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5sfe water in engine :(

46832 Views 329 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  doozergreengrass
I thought I had problems with the cooling system on my 5sfe. Replaced the radiator cap and now have water in the engine (there is a white goo on the inside of the oil filler cap). No water is left in the overflow and the radiator itself is very low.

So, how do I tell if its the head or the head gasket?

My car warranty ran out 2 days ago - 14/10/2010. F**k!!!!!!!!!!

What to do from here?

Any help much appreciated, cheers :thumbsup:
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Thanks. Can it be driven to a mechanic how it is?

Warranty 1 year unlimited k's: Engine - "to include engine block, cranksharft, meshing timing gears, oil pump, pistons, piston rings, crankshaft bearings, cylinders, wristpins, camshaft, camshaft gears, connecting rods, internal bushings, balance shaft, and bearings only. Excluding modified engines, seals, cracked engine block, oil leaks, timing belts, chains and tensioners".

I doubt the warranty would cover this even if it is the head or the head gasket. grrrr....

Well better get it to the local mechanic, hopefully this isn't gonna make me broke lol. I see gaskets on the bay for round $30. If it is the gasket what would be recommended?

I thought my previous coolant loss before noticing the white goo was due to the cooling system not the HG, but I was regularly checking the oil to make sure.

The white goo seems to have appeared after replacing the radiator cap (maybe this forced the coolant into the block instead of somewhere else?) and formed within a couple of days of replacing the cap.

I'd rather do the job myself as I can't afford the labor charge. What tools are required? I have most tools to bolt/unbolt things but no torque adjuster.

I assume the engine will need a complete flush somehow before replacing hg or after replacing HG?


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cheers Nervous and Fenixus...can I drive it to the mechanic for compresion and cooling tests then bring home to repair myself it its only a HG? I think the car will still run/drive and its less than 5km to the mechanic i'd reach them without hitting normal operating temperature! Will it cause any engine damage to do this?

Also, if i'm going to be there changing a HG myself, is it worth to do say distributor, dist. cap, rotor and leads at the same time? This will all have to be removed right? if replacing HG?

The water pump and timing belt do not have to be touched for the HG replacement or should those be changed out at the same time rather than doing again sometime down the track?

Aplologies for what must seem like stupid questions to some!!!!

Thanks :)
Good advice about the bolts - I would've used the old ones! So no specialist tools required (apart from torque wrench)? And apart from detaching all that stuff you mentioned, should oil be drained prior or after fitting new HG - theres probably another thread here specifically about changing HG anyway (i'm pretty sure there is).

We own 2 Camry's with same 5sfe so it wouldn't hurt to learn all this stuff incase I have to carry out same procedures (I hope not!). But I will get quotes from the mechanic in case it turn out too difficult for me.
Hmmm lol looks like a job for the mechanic then I think - what'd it cost to get the head machined if I took it there myself?

The problem is my budget lol, but it may be cheaper in the long run to send to mechanic - rather than stuff it up doing it myself huh!?
Thanks for all the input, every bit helps me decide whether its a job for me or the experts!

As an afterthought, could it really be the head itself though? The engine has never over-heated since i've had it (never gone past half on temp. gauge - and I think my cooling system is ok). Are these engines known for cracking heads or is it the HG the majority of the time?

Thanks Mike. With regards to the HG testing kit, how do these work?

When I replaced the radiator cap I never bled the cooling system. The first cap I got didn't fit. The second cap was fitted at a auto parts store when the engine was hot. We took the cap out to the car (a diff one) and made sure it fitted then left it on. So yeah the engine was at normal temp when the new cap was fitted.

After returning home with new cap on, the overflow and radiator were topped off AFTER the engine cooled right down.

The reason I thought it was my cooling system all along was a couple of things. Note the thermostat was replaced Dec. last year. Last year just after I bought the car it started displaying erratic symptoms which I posted here seaparately at the time.

So I replaced the thermostat, cleaned the throttle body, replaced plugs and done oil and filter change. This didn't bother me as it was routine maintenance. However it turned out that it was the ECT sensor that was at fault.

After replacing ECT sensor all was well (apart from while the car was playing up I damaged the clutch somehow from bunny-hopping along grr...) Anyway.

So the car started playing up again a month or so ago. by this I mean missing at idle and eratic idle at startup - for approximately 15 seconds on cold start it sounded like 3 cylinders running - then the choke or something would bring the cold idle into line. it never missed under acceleration. as well as the miss it was loosing a lot of coolant. This is what made me suspect the cooling system. There was evidence of coolant loss around the radiator cap and under the charcoal canister purge valve (a reddish color) but it was always dry by the time I checked. I could never see any fluid leaking from the car.

