Question about 2001 Toyota Camry

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Engine Coolant Smell Inside Car

My 2001 Camry has about 75,000 miles on it. In July 2008, I began to notice the sweet smell of engine coolant inside of the car after I drove it for several hours on a series of consecutive short trips (errand running) and then let it sit in the driveway to cool off. My mechanic did a pressure test on the system which showed a slow leak, but he could not determine from where. I continue to smell the same sweet smell after I have driven it and let it cool off and when I get in it first thing in the morning. My mechanic pulled the carpet back around the console to look at the heater core to see if it was leaking. The insulation inside the compartment was dry and he could see no leaks or drips. He thinks it might be the heater core, but is unsure. I take the car out of town three and four hours away from home for work every couple of months and I am afraid the car is going to strand me some where I don't want to be. Help!! What is wrong with it?

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  • lydiacosgrov Oct 16, 2008

    There is not a film like it gets when it needs to be defrosted - like humidity. However, there is more of an oily film like when the windshield needs to be cleaned. I know if it gets bad enough, I will see it on the windshield.

  • lydiacosgrov Oct 16, 2008

    The mechanic put stop leak in it in August. I did not smell the odor from August until this week. I guess it worked for a while.

  • lydiacosgrov Oct 16, 2008

    Thanks for all of your help. I will do what you said.

  • lydiacosgrov Oct 17, 2008

    Very helpful. I have a better idea of how to diagnose the problem. My mechanic did not pull hose to see if there was coolant in it. My mechanic looked up the hours to replace the heater core and estimated it at 1.5 hours of labor or $90 and the heater core at $319 from the dealer. I did not see how this amount of labor was possible after I saw where the heater core was located. With your information I know to baby it as long as I can because the fix is a pain and will be expensive. I am going to put more stop leak in it and hope I don't get stranded.

  • Toyota Ed May 11, 2010

    Wishig you the best of luck. Thanks for allowing me to assist you.

  • Toyota Ed May 11, 2010

    How would you rate my level of helpfulness?

    FixYa, Helpful, Thanks for trying?

  • Toyota Ed May 11, 2010

    Get your guy to put more stop leak in. Can't hurt.

  • Toyota Ed May 11, 2010

    An oily film on the windscreen & the odor pretty much nails it.

    But, you have got to know the downside here...Coolant leaks are bad. When the coolant leaks down so far, air takes the place of the lost coolant, and the water pump will not pump air thru the system, the water pump spins & cavitates the air, and coolant is no longer pumped. Since the coolant will not circulate, and you will get an overheat condition, and incur some type of engine damage needing repair due to the overheating. It very well could leave you stranded. I hate to be a doomsayer on this, but you def have a significent issue on your hands. Adding some "stop leak" to the cooling system fluid would def be recommended at this point, mayhap you can prolong the inevitable.

  • Toyota Ed May 11, 2010

    Regarding the sweet smell, is there a film on the windshield inner surface? This indicates heater core area leaks....You are not going to "see" any leaks or drips; as the heater core box is pretty much sealed, but, there is a tube that drains the water out of the same box when the AC is on. It is on the passenger side of the car, under the dash, in front of the console, and goes thru the firewall. Pull the carpet back, and remove this black hose. Check to see if coolant is in it. If so, the heater box has to come out. You either have a leaking heater core, or a leaking hose going to the heater core. Note: to get the heater core out of this car, you have to pull the ENTIRE dashboard/instrument panel; everything. This is NOT an easy job. At the factory, the heater box is the very first thing installed to the interior on the assembly line. I just had one out last week. 9 hour job, start to finish.

    Expensive repair.



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The graciousness of a FixYa rating would be greatly appreciated. Glad to help; feel free to call upon me anytime in the future.

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