DIY Toyota Camry 5SFE Engine Oil Leak Repair (With Video)

Updated on August 27, 2018
hardlymoving profile image

Hardlymoving writes about do-it-yourself automobile maintenance on various makes and models.

Toyota Camry Valve Cover Gasket
Toyota Camry Valve Cover Gasket

Three Common Causes of Oil Leaks From the 4-Cylinder Camry

Here are the three most common sources of oil leaks from the Camry I4 5SFE engine.

  1. Worn oil seals from the camshaft, the crankshaft, and the oil pump sprocket seal and gasket. These seals and gaskets are typically checked and replaced when performing a timing belt replacement. If leakage becomes excessive, you might want to go ahead and replace your timing belt ahead of schedule, since oil contact with the belt will reduce its longevity. A timing belt saturated with oil will eventually break prematurely and without warning.
  2. The valve cover gasket has shrunk, dry rotted, or simply lost its ability to seal. Since the top of the engine is tilted towards the firewall, the majority of the oil leak will accumulate on top of the intake manifold by the fuel injectors. The oil may continue to migrate down to the oil pan which may give the illusion that the oil pan gasket requires replacement. Applying silicone-gasket-maker material onto the valve cover gasket, a trick I've seen tried often, does not work, and oil will continue to leak.
  3. The rubber coating on the valve cover/cylinder head plug (located to the right of the engine when facing the engine), has shrunk or cannot maintain a good seal. Toyota added this plug when they replaced their camshaft-driven ignition distributor system with solid-state coil packs.

If Item 1 is your problem, you will want to replace your timing belt, as discussed in another article. This DIY article will address items 2 and 3.

A Fourth Source of Leaks

If a leak is detected between the inner CV axle shaft and the transmission—if you see seepage stains below where the CV axle meets the differential, or drip marks on the ground in that area—the problem may be a transmission fluid leak from a worn axle shaft seal. A leak here will cause the level of transmission fluid (ATF) to drop gradually. Another article of mine shows how to replace the axle and seal.

Identifying the Source of the Leak

Leak Behind the Passenger-Side Front Wheel

If the number one and two fuel injectors show a film of fresh oil, or accumulated dirty oil, the valve cover may be the culprit. The source can be further validated by removing the front passenger-side wheel and inspecting the power-steering pump. If the pump is wet with oil, the leak has migrated from the intake runner down to the back of the engine block and then to the power-steering pump. This is assuming that the power-steering pump itself is not leaking; if it is, the power steering fluid level will be dropping.

Leak Beside the Passenger-Side Front Wheel

Again, the source of the leak can be verified by removing the front passenger-side wheel. If an oil film appears at the base of the lower timing belt cover where it meets the engine block, then the camshaft or crankshaft seal, or the oil pump seal or gasket, may be leaking. The timing belt cover must be removed to determine the exact cause.

Leak Between the Front Wheels, Below the Transmission

Unless the leak is transmission fluid coming from the inner CV axle shaft seal, the cylinder head plug (the half-circle hump on the right side of the engine by the ignition coil packs) is leaking oil.

Video on Recognizing a Bad Valve Cover Gasket

The below 2-minute video provides you an overview on recognizing a valve cover gasket that needs replacement.

Video on Replacing the Valve Cover Gasket for a Toyota Camry I4 5SFE Engine

The below 5.5-minute video will provide you with step-by-step instructions for removing and installing a valve cover gasket on a I4 Toyota Camry. Instructions in text form follow the video.

Valve Cover Gasket Replacement and Valve Cover Plug Seal Procedure

  • Remove the ignition wires. Using either bent-end or needle-nose hose pliers will ease removal.
  • Disconnect the vacuum line from the right side of the valve cover.
  • Unbolt the two engine hoist hooks from the front left and right side of the valve cover. This will ease the removal and installation of the valve cover.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Camry Ignition Wire Removal
Camry Ignition Wire Removal
Camry Ignition Wire Removal

PCV Valve Removal

  • Move the hose clamp closest to the intake runner.
  • Using needle-nose pliers, pry the PCV valve up out of the valve cover.
  • Twist off the PCV hose, with the PCV valve attached, from the intake runner.

