1998 Camry -- Fix or Say Goodbye?


I have a 1998 Camry…4cyl, with 97K

1. It needs a new transmission. The dealer says parts and labor on the job will be 3,600.

2. There also is a small leak in the power sterring system. The dealer say 1,200 for that fix, but that that it is not urgent.

Need some input. We don’t really have the money to fix it or to replace it, but we’ll have to take one option.

The other consideration: our other vehicle is a 99 Camry w/ 110K, seems to be running well, but who knows?

Thanks for your input.


Surely you jest! Toyotas do not break - period. At least according to legend.

Seriously, you should get some more opinions and prices on this.
Considering the age of the car, I would be tempted to price a transmission from the salvage yard. Some yards will install and guarantee (usually for 30-90 days) engines and transmissions.
If there is a problem it will show up within a few days generally, and since it’s covered…

No idea what the power steering leak is but it’s either pump (unlikely), hoses, or steering rack.

It seems to me with a bit of footwork you could beat those prices you were given by a good amount.
I say fix it if the car runs well and is in decent shape; and the price quotes come down.


If you fix it, get the front end aligned immediately. Front wheel drive cars with worn out tie rod ends will kill a transmission. If you sell a 98 Camry that is operating like normal, you will get a lot of money back; not as much as you bought it for, but more than if it needs a transmission. “Everybody knows” will help you. Everybody knows that a Camry could run for over 250,000 miles.


Unless you are having a car repaired under warranty, I’d never ever never ever ever ever take it to a dealer…They will empty your wallet in a hurry! Find an independent shop that repairs Toyotas exclusively.


Get another estimate from an independent shop.

Sorry about your bad luck. Although you have done well considering the car has likely made 9-10 years without major repair. IMHO majority of all cars from worse reputation to best reputation typically make 9-10 years or 150,000 miles (whichever first) without major repair. Bummer you have two at once.


Shop around. Get estimates from someone other than a Toyota dealer. You may be surprised at the difference.


Surely you jest! Toyotas do not break - period. At least according to legend.

Sure they do…when you drive it for 9 years and 90k+ miles and NEVER change the tranny fluid.


For a car this old I’d consider putting in a used tranny.

Second…DON’T go to the dealer. They only going to put in a brand new part. And for a vehicle this old it doesn’t make any sense.

Either put in a used tranny…or a rebuilt one. Either of these is going to be a LOT cheaper then the dealer.


As far as I know, the Toyota maintenance schedule recommends an automatic trans fluid change at 105,000 miles. The OP ain’t there yet at 97k miles.

I also do not agree with that interval no way, no how, (every 30-35k IMHO) but considering it’s coming from a company whose factory recommendation is to perform an “audible check” of solid lifter valve adjustment and “adjust if necessary” it could be considered normal.

The “audible check” recommendation just blows me away. “Moronic” is a term that is way to nice to use.
Honda also makes this same idiotic recommendation.


I just wanted to agree with what everyone else said about going to someone else other than the dealer. I needed to replace the power steering pressure hose on my wife’s '90 Celica. Dealer quote for the part was something like $250, autopart store wanted less than $60.




I agree that it seldom makes sense to go to the dealer for service (out of warrantee), but it does sometimes make more sense to use OEM parts (either from the dealer or elsewhere) than McParts store parts. Do not assume that the less expensive auto parts store parts are always equivalent to the OEM parts in quality.

Another good reason to use a independent shop is that they will be able to give you good advice on what parts should be purchased OEM, after-market, rebuilt, or even used. A dealer will not do that. A good independent will also advise you when it is prudent to perform more (or less) frequent maintenance than recommended by the manufacture. I would hope that a good independent would laugh at a 105K mile transmission service interval and have you change the fluid/filter and a more reasonable interval (like 30-40K miles).

The trick is finding someone very good (who you trust) who specializes in your make of vehicle. Don’t be surprised if his hourly rate is at least as high as the dealer’s and if he tells you to do more maintenance than recommended by the manufacture.


rebuilt tranny should be about 2500, look in the yellow pages and start calling. If engine basically good then repair IMO


What kind of condition is the car in? Is the body and interior in good shape? Has the oil been changed regularly? Tires good for a while? I ask because all these things factor in to your decision. I agree with the others that a good independent shop should be able to do these repairs for less than the dealer. A used tranny and maybe a used rack (assuming that’s your leak) would be far cheaper to buy and install than new parts from the dealer. But, if the car is trashed out otherwise and will need $500 worth of new tires next week, maybe you should consider something else.

As for your other Camry. Has it been taken care of? Oil changed regularly, etc., etc.? Assuming reasonable care it should be fine for quite some time to come, but the fact you have one car with problems makes me wonder how well you’ve been keeping up with routine maintenance.


As far as I know, the Toyota maintenance schedule recommends an automatic trans fluid change at 105,000 miles. The OP ain’t there yet at 97k miles.

That is for 2005 and LATER vehicles…2004 and older recommend a 30k tranny change interval.


We have a 2005 Camry LE 4 cyl with auto trans. There is a label around the top of the AT dipstick that says the fluid NEVER needs to be changed. Does anyone know if these new transmissions are so well made that they require no maintenance? ‘Never’ is a long time.


I humbly disagree with you again.
Actually, I was incorrect about the 105k miles auto trans fluid change. The schedule says only to INSPECT it at 105k and change it IF the vehicle has been towing, using a cartop carrier, etc.

From Toyota Motor Cos. own website.

This schedule is for a '98 Camry.
My opinion is still the same. Toyota is doing the vehicle owners a disservice by not recommending a regular auto trans fluid change (promoting the “maintenance free” bilge again) and their recommendation of an “audible valve check” has to be the absolute, dumbest thing I’ve ever heard from any car maker.
It’s amazing to me that several floors full of engineers and management would have the utter gall, or utter stupdity, to put out such tripe; and in print.