Print this page 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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
112,850 miles
Total Complaints:
19 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace engine (15 reports)
  2. not sure (3 reports)
  3. export (1 reports)
2003 Toyota Camry engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Camry Owner Comments

problem #19

Sep 062020

Camry 2.4L 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 150,000 miles


It began with a ticking noise from the engine bay and smoke at the startup of the engine especially in the morning. It was harder with time to start it up. Then it began to smoke, oil was burning and it came as smoke out of the valve cover, the intake manifold and the oil cap. Like oil soup boiling.

Then the engine could not be started at all. Ignition coils and spark plugs gave spark, gas was flowing to the engine but there was only around 87 psi compression on every cylinder left.

Now I sell it either in part or in whole to Africa or Asia. I was hyped to buy a Camry because it was praised to be the most reliable car on the market (watched too much of youtube). Now I lost a lot of money. No Camry for me anymore, not sure about Toyota now.

- Roman C., Hennef, Germany

problem #18

Feb 072015

Camry LE 2.4L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 181,200 miles

The problem was originally stripped head bolts and a blown head gasket. My bro-in-law took on the job of getting the Camry fixed, and once the engine was put back together it ran fine. For a bit. On the second test drive the engine started knocking and the oil pressure light flashed. He found the source of a huge oil leak, replaced the part, started the engine again, more knocking. Turned it off for a bit and tried it again, and the engine seized.

It's a good thing I've already been planning to get a new car, or else I'd be really pissed. I'm rather amused mostly, but it is very frustrating for a car that is supposed to be fantastically reliable just dies like that. I will think long and hard before I consider buying another Toyota. This is my first Toyota, too. Nice impression it made. :D

- Danielle T., Pleasant Grove, UT, US

problem #17

Aug 122005

Camry LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Without any warning, while on the freeway, the engine blew. I kept oil in the car and no oil light ever came on. I took the car to the dealership because it was still under warranty. They told me that they would have to dismantle the engine to see if the repair would be covered (that is, it wasn't my fault). If I did not get it fixed there, they were going to charge me $1300 to put the broken engine back in the car. They were not helpful at all and I did not trust them to admit that the problem was not my fault, so I took it to a mechanic and paid $2500 to have a 2005 engine put in with only 1,000 miles on it. Well, last month (5/12) that engine blew up too with no warning! What's up with that??

- Carol H., Winnetka, CA, US

problem #16

Oct 132012

Camry LE 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 294,300 miles


Since 2010, I heard what sounded like water rushing or bubbling right behind the dashboard. I took it to the mechanic. He thought there was an air bubble in the radiator fluid when it has been flushed. He did a dye test and didn't see any leaks. I was very excited that this was only a $50 fix.

Replaced the radiator and fan assembly in July, 2012. $375 repair bill.

October 13, 2012. The Camry overheated in downtown Atlanta, GA. The cost to replace the engine is $7000.

The ending mileage on the 2003 Camry LE is 294,300.

I was so disappointed to have this happen to a car that it supposed to be such a reliable vehicle. The mechanic doesn't even understand how it happened since it happened so quickly and he said that there was probably nothing I could have done any differently. He sees "what" is wrong with it. It is the "why" that really needs to be answered.

The Camry ws traded in for a new 2012 Camry XLE.

- asmith jr, Powder Springs, GA, US

problem #15

Jun 112012

Camry XLE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

I have owned this car since day one. Brand new in June of 2003. Kept up regular maintenance. No accidents. I loved this car. I moved to Arizona changed the accessory belt. I was driving from Tucson to Payson 3 miles before reaching Payson my temperature indicator turned to red and my engine shut off and smoke, steam was pouring out of the hood. Liquid was leaking under the hood. It was engine oil. Had car towed to auto shop and was told I needed a new engine. Repair was $5500. I had the car towed back home and it has been sitting ever since. Now after doing a google search I see how many others have had the same problem. It appears this is a Toyota manufacturing defect. Couldn't we shouldn't we get the word out even further! The seat belt recall was a wake up call for Toyota. Shouldn't the same be done for a defective engine. This is a dangerous situation. As I have read it can happen anywhere! I don't see any reason for this except that they used an aluminum block. Between cold extremes and heat extremes that is not an efficient engine material. I cannot even locate a used or rebuilt engine for less than 2500 dollars. And the labor is expensive. Also with that engine replaced it could happen again. As it is I probably would never buy a Toyota again after learning this problem and how many other people it has affected. I do believe Toyota screwed up royally and should pay the consequences for this. I would not like to think what could've happened to me if my car broke down any further from home. I could have had an accident if it happened on the road without being able to pull over, or stranded. Just to say the least. This failure has had many repercussions in my life. Only one vehicle in our household now. My husband works 85 miles from home and I have not been able to find a job. If I had a job I could save money to either repair this car or purchase something else. It is a vicious cycle and one that I wouldn't have expected to happen purchasing a Toyota. Thanks for reading.