Removing Camry PCV
Removing Camry PCV

Remove the Valve Cover Hold-Down Nuts/Rings

  • Using a 30 mm socket, unbolt the four 30 mm hold-down nuts/rings.
  • The valve cover can now be removed. The rubber gasket may be slightly fused to the cylinder head; using a pry tool will ease removal.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Camry Valve Cover Removal
Camry Valve Cover Removal
Camry Valve Cover Removal

Unbolt Plug Cap, Remove Plug, and Clean

  • Two 10 mm bolts retain the plug cap. Remove the two bolts.
  • Pry the cap off using a thin-tipped screwdriver.
  • Clean the area where the cap sat, removing oil and debris. Finish by using any brake-cleaning product to remove oil residue.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Camry Distributor Cap Plug RemovalCamry Distributor Cap RemovalCamry Distributor Cap
Camry Distributor Cap Plug Removal
Camry Distributor Cap Plug Removal
Camry Distributor Cap Removal
Camry Distributor Cap Removal
Camry Distributor Cap
Camry Distributor Cap

Coat Cap Contact Surfaces With RTV and Reconnect Cap Cover

  • Use any RTV product with gasket-sealing properties. J-B Weld makes an excellent automotive high temperature RTV if you can find it.
  • Coat the base where the plug sits with RTV, along with the cap.
  • Position the plug on the cylinder header.
  • Secure the cap on the plug and re-bolt.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

New Valve Cover Gasket Installation

My personal preference is to use silicone valve cover gaskets instead of rubber. Rubber will eventually shrink, crack, dry rot, and leak again. Silicone gaskets, if you can find them, last longer and retain their elasticity better than their rubber counterparts. When the new rubber gasket shrinks, re-tightening the valve cover rings will offset shrinkage, but this solution will only work for a while. However, I've found valve cover gaskets made by Fel-Pro to be of very high quality with good durability.

  • Dab RTV sealant at the edges where the semi-circle hump ends.
  • Clean the valve cover grooves where the new gasket is to be placed. Removing all oil residue from the grooves will allow the new gasket to adhere to the grooves, which will be helpful during installation of the cover. If the new gasket will not stay put, apply a small amount of RTV in the grooves.
  • Re-install the valve cover. The remaining steps are the reversal of the removal process. When torquing down the valve cover rings, spread the tension equally among the four rings. This will help distribute hold-down tension on the new gasket and should provide a good seal.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
New Camry Valve Cover Gasket
New Camry Valve Cover Gasket
New Camry Valve Cover Gasket

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 hardlymoving

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      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        3 months ago from Memphis, TN

        Edgar Lopez,

        If there's leakage from the rear of the passenger side of the engine, it could be your power steering pump hose. Other sources of leakage is transmission to CV axle shaft seals; power steering pump seal (which is behind the lower timing belt cover and camshaft and crankshaft seal. Do you see any oil on top of the transmission? If so, that's the semi-circle plug between the valve cover and engine head.

      • profile image

        Edgar Lopez 

        3 months ago

        On my 98 Camry 2.2L I have been getting leaks for a bit, so I notice it was leaking from the valve cover and replaced the gasket so that’s taken care of but I’m noticing it’s still leaking oil from somewhere and I’ve looked around and it’s leaking from somewhere behind the engine, I can’t really tell from where but looks like it’s coming from the intake manifold, would I need to change the manifold gasket or could it be something else?

      • profile image

        Sam 

        5 months ago

        It is a very detailed article. I have been losing oil in my Camry 2001 and I have to keep adding. I see the oil at the top of the engine cover. I will post pictures. I will do some research and see where the leak is. Thanks for UV dye tip. Have a good one.

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        14 months ago from Memphis, TN

        Bella,

        Haven't encountered oil leaks on your model year Camry but here are some possibilities of engine oil leak sources:

        1. Time chain cover

        2. Valve cover

        3. Front and/or rear Crankshaft seal

        4. Engine burning oil without producing blue smoke due to piston oil ring being stuck.

        Recommend:

        1. Engine be thoroughly cleaned of oil and grim residue

        2. Add UV dye to engine oil

        3. Drive car for a few days and determine source of leak with

        UV glasses and flashlight.

      • profile image

        Bella 

        14 months ago

        I have a 2007 Toyota Camry. I have an oil leak that has progressively gotten worse over the last 2yrs. The shop I go to for oil changes, at first look said it was an oil pan not sealing. The seal was replaced but the oil continues to leak. The shop is unable to find an active leak but I go through about 3quarts every 2,000 miles of which I replace as needed. More when driving long distances, or hot weather or with AC use. The shop thinks I maybe burning it but I never see black smoke but I do see oils spots on the cement especially in the AM. The spots are not colored like transmission oil. The spots on the ground are located on the middle-left side of the engine. No drips or pooling can be seen. Not by the left front wheel. At times, the timing is off a bit but as can be expected with an older car with higher miles. The timing usually corrects itself although. In sight?