As far as my driving is concered, as of late i've only been doing a few short trips here and there. But since the radiator cap was replaced I would have barely done 2 or 3 10 km trips. I stopped working about a month ago and previous to that the car was doing at least 40km round trip a day (about 300km a week) but it had started to loose coolant and miss while I was working but not to the extent it is now. In the past month this car's done about 200km. Hope that makes sense!!!!

Haven't cleaned out residue on cap yet, as soon as I saw the goo I thought I wouldn't start it until I knew it was safe to do so. Which btw i'm still not sure - the comments above indicate it would be ok to get to a garage but maybe not as it could screw the bearings somehow.

Other info: on my last drive (before discoverying goo) there was NO noticable loss of power at all. As previously posted at top of my thread, the white goo appeared ONLY AFTER THE RADIATOR CAP WAS REPLACED. prior to this I was checking the oil and water every 2 or 3 days - to top up water and to check for white goo as I was trying to prevent any head damage!!!!) So you could understand to my surprise when after replacing the radiator cap and then topping off radiator and overflow, checking oil - then going for a drive, when opening the bonnet next day after leaving car overnight. and first seeing NO water at all in overflow, the radiator empty, to immediately checking oil cap and finding the goo. Gutted lol. The air filter was also replaced 2 weeks ago as well.

This Camry has never had a CEL on since i've had it, and never been over half on the temp gauge.

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I'm hoping Mike is right about it being just condensation, anyone else have any ideas or require further information to help me diagnose? Thanks :thumbsup:
thanks fenixus

All the posts here where distance is specified are obviously in miles. So, the above vehicle has 228k km's on the clock, or 142k miles. is this considered low or high mileage in the U.S? I was reading somewhere on the site that the 5sfe is usually ok up to about 330k miles, 500k km!! is this really an accurate average or is that best case scenario?
Thanks for all the replies. Rung mechanic down the road (is actually only about 800 metres up the road which is good) and he said he'll test for free!

So, is there any special notes I need to tell the tester to look for etc? From a previous post here i've got:

1) compression tests of each cyl with all spark plugs removed
2) cooling system pressure test with all spark plugs removed.

Do I need to explain why its being tested in this manner/procedure or is this the standard testing procedure for blown HG?

Mike - thanks for info re HG test kit. About oil, no I haven't tested the oil - would I have to drain it to see? Theres only goo on oil filler cap, not dipstick.

Carlr33 - on my last trip it went through all the coolant in the overflow and about half a litre from radiator, it wasn't there anymore either went in engine or got pumped out somewhere else while driving, though there was never fluid leaking onto ground.

Carsrus - the car hasn't got out much lately at all, maybe 200km in past month. It lost a heap of coolant. Heater was blowing hot, temp always sat at half. Fans are switching on just a little above half (normal). Has thrown no CEL's, never overheated.

I always thought the missfire the car had at idle was cooling/electrical related. (cooling as outlined above), and electrical as in i know it needs new leads, has new plugs (10k km's ago) brand new batt 5 months ago. am certain timing needs done. not sure of condition or how to check or distributor/rotor. Btw can the mechanic check distributor/rotor to determine if they need replaced while i'm at it.

Cheers guys.
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Cheers Mike. Anyways about to drive the car up to the mechanic in a few minutes. Unfortunately one the phone to this mechanic he was quick to say no its definitely a head gasket. Oh well we shall see what the compression test says....will post back soon as checks are completed.

BTW, for this short trip to the mechancic, should i top up the radiator and overflow or will this just push more fluid into the engine? Someone mentioned leaving the rad cap off altogether, should I leave it off for this short trip? Thanks.
Here is the following tests i'm asking for:

a) compression each cylinder plugs IN
b) compression each cylinder plugs OUT
c) cooling system plugs IN
d) cooling system plugs OUT

is this correct?
Diagnosis - cracked head :( The compression was never tested, mechanic says compression doesn't need checked - the car wouldn't start without compression.

The cooling system was checked, though it was not the kind of pressure test i've seen before where they pump pressure into the system. He put an open ended filler device on the radiator then topped it up, there was a constant stream of bubbles coming out leading him to surmise its the head itself.

Also he checked all plugs, they're all dry. Also lifted lead off each cylinder in turn while the engine was running, and each cylinder stopped running when the lead was removed (obviously) but i'm not sure what that is meant to indicate.

