Repair or Sell or?

My mother’s car is a 2000 Lexus RX 300 with only 61,000 miles on it. Because of age, rather than wear and tear, the car is beginning to require expensive repairs. Toyota told me today that the rear seal will have to be replaced, along with something else in a the break line. Ultimately the repairs are going to exceed $3000.00. I recently put four new Michelin tires on it (650.00) with the intent to keep the car “until it died” because of its otherwise excellent condition and low mileage. The service agent recommended I call it quits and dump the car. I am very torn as to what I should do. Any advice, recommendations, etc., are most appreciated. Thanks…

Take it to a reputable independent mechanic for a second opinion, you may be able to live with the oil leak, and the brake line should not be prohibitive.


I think in the end only you can make that determination. I don’t know how much the car is worth if you were to make the repair and what general condition, cosmetic and mechanically it is in. Perhaps taking it to an independent shop and get a second opinion about the needed repairs will help make up your mind.

I would be reluctant to take the service agent’s word. Don’t forget, they may have a self-interest and sell you a new car instead.

Could you please elaborate?

By rear seal, do you mean rear crankshaft seal . . . unless it’s leaking at such a rate, that you have massive drops on your driveway, and you’re constantly topping off the oil, I’d leave it alone. What they say is a leak may in fact merely be seepage or sweating. In other words, they may be making a mountain out of a molehill. If it is in fact leaking drops onto your driveway, high mileage synthetic oil may dramatically improve the situation, by reducing or eliminating the leak altogether.

As for the “break line” . . . if one of your brake hoses or lines is leaking, you definitely need a proper repair. Rubber brake hoses are easily replaced, whereas brake lines are a little trickier, in some cases a line needs to be fabricated.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the service agent recommend you dump the car, in hopes that you’ll trade in at his dealership, and he’ll get a cut from the new car sales . . . and then he’ll also have first dibs on YOUR used car. It’s happened before. As the other guys have already said, he may have self-interest, and not YOUR interests on your mind.


If the leak at the rear main seal is not too bad, it may be lessened or stopped if you change to high mileage engine oil. It has an additive that softens seals. Also have your mechanic check the pcv valve, a defective one can build crankcase pressure and cause oil leaks.

I was at a car show two weeks ago and the owner of a 58fFord fliptop was complaining that his air cleaned was getting oil soaked and oil was coming out his dipstick tube… I noticed a tube going from his valve cover to his air cleaner and asked him who did that. He replied that he had removed the road draft tube and instead piped it into the air cleaner. I told him that if it was my car I would put the road draft tube back.

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For any high cost repairs, you should get three estimates. If you don’t know a good shop, ask everyone you know for recommendations. Go to the two or three you hear named most. All shops, except completing brand dealers, can work on your Lexus.

The rear seal is probably what is running up the repair cost. The seal doesn’t cost much itself, but it requires the transmission be removed to replace probably. That’s the case with most car’s rear seals, not just Lexus. So I suggest you focus on that to make your decision. If you simply cannot abide oil dripping on yours or the people’s driveway you visit, one option is to carry a piece of cardboard with you and shove it under the car when you park. That will catch most of the drips. Meanwhile you’ll just have to monitor the oil level on the dipstick periodically to make sure it isn’t getting low. If you do that, probably nothing else for the rear seal needs to be done until at some point the transmission will have to come out b/c it needs fixing itself. When that happens ask them to replace the rear seal while the transmission is out, and it will only set you back another $100 or so. Of course you’ll be presented with the bill for fixing the transmission, so there’s some bad with the good. But you’d then have a car with a non-leaking rear seal and almost brand new transmission and be good to go for a long time.

The brake thing, that’s just a normal expected repair you’d have on any car you own. Brakes are a wearing item and the wearing parts need replacing from time to time. You don’t expect the groceries you buy this weekend to last forever right? Eventually you’ll have to buy some more groceries. Same thing goes with brake parts.

So, should I buy organic brakes or will machined brakes work?

Thank you all for your informative and thoughtful replies. I agree that I need another opinion. The car is in excellent condition aside from this recent leak. I haven’t gone to the dealer to pick up the car yet, and the assessment was provided over the phone earlier today. The explanation as I remember it was as someone stated above…the transmission would have to be taken out to repair the seal, hence the expense. My “check engine” light has been on for over a year…I know, I know, but after several checks the dealership repeatedly turned it off, only to have it come back on the next day. They were never able to determine the problem and relegated it to age. Today the explanation was that air was going into the brake line rather than the engine and so the care was reading “lean” and this most likely triggered the check engine light. This is what he referred to as needed the additional repair to the brakes. The exterior and interior of the car are fairly impeccable. As mentioned, there are four new tires, and I had a synthetic oil change about 6 months ago. And yes, the agent suggested I speak to one of the sales personnel to consider getting into a new car, so as the other gentlemen noted above, the motivation is suspect. I checked KBB for the range of value if I were to sell it privately in “good” condition and it average out around 3,500 or so. Regardless, in the past when I’ve sold vehicles privately, the first thing the prospective buyer does is to completely dismiss the KBB estimates. I’m a retired female and make a great target. These situations completely stress me out, and so thank you all again for contributing to the thought process.

