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Blue exhaust when I start my 2003 camry

I love my car! Always have. For the last couple of months, however, when I start it in the morning a huge gust of blue exhaust comes out! Yikes. It drives just fine. Is this ok? The fellow at my oil change place seemed unconcerned and says it’s just the summer heat.

It sounds like you have worn valve stem seals. This is not a critical problem, and simply monitoring the oil level frequently should be sufficient, if you don’t want to pay for repairs.

Incidentally, I am not impressed with the technical knowledge of the guy at your oil change place. If that place is Jiffy Lube or one of its clones, you should be aware that most of the guys working there know little or nothing about cars and are most noted for the damage that they do when they service cars.

My concern for this motor would be based on the mileage-which we don’t know right now. I must say oil burning on a 2003 Camry that is well-maintaiend is suspicious though if the vehicle has low mileage.

Oh by the way-find a new place to have your car serviced, as the comment from your oil change fellow is one of the dumbest I’ve heard in a while. Just say no to Jiffy-Lube OK.

It’s not summer heat and don’t rely on what a Jiffy Lube employee tells you.

You did not state how many miles on the vehicle or what type of driving you do but if you do a lot of short hop driving with extended oil change intervals it’s possible that the valve train area (under the valve cover) is sludged up. This can block the oil drain holes which allow the oil to drain back down into the oil pan.
This in turn submerges the valve spring/seal/valve guide area and allows oil to ooze down into the combustion chamber area. The smoke on startup is that oil burning out.
The valve cover could be removed to verify this and the oil drain holes cleaned out as necessary.

I worked for a dealer one time who purchased about 35 fleet cars that saw a lot of short hop driving with extended oil changes. Every one of these cars smoked on startup even though none had more than 40k miles on it and in every case a sludged up valve train area was the culprit.

This is my car. I do drive around town alot in traffic. It has 69,000 miles on it and has been regularly serviced. For the first three years I went to the Toyota dealership for all service and always had oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. I may have gone 6,000 miles once or twice in the past two years between oil changes. If I take it to a shop, and it is worn or clogged seals, is this an expensive fix?

It’ll cost you a few hundred to fix this. The head(s) have to be removed. Very labor intensive.

Is it hurtful to the car if I don’t fix it but check the oil levels frequently and be sure I change the oil every 3,000 miles? I want to drive this car a long time.

I advise you to have it checked for sludge. Should cost less than $100. Sludge was a common problem with Camrys of that vintage. There was even a class action lawsuit. If there’s no sludge then don’t worry about it, leave it be.

Sludge was a common problem with Camrys of that vintage.

The sludge problem was only from 1997-2001. Toyota fixed the problem in mid 2001.

Isn’t it common to replace valve stem seals without removing the heads?
It’s been a while since I did one, but I typically used air to pressurize the cylinders (one at a time while I replaced the seals on that cylinder).

I even know of fellow mechanics who said they used rope instead of air pressure. IE, stuff a bunch of thick soft rope into the spark plug hole, and then manually rotate the engine until that cylinder comes up on its compression stroke - causing the rope to press against the valves and hold them up.

It’s not always a matter of the oil change interval being mileage dependent; it’s also time dependent. A lot of short hop, stop and go traffic means the oil change interval should be measured in 3-6 months time frames.
My sister in law has a 2 year old vehicle and her driving habits are so severe the oil should be changed every 2-3 months. Her poor car is hardly ever driven for more than a mile at a time and this is the worst kind of driving that can be inflicted on a vehicle short of running it out of oil or driving it while it’s overheating.

It’s entirely possible for any engine to sludge up no matter the mileage depending on the type of oil, type of driving, etc. As mentioned, the problem could be valve seals but these are not normally a problem until very high mileage or IF the engine has been overheated in the past.

Replacing valve seals would be a job that could run 3-400 dollars but could be less. There is a lot of variation in shop rates depending on locale, etc. If the car were mine I’d remove the valve cover and take a look at what’s underneath. If it’s clean then the problem is likely valve seals (very odd at only 69k miles though) and if it’s sludged up then a few minutes of cleaning should open up the oil drain holes. Won’t cure the sludge problem but should stop the smoking.

Yeah, but this is a car driven for short hops. Read one of the reply posts from the OP. Any car can sludge up under those conditions.

To answer your question: No it will not hurt the car to drive it like this. If the consumption gets much worse then it will be time to replace the valve seals. I would say when it drops down to one quart lost every 500 miles or less I would consider the repair.

I never said it couldn’t I just said that it’s not one of the cars prone. Toyota fixed that problem. But it’s very very unlikely a car to sludge up IF you change the oil regularly.

I agree with you to some extent. The OP changes their oil regularly by mileage and I believe them. The problem is that they say they use a 3 to 5k miles interval and have not specified a time frame. Three thousand miles of short hop in 6 months is not good at all so the oil should be changed every 3 months.

When I worked for car dealers I was involved in several go arounds with irate car owners who had totally trashed engines in cars they had purchased brand new and had less than 30k miles on them. Their driving habits and oil change intervals had sludged the engines up so bad (none were Toyota) the engines were not even rebuildable when they finally let go.