I have a 2001 Toyota Corolla S with 193,061 miles. The car is completely paid off, obviously. The car leaks oil, and I have to put a quart of oil every two fill-ups. The catalytic converter converter is bad, and the car constantly has the check engine light on, I think the converter is the only for that reason. My question is, should I keep investing in repairs, or should I just get a new car? In July of last year it got new ignition coils and spark plugs, and in June it got a new timing chain tensioner, sepentine belt, alternator assembly, waterpump, front breaks replaced and some of the oil leaks fixed for $1300. The car is now acting funny again and the guess is that I will have to replace the control arms, but I haven’t taken it in to get checked out yet. I absolutely love my car, but I don’t want to put another couple thousand in it to die on me. Should I just go ahead and invest in a newer car, or is this one worth investing in keeping around?
Briefly, sell it.
The issue is not the need to add oil. The problem is that your cat converter is toast because of the oil burning. At that age and also needing suspension work and probably other stuff, you probably are going to spend close to what a decent replacement would cost and not even know it this Corolla would last any longer.
A new one doesn’t cost that much. You’re in the mileage range that needs constant attention. I would rather drive without opening the hood when I fill up. It’s great to play “I’m not worried.”
I’d have the compression checked and the ECU codes checked before making any decisions.
The car is basically a good car, but it sounds like there’s been some negligence along the way manifesting itself as excess cylinder wear (oil use and/or blowby causing excess pressure and seepage past the valve cover gasket and seals). The oil burning may have contaminated the catalytic converter. Without an evaluation it’s impossible to guess how serious the bypass/oil usage/engine wear is.
An evaluation will be easily affordable on this engine. A replacement car will be expensive. I’d get the evaluation done first. Post the results.
If you really love the car, then I think it is still economically viable to keep it. Its kinda close to the decision point though and you really need some more information to make a really good decision.
You spent $1300 nine months ago, that’s about 145/mo which is less than the payments on a new vehicle. However a new vehicle would run you about $350/mo for 5 years, but give you about ten years of trouble free driving, so in the end, it is pretty close.
If you are still losing oil at around 500 miles/qt, you should have your mechanic check the front main seal (the seal around the harmonic balancer/front pulley). This is one of the common leaks in this engine but it should not cost more than $100 to replace. If he has the right tools, it is pretty easy to replace.
Control arms won’t be cheap though. What you need is a good evaluation of the vehicle to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay over the next year or two for maintenance. This should include the life remaining in the tires and the battery.
As for the cat, that is another common problem with this car. Usually it is the rear O2 sensor that causes the computer to think the cat isn’t working. There is just something in this generation, and the following generation of Corollas that seem to suffer the P0420 code more than most other vehicles. If you don’t need to pass a smog check, I would just ignore the light, but get the codes read about every six months just in case something else pops up.