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Couple car questions for a 1991 Camry.

08-23-2010, 08:23 PM
Hi all. I've been putting a lot of money into my 91 Camry, but most of it's from just built up wear and tear from the years since it's quite old, but definitely still kickin!

Anyway, I just got some new rear struts, and the mechanics said I do not have shims for my brakes. After looking up what shims were, it now makes sense why my brakes squeal, and I think I haven't had shims for quite some time. The mechanics also said that my tires should be rotated more often because they're starting to wear, but I just got these tires about 1,500 miles ago. So my first question is, could this wear be from not having shims and possibly from my previous rear struts being terrible (they were apparently leaking)?

The next question is an acceleration problem. So what happens is, when I start the car and start to drive, in 1st to 2nd gear, I sometimes get a puttering problem, like the engine is just chugging, but if I press in the gas, it goes quite fine. I've also noticed this problem mainly happens if the car sits for above 8 hours and only in 1st to 2nd gear, after that, the engine's fine. I mean, I can start the car and drive, not have the problem, but come to a light, and try to drive, but the problem's there... however, if the engine's been on past 10 minutes, it doesn't seem to happen, so seems like the engine needs to be warmed up.

To me, it really seems like a fuel system problem, like a spark plug misfiring or something, but I checked the plugs and they're fine, just saying that's what it seems like.

I've asked multiple people about this problem, to which I've gotten these responses (with my thoughts after them):

a.) "Something's wrong with the transmission." I'm sure there is a problem with the transmission, but wouldn't this problem described above also affect higher gears, or is it a centralized problem?

b.) "There're sensors in the fuel line that could be getting old and not reading right." Don't really fully remember this one, but I hadn't heard it before, so I was really unsure about it.

c.) "Get a complete fuel flush because there might be carbon build up blocking your fuel intake valve." I like this one just because the car hasn't had a fuel flush in the 10 years that we've had it. It also kind of makes sense that this would happen at lower gears because I'm trying to force more fuel in through the line, and when I'm at higher speeds, it doesn't need as much (but I'm a newbie with cars, so this is just logic speaking).

I know this is a lot, and I'm sure my explanations are pretty terrible, but I tried my best to make everything sound decent, so sorry if I've offended anyone, haha. I appreciate any comments.

Mike Gerber
08-24-2010, 11:59 AM
As to the question about brake pad shims, no, they will not have anything to do with tire wear. Their sole purpose is to prevent noise in the brake system. Many people and some professional techs don't bother replacing them. Many just use a substance sprayed or applied to the back of the brake pads that eliminates the noise. I also doubt that within 1500 miles the rear struts contributed to that much tire wear. I would be more inclined to look at the alignment as a possible problem for excess tire wear. Have the alignment and all suspension components checked.

As far as your stumble, it could be almost anything. First of all, is the check engine light on? Since it is a cold running problem I would be more inclined to look at things like the engine coolant temperature sensor, the cold start time switch (how long does the car crank before starting when the engine is morning cold?), and the O2 sensor. These are things that change based on engine temperature. Also, you mentioned you chekced the spark plugs. How did you check them? How many miles are on them? How old are the other ignition system components? Spark plug wires, distributor cap and distributor rotor? Also, has anyone checked the coil inside the distributor for bieng in spec and also for having a crack or cracks in it? The internal coils on the first three generations of Camrys can cause problems as they rack up lot's of miles on them. I would check these things first.


08-24-2010, 07:12 PM
Well, with the new tires, I had an alignment and with the new struts, I had another alignment, so the only other thing would be checking the other suspension components. So I'm curious, what components should I check for?

Check engine light is not on. When the engine is morning cold (which it's like 60 degrees out), it takes a few cranks, prolly like half a second to a second? I'm not too sure, but it doesn't seem like the start is taking any longer than it did before this problem... maybe it's a little longer, but not much. Also, it's good to note this problem has been going on for about 2 years, give or take a few months.

Ahhh yeah, I think the guy that mentioned the sensors was talking about the O2 and engine coolant temp sensors.

Checked the spark plugs with my dad, and other than seeing a little oil on the spark plugs, the plugs were completely fine and gapped correctly.

