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96 Camry suggested repairs

My Daughter is looking for a car for her newly licensed daughter who has to drive or be driven to school because she lives outside the school district she attends.

They found a 96 Camry they like, but…

Here’s the list of repairs from a dealer she paid to evaluate the car.

What’s your opinion?


On cars 1997 and older they recommend replacement every 60,000 miles. There wasn’t a sticker or paperwork suggesting this has ever been done. Do you know if this is so? If it was done at 60,000, they said it is due again. The water pump is not leaking and can be fixed later, however because of the location in the engine it will cost over $600 just to replace it alone and it is likely to fail soon. To replace both parts and labor $359.95/Timing Belt and $315.00/Water pump = $674.95


Leaking and will destroy transmission if not fixed before it gets bad.

Parts and labor $241.31


Leaking and will destroy engine if not fixed beofre it gets bad.

Parts and labor $591.19


Tires are in good shape and alignment is off. Will ruin tires.

Labor $79.95


The following are not urgent but will need repairs:


Worn out

Parts and labor $69.70


Parts and Labor $246.30


Parts and Labor $248.49


TOTAL REPAIRS = $2,151.89

Keep in mind those are dealer prices, thus you’re going to pay a premium to have the work done there. I definitely recommend against taking a 15 year old car to a dealer, as a general rule.

You might want to get a second opinion from an independent garage.

If the wish list still pushes $2k, you need to offer at least $2k less than the asking price. At that point I would probably walk away though. This thing needs a lot of maintenance it sounds like!

It is good you have through evaluation of the car.

Yes, to the timing belt and water pump job. If the belt breaks you pretty much have either to pay $3,000 for another motor or sell the car to a salvage yard for virtually zippo. Get some other prices from a good independant mechanic.

Yes, to the transmission service. The charge must include more items than just replacing a pan gasket which is pretty simple. A good independant transmission shop can do a good job for less.

No, to the oil pan gasket for now. How bad is the leak and from where? Get a good independant mechanic to look this over and give another opinion. What the heck is almost $600 to replace the gasket? Is the oil pan shot to? Something not right about this and/or some info must be missing for it to be that much.

Yes, to wheel alignment. If the tires are decent this will keep them from wearing out prematurely.

Yes, to the front valve gasket cover, not much money.

Yes/No, on the Driver side axle seal. If it a significant leak it should be fixed or else the axle will get dirt in it and will fail. A little seepage on the rubber boot isn’t unsual for an older car, so this needs another opinion.

No, on the electric up and down antenna mast. Go to an audio specialty shop and have them install a standard antenna or do it yourself - like $50 at most. The electric antennas just break again anyway.

Did they check the spark plugs and wires? The plugs are recommended to change every 30K miles and might be due.

As nearly as I can tell, neither the 4 nor 6 cylinder 96 Camry engines are interference engines, so a broken timing belt will be just a matter of a dead car not a destroyed engine. Nonetheless, that timing belt is going to break someday. The more miles driven, the more likely breakage is.

If the plan is to drive it another 5000 miles or so then get rid of it, then it might make sense not to do the timing belt. If you’re going to try to squeeze 20000 or 50000 miles out of it, might as will replace the belt and water pump now instead of later. Likewise the tires/wheel alignment.

I have no idea what resealing a sub oil pan is, but unless there is something magic about 96 Camry’s, $600 is a lot of money to replace an oil pan and 250 bucks for a gasket (and transmission fluid) replacement seems steep also. I’d talk to a good independent mechanic.

None of this stuff except possibly the driver side axle seal is rocket science or requires tools beyond what a decent mechanic would have. I’d get a couple of estimates from independent mechanics.

That’s a lot of money to sink into repairs on a 14 year old car. How much are they asking for this thing?

If that car truly needs that much work, go find another car. Some of the leaks you could live with if you keep up watching your fluids, but other than that, that is a ton of money to throw into a 14-15 year old car.

By comparison, I’m planning on replacing my 1997 Taurus soon, and the only things wrong with it are:

  1. Small seep on the front timing cover that leaves no fluids on the garage floor even if the car is parked for over a week and doesn’t need me to add fluid between oil changes.

  2. Rubber bushings that are hard (but solid) making ride quality sub-optimal.

  3. Noisy strut mounts. Wife says “what noise?”.

All of that I have lived with for at least 3 years and they have cost me nothing.

And that car will probably sell for right around $1k (kbb tradein, fair condition) to $1870 (kbb private party, fair condition - which oddly enough has gone UP 81% from the beginning of the year)

Obviously this car has not been cared for very well. They didn’t do the maintenance on it, didn’t fix leaks as they developed, no alignment, and when all of it got too much, they just want to dump it on someone else. Its not the work that needs to be done, its what has been left undone that will show up later.

I’d look for another that has been cared for that maybe needs tires or something.

We’ve looked at LOTS of cars here in the Denver area. Seems to be the best we can find for the money.