One of the most common codes I normally see on a 1997-2001 2.2L 4-cylinder Toyota Camry is a P0401. It is a code that indicates that there is a problem with the EGR system, not necessarily a problem with the EGR valve itself. I hear stories of people getting this code and replacing the EGR valve without doing any tests because they don’t know what to test. They spend unnecessary money and have not yet fixed the problem.
There are three parts that will generally cause this code to appear on your car. Yes, the EGR valve is one of them, but it also has the EGR VSV and the EGR Modulator. The first parts of the inspection will be to verify the operation of the EGR valve by making a vacuum with a vacuum pump. You can get a vacuum pump from an auto parts store for around $ 20 and even rent one from some stores.
Connect the pump to the only vacuum port on your EGR valve. There will be a small hose attached, which you will need to disconnect and install your pump in the same port. With the engine idling, you should be able to pump the vacuum pump to create a vacuum in the EGR valve. The diaphragm inside the EGR valve should rise and cause the car to die. If your car dies, your EGR valve and ports are fine. If your car stumbles or doesn’t have any change in the way it works when you’re pulling the vacuum, you likely have a bad EGR valve or a clogged port on your intake.
If you think you have a faulty valve, you should remove it from the engine and test it with the same vacuum pump. You should be able to see the diaphragm inside the valve move while applying vacuum. If the diaphragm moves, you may have clogged ports at the inlet and the inlet may need to be cleaned. If it doesn’t move, you need to replace the EGR valve.
However, if your Camry stopped working when you applied that first vacuum, then you should start looking for the EGR VSV. I know VS what? It is a small blue solenoid located on the back of the engine block. You will have a couple of vacuum hoses and a small plug attached, everything will be held there with a 10mm bolt. Remove the VSV and test it by applying power and ground from your car battery (the VSV should not be plugged into the harness during testing). If you hear the VSV clicking when you apply power, then you need to replace the EGR modulator.
The EGR modulator is located to the right of the EGR valve on its intake. It will have multiple vacuum hoses coming out of it and it will slide into a holder. The EGR modulator can be purchased relatively inexpensively from your dealer. There are no easy tests for the modulator. If you replace the modulator and you still have a problem and the light comes back on, you need to replace the EGR VSV, also known as the vacuum switching valve. Sometimes the VSV can have an internal breakdown and still click when you put power and ground to the terminals, but it’s still bad.
So you could be wasting your money just opening a valve. Remember that the only way to correct something is to know the proper testing procedure so that you can come up with a correct solution.