The standard 2003 Camry engine is the 157-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Toyota recommended changing the coolant in the 2003 Camry every 30,000 miles and some owners actually prefer to flush the system as opposed to just draining and filling it. Fortunately, instead of buying an expensive coolant flush machine, you can use a special chemical and the pressure that the water pump creates to break loose the old coolant and debris from the cooling system. Once the old coolant and debris is loose, you can achieve the same results as coolant flush using just plain water and the Toyota-installed coolant drains.
Things You'll Need
- Cooling system flush chemical
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Drain pan
- Socket set
- Clean, lint-free cloth
- Torque wrench
- Clean water source
- 2 gallons 50-50 premixed ethylene-glycol-based coolant
Park the Camry on a flat surface and allow it to sit until the engine is cool to the touch. Loosen the radiator cap to its first stop to relieve any residual pressure in the cooling system, then remove the radiator cap.
Pour a cooling system flush chemical into the radiator and close the radiator cap. Start the engine and let it run for the time specified by the flush chemical’s instructions. Shut the engine off and allow the vehicle to sit until the engine is cool to the touch.
Loosen the radiator cap to its first stop to release any residual pressure, then remove the radiator cap.
Raise the front of the vehicle with a floor jack and slide jack stands under the Camry’s subframe. Lower the vehicle onto the jack stands.
Crawl under the Camry until you can clearly see the lower passenger’s side of the radiator. Find the petcock, the drain valve, on the lower passenger’s side.
Position a drain pan under the petcock and turn the petcock counterclockwise to open it and start the flow of coolant into the drain pan. Turn the petcock counterclockwise once the flow of coolant stops.
Move toward the rear of the vehicle until you can see the rearmost part of the engine block. Find the engine block drain plug roughly halfway up the block, just under a freeze plug.
Set the drain pan under the drain plug and remove the drain plug with a ratchet and socket. Allow all of the coolant to drain from the engine.
Clean the drain plug with a clean, lint-free cloth and hand-thread it into the engine. Tighten the drain plug to 18 foot-pounds using a torque wrench and socket.
Raise the vehicle off the jack stands and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground.
Fill the radiator with clean water, then start the engine. Turn the heater onto its highest settings. Watch the water level in the radiator and add water each time the level drops. Once the level remains steady, tighten the radiator cap and allow the engine to reach operating temperature, which is roughly halfway up the temperature gauge. Allow the engine to idle for an additional five minutes after operating temperature, closely monitoring the temperature gauge the entire time.
Shut the engine off and allow the vehicle to sit until the engine is cool to the touch.
Repeat steps 3 through 12 until only clean water flows from the engine and radiator.
Pour 50-50 premixed ethylene-glycol-based coolant – green – into the radiator until the level reaches the base of the filler neck. Start the engine and allow it to idle. Turn the heater to its highest settings.
Let the vehicle idle until the upper radiator hose gets hot and the cooling fan turns on. Each time the coolant level in the radiator drops, add additional premixed coolant to bring the level up to the base of the filler neck. As the coolant level falls, it is displacing air pockets and bleeding the cooling system.
Tighten the radiator cap onto the radiator once the coolant level remains steady. Turn the engine off and allow it so sit until the engine is cool to the touch.
Check the coolant level in the coolant overflow tank and verify that the level is between the “L” and “F” lines on the overflow tank. If needed, add 50-50 premixed coolant to the overflow tank to bring the coolant between the “L” and “F” lines. In total, the Camry’s cooling system holds 1.65 gallons of coolant.
Take the old coolant to a used automotive fluid recycler for disposal. Some auto parts stores take old fluids free of charge.
Tips & Warnings
- Engine coolant is highly toxic when ingested. Keep animals and children away from your work area and always store coolant safely.
- Edmunds.com: Toyota Camry History
- Cars.com: 2003 Toyota Camry Overview
- Toyota: 2003 Toyota Camry Owner’s Manual (see pg. 252)
- Alldata: 2003 Toyota Camry Sedan L4-2.4L (2AZ-FE), Coolant, Service and Repair, Procedures
- Alldata: 2003 Toyota Camry Sedan L4-2.4L (2AZ-FE), Coolant, Specifications, Capacities
- Alldata: 2003 Toyota Camry Sedan L4-2.4L (2AZ-FE), Coolant, Specifications, Fluid Types
- Alldata: 2003 Toyota Camry Sedan L4-2.4L (2AZ-FE), Maintenance, Service Intervals, Normal Service Table
- Photo Credit Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images