Maintaining old Previa, when to stop

My '91 Previa has 185,000 miles, and seems to be running well. Very few problems in the past. And everything is working (heater, door locks, etc). But I feel like I’m on a small boat on a lake. It passes the ‘bounce’ test (push bumper, release), and the structs have no visible leaks. I’ve found the struts, mounts, boots, and shocks for $240, and can do the work myself. Am I crazy for putting more money into this old car? I can do this job, but I couldn’t rebuild the engine or AT.

$240 for parts is a good price, but…

Replacing the struts requires a spring compression tool. If your comfortable with using one, this is a DIY do-er.

Your not crazy for doing this. You have a 19 year old van. Increased maintenance costs are part of the equation. This is not out of line for keeping this van on the road and comfortable. As long as the costs to maintain can stay this low, I say ‘Go for it!’

The mileage is not high, and Toyotas last a long time. I would drive until 1) it’s rusted so bad as to be unsightly and/or unsafe, 2) with normal maintenance it is still hard to start and does not run smoothly, 3) it won’t pass the state emission and/or safety inspection, 4)a very major repair comes up such as transmission or engine rebuild, and 5) you win the lottery and decide to get all new vehicles.

You can easily justify struts, and brake jobs, new radiator, etc. Just compare these costs with spending $550 or so PER MONTH ($6600/year) paying off a new car.

No, you are not crazy, just very wise to pose the question, since deciding when EXACTLY to get rid of a vehicle is not always easy.

Anyway, the method above is one we (as well as my accountant sister) have followed for the last 45 years and it has resulted in very low, but safe, overall driving expenses. No, we did not win te lottery, but my wife won an Austin MINI (the original one), and promptly sold it.

Let’s say it last one more month and all you need do is to replace the struts. That will be $240. If it only last a month, your cost is likely less than one monthly car payment. I don’t see any reason to do anything that continuing proper maintenance. You may have many many more good miles.

However if you really want a new shiny car and can afford it, go ahead.

Thanks all. Now that I have the courage of your convictions, I’ll get right to it. Looking forward to a better and safer ride. Similar to being married 38 years and counting, this is another of those “Till death do us part” moments! BTW, I’ve included a photo of the old girl.

If the rest of it is in good shape it’s easily worth spending $240 on. A few caveats before replacing the struts:

  1. get a good procedure and follow it.
  2. make sure you orient everything correctly when reassembling the springs and struts. Marking the parts before disassembly can help.
  3. make sure the spring ends are properly seated in their mounting isolators.
  4. leave plenty of time. Figure about 1 to 2 hours per strut
  5. get good quality spring compressors…not the cheapy kind a the large-lot discount store.
  6. if you can, have an impact wrench available to free the nut from the strut center rod. They can be tough to get free.
  7. have a friend work with you, just to be safe, just in case something happens.
  8. have a torque wrench and be sure you have the proper torque specs.

If you mean by “mounts” the mounting kits with the rubber parts, that’s good. I would have recommended replacing those when you do the struts.

By the way, how has your tire wear been? Usually of your struts are shot your tires will wear in chunks.

And have you had the alignment checked out? There’s no sense making any assumptions until you verify that everything is tracking right and no joints are worn out. Don’y misunderstand me, at 185,000 miles you probably need struts, but it’s important to look at everything chassis as a system and not just fix one item. Be sure it’s all in good shape.

I think I have most of your points covered except the ‘quality’ spring compressor. I picked up one at Harbor Freight for $15; I could return it. Most of my tools are Craftsman or similar, but I thought for a 1-time job this would do. I would like an impact wrench …

Tire wear is good, alignments have been good (bought a lifetime one for $49 in 1994).

(Have 4 of the top 20 contributors really contributed to this thread?)