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2000 Camry - Overheating, and more - Help!


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2000 4cyl Camry is overheating at idle - and heater also stops blowing warm air at idle. Having to top up radiator regularly, though no sign of a leak - suspect it's simply because it is boiling off. That said - suspect there's not much coolant left, due to amount of water top-ups... and possibly has some air in the system, as I was able to "bleed" some out with front end jacked up/cap off/engine running.

Would a flush and fresh coolant potentially solve this problem, or would you suspect something "bigger", such as the thermostat, water pump (replaced in 2011), or head gasket?


Over the past 2-3 years my 2000 4 cylinder Camry Conquest has, on maybe 4 occasions, suddenly started to overheat when idling. On each occasion, it has needed a top-up of about 1 litre - typically just water we've had on hand, as we've been out-and-about.

Last week it did it again, except this time it has continued to overheat, despite getting the top-up. Once warmed up, the engine temp will rise to a bit under the red zone when idling, at which point the water in the radiator starts to boil. Rev the engine to 1,000rpm or more, and the temp falls back to normal.

After doing some googling, I tried bleeding the system, as it came up as a possible cause, but ultimately it hasn't solved the problem.

I took the car to a brand new Kmart Tyre & Auto, asking them to give it a basic service and find out what's wrong with the cooling system, only to have them change the oil/oil filter for $155, and give me a list of other problems they found. They didn't do anything about the radiator, other than to suggest it could be a stuck thermostat, could be the water pump (less likely due to its age), or could be a blown head gasket (though they didn't mention if the oil was cloudy, which surely they should have been looking at when they changed it, given the over heating issue?!). He also mentioned that the reservoir bottle was brittle (also replaced in 2011!), and that the heater hoses are "crunchy".

So I'm now in the situation of having a car that's worth maybe $2,500, with up to $4,000 worth of repairs - if the Kmart mechanic wasn't just trying to drum up business (front and rear shocks, wiper heads, brake fluid, air filter, fuel filter, throttle body dirty, transmission fluid, 4 new tyres and alignment, rear bushes, rear tail arm bushes, engine oil leaks front and back, power steering boots split, ball joint dust covers, and all brake lights out).


Going a bit crazy here...

My plan at this point is to flush the radiator tomorrow, and put some new coolant in... but am wanting to know the best way to bleed the air out/avoid air getting in. The service manual just says "bleed the system" - doesn't say HOW...

Also planning on checking out what I can of the list of problems they have given me, to see if I can identify anything that's not actually true... Have had mechanics try to tell me that work needs to be done before, when there was nothing wrong...



PS Oh - re the brake lights... The car has also done this several times - suddenly it blows all the tail lights at once... I KNOW they were working on Tuesday this week, as I replaced the "strip" light (rear window) last weekend, and had my wife check it on Tuesday. Not sure why this happens...

Edited by cosmichobo
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Today I got the window-brake light working (was just loose), drove 5min to AutoBarn, picked up new bulbs, coolant, and distilled water. Drove home, fixed the blown brake lights, licence plate light, park light.

Put car on ramps, drained radiator. Tried to get the drain plug (bolt) on the block, but couldn't move it. Refilled with the distilled water. Ran engine. Let it cool. Emptied, and refilled with distilled. Ran again, cooled, emptied - now pretty much clear fluid coming out.

Then put in 3L of 100% concentrate green stuff. Logic being that the system takes 6.2 or 6.9L, so adding 3L to the radiator of 100%, once it mixes with the 3+ litres still in the system, will give me roughly 50% mixture.

Ran engine. Let cool. Added 1L distilled water. Ran again. Let cool. Added about another 1L of distilled.

System now seems "full", and after sitting in the car for about 15min, no sign of overheating...

Going for a test drive after dinner... But also booked the car in to a mechanic who serviced the car last year, so he can check it over, and also check the other list of things the Kmart guy says needs doing...

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Just back from about a 1/2 hr test drive... and again, for the first 20 minutes, everything was A-ok - the temp wasn't going even to the half way - just under.

Then after about 20 min, temp started to creep, then suddenly was up to just touching the bottom of the red zone. Had to rev at 2,000rpm or more to bring the temperature down.

Ended up putting the car in "2", so that the revs were forced up to around 3,000rpm (at 60kph), and temp then returned to half way.

Given up hope that this was either just "old" coolant, or air pockets... (though I guess there could still be some air in the system, I don't see how it'd be causing these symptoms...)

