1990 Camry Engine Oil Leak


I just bought a '90 Camry 6cyl. It runs fine but has an oil leak at the crank pulley. I have the seal, and plan to do the repair asap. When I pulled the dipstick, it was DRY. So I added oil until the level was good (about 2 qts). Then I drove it - and checked it again - dipstick was dry again! So the oil is leaking out fast. But the engine sounds and runs fine - and the oil lite is NOT on. I need to drive this car for at least a few days before I will be able to fix it, and so I have 2 questions:

1) Is the oil likely leaking down to a level where there is just enough to lube the crank and keep everything happy? In other words, can I drive it carefully?

2) For the repair itself, it looks like there is one large pulley bolt to remove - then the pulley is pulled off - and I assume the seal at that point is simple to remove and press in?

Any advice would be most appreciated. I am a mechanic but I have no experience with these cars.

Thank you!


If you continue to drive this engine without enough oil to register on the dipstick you will destroy it almost immediately. Period. I’m amazed that you haven’t already.

If you’re not a subsriber to Mitchel’s, Alldata, or some other repair data service, then I’d suggest that you get a Haynes manual before even starting the job. That engine I believe has the water pump and timing belt in front of the crank seal and you have a much larger project ahead of you than you’re envisioning. I’d suggest reviewing it in the manual before starting.

Sincere best.


The lower timing belt gear has to come off.


We had a previou post on oil levels. The range on you distick typically covers about 1/2 the volume of the crankcase. When the dipstick reading goes down to “nothing”, you will still have oil left in the sump. However, at highway speed, most of that oil will be circulating through the engine oil galleries, leaving not much in the sump for the splash lubrication requires to keep the cylinder walls covered.

As Mountainbike pointed out, you are in danger of destroying the engine with so little oil. You also don’t know with a dry dipstick if you have 2 quarts left or no quarts.


Exactly. The minute the level of the pool drops below the pickup tube destruction will start immediately. The OP has been very lucky so far.


If you are losing 2 quarts of oil through the front seal in I guess 50-100 miles, you should be able to see the oil dripping from the front of the engine and there should be quite a mess of oil blown back onto the undercarriage of the car.

One other place oil can go in a short time is up into the valve covers where it can hide from the crankcase. A lot of Camary engines had a sludge problem that would cause oil starvation when the oil in the pan ended up stuck in the valve cover area. So look for that problem because plugged drain back holes will also block the passage of blowby gasses reaching the PVC valve and the fresh air vent. This blockage would put extra blowby gas pressure on the seals causing more leakage than ordinary. Also consider the possibility that oil is being sucked into the PVC system or pushed out the vent into the intake throttle body.

To get at the front seal you have to do all the work of removing the timing belt, i.e. remove the crankshaft pulley, remove the timing belt covers, remove the belt, remove the crankshaft cam drive gear, and then figure out how to extract the seal without damaging the crankshaft journal on which the seal lip rides – if you pry with a screwdriver stay away from the crankshaft nose.