I know very little about motor vehicle maintenance and repair, so please forgive me if this is a stupid question.

Recently my car started making a puttering sound ("puh-puh-puh..."). I took it to the Toyota dealer, and they said it sounds like it's coming from the timing belt, but I didn't ask them to fix it because I wanted to do more research on this problem. I have a 2005 Toyota Camry with 60,000 miles. The manual says to get the timing belt replaced at 90,000 miles.

Should I get the timing belt replaced, or should it be fine until around 90,000 miles?

  • Most modern engines will be badly damaged if the timing belt fails. What did the Toyota dealer recommend? Replacing the belt? Replacing the belt tensioner(s)? May 1, 2011 at 12:35
  • The person at the Toyota dealership just did a quick 5 minute assessment and didn't provide a recommendation. They didn't do a full investigation of the problem because I didn't schedule an appointment when I spoke to them, and they were fully booked for the day. I don't mind bringing it back though.
    – Alec
    May 2, 2011 at 5:49
  • 2
    Puttering and other rhythmic sounds are typically combustion related (plugs, exhaust leaks, etc.). Timing belts, belts, pulleys, and wheels typically squeal or make other more solid "tone". One way to narrow it down: Does the noise change with RPM or vehicle speed? Does it appear when in park/neutral and can you vary it by revving the engine then?
    – Nick
    Nov 25, 2012 at 1:35

2 Answers 2


Most modern car engines are "interference" engines, meaning the pistons and valves will collide if not kept in synchronization by the timing belt. I don't know whether your Camry has an interference engine; maybe someone who knows Toyotas can provide a better answer.

If closer inspection by the dealer or another mechanic indicates that the belt or its tensioner is failing, then yes, it should be replaced. That said, I'm not sure how definitively they'll be able to trace the noise.

  • AFAIK, all Toyota engines are non-interference, but I don't know every detail of every single model. There may well be some of them that are interference models. An engine model number (or even more specifics on the car) and we could look it up... Jun 2, 2011 at 18:04

Purely based on the description of the sound (and ignoring the tech's comments), it sounds like a bad gasket. Mostly likely exhaust manifold, but possibly intake manifold gasket (especially if it's the 1.8L model, which is prone to failures there).

  • +1, To the OP, does the sound get louder when you are accelerating? Mash the gas in neutral (or in a high gear on the road, if you can hear it), and if the puttering gets more pronounced it'd definitely by an exhaust leak.
    – Nick
    Nov 25, 2012 at 1:31

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