Toyota Dealer used 5W-20 (manual says 5W-30) during an oil change

Hey guys,

Note: I will apologize for the length of this post now. It’s fairly long, but I believe all the information is important.

Just over 2 months ago (in April), I took my 2005 Toyota Camry on a road trip. I live in Toronto Canada and was travelling 4 to 4.5 hours south to spend a week in one of my favorite places to just “go to and relax” in the United States.

Now, I was coming up due for an Oil Change – I wouldn’t make it to my destination before I would go over, so I figured to get it done before I left. I usually get it down at Costco, but they were all busy with Tire Swapping at the time. So I went to Toyota and figured I would spend the extra money to get what the car needs, since I assumed they would know my car best.

My family had trouble with that particular branch of Toyota before. I had also been told I needed an entire new radiator which turned out to be false as I took it to a specialist in radiators and was told there’s nothing wrong with it.

Since I was leaving that day, I decided to just go there and get them to do it.

I went in the trip and came back – everything is good.

Now, from the middle or end of May to the present day – I have had smoke (sometimes quite a bit) coming out the exhaust only during startup and only happening on a cold start. After reading up on it, I found that it could be Stem Seals or a host of other things, most of them being expensive things to repair.

It doesn’t happen every day, but often enough to say it feels like it happens more than it doesn’t.

Just yesterday I noticed that my cold engine oil level has dropped below half since I’ve gotten my oil changed in April (I don’t check regularly, but I started since the smoke started). Today after I got my fill up of gas, driving home from my usual gas station cause my gas meter to drop, not alot, but a concerning amount when remembering how it never used to even move any of the other times I got gas there.

I figure, “half my oil is gone”, so it must be affecting efficiency. So I consider buying some oil from a store to keep with me to just fill up if my level goes down after my oil change in two days from now. After I check my manual to find what kind I need, I decide to look at the receipt that Toyota gave me in April, and I noticed that they used 5W-20 rather than 5W-30 as the manual states.

Tonight I did some reading, and found a page that says that using an oil with a lower ending number (the viscosity of the oil when hot) than what is recommended, could cause the engine to start burning oil.

I also read that 5W-20 is a poor choice over 5W-30 when you drive alot at high speeds (I drive alot of freeway – so that made me wonder too.

I don’t know whether I should believe that Toyota’s use of a different oil had a hand in causing this smoke and burning of oil. Or if it’s just the seals getting old, as would possibly be normal with a 13 year old car. Or perhaps the high usage of gas in a small amount of time (which has seemed to stop since I let the car sit and went back out) is a sign that a simple tune up is becoming necessary.

If you guys could provide some insight into the issues, that would be fantastic.

Thanks everyone.

Half meaning halfway between the full and add mark?
Or halfway meaning there was no oil on the dipstick and it took 2+ quarts to bring it up to the full mark?

It has dropped from above the full line to about halfway between the low line and the full line.

A good first step would be to tell the service department your story and get the oil changed with the correct oil; I would hope they would do it at their cost; it was really their mistake and there is little excuse. Between their database and the viscosity stamped on the cap, ignorance is not a reasonable claim.

I don’t have a good sense whether this viscosity oil could cause this problem in this time frame for this age of an engine.

I’m sure you realize this now, but not regularly checking the oil level is a bad practice on your part. You really need to do this periodically, at least monthly, probably a couple times a month with this vehicle.

Make sure its not condensation coming out of the tailpipe. The oil filler cap should have the oil type written on it.

It’s the latter. 13 year old valve stem seals do harden and loose their ability to seal.

You’ll be hard pressed to (both in spent time and money) to show any correlation between the 5w-20 and the hardened seals.

You should be able to replace the seals without removing the cylinder head. Get a few quotes from good independent repair shops, (not chain shops).

You could also try “high mileage” motor oil, which is meant to help swell old hardened seals in an attempt to restore their ability to seal. Maybe your previous place (Costco) always used high mileage oils and the Toyota dealer did not.

If it were me, I’d simply use high mileage oil, live with the tailpipe smoke at startup, and then forget about it.

Toyota may have changed the recommendation retroactively since your car was built. That is the case with my 1999 Honda Civic. Like your 2005 car, 5W-30 was recommended in my owners manual. 5W20 was not mentioned. I saw a chart of Hondas and oils at a Honda parts counter a few years ago and saw 5W20 recommended and 5W30 not mentioned for my year and engine. The counter man said the chart was correct and the newer recommendation superceded the earlier one. 5W20 was very unusual years ago and has become very common.

But check the oil level on a regular basis and add as needed (when it gets 1/2 quart low)

Well, it’s not that I don’t ever check it. Just not as much as I probably should. I have checked it a few times in the past, since I got the vehicle last year in January.