Any thoughts? There's no way i'd get the head done at $2000, i'd most definately take the cheapest method which would probably be an engine transplant. Not very impressed, the reason we bought 2 of these cars was their reliability! Not very good for an engine that was never over-heated though :( And, especially at only 142k miles/228k km's
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Thanks Fenixus

I also was at a loss as to how he determined that, though he's the expert not me! I would've thought a compression test was necessary to determine if the head gasket is leaking? Not just checking the cooling system?

So, if the compression was tested and all cylinders are ok (btw what would be the normal psi on these, is it round 150 psi per cylinder?) it can't be a head gasket or the head right?

Note, before he put the open-ended filler on top of the radiator, a different device was used. This device was also fitted to top of radiator before the vehicle was started (it looked to contain a clear blue fluid inside it) I don't know what the device was or what it told him!

Thanks 71Corolla. Just as well the trusty old AE82 corolla is still in the driveway, at least i've got some wheels in the mean time! But i'm not sure where to go from here, get further testing done? I'd hate to replace the HG only to find the head itself is cracked.....whats the best course of action here?

So, yesterday I took the car for a drive, to see if the white goo would reappear on oil filler cap - it did, but not much. After the 40 km (26 mile) round trip the coolant in the radiator and overflow were full. There was only a little white goo under oil cap, much less than before. The temperature gauge remained steady throughout the trip. Puzzled!

Though puzzled, I was rather happy at this outcome! But not convinced all was ok. I needed to test the car further. Not wanting to cause any damage to engine, I flushed it and changed oil and filter. The oil DID NOT APPEAR TO HAVE WATER IN IT? HOW CAN THIS BE! There was no white goo in the oil which really surprised me. I wondered if the water could have been mixed into the oil to make it invisible. Surely this wouldn't be possible - wouldn't the water separate from the oil or would it combine and become unnoticeable if churned and heated up?

Ready to test drive.Dubious lol. but i felt a bit reassured having fresh oil and presumably no water in the engine. Radiator and overflow were all full, didn't require any topping up.

Started my test drive, keeping constant watch on temp gauge, all was going ok. Suddenly the temperature gauge spiked, not up into the red though. I was about 25 miles from home at this stage - better turn around and head for home. Not wanting to cause any engine damage turned the heater on full and temperature came back down to normal. Odd. This was the first time since owning vehicle i've ever seen it go beyond half on temp. gauge. curious, turned the heater off and temp starts to rise again, completed rest of journy home with heater on full bore - thinking all the way home how odd this was.

Got home, leaving car running with heater on full and popped the bonnet. Temp gauge is reading normal (half) ok. Go back and turn heater off completely. Temp starts to rise. WTF! Radiator fans NOT switching on - never had this problem before. Quickly turn heater back on full and pull the electrical plug at top of radiator to switch fans on and assist cooling of the engine.

Engine temp return to normal without going into red so I switch engine off. At this point the coolant level in the overflow is normal. UNTIL engine is switched off overflow starts a gurgling sound. What the hell is going on here. I still have suspicions about the cooling system. Could a thermostat replaced a year ago be causing this? Is it the water pump not pumping properly? Is it the top and bottom radiator hoses? (I KNOW they need replacing). Its not the fan circuit I KNOW this is operating fine.

I felt both top and bottom radiator hoses while the HEATER FAN was running BEFORE tripping the fan circuit. BOTH hoses seemed very hot - hot enough to switch the fans on - but they werent. Why is only the heater cooling the engine not the radiator?

Confused :( Please help.
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Toyota manual "The enine in your vehicle is equiped with a by-pas valve. Therefore, if the engine tends to overheat, removal of the thermostat would have an adverse effect causing a lowering of cooling effieciency".

Can someone plz tell me where this valve is?

Thanks :thumbsup:
Thanks nervous. But the fans were running fine the day before. I'm pretty sure the rad. switch is ok! I'm concerned the problem is in the cooling system rather than the head/hg. Where has my coolant gone if not in engine? its not dripping anywhere! Are the fans not turning on, because air is leaking via head/hg out of the engine, causing an airlock to make the switch at the bottom of the radiator see a DIFFERENT temperature to the temp gauge itself?! :( Obviously some relation here i.e cooling system causing head/hg problems or, head/hg causing overheating issues.

The only thing thats made me now suspect the cooling system is the lack of large amounts of water in the engine, though could ALL the water have evaporated out of the engine (we're talking like 3 or 4 litres of water here all up). Note an engine flush was used at oil change would this help to evaporate and leave no trace of such large amounts of coolant?

I forgot to mention above with the radiator hoses, thermo., and water pump, the actual radiator itself. Maybe its defective? though I haven't seen it leaking or dripping but maybe it would be drying while engine runs lol.....*sigh*
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ok thanks mate.would a cracked/unsealed overflow bottle cause any problems here?
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