1999 Toyota Camry Check Engine Light Problems
November 5, 2009 5:29 PM Subscribe
Calling those w/ more knowledge of cars than I... 1999 Toyota Camry with a well-documented Check Engine light problem. How can I convince people/mechanics that the problem is a low-percentage systemic design flaw and not something that needs replacing if there's never been a recall issued?
posted by Lacking Subtlety to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
-I have a moderate knowledge of cars, but nothing special. I have enough of a working knowledge to know when a mechanic is telling me I need something I don't really need, but I wouldn't be confident doing labor myself.
-I certainly know the behavior/history of my own cars.
-I don't have a lot of money.
-I'm a point A point B kind of guy.
-My family has bought nothing but Camrys for over 20 years. They have been wonderful.
The only minor problem came when my mother bought new 1999 toyota camry and in the first year the check engine light came on. Naturally, she took it for service and it was an "EGR Flow Insufficiency" "EVAP vent control malfunction" and EVAP Ctrl Incorrect purge flow." Basically these are all things that indicate problems with a variety of parts that deal with emission control. She got many of the parts replaced and soon after the check engine light came on for the SAME exact problems. So my ma and her mechanic finally realized after much research, that the car has a significant history of being overly-sensitive to these specific emissions problems. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the parts of the system it is actually the system and design of the car itself. So he refunded her a lot of money and any time her check engine light came on he would check it out to be sure it was just those problems and turn it off, and pass her for any inspections, etc. Yeah, this mechanic was a genuine class act.
So two years ago I bought this car from her and now operate it in California. It's in great condition for a ten year old car, I do all regular maintenance. And it passed it's first smog test 2 years ago and all that (the check engine light was off at the time, like I said, it's temperamental).
So a few months into owning, I was getting maintenance done at a pep boys (they charge the lowest prices) and was convinced that this problem didn't exist and I was crazy and I need 900 dollars worth of repairs done to this system. I finally caved and low and behold the NEXT DAY the check engine light came on for the same set of problems. Needless to say I started a big thing with Pepboys to try and get some for of restitution which is neither here nor there (it didn't work. mechanic companies can't be held responsible for convincing you to get service you don't need).
So basically i went on with my life and got maintenance on my car and thankfully ignored nonsense EGR/EVAP issues and life has been fine.
Until I needed a recent smog test pass for my California registration renewal. I can't get passed because of my check engine light is on and registering the same nonsense 3 codes. The car checks out great in all other areas.
I told my story to the Smog check guy, and he believed me and recommended me to a refugee station, where I could plead my case. I prepped for a week (printed out 100s of people with similar complaints) and had the entire history of my car documented and at hand. I went in this morning to talk to the guy about my problem, and he listened, realized I knew what I was talking about, and felt very sorry for me. Because it turns out, he can't do ANYTHING unless there's been a recall. He wasn't even sure why I got recommended to him. I responded that I thought it was a place for exactly this kind of gray area, but he said "yeah, but you need a recall."
Now I have friends who have worked for car companies. I know what it takes to get a car recalled. (And for those who've seen fight club, it's not far off). Basically there is no way that a car gets recalled for a maintenance problem that doesn't effect vehicle performance and accidents/people's health. No way a car gets a recall for my problem. No way.
So basically I was telling him this and that there is literally nothing I can for for my car, which again, has nothing actually wrong with it, but spend 900 dollars for repairs, and hope I can get a smog test before the light comes back on (which could happen instantly). And more over this is something I will have to deal with again at the very next smog inspection down the road.
But of course all the guy said was "my hands are tied."
And that's all that's happened. I've called every dealership (they all won't commit to any answers), toyota corporate office (they stonewall me), and mechanic I can think of and asked for solutions but all I get is "My hands are tied", illegal suggestions, or offers of things to do that charge me exorbitant amounts of money.
Side note: Tampering with a check engine light can get you jail time in California. But still... it's a last resort option and one I don't want to get to.
So tomorrow morning I'm going to walk into a Toyota dealership and try and I have to convince them I don't need any work done. And to just pass me for a smog test. But this likely will not happen. I can't just drop 450-900 dollars on nonsense, but I just know that's what I'm going to end up doing. I can apply for a test program in California that will pay up to 500 dollars of it, but that will take months. Months I don't have.
Is there anyone here who can help? I am completely at a loss of where to go from here. There has to be someone somewhere out there who can just look at this situation and say "your car is okay to drive and in fact safer to drive in California than every SUV in the road."
There's obviously some precedence for legal action, but honestly that is expensive and drawn out, and I NEED TO GET MY CAR ON THE ROAD. Any ideas?