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Did they know?

I bought a '97 Camry in August with 150K miles on it. 6K miles later, the dealer I bought it from says it needs a rack/pinion assembly and new rear struts - $2100. Could the need for those show up in 6K? or did they know about that when they sold it to me?

It’s 15 years old with well into the 6 digits in mileage. Any of those things you mention are subject to failure at any time including long before the 150k miles mark.

It’s unlikely the dealer knew about these problems even if they existed at the time of the sale. Odds are the car was obtained from an auction or in trade, it was sent to detail for cleaning, and placed on the lot for sale as is.

You might price this repair around at several independent shops as there’s a good possibility it could be done for less.

Is this a used car lot? A Toyota dealer? A '97 wouldn’t be sold as a certified used car, it is too old with too many miles. Therefore whoever sold the car did so “as is” or with a very limited warranty for 30 days and/or 1000 miles.

If the car was really carefully inspected prior to the sale these items were likely bad or going bad 6000 miles ago. However, it isn’t necessary to give every used car that kind of inspection from the seller’s point of view. A good inspection is important from the buyer’s point of view and that’s why it is a good idea to pay for a through pre-sale inspection by your own mechanic. Dealers sell the car and hope nothing goes wrong a few days after the sale. If the car holds up a month or so they are in the clear.

Dealers get cars by trade in, and auctions mostly. They give them a good cleaning and take care of obvious defects, like bald tires. Sometimes they steam clean the motor compartment and can make a used car look really good. Mechanical stuff would have to show obvious problems; like poor running, vibrations, puddles on the ground from leaking fluids, grinding brakes to get noticed and fixed. If the car “runs out” ok on a test drive and looks good, it is ready for the lot.

Rear struts should not be too expensive to replace. The rack and pinion is pricey. Is it leaking to the point of a significant puddle on the ground and you are adding power steering fluid every month? Some shops point out some fluid weeping onto the boots and suggest replacing the unit. This is an older car, and if you have to add some fluid every few months you might just be OK doing that and living with it as is.

Re: Is this a used car lot? A Toyota dealer? A '97 wouldn’t be sold as a certified used car, it is too old with too many miles. Therefore whoever sold the car did so “as is” or with a very limited warranty for 30 days and/or 1000 miles.

The Toyota dealer we bought it from is the dealer who serviced this car for the previous 10 years…a service department that has worked on our cars for 8 years and have been very trustworthy. Though they sold it “as is”, they gave us the Carfax and the service history before we could ask for it. The new info 6K later came from the basic inspection they did on my first oil change after we bought it.

Also, re: " Is it leaking to the point of a significant puddle on the ground and you are adding power steering fluid every month? Some shops point out some fluid weeping onto the boots and suggest replacing the unit. This is an older car, and if you have to add some fluid every few months you might just be OK doing that and living with it as is."

I’ve driven it 4 more months since then, adding PS fluid every month. Just haven’t had the money to have either problem fixed yet.

It is not uncommon for rear struts to be worn out on a fifteen year old car with over 150k miles on it, even an impeccably well maintained Toyota Camry. The same is true of a rack and pinion leak. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is a very common thing on this generation of Camry. They seem to have a higher than average incidence rate of rack and pinion leaks than other cars, and it can start at any time. Whether it was leaking or not when you bought it, the car is a fifteen year old car with 150k miles on it.and some problems should be expected. It’s an old car.

I’d get an estimate at an independent mechanic to check the dealer’s quote. This is a 15 year old car, and there is no need to pay the dealer’s outrageous mark-up. Also, consider just getting the steering rack replaced and doing the struts later. An independent mechanic can price out both separately to give you an idea how to proceed.

There is no way to know for sure, but I think the dealer likely saw the same issues when you bought the car as they saw after you had 6K more miles on it. If you want to get mad at the dealer, that’s up to you. Basically, these are not unexpected issues with this car at this age and mileage. If you don’t mind adding a bit of fluid to the power steering, you can use a lot of fluid for $1,000. I’d likely just keep adding fluid as long as you don’t have any other problems such as a loud noise or excessive leaking.

Perform the “bounce test” and if the rear of the car stops bouncing in 2 or less rebounds from when you release pressure on the rear bumper then I’d just drive on. Some Toyota dealers make recommendations trying to maintain “new car” performance standards. Your car is far from new, so the standard now is “is it safe” and unless a strut is noisy or just not doing anything to stop the rebound it is likely still safe.

I take it you didn’t have the vehicle independently inspected???

Chances are the rack was on it’s way out before you bought the Camry.

I didn’t take it for an independent inspection before I bought it because in the past, we’ve had great service from this dealer, both their sales and service departments. Lesson learned: always get an independent inspection.

About the struts; does your car behave erratically when going around a fairly sharp and bumpy curve? The rear end of only car that we ever owned that needed new rear struts, for lack of a better word to describe it, would “hop” sideways a little when going over bumps on a sharp curve. If your car does not do that and does not show any other erratic handling or unusual tire wear tendencies, you likely do not new rear struts.