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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
112,690 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Toyota Camry engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Camry Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #37

Dec 092016


  • 180 miles


One day I start my car and leave it to warm up for about 15 minutes, when I got in it I notice it was blowing cold air from vents, I started driving and it start getting hot, so didn't pay much attention, about few days after my wife drove to church and call me to say theres no heat inside, I told her co come back home, when I check the radiator it was almost dry, I could not believe it, I fill it back up and the temperature gauge went back to its original position, and I start getting heat inside again, took it on the road for a test drive only to start getting cold air again so I went home back put about a cup of antifreeze and lift the car only to find that the leaking is coming from between the intake manifold, my michanic told me it's leaking from the head because the bolts go striped and the head is separated from the block and this is a common problem with these models, and it's going to need a knew engine, which I don't have any money to buy, Toyota should take full responsibility for these issues, there's a lot of owner going through the same thing

- Bridgeport, CT, USA

problem #36

Apr 292016


  • 113,623 miles
I must saddly add my name to the list of deeply disappointed Toyota owners with the head gasket/ stripped bolts problem. My 2003 Camry has 105K miles and has been well maintained when the head gasket blew last week during normal usage. I have done enough research now to realize that the car was poorly engineered and the stripped bolts are pervasive with this make, model and year of car. I now require a new engine, which is a cost prohibitive repair. I was driving on the freeway and happened to be looking at the dashboard and when the temperature gauge went from normal to the the hottest possible. I immediately pulled over, let the engine cool, added oil and then waited a bit longer to ensure it had cooled sufficiently. I restarted the car, put in in drive and went about 20 ft before the temperature shot back up again. I parked it immediately, called a tow truck and had it towed to a mechanic. The repair requires replacing the engine and will cost is equivalent to the car's value. I have been told by two mechanics that replacement rebuilt engines are hard to find because this issue is so common with this car. And, that the because the replacement will have the same engineering flaw it is bound to happen again. Both mechanics, along with many owners who have contributed to the forums and blogs I have read have told me the car is useless now so I plan to donate it to charity tomorrow.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #35

Nov 012015


  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Camry. While operating the vehicle, the odor of coolant was present, the temperature gauge suddenly increased to high, and smoke was present coming from the engine. The vehicle was driven to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the engine had blown due to failure of the head gasket bolts. The failure was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was 160,000.

- Milwalkee, WI, USA

problem #34

Feb 202015


  • 252,000 miles


Bad oil leaks. Mechanics couldn't find where leaks were coming from. Took it to another mechanic and he said that the head bolts are most likely stripped. I went online and found a lot of other owners of this vehicle with the same problem. And fumes were coming into the car. If this vehicle has this problem, why wasn't it recalled to be fixed. I can't get anyone to fix this problem. Toyota just wants to sell me a used engine for the same thing to happen again according to others owners who replaced the engine.

- Muskegon, MI, USA

problem #33

Jun 032015


  • 62,000 miles
I too have been noticing a surge when I back up and turn the vehicle and step on the gas to drive out. I have avoided crashes with cars near by, I have found that I have to keep the speed on low and out of drive to avoid hitting a car near my parked car. I am not sure of the mileage above as I am just backing out of a parking space and turning my car to drive, I make sure it is on low.

- Derry, NH, USA

problem #32

Jul 152013


  • 229,000 miles
Driving on rural highway the car heats up the coolant from the reservoir overflows. In the engine compartment affecting steering and your ability to drive because of the vapor fron the burning coolant. Repair man says head gasket is gone....this is the third time now to replace the head gasket.because the head bolts and threads all stripped due to bad engineering or improper torque by Toyota engineering department....I been rwading about this problem and found out that this is a very common probkem with these cars from 2003-2006... I feel that if it was something simple to fix then Toyota would address the problem but since its seens like a new engine is the only fix for this problem so they are hush hush...because it would be a costly recall for Toyota.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #31

Apr 172015


  • 25,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Camry. While making a left turn at an unknown speed, the engine revved and the vehicle independently lunged forward. The contact depressed the brake pedal to avoid a collision. The dealer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not diagnosed nor repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 25,000.