- Peggy I., PAYSON, AZ, US

problem #14

May 252012

Camry 4 Cy

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

Own a 2003 Toyota Camry 4 cyl . Never gave a moments trouble.Until, driving down the highway, the engine just went out. Had to have it towed home. Brought to a mechanic. Was told the engine was locked. Very disappointed. At a lost of words, stuck with no vehicle to get to work and a note, because I brought the car used. Had the car for three years.

- Eddie E., Lake Charles, LA, US

problem #13

Oct 302011

Camry LE 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 160,000 miles


Same problems as described by others. 160,000, no repair issues ever, good maintenance. Engine light came on / temp gauge suddenly spiked. Took it in and my trusted mechanic says, "Hydrocarbons in the coolant. Need to replace engine." Asked about repair and they noted the problem with bolts stripping when repair attempted and said they could not do it.

The car was fine otherwise, so I opted for the VERY expensive engine replacement instead of going further into debt on a new car. An additional item I learned on this car - if you want to replace the clutch (manual transmission), you have to remove and replace the engine. So I got that done too.

Very disappointed. I loved that car, was a loyal Toyota customer through and through, but after this I have to seriously think about other manufacturers for my next vehicle.

- Dan C., Minneapolis, MN, US

problem #12

Jun 012010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I love this car, but sometimes I feel like it is possessed! Out of no where I will be coming to a stop at a light or something and the car will just die. I literally have to wait 5 minutes and then it will start up again and be like nothing is wrong. There are no codes in the computer and of course no one can do anything unless it happens to them, which of course it doesn't. This has been going on for a year and a half and sometimes I get stuck in a really bad spot! Any suggestions????

- Donna M., Cortlandt Manor, NY, US

problem #11

Oct 122010

Camry LE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles


- lyniee, Westminster, CA, US

problem #10

Apr 192010

Camry XLE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I heard what sounded like water rushing or bubbling right behind the dashboard. I took it to the mechanic. He thought there was an air bubble in the radiator fluid when it has been flushed. He did a dye test and didn't see any leaks. I was very excited that this was only a $50 fix. Then the real issue started. While driving back to Illinois, I noticed my check engine light come on. The car was not running hot. Maybe 15 minutes later, I was not able to accelerate at all. It was towed back to the mechanic where he shared the next day that I needed a new engine--a $4500 fix.

I was so disappointed to have this happen to a car that it supposed to be such a reliable vehicle. The mechanic doesn't even understand how it happened since it happened so quickly and he said that there was probably nothing I could have done any differently. He sees "what" is wrong with it. It is the "why" that really needs to be answered.

I don't know if is reassuring to see that other people have had the same problems or a sign to not buy another Toyota.

- Colleen J., Wheaton, IL, US

problem #9

Apr 022010

Camry XLE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles


I started hearing what sounded like water rushing somewhere behind the dash, couldn't€™t find what was making the sound. On my way to work the check engine light came on, so I pulled over and couldn't€™t find any problem, no leaks, no steam, all gauges normal. I continued to work keeping an eye on the gauges, which never showed above normal. I looked out my back window to see lots of white smoke, pulled over and apparently the engine had blown up. My mechanic says motor's demise was from lack of thread strength in the aluminum engine block. The motor had no compression and the cylinder head bolts had pulled out the threads from the aluminum engine block. The threads were still coiled around the head bolts in a very similar fashion to a Heli-coil.

I've owned 2 other Toyota's that had almost 200,000 miles when I sold them at high blue book. I've kept up maintenance, so having to replace an engine at 98,995 miles is very disappointing to say the least. But after checking on-line I can see I’m not the only one who's had a problem with 2003 Camry 4 cyl. I’m hoping the Camry will last a very long time with the new engine. I don't know if I'd buy another new Toyota.

