, shoulder, and legroom. Taller people can also sit in the rear or front with ease.
2. Impressive Fuel Economy: When you buy family cars, you often have to sacrifice performance for increased fuel savings. This is not the case with the Camry. The 2019 base model has a 4-cylinder engine that delivers 203 hp while returning an impressive 32 mpg (combined). It also offers a Hybrid that has even greater fuel economy ratings.
3. Comfortable seating: The seats on Camry models are plush and comfortable. In addition, they are well cushioned and offer lumbar support to prevent backaches.
4. Advanced Safety Features: Families trust Camry models because of their high safety ratings. The 2019 Camry model received high scores on the NHTSA’s crash tests and is ranked as one of the safest vehicles in its class.
More importantly, All Camry models come with Toyota’s High-Tech safety system known as the Toyota Safety Sense Package. Part of the safety features in the TSSP include
- Collision Warning System
- Smart Cruise Control
- Lane Departure Warning.
Other features like top-down parking cameras and blind-spot monitoring are optional.
5. Dynamic Handling: While the Camry has been described as a ‘boring” car in the past, newer models offer sportier handling and precise steering capabilities.
If you want a Camry vehicle that is both sporty and practical, opt for the higher and sportier trims like the Camry SE and Camry XSE models. These models have carefully modified suspension systems and tuned steering that delivers an exceptional driving experience.
- Excessive oil consumption
- Transmission failure
- Malfunctioning brakes
What do the Reviews Say?
“The Toyota Camry is one of the best-selling and most successful vehicles in the industry thanks to its history of reliability, value, safety, and fuel efficiency. With its recent mid-cycle facelift, the Toyota Camry hopes to continue its long-term success.”
”The refined Camry has long been one of our top choices among family sedans. Predictable handling, good brakes, a smooth, quiet ride, and excellent reliability remain Camry hallmarks.”
What Is The Resale Value Of The Camry?
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