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94 Camry loss of power issues- HELP!

06-29-2008, 08:31 PM
Hello everyone. First time posting here and I hope you can help. I have a 1994 Toyota Camry (4 cyl auto trans). It has 259,000 miles on it. Itís been an amazing car. The only things that have messed up are the AC (we had repaired and has worked fine ever since) and the rear power window regulator (which we repaired) and of course the timing belt.

About a year ago, I was coming home and the car simply shut off. I took it to a local repair center and they said it was the fuel injector. They replaced it, and I went to pick it up. When I picked it up, I noticed it was having some loss of power issues. It felt like the transmission was slipping. Something was definitely wrong. I took it back and they said theyíd take a look at it. They called and said they couldnít find anything wrong with it. I needed the car and just decided to take it like it was. Now Iím about to leave home to head up to Georgia Tech for college and I donít want to be driving around downtown Atlanta with a car that doesnít have any ďget up and goĒ when I need it.

Here are the basic symptoms:

If the car is in Reverse, Neutral, or Drive, every few seconds the engine will sort of ďstutter.Ē Itís as if the car isnít receiving gas to the engine for a split second. The car does not do this if itís in Park. If the car is in Park, the engine runs fine with absolutely no stuttering. Iíve noticed that when the car is completely stopped but is in Drive (red light/stop sign), the car will stutter and when it stutters the RPM meter goes down very quickly to 0 then back up to a normal idle RPM reading.

The car stutters (loss-of-power) mostly when starting off in the 1 and 2 gears. For example, I pull up to a stop sign, make a complete stop, then moderately press the gas. The car will take off then kind of stutter (complete loss of throttle for half a second) then take off again then stutter and the cycle continues until about 3.5k RPMs. Then in 2 gear it does the same thing. Most of the time in 3 and 4 gear I donít have the problem.

Every once in a while, Iíll be going 65 mph in 4 gear down the highway and it will start stuttering then stop a few miles down the road, but this rarely happens.

Temperature seems to have little effect on the problem. It happens no matter if itís 20 degrees outside or 105.

It feels like the transmission is slipping. Iíve always thought that, and other people with much more car knowledge than me whoíve driven the car have said the same thing. The problem with this is that the problem started after I had my fuel injectors replaced. This leads me to believe it is something with the fuel system. Also the fact that the RPMís dip down to 0 when it stutters makes me think fuel system. The problem with all my theories is that I know nothing about cars. I recently brought it to a car technician and he said he drove it around and it was driving fine. Heís full of it and just doesnít want/know how to fix the problem. This is the reason Iím asking you guys. Iím a broke college student whoís trying to fix this problem with as little cost as possible.

So what other details should I provide?

Mike Gerber
06-30-2008, 03:13 PM
First of all, it's hard to determine a transmission problem just from the description you have given. Why do you think it's a transmission problem? When you are having these problems, is the engine reving up without the car moving forward or without the transmission shifting gears? Also, we need to know more information about the overall maintainance of the car. How often was the transmission fluid changed during the life of the car?

"The car stutters (loss-of-power) mostly when starting off in the 1 and 2 gears"

What your describing may also be an engine problem. Is the check engine light on? Has anyone checked for trouble codes? Engine problems can be fuel related or ignition system related. What you are describing could be an engine missfire or a hestitation. Let's start with the ignition system since most problems upon acceleration are usually (but not always) caused by faulty ignition system components. When was the last time the spark plugs were replaced? They should be replaced every 60,000 miles. What about the spark plug wires and the distributor cap and distributor rotor? Were they ever replaced? A failing coil could also cause the symptoms you are describing. The coil has been a trouble prone item on Camrys with the high mileage your car has. Was the coil ever replaced?

Now let's talk about the fuel system. Has anyone ever changed the fuel filter? Has anyone ever put a fuel pressure gage on the fuel rail to check fuel pressure? At your mileage a failing fuel pump isn't out of the question.

