Camry 96(gen3) 4cyl historical hysterical moment :)

I need to consider myself an unlucky toyota owner. Well this could be a tricky one.
I had this car for a long time, respect the car and treat it well.
The car never overheated, oil was changed in time but at 159,000 miles engine came ON, car running rough and found out cylinder#2 misfire.
So initially I was thinking it could be an injector problem but found out spark plug chamber #2 has some coolant/water inside.
Well per a friend recommendation I dried everything inside and replaced the spark plug. Car was running fine for 15 minutes and it started again to hesitate and basically to run in 3 cylinders. Checked again and I was able to see vapors coming out.
Well checked with different shops, consulted different mechanics and all of them agree that could be a head gasket problem.
So a good mechanic, I personally believe it was good judging by the way he was moving/working and I even consulted the manual and he knew exactly what he was doing, he send the head to the machinist/shop, head was resurfaced and they mentioned it was pretty warped-but no cracks, we replaced all gaskets in the car with OEM Toyota Parts, and we replaced all belts, water pump, a few sensors, since we did this big project.
Well shortly, once job was done, I happily found out the car started fine! let it run for 15 minutes, drove the car another 15 minutes, and everything looked normal … I even decided to buy a new radiator and replace it by myself next days. Well once done drove the car another 30 minutes/55-60miles per hours and check engine came one and car was running rough again. I thought it could be the gas sitting in the car for 3-4 months.
And sadly/totally devastated to find out exactly the same spark plug chamber #2 is flooded with coolant/water.
All that after spending time/research and around 1,000$.
So any advice before trashing the car for 300$ ?
Thank you and I really appreciate your help, respect to all inputs.

Well, you take it back to the shop that just did all of this work and make them get it right. Any number of things could be wrong. The machine shop may not have done their job correctly and missed a crack in the head or not machined it properly. The shop doing the head may not have done their job correctly and did one of two things: 1) didn’t install the head properly or 2) missed a cracked block.

The only way you might have to get stuck with shouldering the cost of this issue is if the block was cracked. But even so, that should have been ruled out.

So have you taken it back to the shop yet?

If the head is warped, who judged it OK to reuse it? Did the machine shop say it “might” be OK, and you decided to take the chance? Or, or did they say it was definately OK and would hold?

At this point you might want to price a brand new head, or get a used one and have it checked out by the machine shop. It seems like the current head is just no good, or was not installed properly. A new gasket could be bad, the head may have been mistorqued? Lot’s of possibles, but whichever it is going to need more time at the shop. I’d give the mechanics a shot at getting this sorted out and properly repaired. Did the shop give any warranty on their work?

The mechanic mentioned that the shop said the HEAD was pretty warped and it was close to the limit to be surfaced but it is OK to reuse it and that they couldn’t see any crack. Well all those thing with the mechanics are relative. If the SHOP or if the mechanic said 100% truth I guess I would never know.

now it’s to late but if I knew before you can actually find a new head for like 400$ - I would rather prefer to have a new one than a resurfaced/old one for 250$. But unfortunately I asked so many people around and nobody opened my eyes or came with the idea: ‘hey buy a new head’ instead of resurface the old one … now it’s kind of too late. But I guess it’s a fashion in resurfacing/rebuilding/rechecking an old one instead of just buying a new one. And for me now after all those happened - it makes no sense somebody didn’t tell me to simply go for a new one…
It’s really hard I guess to find an excellent mechanic but … after check engine came ON and stopped my car in parking to check and discovered the coolant in spark plug chamber no#2 I found a funny/different smell … smell that was not there before around the engine … probably is the coolant smell in that chamber evaporating … but I am wondering if it could be a crack in the cylinder block somewhere and not in the cylinder head. Is that possible? Nobody is mentioning anything about the part under the cylinder head and it seems mechanics believe the problem it’s always the cylinder head?!

Just call me nobody: “or 2) missed a cracked block.”

If the car never overheated its hard to say how the head could have gotten all that warped.

So if the shop just leaving this all on you? Have you even spoken to them?

Without car in hand it’s impossible to say, but I have a comment and a question.
The comment is that the engine block can warp as well as the cylinder head. The block deck should always be checked too. If a problem exists there then you would really be in trouble because this means a complete engine teardown to resurface it.

The question would be this. You state the engine never overheated but did you buy this vehicle brand new?
You state that you’ve had it a long time so I assume it was purchased used and there’s no telling what happened before you bought it.

ok4450 I really appreciate your input. I bought the car from a lady/easy driver up north in Boston in 2004. The time I bought it, the car had 56,000miles and it never eat/leaked oil and it never over heated.
I moved in Florida in 2006 and now I have 159,000 miles on this engine… that could be a possibility too … the engine block to be somehow damaged too … what I know for sure is that at one point the mechanic said that the bottom part should be fine and what I know for sure is that he never put any special thing to actually measure somehow if it’s warped or not. What is interesting is that after we fixed it - it’s acting exactly in the same spot/spark plug chamber … I mean if he didn’t put back the gasket correctly you would expect to see maybe a different/additional phenomen too … anyhow I guess it’s hard to tell exactly why and where.

