2011 Camry VVT rattle on startup
Hi everyone! Hi Scotty! I came here to ask Scotty the same question. I just bought a 2011 Camry XLE with 134k miles. Seems very well maintained and free of issues except it has the same exact issue as what the OP reported.
When I looked at the car myself the issue didn't come up. When I paid a mechanic to inspect the car he didn't catch it and didn't mention it. (He did warn me about the oil-burning issue, but this car has the 2AR-FE so it's not affected by that manufacturing defect which Scotty has talked about numerous times).
I've since done lots of reading and discovered that this "VVT rattle on cold start" problem is VERY common with Toyotas across a wide range of engine models and years. I'm surprised in all of Scotty's videos about these cars never once, that I recall, has he mentioned it or what - if anything - should be done about it.
FWIW, from what I can tell the best thing to do if you have the VVT rattle on startup, at least if you have a 4-cylinder motor is just live with it. It's an expensive job to fix (maybe $1200 at a decent shop?), and it's likely not going to lead to any harm to the overall engine. The wear is confined to the locking pin in the VVT gear, which gets stuck on a cold start due to temporary lack of oil pressure there at the top of the motor. There are many reports of owners leaving this problem alone when it starts at 50k, 100k, 120, etc, and still continuing to get 100k - 200k more miles out of their Toyota engine with only routine maintenance. The only reports I could find of catastrophic engine damage are in the V6s, and even those reports are rare.
It seems like the worst that will likely happen in the life of an affected 4-cylinder engine is that eventually the lock pin will get stuck, VVT will be disabled, the check engine light will come on... and then you'll have to either junk the car or spring for that $1200 repair after all. No further damage is likely to result. So it doesn't really make sense to do this repair on an older car IF the worst case from not doing it is ultimately just the same repair anyway. It makes more sense to just live with it (and quite possibly never have to do anything for as long as you own it).
I suggest getting it fixed. That way, you won't have to drive paranoid.