- Candace C., Port Hueneme, CA, US

problem #8

Oct 292009

Camry 2.4vvti 2.4vvti

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

The same complaint as many other people out there with this car. I have had the car since 2004 with 3000mls, so I know the car and keep it serviced etc. In 2005 I complained to my Toyota dealership about an unpleasant water/liquid noise behind the dash, they thought I was mad and could not find the problem. I reported this again in 2006 several times at another Toyota dealership, again this was ignored. In October 2006 the car was brought to Toyota with 62000mls needing a new short block. Toyota refused to cover the repairs etc. at which point I told them to keep the car and I was going to take them to court. After one week they repaired the car and returned it to me after I stated that I was going to rent another same sized vehicle and give them the bill. I paid for a service etc. Then last week the same thing happened again, I now have 82000miles on the car and phoned Toyota, they refused to enter talks about this although you can see a three year trend here. I phoned them again today after speaking with my solicitor and am going to take Toyota Ireland to court unless they resolve this problem, having read the other members complaints it seems that this is certainly a Toyota fault and not the customers (Toyota, best built cars in the world....what a joke). I actually love the car but not this rubbish. Can anyone else tell me what happened to them? Toyota are looking for €5334.68 not including labour for the short block etc. What a disgrace.

- mr.theedge, Dublin, Ireland, Ireland

problem #7

Sep 012009

Camry XLE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles

I diligently serviced this vehicle. I was told this car would last to at least 200000 miles. Well, I was wrong. I'm told it will cost 4500. to repair. I understand this is a defect by the dealer. I would think this should be recalled by Toyota.

- Chris J., Moreno Valley, CA, US

problem #6

Aug 232008

Camry LE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

My Camry motor suddenly died and I'm told it now has no compression and needs replacing! I see this has happened to other 2003 Camry's???

- Valerie M., Saint Peter, MN, US

problem #5

Mar 202006

Camry LE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

It began with the sound of water (coolant) rushing somewhere in the dash. The rushing sound was tied to engine rpms. Shortly thereafter the head gasket blew. The dealer said the bolts in the engine were stripped out and they replaced the short block. It ran fine until recently (67,000 miles now) when the "rushing" sound returned. The dealer did a coolant flush, but this did nothing except drain my wallet. I'm afraid the same thing will occur again. I believe there is a defect in manufacturing that was masked by the original repair, and has now returned.

- A. M., Salem, OR, US

problem #4

Jun 022008

Camry LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

They said that the bolts inside the engine were stripped and Toyota has been having problems with this type of car, luckily I had the warranty. Now I have to pay the 400.00 to change the belts and water pump as suggested by toyota.

- macias, Cathedral City, CA, US

problem #3

Apr 132008

Camry LE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

3 Days after the 50,000 done in a Toyota Service Center (Santa Fe, Mexico City), the engine just broke down. I've had all the services done in the Toyota Service Center. At first, they took 7 days to run the following diagnose: We don't know what's wrong with it, but you might need to change the engine. The estimate climbed up to over $6,000. How can this happen 3 days after the service was done!?. They also told me they had the same problem about a year ago with some other customer. 2.5 months and my car is still "in repair". They've ordered the wrong parts, taken over 2 weeks to get them and over a week to install and test them. They haven't been able to explain exactly what caused the breakdown so far.

How it broke down: Driving at 60 M/H dor 45 minutes on an interstate the engine started making a loud noise as quickly hammering metal vs metal. Not all of the time, only between 1 and 2 thousand revolutions per minute, then quiet. After turning around on my way to the service center, it lasted another 40 minutes and suddenly the noise became louder and permanent, I pulled over and it just died.

After popping the hood: coolant overflowing out of the container, radiator noise. But surprisingly my thermometer was ok. No high temperature, no warnings, no indicators of any kind.

So far I haven't been told what the problem was and the service center is taking as long as possible to return my car. over 11 weeks have passed since.

Nobody cared about the mileage, the fact that I took it from their service center 3 days prior to the incident. The dealership won't even buy my car.

- Fernando D., Mexico CIty, Mexico D.F., Mexico

problem #2

Apr 112008

Camry LE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 184,000 miles

I was the second owner of my 2003 Toyota Camry. Never had problems with my car at all. Just one day the engine went out. The dealership does not want to help, first they told me that some one had put sealant on my radiator but I have never taken it no where else but Toyota dealership. Then they told me something happened inside the engine (I cant afford to pay for the diagnostic needed) They told me that I would need a new engine witch would cost me 11,000... I still owe 8, 000.00 on it. Aside from that they where rude. I will never buy another Toyota.

- Lorena M., Modesto, CA, US

problem #1

May 092007

(reported on)

Camry 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

We have been the only owner of our 2003 Camry, and have babied it! Always changed oil on time, always done scheduled maintenance, never harmed it in any way. The engine spontaneously blew up while I was driving, and now it is going to cost 7000 dollars to replace it with a refurbished engine (Toyota doesn't sell new ones). I owe 9000 on the car, and now I've just pushed my loan back up to the original price. I am buying a Honda Accord next time!!! Sad thing is, I love my car. I just can't believe this happened!!!!

- Emmy S., Hedgesville, WV, US

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