Cost to Replace Valve Stem Seals (Camry 97) - Toyota Nation Forum : Toyota Car and Truck Forums


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3rd & 4th Generation (19921996 & 19972001) Toyota Camry Discussion for years: 1992-1996 & 1997-2001 Topics of discussion range from fuel economy, safety, modifications, performance all involving America's favorite family car, the Toyota Camry.

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Old 05-18-2009, 03:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Cost to Replace Valve Stem Seals (Camry 97)

Hi,

2 weeks ago, I changed the engine oil and added a bit too much oil into the system. Everything was fine until a few days ago, after driving 40 miles, I noticed that a huge amount of "white" smoke being emitted from the tailpipe to the point that the cars behind me had to distance themselves from me. The white smoke had a burning odor but it wasn't blue or black in coloration. I took my car, Toyota Camry 1997/4 cyln, to the dealership where I was told valve stem seals are needed to be replaced... at the cost of $1,500! I declined the repairs, now shopping around to see what other places can offer me.

My question is, how much a replacement of valve stem seals should cost for this vehicle? Don't the seals themselves leak oil a little bit in normal state? The reason I am asking is that since last Friday when the incident occurred, I haven't had any smoke blown out and I don't know if I am paranoid -- due to my lack of car knowledge -- but I am sensing a car has lost a bit of its performance (maybe because I don't accelerate for the fear that the engine would tank) and burns gas a bit rapidly than usual. Again, it could be in my head.

I was also told that the engine has lost 2/3 of the oil I'd added but I found it hard to believe because the day I took car to the service, I checked the oil in the morning and it hadn't gone down or perhaps very little. The poppy valve seals should cost around $150-$200 and 4-5 hours of labor, should bring the cost to around $400-$500. I don't understand why they offered $1,500 for such service (a rip-off!). Any help would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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They must be smoking crack...
Although I don't know the answer to the question, I'm sure you can find a used cylinder head somewhere (less than 130K miles on it) and get it swapped in for cheaper.
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichieRichJP View Post
They must be smoking crack...
Although I don't know the answer to the question, I'm sure you can find a used cylinder head somewhere (less than 130K miles on it) and get it swapped in for cheaper.
I don't understand how a cylinder head is going to replace the poppy valve, seals and what not. Second, I don't have access to any junkyard to fetch such part and even if I did, I don't know diddly squat about replacing stem seals which apparently requires an overhaul of engine.

In either case, I've called 4 different Toyota dealerships and they all offered the service ranging from $1,000 to $1,200 which is a lot of money for me at this moment. I have to shop around for other mechanics. But I would like to hear others see how much other mom&pop mechanic shops would charge for parts and labor.

P.S. Why do all dealerships tend to exploit their customers? The dealership, that I took my car for diagnosis, initially offered to do the service for $1,700. I thought to myself why would he throw this number out of blue as if I would be all over him, thanking him for his generosity. Then he right away slashes $200 as if that should seal the deal. Unbelievable with these people.

P.S.S. I also wanted to know whether an excess engine oil can cause white smoke with burning odor which I experienced only once since last week? I, again, checked the oil meter and it hasn't dropped from its mark. Can somebody give me some guidance.


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Old 05-18-2009, 05:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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i could change the seals for you send the head to me to change the seals on the head. o yea i werk at machine shop lol
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
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How's your coolant levels looking? White smoke's normally coolant. Not sure I'd usually describe the smell as "burning", but it kind of depends on the antifreeze being used. I'd also tend to believe that the head gasket is on-and-off leaky rather than the stem seals leaking so much that smoke is "billowing".
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Um, valve stem seals will cause blue smoke....

White smoke is the Head Gasket from coolant.
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Old 05-18-2009, 06:11 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Also leaky valve stem seals will usually just show a puff of bluish smoke at cold startup after the engine has been sitting a while. If the valve stems are leaking that much and you are blowing smoke while driving, you should be burning a LOT of oil. How much do you burn? Valve stem seals can be replaced without removing the heads if the correct tool is used. There is such a tool out there. Not sure if the dealers use it. I doubt it, but maybe. I assume this is an I4 based on the quotes you are getting.

I agree with the others. This is likely a bad head gasket.

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Old 05-18-2009, 09:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hill8570 View Post
How's your coolant levels looking? White smoke's normally coolant. Not sure I'd usually describe the smell as "burning", but it kind of depends on the antifreeze being used. I'd also tend to believe that the head gasket is on-and-off leaky rather than the stem seals leaking so much that smoke is "billowing".
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Originally Posted by ASG14 View Post
Um, valve stem seals will cause blue smoke....

White smoke is the Head Gasket from coolant.
Quote:
Originally Posted by davemac2 View Post
Also leaky valve stem seals will usually just show a puff of bluish smoke at cold startup after the engine has been sitting a while. If the valve stems are leaking that much and you are blowing smoke while driving, you should be burning a LOT of oil. How much do you burn? Valve stem seals can be replaced without removing the heads if the correct tool is used. There is such a tool out there. Not sure if the dealers use it. I doubt it, but maybe. I assume this is an I4 based on the quotes you are getting.

I agree with the others. This is likely a bad head gasket.


Exactly my sentiments. From what I had gathered, white smoke is a sign of anti-freeze/coolant getting leaked into the combustion chamber which, in turn, is an indication of something being wrong with the head gasket.

