Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Is it time to get a new car?

My brother drives a 1996 Toyota Camry. Yesterday, while driving from home to work (35 miles) his engine started to shake. While on the highway he would frequently park the car to the side to check everything is still intact. The car could only accelerate up to 50mph, over 50 the car shakes even more. So is it worth it to go fix the car or is it about time for my brother to get a new car?

If your brother is not proactive regarding the car’s maintenance, this could simply be a case of a car that is way overdue for spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, etc. Bad maintenance can lead to a very rough-running engine, and over time, this can lead to other problems like deteriorating motor mounts, as just one example of what could be involved here.

However, all we can do is speculate about the situation since we don’t know how many miles this car has been driven, or how it has been maintained, or what trouble codes might have been stored by the car’s OBD system.

I think it is time for him to have the car examined by a competent, honest, independent mechanic (NOT Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, AAMCO, Pep Boys, or any other chain operation) in order to determine what issue(s) are involved here. Over the internet, it is not possible to diagnose exactly what is taking place with his car.

Julia, The Car Needs To Be Evaluated By A Competent Mechanic. Then You Can Decide.

There are too many variable here. We don’t know what is causing the shake. Have the mechanic estimate repairs on the source of the shake and also put together a list of other safety related repairs/maintenance items that need attention.

Have him/her evaluate the car for any rust damage and note whether or not that it’s serious. It’s not worth putting a lot of money into a “rust bucket”.

You will be charged for this diagnosis, but that’s the only way to get your question answered.


Thanks for the reply. He does take care of his car. He frequently does a check up and an oil change for every 3 months. He always follow Toyota’s recommended guidelines in car maintenance. The OBD is 144,373. 5 times a week he would drive from home to work and from work to home with a total of 350 miles. So is it still reasonable to fix the car even if he does frequent check ups and oil change from an independent mechanic?

The OBD system needs to be scanned for stored trouble codes by an independent mechanic. The number that you supplied (144,373) is apparently the odometer reading that I requested, and while that is helpful, this is not indicative of anything specific regarding the problem. A competent mechanic can interpret the OBD system’s stored trouble codes to lead him to the problem(s).

Incidentally, while changing the oil every 3 months is good for preventing problems like engine sludge, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Having frequent check ups and oil changes is indeed proactive, but on a 13 year old car things do begin to wear out or to break down.

From this distance, nobody can tell you what the severity of the problem(s) may be, or what it might cost to fix them. It may turn out to be more cost-effective to buy a new car, but anything that we guess about from this distance is just that–a guess with nothing to base a firm diagnosis on.

After the car has been evaluated, come back to this same thread (bookmark it, so that you can find it!), report the mechanic’s findings, and we will be able to give you a more informed opinion.

If the car is shaking so badly that he pulls over to the side of the road to see if everything is still attached, then this car may not be safe to drive. I strongly recommend that he have it towed to a reputable independent shop and checked out.

Please urge him to do this immediately. Until determined otherwise, you should consider this car unsafe to be in.

Could be something as minor as a motor mount, or something more severe like a CV joint about to take a dive.
Have him take it to the mechanic and have him pay them for a used car inspection. $100 could save you thousands down the road.