How Difficult is it to Remove the Cylinder Head on a 1999 Toyota Camry?

Reader Question How diificult would it be to remove and replace a cylinder head on a 4 cyl. 1999 Toyota Camry? I have a mere 90lbs of compression in cylinder 1 yet no oil burning.

Hi Paul

The actual removal and replacement of the cylinder head is not difficult at all IF you mark EVERYTHING as you take it off. Even the best mechanics use chalk and make diagrams of how things came off and where they go when putting things back together. Getting the timing belt and the distributor replaced just like it was and keeping the engine in “time” is the hard part, but if you make EVERYTHING as you take it off…it is just a process of following the diagram you made.

One BIG suggestion. If you are going to go thru the trouble and expense to replace the head gasket, send the cylinder head to your local machine shop and have them do a valve job, replace the valves and stem seals and resurface and magnaflux the head. You will be a much better job than just replacing a head gasket.

You should also replace the thermostat, change the oil and filter, replace the spark plugs , head gasket set, and antifreeze when doing this repair. I would take the distributor out of the engine with the cap and wires still attached, and make multiple marks on the timing belt and the cam gear so you know how to put it back on. Remember the head will come back totally clean from the machine shop so mark your cam gear with a small scratch or something that won’t come off.

Also remember that it will take the machine shop a few days to do their work, so you might forget a few steps in the meantime, another reason to document everything….take a picture even if that will help.


Austin C. Davis

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