ECU & Electronics Discuss electronics and related components within.

1990 Camry 3sfe sputtering issues - O2 sensor?

Old 12-01-2016, 12:54 PM
Junior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: Gallup, NM
Posts: 9
Default 1990 Camry 3sfe sputtering issues - O2 sensor?

Hi all,

I'm trying to diagnose an issue with our Camry (2.0 auto) that appeared last week.

The car starts and drives OK cold and symptoms seem to get worse as it warms up.

The car will cruise okay once going and can accelerate if given gentle throttle, but step on it moderately (or more) and it sputters/shakes and doesn't go. It isn't RPM related, but does happen less easily at higher RPMs. The car does still have power, it can still pull up hills but only if geared down and higher engine speeds are maintained so as not to have to dip into the throttle.

When things get really dicey once the car is warm is having to accelerate from a stop. If on level ground or downhill, it can be done with very careful throttle modulation, but uphill even the slightest bit, won't happen - it shakes and dies. Now, once it has died warm, it is difficult to get started again. Sometimes it will and sometimes it won't, but never easily. The issue first appeared 200 miles into our 750 mile trip back from CA last week so I got to feel what was going on for quite a while, until the car ultimately wouldn't start for us (and I killed the battery trying) just under 100 miles from home. (Thankfully I still had my long tow from AAA).

I mentioned this issue in my intro post, and got some feedback from toyomoho (thank you), who I'm hoping may chime in again here, but I thought it appropriate to start a new thread directly pertaining to this issue...and I promise to follow through with the the outcome once she's purring again.

After having had the car back home, I've checked the following:

- Ignition. spark seems fine. did find a small amount of oil in distributor cap but I don't think this is the issue although I do know I'll have to address that at some point. wiped it clean, reinstalled, made no difference. visually i don't see cracking anywhere and the contacts on the rotor and cap seem okay.
- Can hear fuel pump.
- Disconnected water temp sensor once car was warm, made no difference. (Is anyone able to clarify that with the sensor disconnected, the ECU acts as though it is getting a fully warm signal? I read this somewhere but can't seem to verify.) I know I should check with an ohmmeter but mine is not functioning right now (when I need it of course )

toyomoho is the one who suggested the ignition and water temp sensor as starting points. The water temp sensor got me thinking...I had almost forgotten about this but about a month ago the CEL came on and gave code 26 (fuel mixture too rich). After clearing it, it came back again a few days later and that's when I changed the cap/plugs/wires. The code did show up again about a week later but didn't return after clearing it that time. As this is a budget car I chalked it up to maybe altitude (I brought it from sea level to 6500' where we live now) or a sensor somewhere but kind of forgot about it until now since the car was running fine (actually slightly better after doing the cap/plugs/wires). We purchased the car about 8k miles ago in August and so far its been driving nice although I have suspected that it isn't getting optimal gas mileage (we see about 25mpg with mostly highway driving and minimal stops, and I haven't seemed to top 28 with all freeway driving) and it has felt like the low end power should be a little stronger, but then again maybe not...

All this is leading me to ask: what is the likelihood that the culprit in all of this is a bad O2 sensor? If my budget was just a little less tight I'd simply go get one and try it (it looks like its only $30 for the Denso part) but with things being how they are I need to be relatively certain that it is a likely candidate before spending any money at all.

Are there any other things I should check without (or before) spending money?

I should also mention that this issue does happen in Park or Neutral. From idle, if you ease the throttle, it will rev, and it will hold a rev at any given RPM, but if you hit the throttle quickly it will stumble. It is less apparent and less easily provoked when not under load (in P or N) but it does still happen.

Thank you in advance for any insight you might be able to provide!
Old 12-04-2016, 07:44 PM
Junior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: Gallup, NM
Posts: 9

Just following up that this turned out to be the ignition coil (inside the distributor). I replaced the whole distributor with a clean original one from the junkyard for $37 and couldn't be happier.

So if you are experiencing similar issues check your coil!! (I wouldn't have thought my symptoms pointed to this)

Thanks to @toyomoho ,

and sorry if my original post was too long!

Last edited by Cami&Hugh; 12-14-2016 at 10:04 AM. Reason: correction of solution
Related Topics
Thread Starter
Last Post
General Tech
03-11-2012 01:43 PM
DIY - Do It Yourself
02-11-2012 11:29 PM
General Tech
05-26-2011 07:12 PM
Engine & Internal
01-20-2009 10:02 AM
General Tech
10-01-2007 02:22 PM

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Quick Reply: 1990 Camry 3sfe sputtering issues - O2 sensor?

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

© 2019 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.