Toyota Camry 2002-2006: problems, engine, fuel economy

Updated: October 18, 2019

The 2002-2006 Camry (known as XV30) is a spacious mid-size family sedan with a soft smooth ride. A two-door version is sold as Toyota Camry Solara. The Camry has front-wheel drive and comes with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine or a smooth and powerful V6.

2006 Toyota Camry interior
2006 Toyota Camry interior.

The interior is comfortable and roomy with plenty of rear-seat space. The dashboard is well laid out. The instrument panel is simple with large gauges. Front seats are cushy. A large trunk offers plenty of cargo space.

The Camry holds its value well. Maintenance costs are below average for the class. Is the 2002-2006 Toyota Camry a good car to buy used? What are the common problems?

Toyota Camry problems: Suspension problems like bad sway bar links and bushings, rear control arm bushings and rear strut mounts are fairly common. The repairs are not very expensive.
Oil leaks from the valve cover gasket(s) are often reported. The valve cover gasket replacement costs $80-$150 in a 4-cylinder engine and $200-$280 in a V6.
Several owners mentioned a leaking water pump. If a bad water pump is not replaced in time, lack of coolant may cause overheating of the engine.

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A front oxygen sensor (Air/fuel ratio sensor) fails often; the replacement is not very expensive. Lack of power, hesitation and the "Check Engine" light with the code P0171 could be caused by a bad or contaminated mass air flow sensor or a cracked intake boot (snorkel).

Toyota Camry 2006
Toyota Camry 2006.

The mass air flow could be cleaned and is not very expensive to replace.
Unstable idle and stalling (often after battery replacement) could be caused by carbon buildup inside the throttle body. Cleaning the throttle body might help with this type of problem.
A faulty A/C clutch relay in the under-hood fuse box can cause the air conditioner to cut out intermittently with the A/C light flashing. Replacing the relay solves the problem in most cases. A Toyota dealer should have the part; it's not very expensive.
There is also a number of complaints about stripped head bolts in the 2.4L engine; this repair is expensive. Toyota issued the service bulletin describing the repair. Google 'Toyota bulletin T-SB-0015-11' to read more.

Toyota Camry 2.4-liter engine
Toyota Camry 2.4-liter engine.
NHTSA crash tests: Frontal
Driver
Frontal
Pass.
Side
driver
Side
Pass.
2002 Camry 5 Star 4 Star 2 Star 5 Star
2003 Camry 5 Star 4 Star 3 Star 5 Star
2004 Camry 4 Star 4 Star 4 Star 3 Star
2005-2006 Camry 5 Star 5 Star 4 Star 3 Star

Powertrain: The base engine is the 2.4L 4-cylinder DOHC, model 2AZ-FE. This engine was widely used in many Toyota vehicles, including the RAV4 and Highlander SUVs. The optional 3.0-liter 24-valve 1MZ-FE V6 is smooth and powerful. From 2004, the SE V6 trims were equipped with the 3.3-liter V6 (3MZ-FE).
A manual transmission is only available with a 4-cylinder engine.

Timing belt or chain: The 4-cylinder 2.4L engine has a maintenance-free timing chain. Both 3.0L V6 and 3.3L V6 engines have a timing belt that needs to be replaced at regular intervals, read more below.

Safety: Anti-lock brakes (ABS) were optional; standard from 2005. Side and side curtain airbags were optional on 2004-2006 models. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2002-2006 Toyota Camry "Good" for frontal crash protection, however models without optional side airbags received "Poor" rating in side crash test.
See NHTSA crash test results in the table.

Handling and ride: The Camry is a pleasure to drive, especially on the highway. The ride is very soft and smooth; road bumps and expansion joints are absorbed well by the suspension. The steering is very light too. The 2.4L 4-cylinder engine is pretty quick off the line and provides enough power for everyday driving; the V6 is strong and very smooth.

