Notes: Beware of the NHTSA complaint data for the 2003 Camry. It is almost certainly misleading.

The problem with NHTSA data for the 2003 Camry is that for months on end, the news media repeatedly told the public that several Toyota models had an unintended acceleration defect, & to go to (the NHTSA's website) to file a complaint.

So, the NHTSA received a disproportionate number of complaints about Toyota unintended acceleration issues because of the national news media attention, to the point where their data is unreliable taken in context with any other vehicle that did not receive national news attention. typically receives more complaints per day about vehicles than the NHTSA does, but the news media did not repeatedly say "go to to report your Camry acceleration problems" like they did about the NHTSA -- so although we have less complaint data than the NHTSA for the 2003 Camry, our data for the Camry is a far more statistically accurate representation of the Camry's reliability than what the NHTSA data shows.


definitely annoying
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
92,367 miles
Total Complaints:
6 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (5 reports)
  2. replace valve seals (1 reports)
2003 Toyota Camry engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Camry Owner Comments

problem #6

Aug 012016

Camry XLE 4.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


I have had this smoke problem in the past when my car was started so I upgraded my fuel to 89. I don't seem to have the problem anymore but now I hear this loud knocking noise when the a/c is turned on and goes off when turned off. Now I keep smelling engine coolant but can't find any leaks. I was driving down the HIGHWAY one day and my drivers side window fell down! Luckily I grabbed the window was able to hold it until I could stop. I had to replace the regulator. I have replaced TWO batteries in my car. I think all of this comes with driving an older car - if you're not making a car payment then you're making repair payments!

- , San Antonio, US

problem #5

May 052013

Camry XLE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

On start up car smokes from tail pipe. At times there is so much smoke it looks like there could be a small fire there. Occasionally there are times when there is little smoke. I've had it to several garages over the last several years and they seem to discourage fixing it due to the age of the car. Last time they put tried a heavier weight oil and that didn't help much. Next time I have the oil changed I will have them try a sealant. Car currently has 127000 mi. I'm considering trading it in although the rest of the car works fine and I'm happy with it.

- , N/a, WA, USA

problem #4

Jul 022013

Camry LE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,200 miles

White/bluish smoke started appearing from tailpipe when car was cranked after being in garage overnight. Initially, volume of smoke was small. I thought it could be condensation related & not a problem since the car performed very well & I have always had the car serviced at the local Toyota dealer as per the maintenance schedule. The first signs of the smoke began about 18 months ago with mileage of in range of 75,000 miles.

Currently, at first start-up, the volume of smoke has increased & is annoying. There is no sign of smoke during cranking during the day AFTER the initial start-up. I called one Toyota service department & was told the problem was "leaking valve stems" & the problem will get worse in time----cost to repair would be about $2,300, with most of cost being LABOR. I called another Toyota dealer in the area & was told the problem was most likely caused by condensation, but could be the "valve stem seals". Service person did not recommend repair unless there is excessive oil loss. He said "the cost of a quart of oil versus the cost of repairs would be preferable at this time".

The car performs well, but the smoke is annoying, but not $2,300 annoying! I bought the car new in December, 2002, & currently has about 77,000 miles on it, which is considered low miles for this year model. Two different approaches to the problem from two different Toyota dealers.

- , Mobile, AL, USA

problem #3

Jul 072012

Camry LE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles


I almost fell of my chair when I was told I have $3,400 repair needed just for a bad valve seal at 86k miles on an '03. I was told these typically cause problems closer to 125-150k mi. I am getting a second opinion. I really do not think the car is worth dumping this much $ into it since I also need a muffler & new breaks. Symptom: puff of smoke at cold start.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #2

Jun 012012

Camry LX 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

No big deal here. I am running CD2 (oil additive) to fix the issue for now. Perhaps I'll have to replace the valve seals in the future but if so that's not that big of deal. Hope this is the only issue I run into with this car and if so I'm totally happy :)

- , Goshen, IN, USA

problem #1

Nov 012007

Camry LE 2.4L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

These 4 cyl engines came with defective valve seals causing the smoke only on cold start ups. I am very familiar with these cars since I have (2) same year and engine. One has 178,000 miles and has had this problem since 79,000 when I bought it and never had to EVER take to a mechanic to do ANY work on it. Only maintenance. 2nd one has 162,000 miles and also runs very good and I have owned since 115,000 miles and also NEVER had to take to a mechanic to do ANY work on it other than oil changes, tires and brakes. Both have the water sound by dash area but I have never had any issues with that and I have (2) of these cars with very high mileage so it sounds like these people just got ripped off by a mechanic into thinking it was something more serious. I also have a '96 4Runner with 191,000 miles and runs like a champ. No matter what, TOYOTA all the way. Only certain years came with defects but they are still way more reliable than Domestics and other non domestic brands.

- , Montclair, CA, USA

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