- Owasso, OK, USA

problem #30

Apr 122015

Camry 4-cyl

  • 126,800 miles
The "check engine" light came on while driving on the freeway. About 2 minutes later, a rattling sound could be heard under the hood. While changing lanes to exit the highway, the car would not accelerate and a loud pounding sound could be heard when trying to accelerate. Just after turning onto the side street from exiting the highway, the car died. All of this occurred within a 5 minute period. Upon opening the hood, there was smoke coming from the engine area of the vehicle and the reservoir for the radiator fluid was bone dry. The radiator had been flushed and refilled only 2 months earlier. The car was towed to my local mechanic. Upon their inspection, I was told the head gasket was blown. There had been no warning lights or indication that the vehicle was running hot previous to the "check engine" light coming on minutes before the head gasket blew. In August, 2012, a rushing fluid sound could be heard in the dash area. I had the car inspected and the water pump, thermostat, all hoses and a radiator flush were done to the vehicle. In February 2013, the power steering pump had to be replaced. The rushing fluid sound could still be heard often. If the radiator fluid reservoir was topped off, generally the sound would stop. The fluid sound began again in January 2015. That was the main reason for getting the radiator flushed. A new radiator cap was also installed at that time. I never heard the rushing fluid sound after that flush. The car is a total loss. I am forced to replace the vehicle. The cost of a used motor and all labor is almost $5,000. That's approximately what the car is worth. I understand that there have been hundreds of almost identical complaints listed on the internet. I believe that this is a defect in the vehicle and Toyota should be responsible to correct it.

- Peoria, AZ, USA

problem #29

Feb 282015


  • 180,000 miles
Car had been driven to get gas 1/2 mile down road. When returned from gas station we pulled onto property, turned off car and there were flames coming from the hood. Fire dept arrived and put out the fire. Total loss for car.

- Hixson, TN, USA

problem #28

Mar 272012


  • 136,052 miles
My wife had taken her 2003 Toyota Camry in for regular service in January, 2012 and told the dealer that she had been hearing unusual noises from the engine for some time. After inspecting the vehicle the service person said that Toyota had issued a bulletin to the dealers regarding replacement of the intake manifold dated April 15, 2008. It is curious that the bulletin stated that "this repair is covered under the Toyota federal emission warranty. This is in effect for 36 months or 36,000 mile, whichever occurs first-". the bulletin is dated April 15, 2008 and is to cover vehicles of the 2002-2004 model year Camry. This makes no sense as supposedly covering vehicles built 2002-2004 and issue a bulletin in 2008 and then say there is a 36 month warranty from the date the vehicle was put in service. We were never advised of this bulletin until 2012 and repairs were done at the cost of $ $765.52 on March 27, 2012. We sent a letter of complaint to Toyota in torrance, California on February 28, 2014 with no response.

- Stephens City, VA, USA

problem #27

Dec 152014


  • 180,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Camry le. The contact was traveling 45 mph, the check engine light illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The technician determined that the bolt connected to the intake valves to the engine had become loose and allowed coolant to run on to the exhaust. As a result, exhaust fumes emitted into the vehicle. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 180,000.

- Shaenandoah, VA, USA

problem #26

Jan 172015


  • 88,259 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Camry. The contact stated that while driving approximately 40 mph, the engine seized while the check engine light illuminated. The vehicle was able to be restarted. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician diagnosed that there was a leak in the radiator and the engine needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 88,259.

- Honolulu, HI, USA

problem #25

Oct 162014


  • 145,000 miles
I own a 2003 Toyota Camry and noticed that it was overheating!!! went to replace the gasket and the head bolts were stripped and had to have to have a head bolt repair kit put in along with the gasket kit which with labor cost me over 4,000 dollars in repairs! the first problem was the aluminum block that over heated because of the coolant leak which in that overheated the block/bolts and caused them to strip the thread from the block bolt, in that had to get a repair kit drill the hole out insert a steal coil to hold the steal bolt in the aluminum block!!! point being I had to pay for this factory error of an aluminum head that either should have had steal inserts or a steal block to begin with for about 4,000 which is close to what the car would cost if I bought it at this time with the miles currently on it!!! a waste of my money when this could easily have been prevented from Toyota in the first place!!!! I honestly can say that this is my 3rd Camry I have owned and I have always swore by the Toyota Camry but after my research and my money and my headache I am really disappointed in how there not stepping up to the plate on this one and us as Toyota owners love and value the Toyota name come across this problem and nothing is being done about it its very upsetting I've drove the Camry since 2004 and been so proud of the name and passed along the good quality of the Camry name on and on then I come across this issue and there are so many people who have the same exact problems and Toyota won't step up to the plate on it really tarnishes the name for me!!!!

