Hardlymoving writes about do-it-yourself automobile maintenance on various makes and models.
Replacing Your Camry's Timing Belt
You can't drive your Camry forever without replacing the timing belt, its pulleys, and maybe other related parts. It's a big job, but with some tools and mechanical aptitude, you can do it yourself.
Toyota Cars Using the 5SFE Motor
The Toyota 5SFE motor is a four-cylinder, 2.2 liter, timing-belt-driven, double overhead cam (DOHC) engine design. This motor is commonly found in the Camry, Celica, MR2 and RAV4 from 1990 to 2001. (For a six-cylinder Camry, see my article on MZFE timing belt replacement).
CAMRY (4 CYLINDER)
(1987 - 1998)
(1990 - 1992)
CELICA GTS SPORT
(1990 - 1993)
(1987 - 1989)
(1991 - 1995)
(1996 - 2000)
(1999 - 2001)
When to Replace the Timing Belt
Toyota recommends replacing the timing belt for the 5SFE engine at either 60,000 or 90,000 miles based on the year of vehicle manufacture. Perhaps the introduction of Highly Saturated Nitrile (HSN) timing belts raised the service interval. They also recommend replacing the belt every 6 to 7 years, even if you haven’t reached the mileage threshold.
Oil leaks from the vicinity of the passenger-side front wheel may indicate a need to replace the timing belt and seals.
The 5SFE is a "non-interference" engine, meaning that if the belt breaks while the car is running, the valves and pistons are unlikely to be damaged. Thus you can use these instructions to replace a broken timing belt, as well as one that is just due to be replaced. Positioning the camshaft sprocket and the crankshaft pulley at Top-Dead-Center (TDC) alignment is all that is needed for broken belt replacement.
What to Replace Along With the Timing Belt
The two idler pulleys (the belt tensioner and belt guide) should be replaced with every belt change. If the bearings in any of the pulleys were to lose their lubricating properties, the pulley could wobble, which puts strain on the timing belt, or it could seize up, which would cause the belt to fail. Worn bearings may be evidenced by a grinding noise during engine warm-up, a noise that gradually disappears as the heat of the engine distributes the remaining grease inside the bearings. This noise is a warning that you should replace your belt and bearings as soon as you can.
Although many dealerships and private service stations recommend replacing the water pump along with the timing belt, the Aisin brand water pumps used in Toyotas are actually very durable. If you have changed the coolant at the manufacturer's recommended intervals--especially if you use Toyota’s own red coolant, and not the generic green coolant some shops use—and you have not been using hard, high-mineral-content water, the pump seals and bearings should last over 150,000 miles, based on my personal experience with many 5SFE belt replacement jobs.
To determine whether the pump is worn or leaking, listen for a chirping noise from the pump while the engine is running. Also, during this job, after the timing belt cover and timing belt have been removed, look for any leakage from the weep hole, or any drag on the pulley when you turn it by hand.
On 5SFE engines with over 100,000 miles, there is a good possibility that the seals on the camshaft, crankshaft and oil pump will be worn. These seals are inexpensive, though time-consuming to replace. If the leakage is very bad, oil will get on your timing belt and cause it to fail prematurely.
Also, when doing a timing belt replacement, check the side engine control rod (the “dog bone mount” or torque rod) along with the front engine mount. These mounts are supposed to dampen the back-and-forth motion of the engine. Too much flexing may stress the exhaust system's flex pipe and cause it to crack.
Inspecting the side control rod during timing belt replacement will let you know if it needs to be replaced; in my experience, it very often does. The rubber vibration dampener inside the front mount has a tendency to dry rot and crack with age. A simple test is to "blip" the engine (turn it on for an instant), with the transmission in gear, while keeping your foot on the brake. If the engine lifts up and settles back down, a new front mount may be in order. Replacement is simple and straightforward.
Expect to spend approximately three hours replacing the timing belt, guide pulley, and tensioner pulley alone. Replacing the water pump adds about a half hour, and replacing sprocket seals adds about a half hour per seal.