However, the oil dipstick does "not" show any sign of antifreeze contaminated with the oil as I do not see any "milky" mix. But at the same time, the white/grayish smoke that came out of the exhaust pipe, that one time, had a bittersweet/burning gas odor. But I am sure it wasn't blue smoke so I have no idea why the Toyota dealership had a diagnosis that implies the smoke was blue.

A few other points, the oil and coolant levels are both above full -- oil perhaps a bit too much. Could it be because of higher level of anti-freeze and oil, these problems are starting to show up? I only changed the engine oil and added coolant 3 weeks ago and the last week, I had a misfortune of watching my car blowing a huge amount of white/grayish smoke. The smoke so far occurred only once if that's any consolation and I've been driving the car for the last 4 days with no smoke.

If it is indeed a blown or leaky head gasket, why did it only happened once -- although I had driven the car that day for over 40 miles when it start emitting smoke as opposed for the last couple of days that the car has been driven for around 10 miles for any given trip. Could the valve seals be the culprit after all? How much does a head gasket for a 4cyln cost, $100-$150? The car also has 90k millage.


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Old 05-19-2009, 12:41 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Are you using coolant?

Yeah, others described it quite well. It's more likely a coolant leak from a busted head gasket or cracked block than stem seal leaks, which are usually blue smoke on start up.

If you check the oil and it hasn't gone down much, then anybody who tells you otherwise must be lying.

So check either the head gasket or cracked block before thinking about stem seals. Also, I guess some piston(s) are probably going to be sparkling clean from the steam cleaning.

While no guarantees, a place to start IMO would be shops belonging to the Automotive Engine Rebuilders' Association. They may be able to help you better diagnose:

http://www.aera.org/members.aspx


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The white smoke had a burning odor but it wasn't blue or black in coloration. I took my car, Toyota Camry 1997/4 cyln, to the dealership where I was told valve stem seals are needed to be replaced... at the cost of $1,500! I declined the repairs, now shopping around to see what other places can offer me.
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Old 05-19-2009, 05:10 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASG14 View Post
Um, valve stem seals will cause blue smoke....

White smoke is the Head Gasket from coolant.
Can't you tell by the smell too? My mom's gen 3.5 smokes (white/gray, smells like burnt oil) for 1-3 seconds at start up after it's been sitting for a while. I switched it to 10W-30 from 10W-40 (found a good deal on Castrol synthetic) and the smoke got heavier and lasted 1-3 minutes instead of seconds. Needless to say it's back on 10W-40 and the smoke is back to being barely noticeable in the first few seconds. None while driving. There's no perceivable drop in oil level between oil changes as well.

As long as I keep an eye on the oil level I don't think this is a problem - correct? The 1MZ still purrs all the way up to its redline and only has 89K miles so I'm hoping the car will last for many years to come
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:18 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I am taking the car to another mechanic to run a diagnosis see if the initial dealership is right about the culprit. 5 days of driving since the incident and I haven't noticed any smoke although I'm driving very cautiously and do not accelerate much. If the car requires a major overhaul, I'm screwed.
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:25 AM   #12 (permalink)
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So I took the car to a mechanic. He ran a few tests and concluded that not only the stem seals are not worn out, but also the head gasket has no crack. As a matter of fact, it turned out, from what the mechanic conveyed, the problem stemmed from an excess engine oil that I mentioned in previous posts. I also asked him whether the sparkplugs were clogged but fortunately they are ok.

Of course, I am not going to take his word on face value but I am planning to drive the car for another 2 weeks and take it to another mechanic for the second (or should I say third) opinion just to be sure. The Toyota dealership's attempt to exploit an unassuming customer was morally reprehensible.
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:00 PM   #13 (permalink)
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If all you did was run the car with too much oil (hopefully only temporary), drain it to an appropriate level and run the car idle for about 30mins and let your car spew the oil out.
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Old 05-21-2009, 11:26 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Well, a good mechanic is hard to find. Even at the dealer. They are all basically independent contractors anyway. You only think they work as one company.

Like others said, just drain of the excess, so that your crank doesn't splash more oil than the oil control ring can handle. And see if this solves itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evlix View Post
So I took the car to a mechanic. He ran a few tests and concluded that not only the stem seals are not worn out, but also the head gasket has no crack. As a matter of fact, it turned out, from what the mechanic conveyed, the problem stemmed from an excess engine oil that I mentioned in previous posts. I also asked him whether the sparkplugs were clogged but fortunately they are ok.

Of course, I am not going to take his word on face value but I am planning to drive the car for another 2 weeks and take it to another mechanic for the second (or should I say third) opinion just to be sure. The Toyota dealership's attempt to exploit an unassuming customer was morally reprehensible.
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Old 08-09-2011, 10:54 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Hi I have similar problem and the mechanics are unable to understand whats going wrong and some one has suggested because of oil change which I did couple of weeks back and i have seen the smoke while starting the vehicle and it vanishes once I start the vehicle I have the same 1997 camry. Elvix can you pleas let me knowhow it was fixed am a student and anything costing too much would mean I need to sell the vehicle.

Thanks
Suma
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evlix View Post
So I took the car to a mechanic. He ran a few tests and concluded that not only the stem seals are not worn out, but also the head gasket has no crack. As a matter of fact, it turned out, from what the mechanic conveyed, the problem stemmed from an excess engine oil that I mentioned in previous posts. I also asked him whether the sparkplugs were clogged but fortunately they are ok.

Of course, I am not going to take his word on face value but I am planning to drive the car for another 2 weeks and take it to another mechanic for the second (or should I say third) opinion just to be sure. The Toyota dealership's attempt to exploit an unassuming customer was morally reprehensible.
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