Replacing Engine on 99 Toyota Camry 2.2L EFI DOHC 4cyl


My car overheated & it blew a head gasket on my 99 Toyota 4cyl Camry. I was told, by the shade tree mechanic who just replaced the radiator & thermostat & then discovered that the head gasket was blown, that it would be best to just replace the engine, as it would be about the same price as trying to have it repaired. I was told it would cost around $900 - $1000 to replace the engine.

I am a 63 yr old single female living in Memphis. I don’t have much money, so am looking for the most economical way to fix my car & get it back up & running so I have a vehicle again. I am disabled now & only drive my car about 5 - 6,000 miles a year.

Where would I look to purchase a decent replacement engine? I did see some for sale online on eBay, would that my best option? When purchasing a replacement engine, is it best to purchase a Used or Rebuilt Engine? What should I look for when purchasing a replacement engine?

If I buy a used or rebuilt engine, does it come with everything that’s needed to get the car fixed & running again, or do I need to also purchase some additional parts to go with it? My out-of-town nephew mentioned something about making sure my mechanic could capture the freon from my ac when he replaced the engine, as replacing the freon could run around $2-$300 additional?

My 99 Toyota Camry currently has 215,000 miles & everything was working fine until a small radiator leak became a big one, which caused the car to overheat & blow a head gasket. The car now has a new Radiator, New Belts (except timing belt), new Thermostat, new brakes, fairly new tires & a new battery. I have owned this car since it was new & I’ve had no major problems with the car until this happened.

Any other suggestions or advice on what I need to do or look for would be appreciated. Thanks for any & all help & replies.

Talk to your guy about it, seems like the best deal in town to me.

Forget Ebay , just take the advice of a local mechanic. That sounds like he is using a used engine and since you don’t drive much that may be the less costly way to go.

I’d look for a second and maybe even a third opinion

This $1000 to replace the engine, just what does that include?

A used engine that is in working condition, minus the labor to install, minus additional parts?

How are you to know the used engine is in much better shape than yours?

Unless it’s still in its original vehicle, it may be hard to determine if compression and engine oil pressure are good . . .

And let’s assume that it’s in dire need of a timing belt, as well. Probably needed to be replaced 10 years ago. This engine is non-interference, and many people don’t replace it until it breaks and they have no choice.

Please don’t doubt me on the next statement(s)

When the engine gets replaced, there will be MANY additional things that need to be addressed

Such as . . .

Fresh engine oil

Fresh coolant

thermostat . . . assume the donor engine needs one

that timing belt I mentioned . . . plus thermostat

the water pump . . . it would be foolish not to do it, as well

I believe on this car, the engine and transmission are lifted out together as a unit

There’s a good chance the seals for the cv halfshafts may start leaking afterwards

The car’s old, there’s a chance the wiring is brittle. Removing that engine may result in some damage, no matter how careful the guy is

Depending on how complete the donor engine is, some parts may have to be swapped over. You’ll need to allow for that. Any number of things could happen.

What does your car even look like?

Is it worth putting in another engine?

Do you live in an area where roads are heavily salted?

If so, is your car structurally sound?

Does the ac even work decently?

If your evaporator is leaking, for example, that would be a HUGE repair.

Does the automatic transmission shift well . . . I’m assuming you have an automatic, unless I hear otherwise . . . ?

How often have you had it serviced?

If the answer is I don’t know or it’s rarely been service, I’d say your car doesn’t rate another engine

From a purely financial standpoint, I’d say it doesn’t make sense to install any engine in this 1999 Camry, unless you get it at pick a part at 1/2 price weekend and you do all the work yourself and thus pay nothing for labor

I think it may be time to let go of this vehicle

It’s done its job and owes you nothing further


You need to make sure you are on the same page as far as the money goes. Is this guy saying that he will provide the engine and labor for 900 to 1000? That sounds awful cheap to me and don’t see that as possible.

There will be additional money involved. Coolant, oil and filter, and on a used engine a new timing belt kit is a must. If this car has an automatic transmission there is no way I would install any engine without replacing the front pump seal on the transmission. Murphy’s Law is usually hanging around and that law says that if the seal is not replaced it will start puking transmission fluid the day after the engine is swapped.

Your out of town nephew is incorrect about the “freon”. It’s actually R134a and it’s cheap; around 5 or 6 bucks a can. Your car will probably take a couple of cans and since your mechanic is of the shade tree variety I kind of doubt that he has a refrigerant recovery machine.

Your mechanic guy comes across as a bit suspect to me because he should have checked a few things before installing a new radiator and thermostat and made sure there was no head gasket problem.

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And I’d also like to know how it was determined that the head gasket was blown in the first place . . .

Because the engine wouldn’t start after replacing the radiator and thermostat?

If that’s the way the guy arrived at the diagnosis of blown head gasket, did he do any kind of test(s) . . . ?

Or was it the case that the engine started after replacing the radiator, but it was running hot?

If that’s the way it went down, did the guy make sure the appropriate electric fans . . . you have 2, as far as I know . . . were coming on under the correct conditions?

Was a thermostat of the proper rating installed?

Has it been determined that this new thermostat even works . . . just because it’s new doesn’t actually mean it works at all. I’ve run into this exact scenario, as have many others, I expect

Have other coolant leaks been ruled out, such as hoses, water pump, and so forth?

And here’s another question . . .

Why does the mechanic want to replace the entire engine, versus removing the head, replacing the head gasket, checking to see if the head is warped, and sending it out to get shaved, as needed?