Tools Needed for Timing Belt Replacement
- Impact driver
- 1/2-Inch breaker bar (if no impact driver available)
- 1/2 & 3/8 socket wrenches, box wrenches and sockets
- Wrench extensions
- Screwdriver set
- Needle-nose pliers
- Hydraulic or scissor jack
- Jack stands
- Plastic alligator clips (recommended)
- Belt tension gauge (recommended)
Most Japanese cars use the following metric sizes:
- Seal Puller Tool
- Toyota Cam Seal Installer Tool
Tools That Make These Jobs Easier
At a minimum, to remove and torque screws and bolts, especially the crankshaft bolt discussed below, you will want a breaker bar. This is a tool of many uses, and this Titan breaker bar is long enough to be useful.
The next step up is a manual impact driver, also relatively inexpensive and a good investment.
An electric impact driver is even better, if you can afford it. This electric driver is the best I have used.
Parts You May Need During Timing Belt Replacement
- Timing Belt
- Idler Pulley (Belt Tensioner)
- Idler Pulley (Belt Guide)
- Gasket Maker or Seal
- Engine Control Rod/Dog Bone Mount (Optional)
- Front Motor Mount (Optional)
- Water Pump (Optional)
- Water Pump Gasket (Optional)
- Camshaft Seal (Optional)
- Crankshaft Seal (Optional)
- Oil Pump Seal (Optional)
- Timing Belt Cover Gasket (Optional)
Tips on Buying Parts
The cost of the belt and components can vary greatly. If you want to use Japanese OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts--the parts that Toyota puts its own label on--you will want a Mitsuboshi timing belt, Koyo pulleys, and an Aisin water pump. Other Japanese OEM brands include Denso, NGK, KYB, Akebono, GMB, and Sumoto.
But you can find good parts from other manufacturers as well. As Japanese cars shift their manufacturing to the US, OEM manufactureres have come to include American companies like Gates and Dayco.
Basically, any Fortune 1000 parts company should provide adequate parts. Here's an acceptable Delco timing belt kit that includes pump and seals, and here's another that includes an OEM Aisin Water Pump like this one. Shop and compare prices, including shipping costs, for the best deals.
5SFE Timing Belt Component Diagrams for the Camry
Step-by-Step: Replacing Timing Belt and Other Parts
The steps and pictures below take you through the following procedures:
- Power Steering and Accessory Belt Removal
- Engine Mount and Timing Belt Cover Removal
- Timing Belt / Oil Seal Replacement
- Water Pump Removal and Installation
- Timing Belt Installation
The video below provides a step-by-step procedure for performing a timing belt, water pump and component replacement on a 2.2L I4 Toyota Camry. The video below this video provides the procedure in aligning the timing marks to replace a broken timing belt. Detailed text instructions with photos are available below the video.
Power Steering and Accessory Belt Removal
Letters refer to the photos at the end of this section (click on photo there to enlarge it).
- Apply the parking brake, place transmission in "park," and chock the rear wheels.
- Remove the passenger-side front wheel and support the vehicle on a jack stand (A).
- Remove the passenger-side front fender apron seal (B).
- If replacing the water pump, drain the coolant (C).
- Remove the crankshaft pulley bolt. If an impact driver is not available, use a breaker bar secured to the ground or frame of the car (D) (see note under photo). "Blip" the ignition for less than a second. The torque from the starter motor should relieve the tension on the bolt. Applying heat to the bolt from a propane torch can help ... but be careful ... the oil seal can be damaged from too much heat. If that doesn't work, your battery is probably not putting out the amperage the starter motor needs. To get the extra amps, jump the battery with another battery from another car. And if that doesn't work, find a friendly garage owner who'll torque the bolt off for you with their 180-pound air-powered impact driver.
- Turn the engine clockwise to re-align the crankshaft pulley to the Top-Dead-Center mark on the timing belt cover. Using a 1/2 inch drive socket wrench attached to the pulley bolt eases engine rotation. A quick twist of the socket wrench counter-clockwise will spin off the crankshaft pulley without upsetting the alignment.
- Optional: if your power steering fluid is pitch black, it can replaced in a few additional minutes as part of this timing belt job. Just remove the hose clamp and hose from the metal tube located below the crankshaft pulley. Most of the fluid can be 'pushed' out by rotating the steering wheel to the left and right while the fluid is draining out. Reconnect the hose and clamp when completed.
- Loosen the power steering pump adjustment bolt (E).