      • profile image

        SG 

        2 years ago

        TY for the knowledge

      • profile image

        Mohammed 

        2 years ago

        i have Camry 1999 which always leak oil through the valve cover hose into the air filter compartment as well as some noticeable oil in the injector mouth

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        2 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Thanks sbramblet for your kind comments.

      • profile image

        sbramblet 

        2 years ago

        Can I just say this is a fantastic and well written article? Also the fact that you have been answering questions on it for over a year is highly commendable. You are a gem to the DIY community.

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        3 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Todd,

        I recommend you power wash the engine compartment, let it dry out, then look for the source of the leak. You should then be able to trace the source of any fresh oil leaks. Also take the driver's side wheel off to power wash the underside of the engine as well. Don't forget to cover your alternator with aluminum foil to protect it from water.

      • Todd Kennedy profile image

        Todd Kennedy 

        3 years ago

        I have a 1997 Camry that leaks oil onto the transmission where it puddles until it runs down onto the ground. I thought it was the valve cover gasket/cylinder head plug, but after I replaced the gasket and sealed up the plug with RTV like the above article showed I still have a leak. Seems like it could be coming from one of the hoses/lines above the transmission.

        This is going to be my daughters college car and I'm worried she will run the oil dry so..............any recommendations for a new wanna be mechanic on this car?

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        3 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Ryan,

        There's a huge difference between the I4 and V6. To get to the valve cover on the right engine bank (up against the firewall), you have to remove the intake runner / manifold to get enough working room to get the cover off. Also, there's a large wire harness that you have to work around.

      • profile image

        Ryan 

        3 years ago

        Thanks for all your helpful advice.

        Is the procedure to change the valve cover gaskets really that different for the v-6 camry? I've been told there are two gaskets instead of 2, are there other things I should be aware of before I do it myself?

        Thanks

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        3 years ago from Memphis, TN

        TimJos

        How often do you change your oil? Every 3 or 4K miles? Being low a quart at that interval is not that unusual. You may have stuck or weak oil rings on your pistons. If stuck, adding around 20% Marvel Mystery Oil can free them up.

        High fuel consumption could be an out-of-tune engine. May need new plugs, filters (air/fuel), vacuum leak, etc.

      • profile image

        TimJos 

        3 years ago

        I have a Toyota camry 1999 xle model. The engine oil of my camry always short that I have to add 1 quart or more in between oil change. I have checked all around the engine no visible leak and no visible smoke coming out of the exhuast. Also the fuel consumption is higher than other 1999 camry I know. Though it seems to work very fine. One kick it starts, accelaration very good, its pack with power. My mechanic couldn't seem to figure out the problem. Any suggestion, please.

      • profile image

        naturetony1 

        4 years ago

        Thanks very much, the leakage is not from left or right axle shaft inner seal, I am suspecting the transmission input shaft seal as the leakage is from between engine and gearbox, I don't actually know if the leakage is from the torque converter seal and where it is located

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        4 years ago from Memphis, TN

        naturetony1,

        I suggest you get a 2nd and even 3rd opinion. There's the transmission and the torque converter (never heard of a gearbox oil pump?). The transmission has three oil seals: 1. Left Axle Shaft inner seal 2. Right axle shaft inner seal. 3. Transmission input shaft seal. The torque converter has one seal.

      • profile image

        naturetony1 

        4 years ago

        my 99 toyota camry 5SFE leaks oil between the engine and gear box, I also discovered the ATF is low, when I took it to the mechanic he said the converter seal is bad, that I will need to replace the gearbox oil pump that comes with the converter seal. pls advice ♍ε̲̣̣̣̥ on this

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        4 years ago from Memphis, TN

        JUN1,

        Yes, IMHO your problem is like the cylinder head plug.

      • profile image

        JUN1 

        4 years ago

        Hi,

        My car is a 1999 Toyota Camry, which seems to have a small oil leak from under the metal bracket on which the ignition coil packs installed. I think the oil drips onto the metal tube connected to the heater core hose and then collects on top of speed sensor.

        Do you think this could be the cylinder head plug seal problem as mentioned above?