Wait wait WAIT a minute here…You stated that you found coolant IN the spark plug CHAMBER? Meaning on the OUTSIDE of the engine? I have seen the spark plug “wells” full of engine oil from a leaky valve cover gasket many X…but never full of coolant. OR…Are you trying to say that the #2 CYLINDER was full of coolant? and if it was FULL of coolant you would have had Hydro-lock…and someone would have had to miss a MASSIVE crack in the head… or block/cylinder wall

I’m a little confused, so please confirm for me…or provide a little more detail

*** “Checked again and I was able to see vapors coming out”. ---- FROM WHERE? The spark plug hole? Didn’t you have a white puffy cloud of smoke coming out your tailpipe at any point? Please clarify…

*** "after check engine came ON and stopped my car in parking to check and discovered the coolant in spark plug chamber no#2 I found a funny/different smell … smell that was not there before around the engine … probably is the coolant smell in that chamber evaporating "

---- AGAIN…the above confuses me a bit because you can not smell fluid UNDER a spark plug and in the CYLINDER…You CAN or COULD smell and see it if the coolant was in the Spark Plug “WELL” SO again I am thinking that you are alluding to the " WELL " and not the actual CYLINDER…So I apologize but that how I am reading it…Is that what you are saying? IF SO…this is a STRAANGE ISSUE…and one that would not have been easily caught by a machinist unless you told him that your spark plug WELLS were filling up…PLEASE CLARIFY FOR ME as this info affects the solution…I apologize again, either I’m real sharp and catching exactly what you are trying to say…OR you are talking about your CYLINDER in a strange fashion…LOL Please help…

There are good reasons to re-surface the known working cylinder and get it back into spec…One you know that it doesn’t have any other issues besides being out of " Square " …you know the valves & seals are good…OR NOT…and other little things like that…Its FAR FAR cheaper than a New or used head…It costs me between 50-100 to get a head Squared up again. Many X under 100.

I keep reading your descriptions to try to get a handle on this…but IF you are talking about the Spark Plug WELL and not the cylinder…then there is much of a different way around this…the more I read the more I see you basically saying that the WELL are filling up…PLEASE PLEASE clarify…because if its the WELL…ITS NOT THE HEAD GASKET that is suspect. PLEASE let me know I am trying to assist


Yes I really really appreciate your time HondaBalckbird … yes, when I am saying chamber I am referring to spark plug well. everybody said the same … this is not a common issue for that engine … and everybody/mechanics said: ‘hmm that’s so weird’ but in the end everybody said it could be 1) the head gasket or 2) the head cracked. Now I replaced the head gasket and also I was told the head was inspected and resurfaced and ready to go. And still EXACTLY the SAME issue. The #2 WELL is not FULL but I guess it’s half full since it’s covering the spark plug … so coolant vapors are coming from inside the engine / somewhere. I AM CURIOUS TOO - I am not a mechanic - but if I knew the engine structure or a little bit of mechanic I probably could guess where is coming from. I am not loosing coolant, I mean I am loosing a LITTLE BIT that goes in there, but that ‘a little bit’ it’s hard to measure and hard to see … and that ‘a little bit’ of coolant that goes there is good enough to make your car run just in 3 cylinders since is flooding the #2 WELL SPARK PLUG.
And yes, I am sorry for my european/English :slight_smile:
After the headgasket job was done, I was running the car 15 minutes in praking mode … and than another 15 minutes with a low speed 20mph …
In a few days installed a new radiator, just to make my job complete and to look nice … and runned the car another 20-30 min in parking no problem. Engine was hot- purpose was to see how the FANs are responding on the new radiator.
I went on streets running the car 5-10 minutes at 50miles per hour and check engine came ON. So I suspect it has something to DO with the speed/ pressure you create in the engine. It could be a crack/fissure somewhere?! that expands at high pressure? I am not a mechanic - just suspecting/observing, paying attention.

searching and searching and researching for months … I finally found someone in a similar situation and here is what they are talking about:

"After speaking with Jerry It seems to point to a cracked head :cry: ,not sure where it’s cracked since there isn,t much room inside the sparkplug “tube” for a crack into a coolant passage.

It’ll be a while before I can get it apart and see tho’

Looking back over the last year,I believe it’s been cracked since last april atleast,when my misterious coolant leak showed up,I had been running pure water in system up until about a month ago when it started to get cold here and I put in antifreeze.

I guess the straight water would evaporate and not ground out the plug,and since antifreeze won’t evaporate like water,It accumulates and then grounds out plug."


Before adding any addtional comment I just want to clarify the spark plug well part of this.The well is the tube in the valve cover into which a plug wire or boot fits, along with most of the spark plug. The combustion chamber is the internal part of the engine where the spark plug tip ignites the fuel/air mixture.

I’m assuming that you mean engine coolant is saturating the spark plug tip and causing the misfire? Just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page.

ok4450 yes you are right … once you pull out the plug wire/or boot … the spark plug is covered with coolant … I am not sure 100% if it’s totally covered or just half covered in coolant but it’s coolant in there … and for one reason it’s a little bit darker … I mean is not like the green fresh one … it has a nasty smell like the coolant was burned … probably because of the spark plug and the high temperature in there so the coolant/fluid color property is changing too…

I’m having a hard time seeing how engine coolant is getting into the spark plug well tubes in the valve cover. It would seem the only way this would occur would be if engine coolant was flooding the valve train and this would show up immediately in the engine oil; which should be overfull and cloudy.

