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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all,

I'm working on my daughters 1997 Toyota Camry 4-cyl. It had been leaking something slowly for a while and I went to drive it the other day and her power steering was not working well and making all kinds of sounds. She was low on fluid so I filled it up and the problems went away. I assumed the leak was her power steering fluid and expected the leaking to get really bad after I filled it up, but it didn't... it's still very slow.

So I let it run for a bit this morning until I saw the drip, turned it off and let it cool off and jacked it up. At first glance, it appeared obvious that it was an oil pan leak. The oil pan was dry everywhere except for the rear-passenger side corner. It was very wet to the touch right there.



It wasn't until I took that picture and looked at it that I saw the discoloration above the oil pan as well. Sure enough, it was oil... not a lot, but enough that it seems its just slowly coming down and collecting at that corner of the oil pan.

So I started looking up a little higher. That's when I noticed that there was oil all over the bottom of the exhaust headers and along the bottom of some wire conduits as well.







Note that where the oil is dripping from the oil pan is on the far drivers side of the car, but the cable conduits that have oil on them are more towards the center of the car, right in the area between the engine and the transmission.

I also noticed that the block is saturated with oil right below where the exhaust manifolds attach to the block:



So I'm assuming that for oil to collect under the exhaust manifolds, the leak must be coming from above them. I checked all over the valve covers from the top and can't find oil to save my life... nothing by dry/greasy metal. I can't find where the oil that is collecting there could possibly be coming from, and I really can't understand how oil is getting all the way over on that cable conduit but nowhere else around it. Everything else appears to be dry.

Has anybody seen something like this before? Any ideas on where this leak could be?
 

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The valve cover is probably leaking. The distributor plug on that engine leaks like crazy and you can't see it (it leaks behind the coil packs)

Look where the spark plug wires go to on the side of the engine and look behind that bracket. I bet it's covered in grime.
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the quick response, Chris.

Unfortunately, I can't find a drop of oil anywhere behind the valve cover. Nothing but your standard engine grease. The exhaust manifold for the front two exhaust ports is one solid piece and there is a divot between the two pipes. It seems if the oil was leaking out the back side, it would even be pooling in that divot, but it's bone dry.

The entire front of the engine where all the belts run is completely obscured from vision with covers, so I can't see anything on the front of the engine. The exhaust header on the front side also has much more oil that the rear one. Do you think it possible something on the front of the engine could be leaking, or even the valve cover leaking from behind the cover that is obscuring the timing belt? I can't find anything else and that's the only place I can't see...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Also, after closer look at the distributor plug area, it IS covered in grime, but it just seems to be thick grease, not wet, fluid oil. Is this still a sign of a leak and can it be that it's just thick from being so hot there, but still running down the back? Although I'm sure it's entirely possible, I just wouldn't have imagined the oil would be running from the back of the block all the way to the front of the block and dripping so far away from the original source of the leak. Anyway, here's the pictures of the grime build up I'm seeing... Could this be cause from an oil leak?



 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sorry to keep spamming my own thread... I just realized that what I keep calling the exhaust manifold is really the intake manifold. The exhaust seems to come from the side of the block facing the front and the intake manifolds go into the side of the engine facing the rear. The oil build up is on the bottom side of the intake manifold.
 

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Oil leaks can be tricky. They can look like they are coming from someplace else because the oil travels and wind or vibration from travel blows it around in some spots. Those photos of the intake manifold don't look terribly leaky to me. The actual leak can be seen coming from that part of the pan (and you said both the driver's side and the passenger side, so can you clarify that?). It looks like the passenger side to me. I think you should jack the car up, take the passenger wheel off and then take that plastic shroud off. Look right at the corner of the pan from where the drip is. Look directly above that and to right (the front of the car) and see if it looks like it's coming from the oil pump or from inside the timing belt. Sometimes the oil pump will not leak at idle, but if you have someone raise the RPMs while looking at that lower rear (left side looking through the wheel well) of the oil pump, you will then see it dripping from the oil pump. This is exactly what I found on my daughter's '97 Camry. If so, it is probably the oil pump o-ring. If that is the case, you could also do a complete timing belt/water pump job at the same time.
 
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oil wet on area distributor wires...
you need to replace the HALF MOON moon under the valve cover side of distributor..THAT WILL FIXED YOUR PROBLEM. REMOVE THE HALF MOON AND CLEAN OLD SILICON AND PUT NEW SILICON....DON'T NEED TO BUY NEW HALF MOON AT ALL... if the half moon leaks, then you'll see oil on rear intake, too. if you want to buy new half moon, you can get from Toyota dealer for 10 bucks.

OIL wet on area the power steering...