It has never dropped before, I would just suddenly decide to check and it would still be full.

I am also considering picking up some stop leak after my due oil change, since it is booked in two days.

You have a 13 year old vehicle , and you have had it for less then 2 years. There is no telling what or how many different grades of oil it has had in that time. And yes you need to have a set schedule of checking fluids .

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Please do not add any type of stop leak in the oil. These miracle products do more harm than good,
Nothing will really help, but getting it fixed right.

Stem seals are not that difficult to swap out. Get a few quotes from others shops.



Here in The US, Costco doesn’t do any automotive work other than tires, so I am surprised to find out that they do oil changes at their Canadian locations.


Stop leak type products have their place. If you have an old junker that you really don’t care about or wish to spend much money on and just want to prolong its life as long as possible, then you use stuff like this. You basically do it to a car that you plan to send off as scrap when it finally dies. If you want to keep this one then fix it right. Stop leak and such will gum up the oil passages in your engine. The same goes for these products meant for the cooling system. If you only want the car for a few months to a year, then use this crap.

I don’t see the 5W20 being a major issue. People are going to lighter and lighter oils in the name of fuel economy. Check with Toyota and see if they changed the recommended viscosity in the name of fuel savings. I have noticed some engines will use a small amount of oil upon first change with a new viscosity or even brand of oil and then stabilize.

Some Camrys of this vintage were pretty bad oil burners but your model looks pretty good, considering how many Camrys were made. The 2007 is another story. A friend had one of these and MAJOR oil consumption was one of his main complaints. It was far worse than what you are experiencing. He had to keep the oil up because his wife wouldn’t. If the car was driven a week without checking/adding, the oil light would be coming on.

This isn’t a new car and some consumption might be normal. How many miles are on this one? You might be better off just living with it unless the rate of consumption suddenly increases.

I don’t care what people say but some oils are much better than others. I would assume a Toyota dealer is using Toyota oil which should be fine. I wouldn’t expect there to be a lot of difference between the two but you might switch back and see what happens. Give it at least 3000 miles if you have to pay for the change.

Remember that this Camry is a car just like any other and will eventually have problems. There are many I know who feel Toyota can do no wrong and that this is like the perfect car. They have a good and well-deserved reputation but will wear out just like any other car. It just takes longer.

Apparently you just bought this car a year ago last January. You have no idea how the car was driven or maintained in the time before you acquired it.

It’s an aged car and at some point it may start using oil and it may have nothing to do with the viscosity of the motor oil.

I know here in OK where it gets brutally hot I would never use a 5/20 motor oil. It’s thin enough anyway without factoring in 100+ degree days.

I agree; avoid the stop leak products. If it’s consuming motor oil it’s either the piston rings, valve seals, or both and the viscosity of the motor oil should not affect those. Revert back to 5/30 or as I would do; go to 10/30.

Last I read, stem seals require the entire head of the engine to be disassembled to even be seen.

I would much rather avoid any large repairs.

Given the age of the vehicle, and assuming it’ll last me another 3 years.

Say $800-$1100 for that repair (just spit balling, I really have no clue about the price other than its alot) plus the $1000 I was quoted for a new exhaust system, plus the other repairs before that. It’ll total up to near $3100 in just over a year.

I don’t mean to moan and complain :stuck_out_tongue:, I just think that the money is better spent into paying off the loan and offloading it. And finding something a little more secure, meaning something that doesn’t cost nearly the average asking value of the vehicle in repairs in the first year


Our Costco branches offer oil changes. However, it is not offered at all of them.

Last I heard, a few years ago – they stopped using all but Synthetic oils from Castrol.

Hmmm… Interesting!
In the Costco stores/warehouses in my area, they sell only Mobil-1 and one other brand, which varies from Shell to Texaco to… ??
And, of course, they only sell oil, and do not change it.

Valve stem seals can be replaced without removal of the cylinder head. The spark plugs are removed, compressed air applied to each cylinder as the seal is replaced, and a few special tools used to compress the springs, etc.

Before wading into a repair like that I would always recommend both a dry and wet compression test.
That can give you an idea about ring and valve condition; although the valve part would have nothing to do with the valve seals.
Replacing valve seals only to discover a ring problem would be a bit disheartening.

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This might be a good time to just have an oil analysis done for $25 to see what kind of metals are in the oil. But the sample needs to be taken half way through the drain so getting the dealer to properly do that might be a problem.

Several years ago, Toyota corporate retroactively approved 5w20 for this vehicle

I know this, because I’ve seen the document on the Toyota technical website, the one you pay to access

So putting in 5w20 was okay