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2001 Toyota Camry CE timing belt broken

I bought a 2001 Toyota Camry CE at the start of the summer and have been using it to drive to work every day, 25 miles one way. The car was at 135,000 miles when I bought it. Initial check up with the mechanic indicated there were no issues and it was good to drive on the road.

Last week, I was driving on the highway and my car slowed down when I was driving on a curve but it was fine once the road straightened out. The car broke down a few minutes later. Took it into a mechanic’s shop to get it checked and he told me that the car needs a new motor because the timing belt is broken. Not sure if he is right though as I’ve read differing opinions if the car has a non-interfering engine or not. Any advice?


The 2.2 L and 3.0 L Toyota engines are non-interference engines.

All the engine needs is a timing belt kit to get it back on the road.

Take the vehicle to a different shop.


The mechanic is wrong

No matter which engine you have . . . 2.2 liter 5S-FE or 3 liter 1MZ-FE . . . they’re both non-interference, meaning a broken timing belt will not destroy your engine

If he is not willing to do the timing belt job, have it towed to a shop that is. While you’re at it, I would recommend also replacing the timing belt tensioner, idler, water pump, cam- and crank seals

If this happens to be the 5S-FE engine . . . the more common 4 cylinder . . . I would seriously consider also replacing the oil pump seals at this time. ALL of them. There are a few of them, and one of them requires partial disassembly of the oil pump. It’s not that much more work, if everything is already exposed, like it would be for a timing belt job. Trust me, you’ll want to do it at this time, because if you wait until it leaks, you’ll just be doing the whole timing belt job again.

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+1 to what the other guys said. :relaxed:

Ask your shop tech what are the reasons he thinks the engine needs to be replaced. He may have tried to hand-rotate the crankshaft or the camshaft and couldn’t, found them to be locked in place. Or maybe he’s noticed some other problem completely unrelated to the timing belt.

If I had this problem I’d remove the timing belt covers, remove any shredded parts of the old timing belt still there, look around in all the nooks and crannies to make sure there aren’t parts jammed somewhere. Next I’d try to slightly – by hand – rotate the crankshaft and camshaft, just enough – like +/- 2 degrees — to verify they move freely. If they both do, then I’d install the new timing belt kit and fire 'er up, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

One note, some engines are classified as “non-interference”, but that means the valves will never interfere with the pistons. But on some of these engines, the valves can still interfere with each other if the timing belt breaks.

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Any idea how much it is going to cost to have the other things replaced as well? I intend to keep the car only for the summer so just thinking if it’ll be worth it or not.

I’m not sure about the cost, but here’s my thoughts, since you’re only planning to keep the car for the summer . . .

Tow the car to a shop that is willing to replace the broken timing belt

When the timing case covers are off, if there’s no major oil leakage obvious, just replace the timing belt, assuming the tensioner, idler and water pump are in reasonable shape

Advertise the car for sale at the end of the summer. You might be surprised and get $1500 or so for it without too much of a hassle. There’s a LOT of Camrys of that vintage, and even older, still in operation in Los Angeles, where I live.

One of my coworkers is actually looking to buy a Camry of that vintage, as a daily driver. I just mentioned it to show that people still place a value on such cars

To anybody reading this . . . I wouldn’t advise such a partial repair for anybody planning to keep their car long term


In 2003, the Camry switched to the VVT-i version of the 1MZ-FE engine to boost horsepower. That engine was interference.

But this tidbit is of no concern to anasallauddin, since his/her Camry is a 2001. And we don’t know if the car has a 4 or 6 cyl.

does this camry use a piston style tensioner like honda uses? i am going to do the budget timing belt on my accord but i dont know if you have to/should replace the tensioner with the belt? i am only doing the belt as a “peace of mind” job. car will be gone in 3 months of course when i inspect belt pulleys than i may have more parts to buy

The car is a 4 cyl 2.2L

Exactly what did the mechanic check before telling you that a new engine was needed.
It’s sooper easy to determine if a busted timing belt has caused damage. It’d be in the form of bent valve stems and perhaps a dinged piston.

A cylinder with a bent valve stem will not hold pressure. Easy to test for. And if there is a bent stem, it does not mean the engine needs to be replaced. The valve can be replaced, and while the head is off to do so the tops of the pistons can be inspected.

It’s highly unlikely that this engine is subject to internal damage from a busted timing belt. Most of the engines Toyota produce are not “interference” engines. Odds are excellent that you just need to have the belt replaced.

If you can disclose exactly what engine you have by reading the plenum over the engine, we can be definitive, but I think you’re getting a snow job.

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I don’t have access to the car since it is in another town with the mechanic so I can’t tell you the engine number.

He told me that the car needs a new timing belt and that in most such cases the cars usually need a new engine and that he was going to get back to me with a price quote. He must have not checked the engine properly because I called him up the next day and told him about the engine being non interference and he told me that he was also sure of it being so but he didn’t know if there was any damage done to the engine or not. He said that he’s going to have to take a look at it after opening it up and he’ll reply by the middle of this upcoming week.

My main concern is that he’s been putting it off for a while now, it’s been almost a week since he has had the car and hasn’t been able to definitively tell me what’s wrong and how much it is going to take to fix it. So should I just tow my car to another mechanic who’s willing to do the work or should I stay with the mechanic I have?

There might be an oil leak since I checked under the hood after the car broke down and found some liquid dripping onto the ground from the right side of the car under the engine. Does that indicate something?

That’s the side where the oil pump, cam- and crank seals are located

Is it engine oil?

If it was me, I would start looking around for another shop. Seems that his first wild diagnose was to replace the engine only to “admit” later that he still needs to check it out.

He’s full of it.
In some cars with interference engines there might be damage to the valves and maybe pistons, but these are repairable without replacing the engines.
In Toyotas there’s usually no damage.

The damage happens because on some engines the valves when fully opened occupy space that the pistons occupy when they’re at top-dead-center. As long as the two are properly timed relative to one another they operate fine, but if the timing belt breaks they can contact one another. This can bend the valve stems and ding the piston surfaces. These are called “interference engines”.

Most Toyota engines are not interference engines. The pistons and valves never contact one another even if their timing goes awry.

Any mechanic that assumes that an engine needs to be replaced because the timing belt broke… needs to be replaced.

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My daughters saturn busted a timeing chain, $1299 fix

Yeah, chains ain’t cheap to replace.
Belts aren’t either, but they’re a lot cheaper to replace than the engine.
Besides, if you replace an engine with a busted timing belt with a boneyard engine, who’s to say the replacement engine’s timing belt isn’t ready to pop too? Or that the replacement engine doesn’t have internal problems that your original engine didn’t have? IMHO changing an engine because the belt popped is folly, except in a very rare instance, like a connecting rod broke… but those would be extremely unusual exceptions to the general rule. There’d be other causes for that to happen.

Generally if a shop doesn’t do what they promise to do, on time, with appropriate quality, and staying close to their price estimate, usually it is best to move to a different shop. This all presumes they actually did make promises to you, and give you written estimates. If none of that has happened yet, and you have some kind of give-and-take relationship with them at this point, suggest to focus on that part of the repair process first. Get a formal written estimate and document any verbal promises and get those written onto the estimate too.

I got my car to another mechanic and he tells me that he can indeed replace the time belt and it’s going to take 5 hrs of labor to do so. Also, there might be a leak in the oil gasket/pump so they want to put in a new oil pump which is around the same cost as fixing the time belt, if not a bit more. The total for all the repairs is coming up to about $ 1400 for a car that I bought for the same amount of money. Any advice on what to do?