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99 Camry, series of unfortunate repairs

I have a 99 Camry XLE V6. for the last 5 years or so every time when the outside temperature is around 60 to 80, the belts are very noisy.

August 2008, my tail lights went out all of the sudden the dealership told me that was a fault and I paid.

Oct 2009, my car made even more crazy noise, because the water pump broke. And it also refused to start, again at that temperature range. So a new water pump and a new starter. And I paid again.

Last Friday Feb 6, 2009. Again a 70 deg day. I drove 15 mins local to a nearby bookstore for a “story time” for my four year old. 45 minutes later I tried to start my car, it won’t start and on the third try, blue smoke came out under the hood on the passenger side. Later the same afternoon, I started the car successful on the first try, and drove it (with the battery light on all the way) to a local mechanic recommended by audience of car talk. He called me later told me that the compressor was stuck and when I tried to start my car the alternator turns and burned the belt between them. I have not choice but to fix it.

Question 1: would a semi-functioning compressor caused electrical fault and broke the water pump?

Question 2: should I be suspicious about my car and try to get rid of it as soon as possible, because there are more hidden problem?

All I can advise is that you have the car inspected now and then and keep maintenance up on it.

Driving around for “5 years with very noisy belts” is begging for trouble and it’s entirely possible that everything that was done was also needed and what you were told is true.

The decision on the car is yours. Unless it has 400k miles on it my advice is always to keep a car if it runs and drives well.
This sounds like a classic case of neglect to me and another thing that you do NOT do is drive anywhere with warning indicators on. The latter can easily make a 20 dollar fix a 4k dollar one.

I have to agree with OK (I usually do). From your description it appears that you wait until a problem will prevent you from driving before getting it fixed and I suspect that also extends to basic maintenance as well.

The most expensive repair is the repair or maintenance that you should have done earlier. Putting off maintenance and repairs is very expensive.

I might also suggest that dealers are often not the best place for a repair or maintenance. They are no better or worse than independent mechanics (some good some not so good) but they almost always charge more.

Yes, I agree that you need to have a good mechanic check the car over and find out what all might be needed to put it in proper shape.  Then compare that to the cost of a replacement, which if used may be in no better condition than your current car.  Likely it will be better to fix what you have and keep it well maintained.

Possible further evidence of poor maintenance on this car is the failure of the water pump.

If the timing belt was replaced when it should have been (at least two years ago, based on elapsed time, perhaps more than two years ago, based on odometer mileage), then it is unlikely that the water pump would have failed last October.

So, I think that zipper 123 should check his/her maintenance invoices to determine if the timing belt was replaced within the elapsed time/odometer mileage limits specified in the Toyota Mainteance Schedule. The good news is that this engine is apparently not of the interference design, but when that timing belt snaps, there will be considerable inconvenience and possible safety issues that will make zipper’s complaints about previous repairs seem trivial by comparison.

Timing belt was replaced in 60k miles maintenance. I followed Toyota’s maintenance guide to the T.

So waterpump problem is isolated?

I should probably have expressed myself a bit more completely. Normally, when a timing belt is replaced, it is recommended that the water pump be replaced at the same time, in order to prevent duplication of virtually the same labor at a later date.

I am glad that the timing belt was replaced according to schedule, as that will save you from bigger headaches down the line. But–was the water pump replaced at the same time as the timing belt? If the dealership did not recommend this, then shame on them. If they did recommend it and you opted to not do it, then shame on you.

Also, how many miles are on the odometer? You still have not told us.

There are 89k on the odometer, relatively low miles for a car this age, because I was overseas for almost 1 years and the car in a storage. I did ask my ex-girlfriend to run the car every week, I doubt if she did it.

I don’t think the dealership here in Richardson, TX recommend to change the water pump, back then. (I can check) They did change the time belts and other belts too at 60k plus flush the fluids, check the brakes and balance the tires…

My frustration is that I followed the maintenance suggested and still got so much trouble. I wasn’t cutting anything back, still change oil at the interval they suggested.

Are you sure you followed Toyota (Motor Cars) recommended mileage/time to change the timing belt; or, did you follow the car dealer’s recommended mileage/time of 60,000 miles?
Car dealers are (in)famous for recommending services to be performed at much earlier periods than the car maker recommends. Naturally, they have a plausible sounding excuse.
One thing, perhaps extra, that mechanics recommend, that the car maker may not recommend, is changing the water pump at the same time that the timing belt is changed.
If the timing belt (and water pump) had been changed at the car maker’s recommended time, you would be ahead.

my advice to you is to get a book a haynes manual cause their eay to read and some tools and start working on it yourself then if u have questions or trouble consult a mechanic this way you know its done right and the cost is minimal and u won’t have to regret costly repairs