CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Exhaust smoke from '02 Camry

My ?02 Toyota Camry, automatic, 4 cylinder, 4 door sedan with 61,897 miles has had its oil and oil filter changed every six months since purchased new in ?02. Generally, this means there is about 3,000 to 4,000 miles between changes. I believe we had as much as 5,000 one time. At each time of the change I fill the engine right at the ?Full? marker on the dipstick. At the next change interval I have noted that a miniscule amount of oil was consumed ? MAYBE a 1/16 to an 1/8 inch? but nothing that indicates other than normal consumption, such as any burning of oil. Oil color at changing is a nice golden tone, nothing even close to brown. The car always passes the emission tests which we have every other year. Last one was a month ago.



My problem: When I start the engine at the beginning of the day ? at normal ambient temperature, for example 70 degrees, a cloud of gray smoke bursts from the tailpipe. The smoke stops emanating from the pipe immediately and dissipates in a moment, or two. This appearance of smoke is pretty consistent from day to day after the car has sat overnight for 12 hours or so and it has been going on since 2007. However, sometimes the amount of smoke is alarming in terms of volume. Other times it is just a bit of smoke. For example, earlier this summer at 70 F when I started the car for the first time midmorning, from my position in the driver?s seat I saw a minor amount of smoke. This morning when I started the car I saw a bit of smoke come from the pipe. But I had to go around to the rear of the car to see this minor amount. As always, it appeared white. It had its typical minor petro-chemical smell. Temperature was 66 F and the car had sat overnight for 13 hours. I did note recently that at a very warm morning (80 degrees F) that I saw NO smoke. I haven?t enough observations to confirm that at warmer temperatures that this as consistently the case, however.



Hopefully without prejudicing others, my thoughts are that I don?t have an oil consumption problem. However, I do have a temperature sensor problem in that it causes the injection of too much fuel into the cylinders on colder morning start-ups. OR, I might have a problem with my injectors leaking a bit of fuel into the cylinders after I turn off the engine the evening before.



My questions: What really is the problem? Might this be a problem that should be fixed? If I don?t fix it, will it get worse? Is it causing any problems for the car mechanically? Can I fix it myself ? for example, can I use an injector cleaner to cause the injector to ?close? to stop any fuel leaks?



Suggestions, thoughts, comments appreciated.

The 4S-FE engine had this problem. Enough oil would leak past the valve stem seals to cause a smoke cloud on morning startup. This was usually intermittant i.e. only happening on 1 in 5 starts. The solution was to change the valve stem seals. This can be done without removing the head but did require removing the timing belt and the cams. Even with this morning burnoff, there isn’t high oil consumption and doesn’t appear to be any problem with contaminating catalytic converters.

Your engine is an 4AZ-FE which is built in the same configeration but uses a timing chain instead of timing belt. You might check with Toyota Service to see if there is a TSB on the valve stem leakage for this engine. If you can find a truthful service engineer s/he might admit that this problem is also affecting these engines. S/he would be able to give you advice on whether to fix the problem or live with it.

Hope this helps. Please get back to us on your progress with this situation.

Usually you can tell by the color of the smoke.

Blue = Oil.
White/Gray - Water/moisture
Black - Rich Mixture.

Have you checked the oil level?? Are you loosing oil?? If so how much between oil changes??

Injectors??? Problems starting the car?? If injectors are leaking then you’d experience hard starting or rough-running.

Personally I don’t think there’s a problem. Car sitting so long that there’s probably a lot of moisture in the exhaust. And what you’re seeing is the moisture burning off.

Thanks for the input. I’ll get with some of those in Toy Srvc with whom I had a good working relationship. After reading about a similar problem which was posted last year, I checked out a website some good soul referenced: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2007/01/toyota_sludge_settlement.html
which indicates sludge might be an issue. With the local dealership I will bring this up and see what happens next. I’ll keep CTalk posted.