Just replaced the spark plug wires/distributor cap and rotor, actually hoping that would fix my problem, but that was a no go. I also replaced the fuel filter, but that didn't fix it either.

I think if the problem turns out to be sensors, it's probably not worth it because I'm sure the sensors and labor would be a lot of money. If the sensors do go, does my engine just not start?

Mike Gerber
08-25-2010, 12:54 PM
"Well, with the new tires, I had an alignment and with the new struts, I had another alignment, so the only other thing would be checking the other suspension components. So I'm curious, what components should I check for?"

Most shops would have checked suspension components related to tire wear and alignment before they did the alignment. Since you have recently had 2 alignments done, the suspension components should be OK. Did the same shop do both the tries and the struts and both alignments? If so, I would take it back there and tell them you have been told the tires are starting to wear (in just 1500 miles) and just ask them to check the suspension. They should do that for little or no charge. They will know what to check.

"I think if the problem turns out to be sensors, it's probably not worth it because I'm sure the sensors and labor would be a lot of money. If the sensors do go, does my engine just not start?"

If it is a sensor it's probably only 1 sensor, so don't give up on the car just yet. I would still have someone check the cold start time switch, the engine coolant temperature sensor, the O2 sensor and especially the coil. You can do most of these checks yourself with the factory service manual for your generation (generation 2) stickied at the top of this forum, and a digital volt ohmeter. If you don't have a meter you can pick up a cheap one at places like Harbor Freight Tools or even Walmart for around $10. My best guess is the coil, but that's really only a guess. Check these items out. Just don't throw parts at the problem.

Here's the link to the factory service manauls, just in case you are having trouble finding them:


08-25-2010, 07:42 PM
Well, I got one alignment at Firestone... I know, y'all probably don't like them, but I kinda do; they seem to do a good job... and the second one at Goodyear, with the strut replacement. It was also at Goodyear where they noticed the shims and the tire wear.

Since I got the tires at Firestone, I'll most likely go in some time and get the free tire rotation they offer, and while they're doing that, ask them to check the suspension components.

Awesome man. I will definitely try doing this with my dad... couple questions though. Can a place like Firestone or Goodyear just hook up my car and see if there's anything wrong with the sensors? Or is my car's computer barely a computer? haha. Also, how much do these sensors/labor usually run, do you know?

You've been really helpful man, so thanks.

Mike Gerber
08-25-2010, 08:34 PM
There is no plug-in code checker on your car, since it is OBDI. The OBD2 cars have the system where you plug in to a connector under the dash with a code reader and it gives you the codes. That didn't come along until the 1996 model year. That's not all bad news, since on your car you can check the codes yourself with a paper clip and the simple instructions in the manual. You short 2 terminals in the diagnostic connector and read/count the flashes of the check engine light. The manual will tell you how to do it, what 2 terminals to short and what the code(s) mean. I doubt that you will find any codes since the check engine light is not on, but it's free and easy, so give it a try.

As far as the cost of the sensors I will give you my best guesses. An aftermarket engine coolant temperature sensor should run about $40. The cold start time switch is an OEM part only that probably runs around $130. The OEM O2 sensor should run about $140 but you can probably buy an aftermarket one you splice on the old OEM connector for around $50. An aftermarket coil should run about $40-$50. I listed prices on aftermarket parts where I think you can use aftermarket parts.

Good luck and let us know how it works out.


08-30-2010, 06:37 PM
I'm going to be looking into testing these sensors this weekend, but I also thought of something else that could be related.

A while back (probably a year ago), I had filled up on gas. When I got into the car and started it, the gas gauge went all the way down, just really drastically dropped, and even went below the E level. After a while, it built itself back up to how full the tank was.

The weird thing is, my gas gauge had been pretty terrible before that... like, I would be on F for a week, then all of a sudden it would drop down to where it actually was, which was below half of a tank. Since this incident, the gas gauge seems to be a lot better than it was... not completely correct, but yeah, better than before.

So I'm not sure if maybe one of these sensors you're talking about has any relation with the gas tank gauge, but just wanted to throw this out there to possibly help home in on the problem.

Mike Gerber
08-30-2010, 09:17 PM
It's probably not related. The gage is most likely on it's own circuit and would only give a reading on the dash and not have anything to do with the way the car runs.


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