'93 Camry 2.2L 16V - sludge prone engine?

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May 25, 2003
Largo, FL
Wife's friend says her engine is sounding "like a sewing machine" so I offer to listen. Lots of valve train noise. Check oil - no oil on dipstick! Added 1.5 qts 10W-30 and brought it up to nearly the full mark, noise considerably quieted. Questions (I'm a Volvo guy and know nothing about Toyotas): is this '93 Camry 2.2L 16V engine one of the "sludge monsters" I've heard about? The fill cap certainly had a lot of coked on residue inside of it. What is the oil capacity? The filter (she has a Napa 1394 on there) is the smallest I've ever seen! Any oversize filter options? Car has 144K - I'd say Auto RX treatment for sure, anyone disagree? Lastly, engine compartment sticker says timing belt was changed at 67K in 1999, 77K and 5 years ago. She's on borrowed time there, isn't she?
I have a 1997 Camry 4-Cyl and have tried to stay informed about the "Sludge Issue". Here is what I have put together so far: 1) The 1997-2001 Toyota 3.0L V-6 engines have the worst tendency to sludge. 2) The 1997-2001 Toyota 2.2L 4-Cyl engines also have a tendency to sludge, but not as bad as the V-6. I got a letter from Toyota extending my engine coverage for my 4-Cyl, so there must be something "wrong" with the 4-Cyl. 3) There have been comments that any Toyota Camry 4-cyl engine 1992-2001 will sludge easier than other engines, but there is very little info on this. Now, regarding your Camry questions, it is clear that running that low on oil is bad. I do not know how to advise you, but here are some ideas: A) Eduacate the daily driver of this car that car maintenance cannot be ignored! B) If they didn't check the oil, then they didn't check anything else. Potential SAFETY issues! Ensure that the rest of the fluid levels are OK, check the tires, air filter, etc. C) Change the PCV valve. Poor ventilation is one of the reasons that the Toyotas had sludge problems. C) Change the oil & filter several times, perhaps at 3 week intervals with your favorite oil - nothing exotic is needed at this point. Do it yourself and look at the oil coming out. Also look at the engine internals where the oil filter mounts. This step will hopefully work cleaner oil back in the engine so that it is lubricated again and maybe remove some dirt. In this step you are trying to stabilize the patient and "do no further harm". Hopefully, engine noise will decrease. D) Assuming that (C) is successful, then consider doing further treatments with AutoRx. I have never seen it, but others on this board think that it is wonderful stuff. It even cures cancer! Others can advise you on AutoRx use. In any case, consider how much time, energy, and money you want to spend on this car before you get too excited. E) The timing belt should normally be changed every 60K miles. F) Change the coolant. G) After you get things cleaned-up a bit internally, if this engine starts blowing blue smoke on cold-starts, then most likely the valve-stem seals need replacing. This is usually not a big problem and people have driven for years with this. Note, however, that this is a rather big job to fix and likely requires that the head be removed. I had it done on my car. Based on others comments and my own experience, I think that you are going to have this problem. If you want to get it fixed (remove head, $$), then that should probably be a factor in your planned efforts to clean the engine internally. H) I do not know how much oil your engine requires. My 1997 Camry 4-Cyl takes almost 4 quarts. If you don't have the User Manual, then a Toyota dealer can tell you. Best Wishes as you motor along! SWS
your plan sounds good, but since this camry is a woman's. I'd be weary about tinkering or helping her out. if something was to go wrong, you'd be the first to blame.
This lady's problem isn't that she has a "sludgemaster" motor. It's that she has a void between her ears. Anyone who allows the oil level to drop off the stick deserves what he/she gets. On certain commercial-duty Tecumseh and Briggs & Stratton engines, an oil level safety switch will kill the ignition system once the oil level falls to dangerously low levels. Something that severe would be dangerous on heavily traveled or fast paced roads, but, perhaps a VERY annoying voice blaring at full volume to pull over and kiss your A$$ goodbye would get some "drivers'" attention. Nah, probably not...
Gentlemen, thanks for the information. Actually, the lady's problem is that she has an abusive a**hole of a husband; checking her own oil is kind of far down on her priority list I would think. Just trying to help out a friend.
The lady is probably not changing her oil regularly, much less checking the dipstick level. Nevertheless, she has my complete sympathy, having an abusive jerk for a husband. She has far bigger problems than just having a bad engine. You can only get involved so far in her situation without intruding and risking your own life. Please play this very carefully! Here is Toyota's official list of affected vehicles (taken from an April 8, 2002 story in "Automotive News"): These are the vehicles equipped with 1MZ V-6 and 5SFE inline-4 engines produced between July 1996 and July 2001. Camry, built August 1996 to July 2001 Camry Solara, built June 1998 to May 2001 Sienna, built July 1997 to May 2001 Avalon, built July 1996 to May 2001 Celica, 4-cylinder, built August 1996 to April 1999 Highlander, built November 2000 to July 2001 Lexus ES 300, built August 1998 to July 2001 Lexus RX 300, built January 1998 to July 2001 Source: Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. [ July 15, 2004, 03:35 PM: Message edited by: Bruce T ]
I am truly sorry to hear about the spousal abuse situation - I will pray for a good resolution to this serious problem. Are there children involved? I think that the best thing for the car is to teach your friend how to do normal checks & maintenance and make it a priority. If she is putting gas in the car herself, then teach her how to check the oil and other fluid levels while at the gas station. As you know, this does not take much time and is necessary only about every month. Tell her to keep some travel wipes in the car and she won't have to drive around with messy hands. I know that she has problems & other priorities, but I have seen people multiply their problems by not taking care of simple things. She needs to step-up to the small challenge of car maintenance. It is something that she can do to take care of herself and perhaps she will feel better about herself by doing "mechanical" things, and probably have LESS to worry about also.
The 5S-FE I-4, the one in question here, was also sludge vulnerable, though not as severely so as the early 1MZ-FE series V-6. This engine was used predominantly in the fourth generation Camry (the one they're making now is the 5th generation). A couple years ago, my contact at the local dealership showed me one installed in a 97 Camry CE 5-spd. The head cover was off and it had a deep deposit of sludge packed all arould the cams and surface of the head. It was gruesome. Only the contact surfaces of the cam lobes showed bare metal. So no, the 5S-FE would sludge up too, but again, less frequently than the V-6. The 5S-FE is no longer in production, and since the beginning of the 2002 MY, the V-6 has been changed so as to eliminate the problem.
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