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1999 Toyota Camry: replace transmission, or sell as is?

Should I replace the transmission for around $2,500. or sell it as is? Our mechanic said the engine is in great shape, and the car has hardly needed any work done, except regular maintenance and aging parts as needed. I bought the car used about 7 years ago and I take good care of the car. And it’s really a beauty. It has about 170,000 miles on it.

$2500 sounds like you’re planning on installing a remanufactured transmission

That doesn’t make financial sense, in my opinion

However, if the entire car is solid . . . think rust . . . installing a good used transmission sounds like a fine idea

If you continue to take good care of the car, and it keeps passing smog- and safety inspections, you’ll likely get another 5 years or more out of it


What was wrong with your transmission? Toyota transmissions are almost bulletproof.

With that many miles?

I’d install a used transmission from a local auto recycler.

And then sell it.


How do you plan to sell a Camry w/a faulty transmission? Wouldn’t a test drive show the problem up right away? Isn’t the question whether to junk the car, or replace the transmission with a rebuilt or used one? If so, and it was only $2500 parts and labor for a used transmission w/a good warranty, that’s a pretty reasonable plan. Especially if the only alternative is buying another car. If you buy a used car, you won’t know what problems you are buying. With your Camry, you know its been driven gently and well maintained. If you buy a new car, you’ll have some major out of pocket expenses, interest expense, plus much higher insurance premiums, registration fees, etc. $2500 to get back to a well functioning Camry seems like the way to go.

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Fix it and keep it or sell it as is, imhop

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Hi everyone, I appreciate your comments and observations. I’ll try and answer / address questions etc. OK so I was wrong to use the word LEAK I am now told. (so I apologize for wasting anyone’s time.) It looked like a leak to us but the mechanic said it is not leaking. The transmission fluid is heating up and overflowing at the leak valve. The mechanic asked us if we had driven it over any major mountain ranges, steep hills… and if anything I’ve driven the Camry less than I ever have before. No major driving of any kind. Local driving and a few “longer” trips of no more than an hour each way; all on relatively flat roads and freeways. Average speed limits. But more often than not it sits on our flat driveway in relatively mild Seattle temperatures. Should I take it to a transmission specialist for another evaluation is my next question since some readers have suggested that it’s unusual for a Toyota to have transmissions problems at 165,000 miles? I’m with George_San_Jose_1 on trying to make this Camry last awhile longer to avoid big expenses right now. This Camry is our second car so we can be without it while it gets worked on. I’m leaning towards a replacement (used / refurbished) transmission and then like Barkydog and Tester said “Sell it” after a couple of years or so. But I would like to KNOW what’s really wrong with it. No leak, but overflowing…no hard driving either. Any theories?

Hi I replied to several comments at the ‘end’ of the comments, not realizing I could address each comment individually. I really don’t know what’s wrong with the transmission. But as I wrote below it’s not “leaking” it’s overflowing at the overflow valve even though I haven’t done any hard driving or even driven it much! Probably need a transmission guy give it a look? You have any ideas WHY it would “overflow” without a reason?

Hi db see my comments below. I’m new to this and now I see the BIG BLUE BOX telling me to address everyone in one blog post. Learning curve here…

The transmission fluid is being purged from the transmission vent because the transmission is overheating or the transmission is overfilled. Check the transmission fluid level after driving for 30 minutes, if it is over the full line it will leak from the vent on a hot day after a 20 minute drive on the highway.

If the fluid level is normal the transmission may be overheating due to debris in the transmission cooler, that may be due to failing clutches in the transmission but I did not see any mention of a performance problem in your post.

I would not try to sell it after fixing it. Nobody pays $2,500 for a car that old. The only fix it plan would be to keep driving it unless the fix costs over $500.

What is average selling price for your car in Seattle? If it is less than 2500 than why are you even considering fixing it? I see lots of nice cars in junkyard. Maybe it has a different purpose in life now?

Subtle performance problem. Hesitation with gears a few times. I appreciate your detailed reply. Will do what you recommend to check it out. The debris in the transmission cooler because of failing clutches is the first time I’ve heard of this (I know nothing about transmissions obviously) so that sounds likely. I see the mechanic today. He does not do transmissions and he’s probably on the “get rid of it side.” For other commenters the old Camry isn’t worth much even without trans problems. Less than $2500. for sure. But with this one I know what I have and I can’t afford a new car. I do hate leaving trans oil puddles anywhere so I won’t keep driving until it collapses either. Annoying dilemma.

Is there some way another fluid - coolant, maybe, from the radiator/trans cooler - could be getting mixed in with the trans fluid?

I don’t know but that’s a question I’ll ask the mechanic today, thanks!

Automatic transmission have clutches , just like manual transmissions, only more of them. As the clutches wear out the clutch material sloughs off & can get into the transmission fluid and clog other stuff. If the only problem is the leak, what I’d do in that situation first is to give it a proper service. This means to remove the pan, drain all the fluid out, clean the inside of the pan (sieving the fluid you drain out looking for debris too), replacing the filter, and doing a re-fill to the proper level. If that helps but doesn’t solve it 100%, drive 100-200 miles, and do the same thing again. Might work, won’t be overly expensive, and if it works, no need to look for a replacement transmission.

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Thanks George_San_Jose1, I appreciate the time you spent explaining and this sounds like a good plan for starters. It’s still overflowing even with a relatively short trip so the sooner I can tackle it the better. The mechanic (who won’t be doing the transmission servicing) says he doesn’t think the transmission is a complete goner…but possibly going…so this every 100 - 200 miles or so might be worth trying for now. Thanks!

Think like an insurance company. If the repair is greater than the value of the car you should dump the car. It’s called totaling the car! All cars and humans near the end of life become money pits.

By being honest about it in the ad, probably, and adjusting the asking price accordingly.

My opinion is that since the car is 20 years old now, I’d ditch it for what I could get for it and, since you can’t afford a different vehicle, save the money for something like Uber/Lyft for when/if you need the 2nd car

OK UPDATE on that 1999 Camry transmission that was “overflowing from the bleeder valve” onto the driveway. Took it to a transmission specialist. The transmission oil was filling into the differential because the pinion seal was faulty. No more leakage onto the ground (I hate that mess!) because the trans guy drained excess fluid from the differential and then topped off fluid in the transmission. When the trans fluid is close to a quart low I go in and he’ll drain it off from the differential and refill the trans fluid. Depending on how much I drive the car I just go in. He charged me $66. So doing that once or twice or so a year beats $3500. for a rebuilt trans! So folks who wrotte that Camry transmission shouldn’t need replacing were correct in a way…it’s that seal!