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I am considering buying a used Toyota Camry. From my general (amateur) inspection all looks ok but the only thing I noticed was what looks like some residue or possibly liquid overflow around the coolant reservoir. Below is a picture:

enter image description here

I have found some info online but it mostly talks about oil in the coolant which I am not sure is related to what I observe here. So the main question is whether that's something I should be worried about and can indicate some serious issues?

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What you are seeing is the residue from coolant. If you look inside the overflow reservoir, you can see the standard "red" Toyota coolant, thus the reason for the red-ish looking residue. Why the residue is there is another story. It could be from someone missing the overflow while trying to pour more coolant into the jug. It looks more like there was a large amount of overflow which came from the car overheating. Personally I'd walk away from it because you just don't know the cause. It could be anything from something innocuous as missing the hole to something as serious as a blown head gasket. There's just no easy way to tell.

  • These are my thoughts as well. Thank you for your answer. – Eugene S Jan 25 '17 at 1:26
  • If everything else about the car checks out and you want to pursue it, a mechanic can pressurize the cooling system to see if there's any leaks (like in the head gasket). If that looks good it was likely a matter of having too much coolant in the reservoir. – atraudes Jan 27 '17 at 1:16
  • Having any car inspected by a mechanic before buying is an excellent idea, regardless. – atraudes Jan 27 '17 at 1:17
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It is probably "normal spill" while driving because the cap on this model seems rather crappy.

Because if it overflowed due to overheating etc. the liquid would have come out from the pressure vent, not from the cap. (well perhaps from the cap also in this model because caps do not seem to tighten well).

See this thread for nice photos and a good explanation and a fix. One person suggests the problem being the radiator cap in the thread but I didnt quite understand what is the relation :)

  • Thank you very much for your answer. It is very helpful. I took that picture I posted to a mechanic and he basically said pretty much the same thing. He said that many Camrys have that and in most cases it is harmless. Of course there is always a chance it does point to a more serious problem. – Eugene S Jan 26 '17 at 6:28

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