Toyota Camry sedan
EPA Fuel Economy:
mpg
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2002-2006 2.4L manual 21/30 11.2/7.8
2002-2003 2.4L auto 21/29 11.2/8.1
2004 2.4L auto 20/29 11.8/8.1
2005-2006 2.4L auto 21/31 11.2/7.6
2002-2003 3.0L V6 auto 18/26 13.1/9.0
2004 3.0L V6 auto 18/27 13.1/8.7
2005-2006 3.0L V6 auto 18/26 13.1/9.0
2004-2006 SE 3.3L V6 auto 18/27 13.1/8.7

Fuel Economy: The Camry is among the class leaders in fuel economy. The 2005-2006 automatic 4-cylinder Camry gets 21/31 mpg. This means that with mostly highway driving, you can get up to 466 miles (670 km) to a tank; the fuel tank capacity is 18.5 gallons or 70 liters.

Pros: Good on gas (4-cylinder models), comfortable ride, roomy interior, spacious trunk, easy to maintain, resale value, above-average reliability.

Cons: Front seats lack lateral support, paint scratches easy, poor scores for side crash protection without side airbags.

Overall: The Camry is a natural choice if you are looking for a used family car. The 4-cylinder engine is good on gas; V6 is smooth and powerful. Make sure to have the car, and especially, the engine properly inspected by a mechanic before the purchase.

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Consumer Reports rates the 2002-2006 Toyota Camry as 'Recommended'. Competitors include Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. The Accord has a firmer ride. Mazda 6 offers more sporty handling but is less roomy and has a wide turning radius. The Malibu is cheaper, but is not as reliable.

What to look for when buying a used Toyota Camry: If possible check service records; avoid cars that have been previously overheated. A low coolant level might be an indication of coolant leaks. A blue or white smoke from exhaust, even if it's just a small amount at a startup, means the car should be avoided. When test driving a used Toyota Camry, there should be no noises when driving over bumps or rough roads. Read more tips: illustrated used car checklist. Have the car properly inspected by your mechanic before buying. If during an inspection, coolant leaks are found at the back of the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, avoid the car.

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Maintenance tips: Change your oil regularly; Toyota recommends using 5W-30 oil in both, the 4-cylinder and V6 engines. Watch out for coolant leaks and keep engine coolant topped up; overheating may result in very expensive repairs. Change the transmission fluid when it gets dirty. According to the 2006 Camry owner's manual, an engine air filter and a cabin filter need to be replaced at 30,000 miles. The cabin filter is located behind the glove box. A timing belt in the 3.0L and 3.3L V6 engines needs to be replaced every 90,000 miles. Expect to pay $300-$450 to replace the timing belt only, or $500-750 if you want to replace the water pump too.

You might also be interested:

Resources:
Recalls: Safety Recalls - NHTSA or Transport Canada - Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls.
Owner manuals - where to find online.

Related:
Honda Accord 2003-2007 review »
2003-2008 Mazda 6 review »

2006 Toyota Camry specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Wheelbase:
Overall width:
Overall height:

189.2 (4,805 mm)
107.1 in (2,720 mm)
70.7 in (1,795 mm)
58.7 in (1,490 mm)

Seating capacity:

5

Cargo capacity:

16.7 cu. ft

Engines:
Camry LE, SE



LE V6, XLE V6


SE V6

2.4-liter 16-valve DOHC VVT-i
all-aluminum inline-4
154 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 160 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve VVT-i all-aluminum V6
190 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 197 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

3.3-liter DOHC 24-valve VVT-i all-aluminum V6
210 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 220 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Recommended Fuel:

Regular unleaded

Fuel Tank Capacity:

18.5 US gallons (70 liters)

Engine oil capacity:
Engine Oil with Filter:
2.4L 4−cylinder (2AZ−FE):
3.0L V6 (1MZ-FE):
3.3L V6 (3MZ-FE):


4.0 US qt. (3.8L)
5.0 US qt. (4.7L)
5.0 US qt. (4.7L)

Automatic transmission fluid capacity:
Drain and refill: 3.7 US qt. (3.5L)
By Samarins.com Staff