Is My Car Too Old to Fix?

I have a 1996 Toyota Corolla with 194,000 miles on it. Somehow, I never got it serviced at 120,000 and this was realized at 134,000. So it’s 60,000 miles later and I’m due for all sorts of work on my car, but I’m worried about putting a lot of money into it and then having the car die on me shortly after.

Other than regular maintenance like oil changes and such, and a rear O2 sensor repair about 6 months ago, the car has been good to me and has required minimal servicing. It even still has functioning air conditioning (I maintain that when the AC goes, that will be the sign that it’s time to get a new car).

At 134,000, the following was done:

Water Pump

Timing Belt

Timing Belt Tensioner

Engine Belt (3)

Set Dis Cap&Rotor

Set of Ignition Cable

Spark Plug

Air Filter

Valve Cover/Gasket Set


PCU Value x grommet


Crank Seal

Cam Shaft Seal

ATF (inc. diff)

(forgive me if some of that doesn’t make sense - I translated from handwritten chicken-scratches on the receipt and I don’t speak Car-Maintenance)

When I called last week to make an appointment to have my timing belt changed and told them how many miles my car has, they questioned whether or not I really wanted to put that much money into it. They encouraged me to consider not getting the timing belt changed and just letting the car die when it was ready.

I see a few problems with this line of reasoning:

1. I would really hate for the car to fall apart while I’m driving it, if I can help it.

2. I don’t really have money to buy a new car, so if I could keep this one running for even another year or two, I’d be very happy.

What do you think? Do I put another $1000 into the car to make sure that it’s safe for however much longer I drive it? Do I hold onto that $1000 to use it towards a new car?

Any and all advice/insight is appreciated.


You can’t trade for anything as good as you have now for $1000. If the car doesn’t have a rust problem, then replace the timing belt. Be certain that the steering gear, tires and brakes are in good shape, then keep driving the car,

I would have someone check the compression in the engine. If it is low or uneven, that’s a sign it is wearing out. But it might be OK, so then you should consider the work. The only other thing to examine is the transmission. If it is an automatic, does it work well?

I take it the book says new belt at 60,000mi, I was thinking 90,000 but maybe wrong.
If you do belt also do water punp, they fail as much if not more than the belts do and cost around $25 and no added cost to in stall.
Those cars go 250,000-300,000mi if taken care of.

I agree. If the car is not smoking and it looks OK and you like it, put on another timing belt and keep driving. When I sold my Toyota, it had 275k miles on it. It still looked good and ran perfectly.

That car probably has a lot of life left in it. Do the maintenance and enjoy not having a car payment for several more years.

200,000 miles is only middle age if you care for your car. Why stop now. It appears you lucked out with delayed maintenance once, if you don’t do it again, you could have a long time before it needs replacement.

Age and miles really isn’t the issue. You have to look at safety. If your car is exposed to road salt in the winter, such as upstate NY, MI, Minn., etc. then the frame could be rusted and not safe anymore. If you live in many parts of the country where the winter isn’t that harsh your frame and body could be rust free. If you are not sure have a body shop check out the car for the soundness of the frame. If there is little to no rust issues and the motor is solid the car is worth fixing.

My vote is fix it, just make sure the car isn’t heading for the crusher due to rust first.

The Corolla does not have an interference engine, so if your timing belt breaks, it won’t ruin the valves. If it were mine, I wouldn’t put a lot of money into it right now. I’d keep driving it and do some less expensive maintenance: spark plugs, oil, filters, tranny fluid & filter, coolant flush.

Then I’d take care of things as needed. Putting $1,000 into the car right now doesn’t guarantee anything, you don’t know what it’s going to need next. I’d keep the $1,000 in the bank for when something needs replacing.

Assuming you’re happy with the car and it’s still serving you well, IMHO you’d be crazy not to put the $1000 into it and keep it.

I rememmber years ago when I put the new timing chain in my '89 Toyota pickup with 200,000 miles. People said “why bother”. That truck served me and my daughter well for another 138,000 miles until it got hit and totalled. If that hadn’t happened I or my daughter would probably still have it.

Why shovel money into car paymenst when you have a perfectly good car already?

If you look at a car payment as being $250 - $350, then $1000 is 4 car payments tops. So, looking at it that way, if the car lasts another 6 months after you do the service, you come out ahead; and the car will probably last much longer than that. And don’t forget the added insurance costs that come with a new car.

They encouraged me to consider not getting the timing belt changed and just letting the car die when it was ready.

I would encourage you to find a different mechanic than this one.
Tell the mechanic that if he wants it to die, then ask if he’d be willing to cosign for a loan and help you make car payments

Even if the timing belt breaks, the car won’t die. It won’t die for a long time.

Are you still taking it to the dealer?
A good independent shop can save you $$. Go to and click on “find a mechanic”.
There’s no need to go to the dealer for most work once the car is out of warranty.

“When I called last week to make an appointment … They encouraged me to consider not getting the timing belt changed and just letting the car die when it was ready.”

Yes, an early death so they can sell you a new one!

The engine, on the other hand, will