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2000 Camry - Water pump/Timing Belt

I was wondering if I could get some advice or some notion of what to expect when I talk to my mechanic later today.

I have a 2000 Toyota Camry with roughly 160,000 miles on it and have always changed my oil roughly every 4500 miles.

I was driving at around 70 mph when the engine died and the car would not start again. I had it towed to my mechanic.

He’s not good at conversing on the phone so I’m going to talk to him later today, but he said that the water pump died and the timing belt was broken. He also indicated that I was very low on oil. He said he was going to replace the pump and belt, add some oil, and then try to start it.

I’ve been reading that I could have damaged the engine significantly and it could be quite expensive to fix. Could anyone give me an idea of what, exactly, happened when the car died? And what potential damage I can expect?


Which engine do you have, 2.2L 4 cyl or 3.0L V6?

Neither one appears to have an interference engine, so your pistons probably didn’t slam into the valves once the timing belt broke.

There’s more to maintaining a car than just changing the oil. Did the timing belt and water pump have 160,000 miles on them? The water pump would have stopped working once the timing belt broke, otherwise the water pump may not have had a problem.

Of course, if it is the original water pump, I would never just leave it in there if you’re doing all that labor anyway. The incremental cost to change it as well would be very low.

Thank you for the quick response Goldwing.

I have a 4-cylinder engine, so I guess the valves are okay (I’ve been getting some conflicting reports online about whether the engine is interference or non-interference).

I’m not certain if the pump/timing belt had 160K on them. I got the car around 100-110K from my mechanic (same guy as I took it to now) who said it was in great condition. I don’t know if that means he replaced the timing belt (which I think you’re supposed to do at 90K) or the water pump. What do you think I can expect when I talk to him, given that it’s a non-interference engine? And (it seems unlikely) can low oil be caused by the broken pump/timing belt, or can low oil cause the pump to break? I’m usually pretty good about making sure my fluids are at the right level…

As to the oil change thing, you’re absolutely right. I do, however, have a mechanic check over the car before and after long trips. I have him give it a solid check at least once a year. What kinds of preventative maintenance would you recommend?

See if you have the owner’s manual and maintenance schedule. Nearly all of your recommended preventive maintenance is listed there. Follow the schedule (either time or mileage accrued) and this car should do well.

Being significantly low on oil means you need to check your oil level more frequently (every two or three gas fill ups) and make sure it doesn’t reach the “really low” level that the mechanic is probably alluding to. Checking your oil before and after long trips (perhaps daily on the long trips) would ensure that your oil level is generally OK. Being low on oil may be causing your engine more damage than the timing belt breaking. Your mechanic will know more after he gets it started up.

Post back if you have any questions after your mechanic’s visit.

The mechanic you bought from should have changed the timing belt before he sold it to you. If not, he should have disclosed this at the time of the sale.

Oil level should have nothing whatsoever to do with the timing belt breaking. You need a new timing belt (and belt tensioner) and water pump now and let’s hope that’s about all.

If you recently checked the oil level, I’m skeptical that oil was really low.

Thanks jayhawkroy, Goldwing. I’ll definitely check the manual and see what I’ve got coming up.

I’ll ask the mechanic about the oil and why it could possibly be low. I’m a little skeptical about it being low, too. I don’t see bluish smoke when I start the car, so I don’t think I’m burning oil (although I realize there are other ways to burn oil). That would leave an oil leak as a culprit; given that my girlfriend and I trade off carpooling week to week, and I haven’t seen a pool of oil or even drips under my car, I don’t know what else it could be.

Back on topic, yeah – I sure hope all I need is the water pump and timing belt. I assume that it’s going to be $500-700 on it (sound right?). Not good, but still a heck of a lot better than a completely seized engine.

If it is burning oil only slightly, like a quart every 1,000 miles, you probably will not see smoke. The catalytic converter could mask the oil burning until it gets really heavy. You should always check the oil level at least every couple of fill-ups. I check every fill-up. Can never be too careful with the oil.

$500-$700 is a good price for a timing belt and water pump with labor.

Thank you, everyone, for all your help.

As Goldwing and other stated, it was pretty much just the pump and the timing belt. He went ahead and changed my oil as well, since I was due in another couple hundred miles anyway. We couldn’t find the cause of the low oil, but I’m going to check it after every second fill up (is the best time to check oil when the engine is cold?). With parts and labor, it came out to be around $550, so not bad, considering.

Thanks again for all your help. I really appreciate it!