The needle in temp gage on my 2005 Toyota is now facing the opposite direction. This happened right after the most recent oil change. Is this a gauge or a sending unit problem?
If only Car Talk were still doing live shows. This would be a good one for Tom and Ray to riff on!
Is the check engine light on (after the engine is running)? Besides that, hmmm … well, first thing is to check that the oil level on the dipstick is ok. Then make sure the coolant is full both in the plastic bottle and in the radiator. If all that is ok and there’s no signs of overheating – poor engine performance, steam, etc – I’d suspect the sending unit is on the fritz.
What does it do when the engine is off? If it stays out of whack, as I suspect it does, the needle has probably just come dislodged.
These needles are just pressed onto their stems, like a clock hand on its stem. Stop by the dealer’s parts department and ask them to print an exploded view drawing of the gage cluster installation. It’ll show you how to remove the portion of the dash encasing the gage cluster, and from there the engine cluster just unplugs and is removed. Once out, the removal of the plastic lens will be obvious. It’ll just be clipped on with plastic ears. Once the lens is off, you can pull the needle off and reorient it.
For the record, I’ve had mine off a few times on my Scion. I tried putting a customized face on the gages that I thought would make the gages more visible under bad lighting conditions. I hated it, so I took the cluster back out and put the old faces back on.
Fairly common problem with the modern gauges. Search on here or elsewhere for many suggestions from magnets to physical holes to nudge it back into position…
All levels are up and the car runs fine. Interestingly the gauge appears to work on the wrong side of the gauge, moves when the car heats up.
I think @mountainbike is on to something here.
Than the needle has been dislodged.
If you choose to correct it, in order to properly reset the needle you may have to bring the engine up to operating temperature with the plastic lens off (the cluster can be left to hang free while plugged in) and, while everything is still running, pull the needle off, place it in the center of the range, and then shut the car off, remove the cluster again to reinstall the lens, then reinstall the cluster. That’s the process I used to set my gages. I corrected a 2mph speedo error while I was at it. According to the cops’ radar, it’s perfectly accurate now.
The needle didn’t just get dislodged for no reason
I suspect the motor behind the gauge should be replaced
There are shops that repair clusters for $200, give or take
Toyota has issued a Technical Service Bulletin for 05 & 06 Camry’s, #EL005-06.
Some customers may notice that the temperature gauge is not indicating the actual coolant temperature.
The fix is to install an updated combination meter assembly (instrument cluster).
The vehicles mileage must be reprogramed into the replacement combination meter assembly.
One way to calibrate the dash temp gauge is to see what it is reading when the radiator fan comes on. On my Corolla the radiator fan is controlled by a switch that is screwed into the coolant jacket, and comes on at 190 deg F. After I had replaced a faulty fan temp switch and had verified the replacement switch w/a pot of water heating on the stove and a thermometer, after the replacement I made a mental note of where the dash gauge was pointing next time the fan came on. I now know that spot on the gauge is 190 deg F.
A tip of the hat to Tester. I always fail to check the TSBs. That’s almost as bad as failing to check the fuses.
If it seems to work properly but 180 degrees out of position, the needle/coil assembly has flipped. In these designs it will work in either orientation. Sometimes current or voltage surges cause them to swing to the other side. The self test sometimes results in this when the gauges swing full range. Before you replace anything I would urge you to search on the issue and try the fixes, they are essentially free to try…