Sure this isn’t discolored engine oil instead of coolant? That could be due to faulty plug well seals but if the head was redone those seals should have been replaced at that time as they are part of a head gasket set.

Regarding coolant from the intake manifold you might look at this.

Note the small rectangular ports in between the round ones. Those are coolant ports and if an intake gasket is leaking for whatever reason coolant can be drawn into the engine very easily.
Seeing as how the head was resurfaced this means that both exhaust and intake manifolds would have to be removed before surface grinding the head. This should mean not only replacement of the intake gasket but also inspecting the manifold and cylinder head surface where the gasket mates up. Those surfaces warp just like the cylinder head/engine block surface and inspecting these surfaces should be part of the job.
I would think that someone would have to be blind to not discern a problem in this area.

However, a leak at the intake would foul the spark plug in the combustion chamber but is unlikely to cause a problem with the spark plug well tubes. Hope that helps.

It could be because “somehow” coolant goes into the combustion chamber?!, coolant gets in there SOMEHOW … and the PISTON by pressure/force it push and floods the spark-plug and spark plug well/chamber too …
another thing is I DON’T KNOW if anyone already knew this BUT I just found out that the SPARK PLUGS WELLS/CHAMBERS are removable!!! so basically you can replace the whole spark plug well/chamber?!?! with a new one?! anyone can gave me an IDEA?! that could be the case?! to be something wrong with that SPARK PLUG TUBE?! So the big question is:
I guess the tubes are pressed or threaded into the head. Not sure if they do thread into the coolant passages of the head?!

The only way I really could see coolant getting into a spark plug well would be if the valve train area was being filled with coolant (unlikely) or coolant was entering that particular cylinder from a head gasket or intake gasket fault.
With the latter it would mean that cylinder pressures would be forcing coolant past the spark plug threads into the spark plug well. At some point the coolant would drown the spark plug wire/boot and kill the spark.
One would think that if this were the case that the engine would be blowing some white smoke before it ever got to the point where the plug well was full of coolant.

The problem is not the plug well tubes though. It’s something else and it seems to me anyway that someone has overlooked something during this repair related to the head gasket, intake gasket, mating surfaces of the head or intake manifold, and so on. Sorry I can’t be more specific but you have a very unusual situation here.

SEE…I DID READ THIS RIGHT !! A MOMENT OF CLARITY !.. Which is why I didn’t immediately jump on the Head Gasket Band Wagon…

If you told me this symptom I would have NEVER told you to replace your head gasket NOR TO Mill your cylinder head…as Neither of them address an issue such that you are seeing…and it would have pointed to a failed HEAD… If “mechanics” looked at this they ALL failed you miserably… I mean I caught this on the internet…they had the car in front of them…

I am so sorry you are having these issues… At LEAST you can now go back to them and say…HOW OR WHY would you guys have me do X repairs when it was more than obvious that it was NOT a head GASKET issue…nor a Head being out of spec issue… I mean C’mon man…Thats a true statement…

Sounds to me like a cracked head…and its a weird place to crack …and even if it DID crack there…do we have coolant near that “well”? I guess maybe its possible that we do/can…so…this may be as simple as having it welded…No? But to do so you need to find the crack… I don’t think we are seeing the cylinder fill up and the coolant being pressurized up and beyond the plug! IF SO…Ive never seen nor heard of it…doesn’t mean I am the be all and end all…but Jeez…what say you guys?


Now that I got us all on the right track…Lets see what we come up with. I’d BLUE DEVIL THAT SUCKER at this point. Put the old rad back in an let the Devil do its dirty work…then put in the new rad aftrwards…

I am going to call a few friends for you to see what I can come up with…(ALL mechanics and machinists)

Hey guys…did you ever see those HUGE Allen keyed…like hole fillers inside of cyl heads…on the top side? I mean HUGE ALLEN KEY ALSO…like 1 inch or slightly under that…they look like some sort of “Plug” in the top of the head…maybe he has them and they leak?


I know it’s such an UNUSUAL situation … and never had any white smoke in the back … that could be just because the leak it’s low …
I don’t trust any liquids that can work miracles :slight_smile: The best case scenario I would try some GM Cooling System Seal Tabs … which are a combination of natural roots … ginger etc…
MAYBE are just some pores in that area and not a big crack …

No the one I am suggesting is NOT a Miracle Type cure, It is SERIOUS stuff and it works…It will solve your issue in minutes and permanently, in fact the issue you have would be “childs play” for this stuff to handle.

Thats a decision you will need to make, just know that it WILL work. WHat have the mechanics said since your work was done…and WHY did they do such work when what they did…would not address the issue you have/having? THAT is what troubles me most. Sure like to hear what they have to say for themselves.

I will let you know what my buds can come up with between all of them and myself, I think we collectively have seen it all…LOL.