I am looking to buy a 2003 Toyota Camry with 117000 miles on it. The owner says the car burns some oil (up to a quart per oil change). Is this something majorly wrong? Would it be expensive to fix? Does the car need a new timing belt if it hasnt been replaced yet?
Yes, the car needs a new timing belt if it has not been replaced yet. If it has, ask for WRITTEN PROOF!
If the owner changes oil every 5000 miles as per Toyota schedule, and it needs 1 quart only or less, that is quite nromal.
In any case have a qualified mechanic check out the car before you even consider buying it.
how much would it cost to get a timing belt replaced?
Doc has given you good advice, but I want to add that, since the current owner has chosen to skip/defer the timing belt replacement on that car, there is a strong possibility that he/she has ignored other vital maintenance procedures such as changing the transmission fluid. If I were you, I would not buy this vehicle unless the owner can produce the maintenance records and you can verify that it is up to date on its service.
I do have one question, however. Are you sure that this vehicle has a timing belt? I believe that Toyota converted to timing chains on many of their engines a few years ago.
You can verify whether it has a timing belt by looking at the maintenance schedule that should be in the glove compartment. If it has a belt, the schedule would list that procedure at 90k or 105K. If it has a timing chain, at least that is one less thing for you to worry about.
What about the engine oil burning? Would it most likely need new piston rings or what else could cause it to burn oil? How expensive is that to fix?
My guess is the seller is trying to be honest, but at the same time may be under estimating the oil consumption. A example would be, needing to add a quart between oil changes but at the time of the oil change its a quart low again. Thats twice the oil consumption, but it still only needed one quart between oil change. My feeling is the oil consumption will get steadily worst, and then level off to about a quart or less every thousand miles, but the engine could last to two hundred thousand miles.
To answer your question. Yes most likely oil rings
how much would it cost to replace the rings? is it even worth it?
Not unless it starts burning oil at a rate that causes emissions or catalytic converter failure.
BTW, you never mentioned whether it a four or six cylinder. Thats a difference between a lot of $$, and much more $$$$$$.
Basicly a ring job is rebuilding the engine, because once its apart you might as well go all the way with new bearings, and have the heads checked.
If this is a 4 cylinder then it does not have a timing belt.
How often are the oil changes, 3K or 5K miles?
Incidentally I am trying to buy a Camry of the same model series, have yet to find a honest seller. All I get on the phone is “perfect condition and no paint job”, when I get there the car seems to have been totaled and rebuilt! Watch out for bad steering racks too.