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How many miles can you put on a Toyota?

We have a 1998 Sienna with 135,000 miles on it. Its still in one piece, running well...until this week. It failed inspection (leaking exhaust, engine mounts missing) & then started to overheat. Turns out the radiator is leaking, too. Our mechanic says it needs a new exhaust system -- including catalytic converter--new radiator, thermostat & flush & engine mounts. Total: $2600. Is is worth it or is everything else going to fall apart, too? What is the life expectancy of the engine? The transmission? The chassis? We only drive this car about 3000 miles a year now.


  • edited October 2010
    These things are so hard to answer without looking the car over and knowing if buying something newer is even an option. It is not a make/model that is clearly a poor choice to take a chance on with major repairs, in fact probably one of the best. Can you tell us any more about the car overall? if it has been operated extensively while overheating this would make me very hesitant to proceede.
  • edited October 2010
    You can usually get 200,000 miles out of about anything these days. Of course it all depends on how well the car was taken care of, the driving conditions, environment, etc. A car driven on a lot of short trips in the rust belt, that never gets washed, that gets too few oil changes, etc. will not last as long as a well-maintained car with highway miles in a desert climate. Driving only 3,000 miles a year is actually not that great for a car, especially if it's only short trips. The oil never gets hot enough to stay clean and prevent sludge. The exhaust system may not get hot enough for long enough to cook off all the moisture in it. The coolant, unless changed yearly, will slowly rot the system components. And transmission seals can dry out and leak, internally and externally if the fluid doesn't get circulated enough to keep them wet.

    Toyotas are generally accepted as being reliable cars, but any car over 10 years old is going to start costing you money. If your Toyota has an engine that's prone to sludging, and you only change the oil once a year, based on mileage, it's likely you have some sludge.

    One thing for sure is if the body is in good shape, and you don't have too many problems, is that it will almost certainly be cheaper to fix your existing problems than to buy a new car or another used one with someone else's unknown problems.
  • edited October 2010
    The 2011 cars are in showrooms now, so your car is 13 years old. How are you now, compared to 13 years ago? Like people cars age with the years and miles driven.

    Everything you describe is perfectly normal repairs given the age of the Sienna. The life expectancy of the motor and transmission is entirely up to how you have maintained them. Have you had the transmission fluid changed every 30K miles? If yes, the trans might last 20 years. If no, the trans would be ready for boot hill now. Is the motor quiet? Does it use oil, like 2 to 3 quarts needed, between oil changes? Have you had the oil changed every 5K miles? A good motor can last 200 to 300K miles, but things like alternators, power steering pumps and racks, and fuel pumps can fail.

    What kind of shape is the body in? How much rust do you see, and how much can be seen if the car is up on the service rack? Rust in Detroit area is a factor as they do salt the roads in the winter. If their is little to no rust the chassis can last another 10 years. But rubber parts like mounts, struts, sway bars, bushings, rubber brake lines, etc. are all subject to failure due to age.

    You can keep the Sienna safely and dependably on the road, but your yearly costs for repairs is going to go up. And, the frequency of repairs is going to go up too. There are lots of parts and systems on your car and noone can predict what will fail and when. You can expect more repairs and you need to budget accordingly. $2,000 a year for repairs is a decent figure. Some years will be more than that, and other less, but over the next 5 to 10 years it is a pretty good number. Tires, brake jobs, tune ups, and oil changes are not part of the $2,000; these are maintenance items not repairs.

    $2,000 for repairs and another $1,000 for maintenance sound like big bucks. Yet, $3,000 a year is $250 a month. Price out a new, or newer used, car and you'll looking at a much larger monthly payment than $250 and for a lot of months (48) before you own it free and clear.

    Quick answer, you should be able to get another 100K miles out of your Sienna if it is good shape now. But you will spend more money on repairs in the next 10 years than you have had to spend to get to this point.
  • edited October 2010
    How many miles can you put on a Toyota? ...What is the life expectancy of the engine? The transmission? The chassis?
    This all depends on how well they are maintained. Yes, brand is a factor, but it isn't that big of a factor.

    Personally, I would get these items fixed, but it really depends on your needs. How reliable do you need your vehicle to be? Can you afford a new vehicle? The answers to these questions might help you decide.
  • edited October 2010
    I think I'd seek a second opinion, especially on the catalytic converter. They seldom develope leaks, and they are EXPENSIVE. Is there a scan code indicating that it doesn't work? If no, take it to an independent muffler shop, not a "chain store". They will probably install a "cat back" system, which is to say complete from the catalytic converter to the rear of the van.
  • edited October 2010
    You can generally be confident in a quarter million mils from most any model of Toyota sedan or pickup with reasonable care. We hear about exceptions on this board, but those are the exceptions. Sienna's seem to be running a little less than that. Not sure why.

    At 3000 miles a year, rust is a bigger concern than mechanical failure. Sounds like Detroit is rough on metal. I have older cars in my driveway that have exhaust systems that look virtually new.

    If you really need a car that you only drive 3000 miles a year, and this looks OK and you like it, I would fix it. You will be hard pressed to get into something significantly better for what you can get in trade-in plus $2600. "A bird in the hand....."
  • edited October 2010
    Its still in great shape & its had all scheduled servicing, including the very expensive 100,000 mile service. No rust, runs well -- not as smooth as it used to be (shocks are stiff) but amazing for its age. It started to overheat a few days ago but the temp gauge was still far below red. I pulled over & walked home. Came back a few hours later, added about a quarter gallon of coolant & it started to get hot again after about two miles, a block from my house. Shut it down & coasted home. Hasn't been driven since, except to the repair shop, which is a few blocks away. We didn't let it get very hot.
  • edited October 2010
    Thanks for the advice. We have been putting 8000-12000 miles a year on it until the past year & the oil has been changed every 3000-4000 miles. I didn't realize that driving it less could be a problem.
  • edited October 2010
    No rust yet & its never been low on oil. Its lived most of its life in a garage in the mid Atlantic region. We've had the oil changed every 3000-4000 miles & all scheduled maintenance. Its really been almost no trouble at all for 13 years & that makes me reluctant to part with it. And we do enjoy not making car payments, but don't want to sink too much money into it if everything is about to fall apart. Sounds like we will be spending money either way but if the engine can get another 100,000 miles I think its worth fixing.
  • edited October 2010
    Yes, I wondered about that, too. When we took it in for inspection, it failed because of an exhaust leak but I don't know where it was leaking. We have taken it to our regular mechanic for repairs, a local independent shop. They have seemed honest about what we need to repair & what we can do without & still drive safely. I will definitely ask about the catalytic converter scan code & get a second opinion. Any other questions I could ask that would make me sound like I know what I'm talking about?
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