As for that leak . . .

Were YOU seeing oil spots on your driveway, and topping off constantly?

Or were you not aware of the leak, until the dealership brought it to your attention?

If the latter, then the leak is probably not worth repairing at this time.

As for that check engine light and brake line, sounds like you’ve got a vacuum leak. “Air was going into the brake line” makes little sense to me, unless they meant that the brake booster line is somehow leaking or otherwise defective. That could certainly result in a lean condition, which would illuminate the check engine light.

Based on your latest information . . . yes, they want to get you into a new car, thus earning them a cut, and possibly first dibs on YOUR car.

I suggest you take your car to an independent shop for a second opinion on that oil leak. And also on that “air going into the brake line” situation. In all likelihood, you’ll have to pay for a proper diagnosis. Just pay him to diagnose both situations, and provide you with repair estimates. The independent has no vested interest in selling you a new car . . .

Yes! Yes! That was it…the booster line. I couldn’t remember the terminology. The car is garaged and the first time I noticed the oil was last sunday following a round trip from Portland to Bend, Oregon. I cleaned it up and there was no further leak for the following three days that the car was not driven. I took it out for a run, and sure enough, that evening there was more oil on the garage floor. The amount is not substantial, but enough to be of concern. Probably about an 1/8 of a cup or so. I’ve recently relocated to this area and will have to put out some feelers to find a recommendation for an independent, but in the meantime, I feel validated in my concerns over the dealership’s intentions. Thanks db

I don’t recall ever hearing a report from a poster here of a dealership telling them their car’s check engine light couldn’t be diagnosed and it was probably on simply b/c the car’s age, so live with it. That’s really bad advice if only that if you “live with it” b/c it is a minor problem not worth fixing, if a big and potentially expensive to fix problem later occurs, like the transmission is starting to fail, since the check engine light is already on, you won’t know about it. If that’s an accurate version of what they told you, suggest to find another shop to help you with your car going forward. Leaving the check engine light on all the time and just ignoring it isn’t a viable option w/modern cars.

I gotta say, if a dealer service writer says that you should live with a check engine light being on, and that they can’t fix it, it’s time to say “Goodbye” to those clowns.

Take it to an independent mechanic and ask the same questions you asked us. That car is a fine machine, with many miles left in it, and any shop that says it’s ready for the scrap heap is trying to buy it from you cheap.

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It seems the check engine light is on because of a lean condition fault and the power brake booster is causing the lean fault during idle speeds. One can fear complete power brake failure but it is likely that the condition will progress quite slowly.

Six months ago I replaced a rear main crankshaft seal on a RX300, I thought the vehicle owner was off his rocker because the labor for this repair is more than 15 hours. However the oil leak dripped on the exhaust pipe and some people are sensitive to odors generated by a leak like this.

I don’t agree with others with respect to the interest of the service adviser.

My less feeling service advisers would be happy to collect $4000 to repair this old car. The service advisers concerned with the customers economics will suggest to replace the vehicle rather than repair. Some would feel guilt in collecting $4000 in repair costs in such an old vehicle when a much better (used) vehicle is available for $10,000 to $15,000. A RX 300 is obsolete in the view of a dealer employee, vehicles have improved a great deal in the last 18 years.

Its a very common problem on the RX if you Google it. My advice is to get the timing belt replaced at the same time because it is due for service at 100,000 miles.Get 3 quotes from independant shops and then decide what you want to do.

I have noticed a change in braking over the past few months and was going to have that checked out when this new issue began. I’m so grateful for all the input. Although there are many things to consider, it has helped to clarify my options and give me direction. I’m so happy this forum is here. My dad was a master mechanic and I was always secure knowing that he had my back. It has been many years and several cars since his passing, and I feel completely vulnerable with anything car related. Thank you all for stepping in and offering advice and recommendations!!

You’ve never seen this happen . . . ?

I have, and I suspect some of the others also have seen it happen

In my opinion, the “change in braking” is a far more serious problem than the exhaust leak. That should have priority, if you intend on keeping this vehicle

If it really is just the brake booster or the line, replace the faulty parts, and your brake problem will be resolved. And hopefully, that was the only cause of the lean condition, which turned on the check engine light

If all goes well, your brakes will be fine, and your check engine light will be off

Then you can tackle the oil leak