- With a long or crowbar, apply pressure to the left side of the pump to relieve tension on the power steering belt (F). If that doesn't work, a few light taps with a hammer on the power steering pump bracket, behind the locking bolt, will move the bracket forward of the bolt and relieve tension on the belt.
- Disconnect the ground strap connectors (G).
- Relieve tension on the alternator adjustment locking bolt (H).
- Relieve tension on the alternator pivot bolt (I).
- Turn the alternator belt adjustment bolt counterclockwise until the alternator belt can be removed. (H)
- Remove the alternator and power steering pump belts.
- If replacing the water pump, remove the alternator bracket bolt and remove the bracket (J). Remove the camshaft position sensor wire clamp with needle-nose pliers, and pinch off the connector by squeezing and pulling with your fingertips.
Power Steering And Accessory Belt Removal: Photos A-J
Engine Mount and Timing Belt Cover Removal
Letters refer to photos at end of this section.
- Support the engine by placing a wooden block between the oil pan and hydraulic jack (K).
- Remove the three bolts from the engine control rod (L). Examine the condition of the rod for dry rot and cracks. If worn, replace it.
- Remove the three bolts from the engine mounting bracket (M). If there is difficulty removing the lower bolts due to clearance, a flat bar used for accessory belt removal can be used (N).
- Remove the upper timing belt cover (O).
- Remove the crankshaft pulley. If the pulley cannot be pulled off (because of corrosion on the crankshaft) use a puller tool, or place two flat bars opposite each other and attempt prying it loose (P).
- Detach the camshaft position sensor wire clamp (Q) (if you haven't already done it to remove the alternator bracket for a new water pump). Use needle-nose pliers to pinch off the wire clamp, and and use your fingertips to pinch off the connectors.
- Remove the lower timing belt cover with the crankshaft position sensor. This will eliminate the need to detach the wire clamp from the cover (R).
Engine Mount and Timing Belt Cover Removal: Photos K-R
Timing Belt / Oil Seal Replacement
Letters refer to photos at the end of this section.
- Assuming the crankshaft and camshaft are at Top-Dead-Center (TDC) alignment, apply paint alignment marks on both the crankshaft and camshaft and their back plates (S) and to the old belt. You can transfer these paint marks from the old belt to the new belt.
- Remove the tension spring from the tensioner pulley, and remove the idler pulley bolt from the tensioner idler pulley (T). Remove the timing belt.
- If replacing the camshaft seal, loosen the camshaft bolt. You can use a camshaft pulley tool (see just below) to keep the camshaft from moving while you remove the camshaft pulley bolt (U). DO NOT use the timing belt as a replacement for a pulley holder tool.
The below video will provide you with some examples on using a chain strap wrench for holding and removing pulleys on your car.
- To make more room, while working on the removal and replacement of the cam seal, you can disconnect the steering fluid container's supply side hose, allowing you to shift the container and return hose away from the camshaft sprocket (V).
- Remove the camshaft seal. Using a razor to make vertical cuts on the seal will make it easier to remove the seal with a screwdriver. The tip of the screwdriver can then 'bite' on the lip of the seal. Or you can save time by using a seal puller instead of digging out the seal. Take care not to scratch a seal's metal contact surfaces; wrap electrical tape on any tool used for seal removal or installation that might make contact with the shaft or the shaft's interior.
- Once the seal has been removed, apply grease to the new seal (W) and press it in with your thumbs. The shallow edges of the seal can be pushed in with a blunt tool until the seal has been fully seated (X). Unfortunately there is no room to hammer the seal in with a seal press tool, but a seal installation tool makes the installation easier and more uniform.
- If replacing the crankshaft seal, remove the crankshaft timing pulley to expose the seal (Y). Apply the same method used for removing the camshaft seal, or jam a thin-tipped screw driver into the seal then pry the seal out. Installation of the new seal can be performed with a round socket of the same seal diameter as a seal press tool. The seal can be uniformly pressed back in by gently hammering on the seal press tool, or by using an oversized deep socket.
- If replacing the oil pump seal (above and to the left of the crankshaft--no picture here), remove the oil pump sprocket by holding the sprocket with a strap wrench while removing the sprocket nut. Once the nut is removed, the sprocket will come off with little resistance. The seal can be pried out with a pointed metal-tipped object or tool. If oil leakage is detected behind the pump, the rubber oil pump O-ring gasket should be replaced. The oil pump cover is secured with several 10mm bolts. If replacing both the O-ring gasket and pump seal, remove the pump cover first; then, remove the sprocket and pump seal with the cover off the engine.
