I heard of some massive problems with the Camry, but no one ever publishes them like they do domestic cars. But if you look at it, now that GM and the rest are trying to catch up in the quality, they are pretty close, if not the same as comparable imports.
It is in fact true that Toyota has had some dramatic quality problems in recent years, and indeed, they have not been widely publisized. Judging by the symptoms described in the original post, and the recent patterns of certain major failures that have been occurring with the Camry and other Toyota models, it sounds like this vehicle may have a bad head gasket.
Head gasket failures have been a major problem with Toyota's recently, but again, those failures have not received much/any press. These head gasket failures are also causing engine sludge (do an internet search "Toyota Engine Sludge") and subsequent engine failures, at which point Toyota may use the sludge as an escape route to avoid assuming responsibility for the failures, by claiming the sludge is the result of customers not maintaining their vehicles.
In the event of sludge, a cylinder leak down check, or a cooling system pressure check, done properly by an experienced mechanic with the proper equipment, can identify if a bad head gasket is present.
Just a minor point. Synthetic oil doesn't sludge which is what I read Toyota was recommending for all their small engines. My 01 Corolla S is over 100k miles with zero defects, but it's well maintained. I'll never sell it. But then maybe I'm lucky or older ones are holding better.
It is truly amazing how silent the media is when the vaunted Japanese and european makes have serious quality and engineering problems. But they always have big headlines for any GM, Ford or Chrysler flaws. You know something, I see the same denial in the owners of those cars, they can have the biggest piece of crap but they still love it. It makes you wonder if it is part of a plan to further brainwash the public into believing that everything American is bad. We do love to be self-hating.
One car with problems is not indicative of the general quality of the product. I have a 2003 Camry and have not had any trouble. I have a relative with a 2003 Camry who has not had any trouble.
On the other hand, I have an American car that has had many problems.
I totally agree with the previous comment.
No car line is going to be 100% perfect, but it comes down to overall quality of the product. Honda and Toyota seem to produce the most reliable cars.
American cars are always a crapshoot. Ever since I was little it was always the same story - one person would say XXX car was the best car they had ever owned, and another person would say it was the worst they had ever owned. NO consistent quality ever.
This is total misinformation. Head gasket "failure" does not cause sludging. There are some Toyota engines of the late 90s which are prone to oil jelling (sludge), but it is because the design of the oil channels in the engine. The engine oil is subjected to larger swings in temperature which can cause this if the oil is not changed, esp. petroleum-based oil. Toyota has admitted this. Toyota offered to replace the engine with a new engine at their cost, as long as the owner can provide proof the oil was changed at least once a year. Toyota also recommends use of synthetic oil. The % of engines which have actually sludged is actually very very small; if you are buying a used car of the affected dates, have a mechanic open the valve cover and check it. Also, ask for oil change records.
PREVIOUS poster wrote: "I wouldn't be surprised if some of your new problems are caused by technician."
I agree. Toyota dealer repair shops in my area (Massachusetts) break things and then give you the car in that condition as if it is not their responsibility. But they make up for it by charging a fortune. I don't believe this type of service would be tolerated by Toyota management in Japan.
Have you ever seen the oil in an engine with a blown head gasket? I would call the milk shake mixture you get sludge, albeit a different variety than the previous commenter describes. I know several people and have read several accounts of people who had bad head gaskets on Toyotas.
What the previous commenter said about the poorly designed oil passages is also true in that it causes the sludge. I was not aware that Toyota had admitted this, but if they did, I am sure it was calculated and they did it under extreme duress. Bottom line is, Toyota has had major problems with this serious issue.
Have a 2002 Camry that ran perfectly until about two weeks ago, when the battery started dying. I took it to my mechanic and the alternator tested bad. The car just went over 100,000 so we changed it.
There still seemed to be a draw on the battery, so that after a few days or when the car is idled for more than a few minutes, the battery dies.
After trying several alternators, and cleaning the air idle valve and changing the battery, I am test driving it. When the car is idling and the air conditioning is turned on, the draw on the battered is quite noticeable and the voltage drops considerably. My mechanic is still studying the problem. Is there anyone out there with a similar or the same problem?? Help!!!
For the person with the draining battery, I don't know if this is the case on a new Toyota, but on other cars that I'm familiar with, I would say this sounds like a bad voltage regulator. The voltage regulator is usually a little solid state electronic box that "tells" the alternator to charge the battery or to help run accessories like the wipers, heater/AC fan, turn signals, headlights, etc. The alternator can be putting out adequate voltage, but if the regulator isn't working, the battery is forced to run all of those electrical accessories until it dies and the alternator doesn't charge the battery. On a car with a gauge readout (not idiot light), you can notice this by extreme swings of the needle--at idle, the needle drops to extreme discharge, and when you give it gas, the needle swings to extreme charge. If the headlights are on, the lights may get very dim at idle, and then show insanely bright when you give it gas. If things are working correctly, the needle should stay in the middle regardless of conditions. It is common that most people change their alternator when in fact they have a bad voltage regulator.
I had 89,000 miles on my 1999 Camry Le. I was driving on the interstate when I heard a thump. I pulled to the side of the road, smoke was pouring out the hood of the car and oil was spilling from underneath the car. When the car was towed to the dealership, they said that a connecting rod had blown through the engine. Prior to this occurrence I never had a problem with my car. The dealership told me it was not sludge related. I have my doubts. It seem that there is a problem with this 2.2 liter 4 cylinder engine. So far, Toyota has insisted it is not a problem with sludge and it seems doubtful they will stand behind their car. Considering all the complaints I have found on the Internet, it seems obvious Toyota has a problem with their connecting rods and we have little recourse if they deny our claims.