- Noblesville, IN, USA

problem #24

Jul 162014

Camry 4-cyl

  • 117,000 miles
While driving the car, the engine and electrical components suddenly shut off. The first few times this happened, I was able to simply re-start the car with everything working again. I then brought the car to 3 different mechanics who could not find anything wrong with the battery or alternator (or anything else). The problem was erratic so it never occurred with the mechanics. Now the problem occurs occasionally when I turn the headlights or brights of the car on. The last time it happened (10/11/14) was while I was driving about 60 mph. The engine shut out, the dash lights went off (as well as all the other electrical things: Gps, ac, radio, etc). Even the flashers would not turn on. Then, in a matter of moments, everything turned on again. The car's engine did not even need to be restarted. I was able to keep driving without incident for 20+ miles. This incident has happened a total of about 3-4 times in the past, however, it was not triggered in the past by turning the lights on. There was no apparent trigger at all. The problem is erratic and does not happen all the time.

- Milledgeville, GA, USA

problem #23

Aug 252014


  • 115,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Camry. The contact stated that oil leaked from the engine of the vehicle. The dealer stated that the leak was due to a faulty head gasket. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was not notified. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 115,000.

- Charlotte , NC, USA

problem #22

Mar 042014


  • 146,000 miles
My family and I were out of state on a trip for a funeral in February. It was very cold where we were, so I started our Camry to warm up the car. However, instead of warming up, it actually started to overheat due to low coolant. Suspecting a cracked hose or a radiator issue, I searched for the leak, but could not find one. We kept the car filled with fluid, watched the temp gauge like a hawk, and limped the car home to our mechanic. Thankfully, it didn't even come close to overheating again the entire trip home. When I took it into the shop, they said that it was leaking from the head gasket. Upon further inspection, the mechanic found that three bolts near the heat shield were not only loose, but actually stripped. This sounded odd to me. I have an 89 Toyota pickup that I bought brand new, and it is still running like a champ 25 years and 250,000+ miles later. I expected the same kind of service life from our well maintained Camry with less than 150,000. Stripped head bolts just sounded off to me for a Toyota, so I did an online search. Imagine my surprise when I found web page and forum after web page and forum dedicated to this issue alone. One site - - has 36 complaints filed already for just the 2002 and 2003 model years, and this problem extend to engines up to the 2007 model year. Another web site - - has 6 pages of forums dedicated to this issue. Six pages. All of them with the same exact issue - coolant leaks from the stripped head bolts next to the insulation. And there are more sites and more forums than just those. Considering that only a small percentage of people are going to file these kinds of complaints or post on an online forum, this is a huge problem with these cars. They should be recalled and repaired.

- Crockett, VA, USA

problem #21

Aug 202014


  • 15,200 miles
As we were driving on the highway the check engine light, lit up and the car started making odd noises when the acceleration pedal was pressed, we quickly pulled over to the shoulder of the highway. When we opened the front the engine and coolant were smoking. There was no indication before this that anything was wrong, apparently the oil had been leaking and the engine had overheated, even though the car gave no indication of this.

- Willingboro, NJ, USA

problem #20

Apr 182014

Camry 4-cyl

  • 185,000 miles
My car was leaking oil and when I had it diagnosed, there was no more thread on the screws to hold the motor on correctly, after a month of the rethreading, my head gasket/motor both stopped working.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #19

May 172014


  • 188,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Camry. The contact stated that there was oil leaking from under the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to a dealer, who indicated that the head gasket needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 188,000. The VIN was not available.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #18

May 082014


  • 49,500 miles
I pulled into a parking space, stopped, and was in the process of pulling up the emergency brake, when the vehicle suddenly accelerated. The car bolted going over the parking curb and continuing on into a building, all with no momentum as the car was stopped. One witness said it was a very loud revving sound. Two others said it sounded like a truck. The person who was behind me said my brake lights were on.

- Modesto, CA, USA

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