YOU NEED to replace the oil pump O-ring..that will fix your problem. the bad part, you have to remove the completed timebelt...if you haven't done the timebelt, then it's time to do that job, too. replaced oil pump O-ring..that will fix the leak on area of power steering.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It might not look so bad on the intake manifold because I touched it so much while trying to find the source, but I can assure you that lightly touching that part of the manifold resulted in my finger tip being completely covered in oil. And the block all around the oil pan is dry except for right above where the oil is dripping from the oil pan -- and yes, the drip is only coming from the passenger side of the oil pan. The cable conduits that have oil on the bottom are close to the middle of the car, which boggles my mind :)

I'm pulling of the tire right now and I'll let you know what I see!
 

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Check the 4 valve cover nuts to see if they are approx 17 ft lbs tight. 1-1/4 or 1-3/16 sockets should work if you do not have the MM size. Check or tighten in 3 passes and sequences from the center out (2,3,1,4). “Please get this info verified” if you find the nuts loose (I’m not looking in the Haynes Manuel or etc now).
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So after taking the front passenger side wheel off, I sprayed WD-40 all over the the bottom-front part of the engine and oil pan and wiped it dry. I let the car run for ~15-20 minutes. A new drop appeared on the floor, coming from more towards the center of the oil pan, presumably because the car is jacked up and it just ran down the oil pan further before dropping.

I could see no leaks or oil from the front of the engine with the wheel off. I got back under the car to take a look and there seemed to be more of a build-up on the rear intake manifold. One of the bolts had so much oil it looked like it was ready to drip off. This picture is super blurry as I was trying to take a picture one-handed with my camera phone while not burning my face off on the exhaust pipe, but you can still see in the center of the photo how wet the bolt is:



A bit frustrating, because I still can't see where in the heck it would be coming from... everything around it appears dry. There's no obvious trail of running oil. So I got back out from underneath and looked at the front of the engine again through the wheel well. Low and behold, there was a giant stream of oil:



Now the interesting thing is that the oil dripped onto the floor from the oil pan before this stream of oil appeared, and this stream only became visible after I shut the engine off. Could it be that the majority of the oil is coming from somewhere on the front and just getting whipped around by a belt or pully while it's running, but then runs straight down once the engine has stopped?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the info on tightening the valve cover. First problem is, it seems to be magically attached! LOL... I can't see any bolts tightening the thing down, unless they're under the spark plug covers or something.

But I can see and feel around 99% of the valve cover and there doesn't appear to be any leakage or wetness/wet spots. The only place that's tricky is right behind the timing belt cover on the front, but just using a flashlight and looking through the little area in between, there doesn't seem to be any sign of oil. Running my hand all around every where else also yields no oil.
 

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You might have more than one leak, but in your last photo it sure looks like the oil pump, which is what I thought. It looks like you need to replace the oil pump o-ring and shaft seal. A lot of folks will go ahead and do all the front seals while they are at it in addition to the timing belt and even the water pump.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks John! Now for the million dollar question.... is replacing the oil pump a DIY kind of a job? It looks pretty tight getting all that crap off the front of the engine and getting up in there.

I don't have the means to replace the timing belt and that would be REAL smart to do as the car has around 120k miles on it, so I suppose it's a dumb question and should just take it in.

Either way, thank you everybody who responded for your help! It was really nice having everybody pitch in and answer questions! Have a great rest of the weekend.
 

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I don't have the means to replace the timing belt and that would be REAL smart to do as the car has around 120k miles on it, so I suppose it's a dumb question and should just take it in.
One alternative is ATP 205 seal fluid about $11 from Amazon and a switch to high mileage oil.
That may delay things a while if funds are tight.

But yes, if you can get the timing belt done.
 

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Check out the DIY section. There are several how-to posts on doing a timing belt job. I am not a mechanic and I was able to do this job on three of my kids' Camrys because of these DIYs. Give yourself plenty of time. A pro mechanic can do it in 3 to 4 1/2 hours, but if you've never done this before, it's gonna take you a lot longer. Do I understand that your car has never had a timing belt replaced? If so, you are way past the miles and years to do this, so you will want to replace the timing belt, water pump, oil pump o-ring, oil pump shaft seal, crankshaft seal, camshaft seal, tensioner bearing, idler bearing, tensioner spring, thermostat, and the timing cover gasket (if you want). You can get an Aisin Timing Belt Kit on Amazon or other sites. The price is very good. The kit includes a Mitsuboshi timing belt, Aisin water pump with housing, Koyo bearings, and all the water pump seals and a thermostat seal. Get a thermostat that has a jiggle valve, and buy all the oil seals. Make sure to get the updated tensioner spring from Toyota. Make sure to replace all the water pump seals. Get the water pump WITH housing. It's easier and forces you to replace the rear seals as well. Just let us know if you get stuck. There are lots of guys on here who will help you.
 
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