4th Gen Camry Problems (1997 to 2001)

For decades, the Toyota Camry has been a daily driver for many and still continues to be. While these cars are known for being reliable, all cars have their common issues. This post and video reviews the most common 4th gen Camry problems, years 1997 to 2001.

1997 to 2001 Toyota Camry Problems: 4th Generation

1A Auto mechanic reviewing the most common problems with the 4th gen Toyota Camry

1. Hesitation Under Acceleration

Symptoms of Hesitation Under Acceleration

  • Feel the car hesitate when accelerating

Causes of Hesitation Under Acceleration

The 4th gen Camrys with high mileage can experience hesitation under acceleration, and this is usually from a mechanical problem. If the car has lower mileage, like around 50,000 miles, it might need a software update.

How to Fix Hesitation Under Acceleration

If there is hesitation under acceleration a software update would fix a 4th gen Camry with low mileage, like below 50,000 miles. Since the car is likely to have higher mileage, the problem is more likely to be mechanical. Check the transmission fluid for dirt, rust, or chunks of metal. Then raise the car and check for a fluid leak.

The 4th gen Camry in our how-to video had transmission fluid leaking from the bell housing. You can also check the ground underneath where the car is parked and see if fluid is collecting on the ground.

Add new transmission fluid and see if the car shifts better. If the fluid is in good condition and is under 100,000 miles, and there’s no leaks, get the software update and see if that fixes this problem.

2. Oxygen Sensor Problems

Symptoms of Oxygen Sensor Problems

  • Check engine light for an oxygen sensor code
  • Decreased engine performance

Causes of Oxygen Sensor Problems on the 4th Gen Toyota Camry

The upstream O2 sensor, which is the O2 sensor at the front, tends to fail in this car. The heater circuit tends to fail and give an inaccurate reading.

How to Fix Oxygen Sensor Problems

The oxygen (O2) sensor is also known as an air-fuel ratio sensor by Toyota. If the fuel sensor is defective, replace it.

3. Power Steering Fluid Leaking

Symptoms of a Power Steering Leak

  • Power steering fluid leaking from the power steering system

Causes of a Power Steering Leak

Power steering fluid is known to leak from the power steering pump on the 1997 to 2001 Toyota Camry. The seal on the power steering pump is known to fail. Some models have a steel line directed to the feed line, and the copper banjo washer can leak.

How to Fix a Power Steering Leak

Seal on a 4th gen Camry power steering pump
Seal on the power steering pump that can leak

Check the power steering fluid level from the power steering fluid reservoir. There is a min and max line for hot and cold conditions.

If the pump is leaking and the seal is worn, remove the 10mm bolt from that section on the pump, pry the cover off, and replace the seal.

If the copper banjo washer is leaking, you can replace it yourself easily with a replacement from Toyota.

4. Burning Smell

Symptoms Burning Smell Problems

  • Burning smell from the car of burnt oil

Causes of Burning Smell Problems on the 1997 to 2001 Toyota Camry

If there is a burning smell from an oil leak on the 4th gen Camry, it’s likely from a valve cover gasket leak. The V6 engine is likely to leak from the rear valve cover gasket, which is closest to the firewall. It’s in front of a vent, and this can cause a burning smell.

How to Fix Burning Smell

Check the valve cover gasket on the engine for seepage and engine oil leaking. Replace the gasket if it’s leaking oil.

5. Tail Light Harness Breaking

Symptoms of Broken Tail Light Harness

  • Car starts fine but won’t shift out of park
  • Reverse lights not working

Causes of Tail Light Harness Problems

Sometimes the tail light harness wire breaks. It’s attached to the trunk lid, and opening and closing it can break the wire over time. You might think a reverse light is out, but it could be the wiring.

How to Fix Tail Light Harness Issues on the 4th Gen Camry

Remove the wire from the wire loom and see if any wires have flattened or crushed. If the wire is damaged, remove the damaged wire and splice on new wire in that area. There is no need to replace the entire harness.

4th Generation Toyota Camry Years (1997 to 2001)

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4th Gen Toyota Camry Problems - 1997 to 2001 - Expert Tips - 1A Auto
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4th Gen Toyota Camry Problems - 1997 to 2001 - Expert Tips - 1A Auto
Learn the most common 4th gen Camry problems, years 1997 to 2001, owners run into with this video and article. While this generation of the Toyota Camry is known for being reliable, our expert mechanics review its top 5 top problems and fixes.
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