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2000 Toyota Camry blowing smoke


I have a 2000 Toyota Camry automatic that blows black smoke out the exhaust when starting up. If I drive it around and make multiple stops it does not smoke. It is only after it has been sitting for a while.

I took it to a mechanic who said the valves needed to be replaced, which he said would cost about 3k.

I don’t have that kind of money to fix it right now, and I also am skeptical this is the problem.

The car is in good shape and has been very well maintained.

Any help would be great.

This is a classic symptom of worn valve stems or guides or bad valve stem seals. I have no idea what the valve stem seals are like on a Camry, but if replacing them doesn’t cure it the head will have to come off.

In the short term you can just keep driving it , but I imagine in the long term it will probably kill an oxygen sensor, converter, or spark plugs.

The car is 12 years old now. Is it something you want to invest in to keep for the longer term? Or just to keep going for a couple of more years with little investment?

If it’s for the short term, some very low cost options include:

  • Do nothing and live with it. You don’t complain about the car “using” oil. As oldtimer11 noted, in the long term it may affect other components, but I suspect you’re a long way from that.
  • Try a “High Mileage Oil”. These have additives that intend to swell old hardened rubber seals. There is a small chance it might help.
  • Try a thicker oil. This can help, perhaps marginally, but it carries all the negative effects that come with oil that’s too heavy.
How many miles are on the car?

If it were me and I planned to keep the car, then I would consider replacing the valve stem seals (without removing the cylinder heads). This assumes the valve guides are not worn. This won’t cost anything close to your original quote of $3K.

If the engine has lots of miles on it (for example over 200K), then you need to think about worn valve guides. Replacing just the seals if your guides are worn will only be a short term solution.

Based on the information you provided, I would first try switching to high mileage oil and then just live with it.

Black smoke? Sounds like you’re running rich . . . maybe a fuel injection adjustment. I know that smoke at start-up is usually valve stem seals . . . but isn’t oil smoke blue? How much smoke? How much oil use? How many miles on this Camry? If your oil consumption is minimal, I would live with it. Rocketman

Good point Rocketman. I missed the “black” adjective in the OP’s description and instead went down the path of his mechanic’s recommendations.

If the smoke is truly black, then ignore my previous post. If it’s blue-ish, then it still holds.

Also take a look at the pcv valve, if it is stuck open the engine will suck in oil from the rocker arm cover.

Thanks everyone!

I’m going to look into it some more, and if I can just drive it for the time being (1 year is great) I just need it to get me through one more year of school.

And rocketman and JoeMario, this may sound silly, but it looks black, how do I tell the difference?


From what you say Kate it does sound like there is a problem with fuel leaking into the cylinders or a single cylinder, if you have and most likely do have, multipoint injection. One of the injectors could be leaking and that will cause a dark cloud of smoke for a short time when the engine is started. The injectors can be checked out for a reasonable cost to see if that is the cause of the trouble.

Blue is definitely blue . . . . and black is black. Park it in the Sun . . you’ll get a better color definition. Or get someone to stand behind the car and ask them to watch when you start it. Rocketman

I would suspect a leaky fuel injector too.
I would remove the spark plugs and look for a wet or gassy smelling plug when it’s been sitting for awhile.

Hello everyone,

Thanks for the advice. So I had a friend that is pretty car savvy and found out that my car had the wrong spark plugs in it.

I think I had a tune up about 2 years ago, I’m pretty upset that this could have been causing all the problems.

Having the wrong plugs installed shouldn’t cause the kind of trouble you described.