Timing Belt / Oil Seal Replacement: Photos S-Y
Water Pump Removal and Installation; Idler Pulley Removal
- Remove the water pump (Z). If the water pump is leaking, or its bearings seem worn, you should replace it. Detect worn bearings by turning the gear by hand, to see if the gear hangs or stops at specific points during a turn. Remove the old gasket material from the engine block with a scraper tool or razor. When the pump is removed, some coolant will escape from the pump housing. Have some rags or towels nearby to wipe the coolant off of the block and pulleys.
- Apply water-resistant gasket sealant on both sides of the pump gasket, and place the gasket on the new pump with the holes aligned (AA).
- Remove the idler pulley belt guide (BB). Do this after, not before, removing the old pump, to prevent coolant from getting into the idler pulley bolt hole and corroding the bolt threads.
Water Pump Removal and Installation: Photos Z-BB
Timing Belt Installation
- Bolt on the two new idler pulleys. Position the tensioner idler pulley downward towards the camshaft, to allow the most slack on the timing belt during installation. The tensioner idler pulley bolt need only be hand tight.
- Install the new timing belt. Using plastic alligator clips and the timing belt guide will ease the process. Position and slip the bent part of the belt over the crankshaft pulley. Slide on the timing belt guide to prevent the belt from slipping off. From the right side of the engine, slip the belt over the idler pulley, over the water pump, and over the camshaft. If there is little slack on the belt, secure the belt in place over the camshaft by attaching an alligator clip. Make sure there is no slack on the belt between the crankshaft and camshaft (CC).
- Slip the left side of the belt over the water pump pulley, the remainder of the camshaft, and then over the tensioner pulley. If paint marks were transcribed from the old belt to the new belt, there should be no alignment problems.
- If there is difficulty placing the new belt on the right side of the engine, use a box wrench to move the camshaft sprocket 1/2 cog clockwise. Slip on the belt, secure the belt on the sprocket with an alligator clip, and re-position the camshaft sprocket back to its old position.
- Attach the tensioner idler pulley tension spring, and loosen the pulley bolt to allow the pulley to pull in the left side of the belt.
- Remove the belt guide from the crankshaft, and screw on the crankshaft bolt. Attach a 1/2" socket wrench and rotate the crankshaft 360 degrees, twice (DD). You do this to 1) remove any remaining slack on the left side of the timing belt, and 2) verify that the crankshaft and camshaft alignment marks are lined up correctly.
- Remove the crankshaft bolt and tighten the tensioner idler pulley bolt.
Re-Assembly: Follow This Order
- Belt guide.
- Lower timing belt cover.
- Crankshaft pulley and bolt. Apply grease to the crankshaft to prevent corrosion. Torque to a minimum of 80 foot-pounds.
- Upper timing belt cover.
- Power steering pump, with hose. Replenish any lost fluid. Turning the steering wheel from left to right will help suck the new fluid back into your hoses and pump.
- Engine mounting bracket.
- Engine moving control rod, with ground straps.
- Alternator bracket with alternator. Attach wire clamps and electrical fitting.
- Power steering belt and alternator belts.
- Apply tension on the power steering belt and tighten the lock bolt (EE). Instructions continue below!
- Turn the alternator belt adjustment bolt clockwise to generate belt tension. It's advisable to use a belt tension gauge (FF). Over-torqued belts will wear out bearings. Tighten all alternator bolts.
- Lock the radiator drain plug and refill radiator.
- Attach the fender apron seal.
- Mount the wheel.
- Remove the hydraulic jack supporting the engine block.
- Remove the jack stand.
- Start car for a minute. Add more coolant. Check all fluids.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I had the timing belt changed on my 93 Camry 2.2L by the dealer and now it idles a bit higher 900RPM before the belt change 750 RPM. Do you know what would cause this?
Answer: Your old belt probably stretched and caused an imbalance between the camshaft and crankshaft position sensors. With the new belt, the camshaft and crankshaft are now in perfect alignment which should result in better combustion hence a higher idle.