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Do you live in Armidale? - got similar sh*t from Kmart Tyre & Auto about lots of work that needed doing to the front end of my Hilux when I took it in for new tyres a few years ago. Took it to my regular mechanic for 2nd opinion and he said it was all complete bollocks. And that he'd seen similar stories from others. I won't go near Kmart ever again, not even for tyres.

I have no clues about the overheating. Hope you get it sorted. Our daughters 2002 Camry had something a little similar, temp woud go a little above half way when going slow in hot weather esp behind a big truck, or doodling around car parks. Norrmally it runs just slightly under half way. Took it to my mechanic, got it all checked out, cooling system flushed etc, he could not find a problem, thermostat was working correctly etc. But it was not going as high as yours. It still goes slightly high occasionally, but drops straight back down once you start moving in clear air again.

Edited by thommo
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G'day thommo,

Nah - it's in Waurn Ponds, Geelong. Just opened last week. I said the car was due for a service - so agreed to a minimal service - but mostly needed the cooling system looked at cos of the overheating.

So they do the oil and filter (oil does look fresh, and I'd marked the old filter, so think that was replaced too), then tell me - don't have the right gear to test the head gasket...

Just reading up myself... I have a compression tester - hadn't thought about that! I'll check the cylinders tomorrow, see what they read... There's certainly no sign of oil in the coolant... I don't know what the oil looked like before the change, but now it's new oil - it looks clear, and we've run the car (to overheating) twice...

Maybe it's just the thermostat...

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Ok - so, did they change the design of spark plug leads JUST to make it that bit harder for back yard mechanics???

Tried pulling the lead off the plug, couldn't get it, didn't want to wreck it, left it alone, no compression test... And I found my compression tester, too! Very frustrated.

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New radiator (cracked)

New thermostat (just cos)

New water pump

Fluid, clamps, etc

3.5 hrs Labour

"My" mechanic looked at the car yesterday and found the crack on the radiator, replaced it, but then found that the water just wasn't moving. I had to take the car back to get home from work, so was going to take it back to them this morning, except after just 5 minutes the temp was into the red, so I rang the mechanic... He came and picked the car up, drove it back, coasting most of the way to avoid overheating. He showed me the pump's impeller - was totally flattened... No wonder it wasn't moving anything!

Hopefully at least that is solved... Will take the car back soon for him to give it a proper going-over RE the other points raised by Kmart... But they seemed to think Kmart were rogues too..

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Interesting, and a good clue if my daughters Camry starts having more serious temp problems. I wonder why the impeller was flattened?

And if the radiator was cracked, did you notice coolant leaking out?

My guess is the blokes running Kmart Tyre & Auto outlets have 'corporate targets' to meet = bogus problems are identified, or at least issues that are not really urgent problems and can wait....maybe a few years. That's what I like about a local independent mechanic. I can have a frank/honest discussion with him about cost versus benefit, and does it absolutely need to be done or can it wait. Of course, there are some issues where he can't give a clear answer, could go either way.

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  • 1 month later...

I took a car to Kmart 14 years ago and they told me I needed $900 of repairs. Got the job done at Tyrepower for $250.

I don't like to hear of people using distilled water in the cooling system. As the water is pure, it is in much better condition to remove elements from the motor, heads and radiator. Use ordinary tap water. And change your coolant every 50,000 km. Maybe the distilled water removed material from the pump impeller. I've seen this happen in chemical plants.

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  • 5 months later...

Is the radiator fan or fans running when your engine is idling and getting hot?

This is one of the first thing to check.

If it is not, then your computer codes have been corrupted or lost. It can be confirmed quickly with an engine analyser by your Auto Electrician. Or by yourself if you happen to have one.

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"I don't like to hear of people using distilled water in the cooling system. As the water is pure, it is in much better condition to remove elements from the motor, heads and radiator. Use ordinary tap water. And change your coolant every 50,000 km. Maybe the distilled water removed material from the pump impeller. I've seen this happen in chemical plants."

That advice is completely contrary to popular wisdom. The reason is that distilled water is almost totally free of dissociated anions and cations. This makes it electically inert which is why it is recommeded for use in steam irons for ironing clothes, and for automotive cooling systems.

Conversely, tap water and tank water is usually loaded with dissociated ions which make the solution (which is what it is technically) ready and able to conduct a weak electricial current.

It is this current that is the basis of a process known as electrolysis.

Electrolysis is what erode the interior of the water jacket, water pump and associated components.

Edited by Jim.
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