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Need help - check engine light code p0420

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by tomd, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. Dec 31, 2011 at 12:26 PM
    #1
    tomd

    tomd [OP] Member

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    My check engine light came on, had Autozone test it and it came back P0420 – Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold.


    Tacoma 2003 2wd 4cyl 178,000 miles runs fine, never have had a major problem.


    I called a dealership and was told if I needed a new converter it would cost $1500-2100 depending on the type I needed.


    A call to a muffler franchise said $449 or much less if it was a sensor problem. Obviously I won’t be going to the dealer.

    (1) I had a new muffler put on about 13,000 miles ago, could that have caused the problem?
    (2) What questions should I ask when I bring it to the repair shop?
    (3) I was thinking of bringing it to a muffler franchise to have it done. Is one of the national chains better than the others?
    (4) I have very little mechanical experience. Is there anything I could visually check though before I bring it in?

    Thanks for any help/advice!

    Tom
     
  2. Dec 31, 2011 at 12:42 PM
    #2
    hayabusa3303

    hayabusa3303 Well-Known Member

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    If the ecm is giving you that code its not the sensors you can 95% rule that out.

    your cat is bad of course.

    You can buy a cat from online and have a shop put it on for you. All that holds the cat in place is 4 bolts.

    One thing i would do is check to make sure from toyota the cat is still not in warranty.(never hurts to ask)
     
  3. Dec 31, 2011 at 7:14 PM
    #3
    tomd

    tomd [OP] Member

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    After I started this thread today I drove the truck for about 20 miles, stopped for an hour and when I started the truck again the check engine light didn't come on. It stayed off the 20 mile trip back home.
    Any thoughts?
     
  4. Dec 31, 2011 at 7:18 PM
    #4
    fireturk41

    fireturk41 I like to break shit!

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    last time i had that code it wound up being my 02 sensor, i replaced both the 02 sensor behind the cat and the fuel air ratio sensor in the front, use only OEM sensors though, our trucks are funny about that.

    a CEL that comes on and off means it can be potentially harmful to the catalyst system
     
  5. Dec 31, 2011 at 7:30 PM
    #5
    Toyota Tech31

    Toyota Tech31 Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can't see.

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    Though his truck is 8 years old and emissions warranty would be up to 8 years, he has 178,000 miles, WAY out of warranty.
    Not sure if you ment what i'm about to state, but a cel that is flashing constantly indicates the problem may be harmful to the well being of the cat. Not if it comes on and then goes off.
     
  6. Dec 31, 2011 at 7:32 PM
    #6
    fireturk41

    fireturk41 I like to break shit!

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    yeah thats it im just not good with words haha
     
  7. Jan 1, 2012 at 5:41 AM
    #7
    steveOtacO

    steveOtacO Member

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    My truck threw this code a while ago. It ended up being an exhaust leak. It's worth checking for that before doing anything else, at least in terms of $.
     
  8. Jan 1, 2012 at 5:51 AM
    #8
    magog45

    magog45 Well-Known Member

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    My truck also threw this code a while back after I changed the place where I got gas, went back to the old place and it's been gone ever since.
     
  9. Jan 1, 2012 at 6:40 AM
    #9
    fletch aka

    fletch aka www.BeLikeBrit.org

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    Hmmm, bad gas?


    Worth looking at.



    Again, worth a try. This happened on my sons Camry on his trip to California from Texas coming through El PAso, gassed up in El PAso and got the code several times on that tank and did not get the code again until his trip back, again after gassing up is El Paso, from the same gas station.
     
  10. Jan 1, 2012 at 6:42 AM
    #10
    fletch aka

    fletch aka www.BeLikeBrit.org

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    Aftermarket cats can be crap, I went that route on my 84 240 Volvo and 2 years later I had to replace it again, same thing happened again on the next smog check. After that I bought my third new cat, I only put it on for the test and then took it off and put the old one back on, I did this for several years before getting rid of the car.

    Hmmm, bad gas?


    Worth looking at.



    Again, worth a try. This happened on my sons Camry on his trip to California from Texas coming through El PAso, gassed up in El PAso and got the code several times on that tank and did not get the code again until his trip back, again after gassing up is El Paso, from the same gas station.
     
  11. Jan 1, 2012 at 6:44 AM
    #11
    Sandman614

    Sandman614 LRGRNR

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    Just throwing my cents in. CEL came on in my truck, same code. Ran a can of Seafoam through the intake and fuel tank and now all is good.
     
  12. Jan 1, 2012 at 9:06 PM
    #12
    DblCabMN

    DblCabMN Well-Known Member

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    mine would stay off for some times up to 120 miles. Then it got more frequent.

