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Toyota Camry issuing smokescreen on startup

My poor 1998 Toyota Camry has been having emissions issues. The EGR system is not working properly and we were unable to figure out why, so we stoppered the vacuum line so that it wouldn’t run so rough that it vibrated the fillings out of my teeth.

Problem is, now it’s developed this new feature wherein 30 foot clouds of white smoke pour out of the tailpipe for a couple seconds when I start it up. I’m thinking that can’t be good.

I’ve been waffling about finally buying a new car (rates are good) vs. fixing this one. I have little to know working knowledge of how to fix emissions issues, and so, in my mind, they automatically cost $1500 minimum.

So the questions (yeah, plural, sorry) are:

1. Can anyone read “30 cloud of white smoke on start” and easily interpret that to mean a specific problem?

2. Anyone know why my EGR flow would perpetually be wrong even after replacing the EGR position sensor?

3. Does this sound like it’s time to start making car payments again?

I thank you in advance for whatever help you can offer.

How many miles on this Camry? V6 or 4-cylinder? Manual or automatic transmission?

White smoke is steam, and usually means engine coolant is being boiled inside the engine. Are you losing coolant?

A puff of grey smoke (oil) on start-up can mean worn valve guide seals, but it’s not usually such a huge cloud.

There are several components of the EGR system. You replaced one. The EGR valve itself may be dirty or faulty. Unhooking the vacuum line is not a repair.

Is the check engine light on? If so, have you had the codes read to see where the problem lies?

What this sounds like to me is deferred maintenance, lack of information (or incorrect information), and throwing parts at a problem.

If you want to buy a new car and start all over that’s your business, but it may not take anywhere near $1,500 to fix your current problems. If you have no knowledge of emissions systems (who does?) take the car to a mechanic. Stop guessing and wasting money.

200,000 mile V6 automatic.

We tried to figure out what was going on with the EGR but were unsuccessful. We replaced the position sensor because the old one was clearly broken, but replacing it with a working one made the cylinders misfire. Couldn’t figure out the problem after that (Codes had said EGR too rich and EGR too poor).

Had no luck posting that issue here either.

But by stoppering the vacuum line, the car ran fine. Well enough that I could at least put off buying a new one 'till January (when the next inspection was due)