Toyota Camry 1997-2001 problems, fuel economy, driving experience, photos

Updated: December 21, 2019

The late 90's, early 2000s were the best years for the Toyota Motor company. Many experts agree that the 1997-2001 Camry known as XV20 is one of the most reliable cars ever built. Even today in 2019, you still can see quite a few of them on the road.

Toyota Camry 2001
2001 Toyota Camry. Click for a larger photo

The Camry offers a comfortable interior and a soft, quiet ride. It comes as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe (Camry Solara). The interior is roomy, with soft seats and easy-to-use controls. There is plenty of head- and legroom for front and rear passengers. The trunk is large and the rear seat backs fold down for more cargo space.

The Camry has front-wheel drive and comes with a 4-cylinder or V6 engine and a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Maintenance and repair costs are low. The 4-cylinder Camry is rated among the best in its class for fuel economy. The Camry is very reliable and with good care can easily last for over 300K miles. Common problems are mostly minor, read more below.

Powertrain: The base 136-hp 2.2-liter 4-cylinder DOHC 5S-FE engine is simple and easy to maintain.

Toyota Camry 2001 Interior
Toyota Camry 2001 Interior. Click for a larger photo

The optional 194-hp 3.0-liter 1MZ-FE V6 is smooth and offers plenty of power. Both are very good reliable engines; with regular maintenance you shouldn't have too many problems with either one.

Timing belt or chain: Both, the 5S-FE and 1MZ-FE engines have a timing belt (for 2000 and 2001 Camry, Toyota recommends replacing the timing belt every 90,000 miles). Replacing a timing belt will cost from $320 to $570 (it's more expensive in a V6).

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 1998-2000 Camry with a 4-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission at 20/28 mpg or 11.8/8.4 L/100 km city/highway, which means you can travel approximately 382 miles (614 km) on one 18.5-gallon (70 liter) tank with a mix of 55 percent city and 45 percent highway use. The 1998-2001 Camry V6 auto gets 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway (13.8/9.4 L/100 km).

RELATED: 2007-2011 Toyota Camry review: reliability, common problems, maintenance and more.

Handling and ride: The Camry has a soft and quiet ride. The steering is light, without much feedback. Soft suspension absorbs road bumps and expansion joints well, but some body roll is noticeable when cornering. Overall, handling is secure and comfortable, although not sporty.

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Safety: Antilock brakes are standard in all but base models.

Toyota Camry 2001 engine
Toyota Camry 2.2-liter 5S-FE engine.

In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 1997 Toyota Camry received four stars for both the driver and the front passenger; the improved 1998-2001 Camry received four stars for the driver and five stars for the front passenger.

Pros: Reliability, fuel economy (4-cylinder models), soft and quiet ride, comfortable interior, easy to maintain, easy to sell.

Cons: Plain interior styling, body roll in turns, steering wheel wears fast, both engines have a timing belt that must be replaced at recommended intervals.

Similar cars:

What to look for when buying a used Toyota Camry: When test driving the car, if you notice blue smoke from the exhaust, even if it's just a small cloud at a start up, avoid the car. Watch out for oil leaks. A knocking noise from the front suspension when driving on rough roads may indicate bad suspension components (bad front strut mounts were common). Check for signs of sludge under the oil filler cap with the engine off. If the "Check Engine" light is on, have it checked before buying a car; some problems are expensive to repair. Read more tips: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide. When deciding between two cars, it's worth paying a little extra for a one-owner well-maintained car in good shape. Before buying, have the car inspected.

Guides for used car buyers:

Toyota Camry common problems: A bad vacuum switching valve (VSV) for EGR located under the intake manifold could cause the trouble code P0401 in a 4-cylinder engine. Other things need to be checked, but often, a new VSV valve fixes the problem.
A failed catalytic converter can cause the code P0420; the OEM catalytic converter is expensive, but it's possible to find an aftermarket part that is much cheaper.
A faulty starter solenoid can cause a no-start condition where the starter would click but would not crank.
Broken wires in the trunk lid wiring harness near the driver's side hinge could cause various electrical problems, including various warning lights, taillights and reverse light issues. Wires typically break where the harness flexes from opening and closing the trunk lid.
A dirty idle air control (IAC) valve in the throttle body can cause stalling and rough idle. Cleaning the IAC valve can help if there are no other issues.
The trouble code P0446 could be caused by a bad EVAP vacuum switching valve (VSV). The repair often involves replacing the EVAP vacuum switching valve (VSV) and the charcoal canister as an assembly, but if you want to save money, try replacing just the EVAP VSV and cleaning all the vacuum hoses at the canister; sometimes it may be enough to fix the problem.


Bad strut mounts could cause a knocking or rattling noise in the front suspension. Bad stabilizer bar bushings/links can also cause similar noises. If you hear a knocking noise coming from the front suspension, have it checked out, as the car might be unsafe to drive.
If the cabin heater fan works only at the high speed position, the blower motor resistor is the first part to check. Usually either the connector or the resistor itself gets corroded, causing this problem. The blower motor resistor is not a very expensive part and is fairly easy to replace.

Maintenance tips: To keep your engine in good shape, we recommend doing oil changes every 3,000-3,750 miles. Overheating may cause serious problems; to avoid overheating, keep the engine coolant topped up and timely repair coolant leaks. Change automatic transmission fluid whenever it becomes dirty. The PCV valve also needs to be regularly inspected and cleaned or replaced if needed. A clogged PCV valve can cause increased sludge build-up inside the engine. For repairs, use original Toyota parts; they are not too expensive. If the brake pedal feels too low, the brakes need to be serviced. Have your car inspected, at least once a year, in a garage on the lift to keep it safe.

You might also be interested:

Safety Recalls - NHTSA - check for recalls.
Transport Canada - Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls - check for recalls in Canada.
Toyota Owners - maintenance schedules, electronic owner's manual and how-to videos.

Toyota Camry specifications (2001 model)

Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
4-cylinder model
V6 model

188.6 in (4,790 mm)
105.1 in (2,670 mm)
70.1 in (1,780 mm)

55.1 in (1,400 mm)
55.3 in (1,405 mm)

Seating capacity:


Cargo capacity:

14.1 cu. ft (.399 m³)

4-cylinder engine


2.2-liter DOHC 16-valve in-line 4 engine, model 5S-FE
with cast iron block and aluminum alloy head
136 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 150 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve all-aluminum V6, model 1MZ-FE
194 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 209 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Recommended Fuel:

87 Octane unleaded (91 unleaded for V6 models)

Fuel Tank Capacity:

18.5 US gallons (70 liters)

Engine oil capacity (drain and refill):
4-cylinder 5S-FE Engine (With filter):
V6 1MZ-FE Engine (With filter):
3.8 US qt (3.6L)
5.0 US qt (4.7L)
By Staff