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        4 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Haidar,

        My best guess ... worn CV axle bearings or perhaps worn front motor mount.

      • profile image

        Haidar 

        4 years ago

        I have Camry v6 1998 , my problem is when i take off the car there is a noise happen for less than a second . In the left side near tire , do u know how can I fix it ? Thank u

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        4 years ago from Memphis, TN

        David,

        If you've only started to use synthetic oil, that in itself could be the problem. Seems to happen a lot on high mileage Toyotas. One fix is to switch back to conventional oil, pull out all your plugs, pour about 2 oz of B12/Chemtool into each plug hole, put a towel over the plug holes, turn over the engine for a couple of seconds, put back in the plugs and let sit overnight. This could free up carbon buildup on the oil rings that may be partial stuck on the piston oil ring grooves. The rings may not be scrapping the oil residue on you cylinder walls. Did it on a couple of cars and it worked. Also add Marvel Mystery Oil with your motor oil. Change your oil every 2 to 3 k miles ... it will get dirty fast.

      • profile image

        David 

        4 years ago

        The engine oil on my 1999 Camry is down about a quart ( one bottle) about 4000 miles drive. But I have not found any leaking around the car. The oil is Mobil 1 synthetic oil. In the past, I also experienced noticeable engine oil loss when using synthetic oil. Is it I did not find the leaking or using the synthetic oil ? Thanks

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        5 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Chris,

        Take my advice. RTV won't work in the long run. I've replaced a lot of cover gaskets to fix work done by other repair shops that didn't replace the gasket but used RTV as a replacement. I'll give it a year or so before the leak re-appears.

      • profile image

        Chris 

        5 years ago

        I decided to lay a thin bead of RTV silicone down then lay the gasket over top. Apparently when I re assembled the cover over the cheap gasket it got pinched. Going to let it cure for 24 hours and test it tomorrow. Thank you for the input.

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        5 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Chris,

        Then replacement of the o-ring gasket for the oil pump cover or the oil pump shaft seal gasket would be required. Unfortunately, the timing belt must be removed to get to these gaskets. If left as is, oil will get on the timing belt and will cause it to prematurely break...and I have replaced oil soaked broken timing belts. Refer to my timing belt replacement article for work effort details.

      • profile image

        Chris 

        5 years ago

        It's coming from the oil pump cover.

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        5 years ago from Memphis, TN

        Chris,

        Just where is the leak's origin? If the valve cover, and since the engine is tilted, oil should be accumulating on top of the intake manifold by the injectors. If by the Valve Cover Plug (driver's side where the distributor was), then oil would be visible on top where the transmission meets the motor. The only other source of oil leak is from the camshaft seal, crankshaft seal and oil pump seal. The oil drips would form by the passenger side front wheel. Other sources of oil would be from the CV axle transmission oil seal. The leak would be present by the middle of the car. If white paper is placed under the car, and since transmission fluid is red, the color would be the give away. The last and least likely (and mis-diagnosed) would be the oil pan gasket. Heard of a lot of shops giving big repair estimates on unnecessary oil pan gasket replacements. Also a split CV boot will throw oily grease inside your wheel well.

        Suggestion: Double check your work. Lastly, power wash your engine compartment to remove any residual old oil leaks. Then check for sources of fresh leak stains.

      • profile image

        Chris 

        5 years ago

        I just replaced the seal and gasket and is still leaking just as bad as it was before hand. I did have trouble getting the gasket to line up and stay put though. It was a cheap one from O Reileys. Any suggestions on what I should do next?

        Chris

      • hardlymoving profile imageAUTHOR

        hardlymoving 

        5 years ago from Memphis, TN

        z,

        The Oil Pump Cover O-Ring may be your problem. You can apply a thick coat of Permatex Blue Silicone Gasket Maker in the O-Ring groove along with the new O-Ring. This should reinforce the seal and prevent any future oil pump cover leaks should the O-Ring shrink with age. Make sure the mating surfaces is oil free before apply the Permatex. Break Clean works really well. Personally, I do not think the O-ring seal is thick enough to ensure a good long term seal based on my past experience with these O-rings.

      • profile image

        5 years ago

        I have a rebuilt 5sfe that has been installed for about a month when it started leaking oil from the edges of the oil pump. My girlfiends dad did the install of the new longblock, oil pump came with the rebuild. He took it off and said the seals look fine. Reinstalled it ans still leaks. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks

      working

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