We need to know all these things in order to give you some direction.


07-02-2008, 08:58 PM
Why do you think it's a transmission problem?

Well, it just feels like a transmission problem. And since I don't know much about cars, that statement pretty much counts as nothing.

When you are having these problems, is the engine reving up without the car moving forward or without the transmission shifting gears?

It hesitates no matter if I'm sitting still or moving. If the car is idling at a red light, it will stutter. When the car starts to accelerate, it will stutter. When the car gets to about 3rd gear or so, the stuttering usually stops.

Also, we need to know more information about the overall maintainance of the car. How often was the transmission fluid changed during the life of the car?

The transmission fluid was changed about 100,000 miles ago. It has only been changed once in the life of the car.

Is the check engine light on? Has anyone checked for trouble codes?

The engine light is on. According to the car technicians I took it to, they said it was some sort of EKG thing (forgot exact name, may have been ERG). They said it most likely was NOT causing the problem, so I decided not to fix it.

When was the last time the spark plugs were replaced?

I honestly don't know. I do know that it's been at least 60,000 miles, probably longer.

What about the spark plug wires and the distributor cap and distributor rotor? Was the coil ever replaced?

Err... not sure what those are. Probably never.

Has anyone ever changed the fuel filter? Has anyone ever put a fuel pressure gage on the fuel rail to check fuel pressure?

Fuel filter hasn't been changed in at least 60,000 miles, and most likely a lot more.

Thank you for responding.

07-03-2008, 07:16 AM
It sounds like it is in need of a basic tune-up to include plugs, wires, cap and rotor just for starters. From the symptoms you describe, the coil may also have an intermittent problem. I'd do the tune first and then revisit the coil issue if the problem still exists. The trans fluid need a drain and refill too, but that is unlikely to be related to the issue at hand.

07-03-2008, 10:30 AM
If you've got some basic metric tools, you should be able to do most of these suggestions, on the cheap. If not, buy some metric wrenches and a socket set and some screwdrivers and keep them in the car. Don't let your friends or new dorm buddies borrow'll never see them again!!!

1) Old cap and rotor contacts will cause poor idle and sluggish acceleration.
To remove the plug wires from the cap you'll need a small screwdriver as a wedge to release a tang holding the wire onto the cap. They're on the underside, so a small mirror might help you see better. Just work them off carefully as they will probably be brittle after all this time. Remove the cap (on the driver's side where all the plug wires come from), marking which wire goes to which cap terminal...they should be numbered cooresponding to the cylinder. Look inside it at the metal contacts. Scrape off any oxidation with a knife on the outer four terminals (where the plug wires go to)...they may be pretty encrusted but be careful not to gouge the metal. The two darker ones, one in the center of the cap and one in between two metal terminals, are made of graphite, so a gentle scrubbing with a clean, dry scouring pad should suffice. If these are worn away or missing, you'll need a new cap...they're not too expensive. Then turn to the rotor.
The rotor is that oblong thing underneath the cap with electrical contacts in the middle and at one end (looks sort of like a fat-handled, brass-headed hammer). You can pull this straight off with your hand and scrape clean the edge of the hammer head until it is bright and shiny. Then use the scouring pad gently on the center contact. Push it back onto the distributor shaft, lining up the notches to put it back in the same position as before. If it is really bad or you had to replace the cap, you should go ahead and buy a new rotor too...again, not too expensive...maybe $35-40 for both. Reinstall the cap and wires. You should notice an improvement in idling and acceleration if these were very oxidized.

2) Check that tranny fluid. By now, I bet it'll be brown, opaque, and probably smell burned. It should be clear, red, and with a slight odor. To change it, you'll need a big hex key (or you can buy a hex socket...$3) to remove the drain plug. Buy 5 quarts of DEXRON-III transmission fluid, preferrably the high-mileage type, a oil catch pan, and a long, narrow funnel (you'll have to refill it through the tranny dipstick). Once it is all done draining, replace the plug and add about 1-1/2 quarts of tranny fluid. Then start the engine and run it through all the gears while applying the brakes. Then shut it down and check the dipstick. You may need to wipe it and reinsert it to get a good reading. Add fluid in 1/2 quart increments and checking until you see it in the COLD range...somewhere between middle and the upper mark is good. Cost for all this, abt $30 for the fluid, pan, tool, and funnel.

