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Is it worth fixing?

My 1999 Camry with 169700 miles has this ‘check engine light’ code: “Catalyst system efficiency below threshold”. We have a mechanic we trust so we’ll bring it to him this week. We spent a couple thousand fixing this car about two years ago and I’m not sure it is worth doing that again. Carmax offered us 1200 for it around this time 2012. What do you think?

You probably need a new catalytic convertor. That may run as much as a thousand dollars.

The questions to you are; Does it still look and drive well? Or have you stopped fixing things because you don’t want to spend any more money on the car?

If the answer to the first question is, yes, spend the money to fix it. $2000 spent 2 years ago is very low to keep a car running. Another $1000 may get you another year or 2. Toyotas will run 200,000 miles without major repairs (and $2000 is not major)

If the answer to the second question is yes, trade it in but expect less than $1200. If you aren’t keeping up with repairs, you will force the car to an early death.

If you are just looking to rid yourself of a car you no longer want to drive, then by all means, walk away from this one. You got your $'s worth. Life’s too short to drive cars you don’t like.

Thank you! Our other car is a Civic and we have two kids so we had assumed we would get something bigger eventually but had hoped to wait a couple of years. The Camry is starting to show her age but my commute is only 5 miles round trip. Spending $1000 for two years is totally worth it for us. I just worry, being an older car, that more things will go wrong soon.

Don’t go to the dealer for a (possible) catalytic converter. Go to your local muffler shop for a generic replacement.

My brother was in the same boat as you, questioning spending $1000 or so on an older car needing a new converter. Based on the advice from this website… he went to his local muffler shop. I think it was $300 later… he had a brand new cat installed, and he’s still driving the car today.

Good luck.

Agree with local muffler shop comment. The dealer will want a fortune.

On my 1999 Camry 4 cyl. replacing both the A/F ratio sensor and the O2 sensor stopped the P0420 (Catalyst system efficiency below threshold) code. I think both sensors were about $300 for the parts and I did the labor. I would have a good mechanic take a look at what the sensors are reading before condemning the Cat. A word of caution if you do this yourself the easiest way to get to the O2 sensor connector is take out the drivers seat it is under the carpet under the seat.

The average American spends about $1100 per year in maintenance and repairs per vehicle. That should be your BUDGET! We drive less and spend about $400 or so, including tires. If the car is sound, spend the money but check what other problems there may be. I have never had to replace a converter on any car. There may be an underlying cause.

Good Luck!

Yes, check for bad sensors, and if a catalytic converter is bad get a universal one welded in at a muffler shop. Dealers will replace the whole system and probably profit on scrapping your old one too.

A 5 mile round trip commute? Well heck, that’s only 1250 miles a year! Let’s round it up to 2000 miles a year. I’d say the car will rust away faster than you wear it out. This is a nice, low cost, commuter car. Truthfully, that is the value of this car to anyone else, too.

The average American spends about $1100 per year in maintenance and repairs per vehicle

This would explain why short term leasing is such an attractive option for people who have to pay others to maintain and repair their cars… Just a back of the napkin assessment and I’m at a fraction of that figure- close to a decimal point shift on cars I’ve owned for 10-14 years.

Just my Camry alone, that figure quoted would be nearly 2/3 again the initial purchase cost to operate it over 12 years? That’s ludicrous IMO.

@TwinTurbo Doesn’t that give you a warm feeling when you think of how much money you save by working on your own cars? My wife once got a dealer quote to do a full brake job for $1900! I did the 4 rotors and pads plus new brake fluid for $460. (It was an import with a special factory big brake package) I really enjoyed the extra $1460 in my pocket.


You only spent $460, but did you buy factory brakes?

No, aftermarket parts all around. I used ceramics and got fantastic life out of them. 2x the factory semi-mets. I used good quality rotors since no cheap junk companies that made them for this car.

ceramic brakes do a good job turning really deeply scored rotors. smoothes them right out.

@Mustangman … I too get a nice warm feeling knowing that I save a lot of money working on my own vehicles. To tell you the truth…I don’t know how people survive economically when paying someone big bucks to get their cars and trucks back on the road. I’m one of those people who think that if someone else can do it…why not me? I draw the line at surgery but I repair my own computers, desktops and laptops, my own plumbing and electrical repairs (within reason). I guess it’s just the Scottish blood in me because I squeeze a nickel until Jefferson screams. I will admit that I leave front end alignments, AC and transmission repairs to the experts. I might tackle the jobs but I don’t have the proper equipment and I know when to call in people who do the job everyday.

@missileman… I hear ya, I do all that stuff, too. If I can read about it and understand it, I can fix it. YouTube keeps me from breaking little tabs and such when I take things apart. That’s a great thing! The high cost of low quality repairs keep people in hock to the bank buying new cars every few years to keep them under warranty. Tough to get ahead financially that way.


Whenever possible, I use factory brakes on my cars

In some cases, if I can find out who made the brakes for the manufacturer, I’ll buy them under that label, and save a few bucks

I’d fix it.

I just had a 98 Camry in the shop. Not for a cat problem, but for a rotted out flex joint on the cat assembly.

Welded in the new flex joint and for 200 bucks plus the cost of the flex joint and exhaust gaskets and the vehicle was put back on the road.

So find a universal cat for your Camry, and find someone who’s willing to remove the cat assembly to fit and weld the new cat in.