    I replaced both O2's and my cats with some aftermarket ones, total cost was under $400, and it's super easy to swap the old cats out. As long as your bolts aren't rusted to shit like mine were.

    My .02$ - start with the sensors.
     
  13. Jan 2, 2012 at 9:53 AM
    #13
    rll131

    rll131 rll131

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    same code put on a magnalfow cat and 2 new o2 sensors code gone. total cost 250 i put it all on my self saved alot that way. amazon.com
     
  14. Jan 2, 2012 at 10:03 AM
    #14
    Texoma

    Texoma Well-Known Member

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    Check out www.rockauto.com they have direct fit bolt on cat for $185. Just do it yourself and save some cash
     
  15. Jan 13, 2012 at 4:30 PM
    #15
    tomd

    tomd [OP] Member

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    My Tacoma has now gone about 600 miles without the light coming back on so I'm hoping no news is good news. Thanks to all for your help!
     
  16. Jan 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM
    #16
    pt law

    pt law Well-Known Member

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    Since your in Boston, this might be of interest to you as you have to get emissions testing done (I live in Mass also):

    1) Try Cataclean (seach the name in google and you can see what it is) if the light comes back on before dumping tons of money into the cat. It worked for me and was recommended by a Toyota mechanic. It got the check engine light to go out and for me to pass emissions testing. Now, I can drive on the thing for another year with the light coming on if it is just the cat throwing the code.
    The rest of this is just helpful information:
    2) P0420 is a shitty code in that it can mean more then one thing. It can be faulty 02 sensors as there is one upstream 02 sensor before the cats (there are two cats on the V6 models at least) and then one downstream 02 after the cats. The ECU reads the difference in exhaust between the two 02 sensors after the exhaust has passed through the cats to determine if the cats are doing their job correctly. If the 02 sensors are faulty then it can give you a P0420.
    3) However, 95% of the time, it is the cat(s) itself which are really expensive if you go OEM. Second, there are actual codes (I am pretty sure) for the 02 sensors so again, it is almost always the cat(s) but not always. This comes directly from a Toyota mechanic (not me, just someone I know).
    4) If the check engine light comes on and goes off and then stays off then no problem. If it blinks constantly while driving, big fu.... problem. That means stop driving. However, it is normal for it to come on and then later go off and stay off when it is P0420. That simply means the code is no longer being sent to the ECU. Mine did that also.
    Good luck since the light is now out!
     
  17. Feb 9, 2012 at 5:47 PM
    #17
    kevinjen

    kevinjen Member

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    had this code come on a week ago and was woundering if a leak at the rear 02 sencer would cause this code ? excuse my spelling lol:confused:
     
  18. Jun 1, 2013 at 5:15 PM
    #18
    scoostraw

    scoostraw Active Member

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    Been reading this old thread with interest.

    My '95 threw a P0125 code recently. I replaced the air/fuel sensor in front of the cat with a Denso. Reset the code and the light stayed off. For about an hour.

    Now I have a P0420.

    I read somewhere that some guys think it's a good idea to replace the rear O2 sensor at the same time the front one is replaced. In other words to always replace them together.

    Anyone have any thoughts? I reset the P0420 and I'll know tomorrow if it comes back or not.
     
  19. Feb 7, 2014 at 6:56 PM
    #19
    CLOUDL1GHT

    CLOUDL1GHT Well-Known Member

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    so I got the P0420. I replaced both with flowmaster high flow cats and reset the ECU and no problems here. sounds better too :p
     
  20. Apr 20, 2015 at 7:35 PM
    #20
    Neal01Tacoma

    Neal01Tacoma Member

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    I live in NY, which has adopted CA emissions. I welded an exhaust leak about two weeks ago that I got over the winter. It was between the downstream 02 and downstream cat. I got the pesty p0420. I read this thread and talked with a good mechanic I know, he said it was most likely the cat. Well I didn't have $400 plus nor the time. I decided to try cataclean, I followed the directions precisely. Reset computer afterwards and it came back on within a 100 miles which is roughly how long it had taken when I welded the hole. Anyways I didn't give up just yet, filled up Sunoco no-ethanol premium, ran to half tank, put a can of seafoam in drove about ten miles, and then took a vacuum line off that had good vacuum close to the entrance of the aluminum intake, and poured in intervals an entire can of seafoam. I let it bog down, then would stop pouring and Rev her up pretty good... When I got half way through the can I didn't Rev it up that time, I gave her a good sip sand shut her off about ten minutes. Fired her up gave a couple good moderate revs then came the gray smoke! Finished the can reset computer, drove 100 miles cel back on. Let set over night and then it was off and has stayed off! Hope this can help someone else avoid breaking the bank!
     
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