3) Check the spark plugs. You'll need a spark plug socket (try to buy a socket set that has one included) and an socket extension bar to get down into the hole where they are at. Remove the spark plug wires, pulling them up by the rubber end, NOT BY THE WIRE. Wiggle & twist 'em a bit but not too much. Then use the socket to unscrew the plug. The special socket should have a rubber grommet inside that holds the plug and keeps it from falling back into the hole. If not, then find some electrical or duct tape and wrap a small piece around the edge, covering one or two flats of the socket. Be gentle but firm. Once it is out, check it for crusty build up or erosion. A wire brush ($3) is good at cleaning up the plug tips and electrodes. If they are severely eroded or look damaged, they should be replaced...$2.50 x 4 plugs for Autolite platinum tips. You'll need a spark plug gap tool ($1) to check and adjust the gap. It should be 0.045". Adjust by bending the curved metal electrode...again, gentle but firm. Wire brush the top ends of the plugs. Reinstall the plugs and plug boots ($1 for some electrical boot grease to keep out moisture).

4) A clogged EGR (that's the Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve will cause poor engine performance, especially from a stop. If it's not too gunked up, it can be removed and cleaned....that's cheap if you have the tools to do it...just the cost of a toothbrush and some carb or fuel injector cleaner spray and probably a new EGR gasket. Check and clean the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve, too. If you don't know where these are, ther are stickies at the top of this forum for repair instructions. The EGR will be a bit of work to get out, but should be worth it if it is the cause of your CHECK ENGINE light.

Hopefully, these simple tune-up things are enough to help your Camry. If you are still having problems, then we start getting into the more expensive plug wires, ignition coil, etc.

Good luck! Let us know if you get it fixed...we like closure here! :iceslolan

Mike Gerber
07-03-2008, 03:47 PM
jdmccright has given you some great advice here. Follow it. The general consensis here is that you do not have a transmission problem, but rather an engine hesitation problem most likely caused by worn ignition system components and/or a clogged (carboned up) EGR valve. These things need to be addressed to solve your hestitation problem, along with changing the transmission fluid as preventitive maintainance.

One or 2 things I would like to add. First, the engine needs to be running to check the transmission fluid. I think jdmccright incorrectly said to shut off the engine before checking the transmission fluid. Second, I would add some antiseize compound to the threads of the spark plugs before reinstalling them. This also goes for installing new spark plugs if you choose to go that route. This will make sure you can remove them again in 60,000 to 100,000 miles.

Dealing with these maintainance items should bring your car back to normal operating conditions.

Good luck.


07-04-2008, 09:58 PM
Thanks Mike. I was bound to miss a few details during that OMG-long answer.

BTW, the antiseize for the plugs is $1...but well worth it when you've got to remove the plugs the next time.

07-05-2008, 10:09 AM
You guys are awesome. I'll run to the parts store now and let you know how it goes once I have it all done.

07-05-2008, 03:12 PM
I changed the spark plugs, the spark plug wires, the rotor button, the distributor cap, and the PCV valve. Guess what... no more stuttering. The car accelerates without any hesitation whatsoever. :smile:

Then for good measure I changed the transmission fluid. Car runs much, much better. jdmccright and Mike, THANK YOU!

07-05-2008, 04:55 PM
Excellent news! Now you can probably return the 2 or 3 extra quarts of tranny fluid you bought (I said 5 in haste)! Thanks for the feedback and keep on rollin'!

Mike Gerber
07-06-2008, 11:54 AM
You're welcome. Glad we could help.


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