Replace engine in 99 celica?

Hey Everybody! So my 99 celica seized up on the highway today. Apparently it was leaking more oil than I realized! I’d just had the oil changed about a month ago, but it was four quarts low when it got towed to the shop. Mechanic says it was a leaky engine and not a problem with the oil change, he showed me that it was all wet with oil underneath. Anyway, my question is whether it’s worth about $2000 to replace the engine? That’s the ballpark estimate the mechanic gave me. The car has 135k miles on it, and it’s fully loaded and very clean–leather interior, sunroof, cold a/c, a couple very minor dents. So what do you think? Save it or junk it? If I junk it, how much could I get for it if I sell it for parts?

You can probably make your money back on parts, but it is a hassle. If you had to spend money to replace the car what would you buy and at what cost?

If I had to replace it, I’d be looking for a used Toyota or Honda for under 10k. So I might end up with something only a little better than what I’ve got?

I guess I wondered, if I did junk it, whether I could just sell the whole thing “for parts,” and if so how much I might get? The mechanic offered to donate it for me, but it seems like I might be able to get at least a little for it. I recently replaced the front brakes and tires. Sigh.

If you’re going to junk it, I would recommend selling the parts that make the most money first (such as headlights, taillights, various modules, etc.), then sell it to a scrap metal recycler by the pound. If you are able to do that, you’ll most likely get more than if you were to simply sell it to a junkyard.

I agree with @98caddy. The parts are worth more than the sum of the car. But, parting out a car can take weeks or months. If the interior is as clean as you state, find a celica forum that has a ‘For Sale’ section and put the ad up there. Someone with a worn out interior may be willing to deal. For larger items that shipping costs would be high on, a local ad on a local website sponsored by the local paper or craigslist can also be fruitful.

Thanks, everybody! So do you guys think it’s not worth it to replace the engine? If I junked it, I don’t think I’d have the energy to sell off the parts, but I like the idea of finding a celica forum and trying to sell it as is.

Regarding, “I’d just had the oil changed about a month ago, but it was four quarts low when it got towed to the shop”…

No matter what you decide to do with this old car, unless you get into the habit of checking your oil on a regular basis, you run the risk of trashing the engine on all of the cars that you will own in the future.

Since I am no longer physically able to do my own oil changes, this is my routine:

I check the dipstick before I leave the service facility, just to make sure that nobody screwed up.

I recheck the dipstick the next day, as well as check my garage floor for evidence of leaks, in order to make sure that the crankcase has sufficient oil.

If everything under the hood is apparently OK within 24 hours, I then wait a of week before checking fluid levels again on my 2011 vehicle. However, if I was driving a 14 year old vehicle, I would recheck all fluid levels at least twice every week.

By failing to lift the hood and do some simple under-hood checks for at least a month, you have now trashed the engine of this old car–something that may have been totally avoidable.

Don’t you think that a more proactive approach to maintenance with your next vehicle would save you a lot of money in the long run?

This is one of those “if” moments. If the vehicle is in very good shape and if you really like this vehicle then I would replace the engine. Your car only has 135K on the clock and you couldn’t replace your vehicle for only $2,000. If all the “if’s” line up then replace the engine and check that engine oil periodically. In fact, get in the habit of checking everything periodically. It will save you money in the long run.

I vote for a good used engine.

On a '99 anything- a whole lot depends on the body. Up here in the rust/road salt belt- 135K or 300K, the body and undercarriage could be pretty bad. Arizona- a whole different equation.

Thanks, all! This damsel in distress appreciates your advice. :wink: I do love the look of the car and it is very clean, but it has spent the past few years in Milwaukee and I think it’s probably pretty rusty. And I recently moved to CA, so I could probably getting something used but in better shape. Tough choice!

And yes, VCD, I know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I’d been taking it for an oil change every few months and not had trouble with it being low before, so I guess I got lazy. It’s a little strange that it suddenly lost four quarts in a month. The mechanic said that it was leaking from several places, so…I guess it lost the will to live. But I will be more careful in the future. :slight_smile:

Because you said you “love the look of the car and it is very clean”, I was leaning towards the option of replacing the engine… until you mentioned Milwaukee.

Yes, it’s possible that you have a rust problem, maybe even likely. But it might be worth getting someone knowledgeable to investigate that before you make your decision to fix or junk the car. It might be ok, it’s worth a look. If it was really bad, your mechanic would probably have already noticed that, so it’s probably somewhere between pristine and dangerous.

If you decide to fix it, consider using Craigslist to look for a “donor car”, that is, a car with the same engine but which has some serious problem like a failed transmission, or body damage which did not affect the engine. If the engine in the donor car will start, it can be evaluated somewhat before you buy it- you mechanic will know what to check.

And as others have said, please check your oil regularly, also coolant (with a cold engine), and transmission fluid - if it’s an automatic. Top off as needed. If any are disappearing, get to a mechanic asap to find out why.

Pick’N’ Pull has engines very cheap. (Course you can’t run them/drive them) before you purchase and pull them… but you can take a wrench and make sure it rotates. And you can check the mileage… And if you have a couple of your male friends help you out; you might be able to get the engine replaced for not a bunch of funds.

And I guess I’m somewhat insane - because if you have a garage; you could purchase a running ‘junker’ yourself; and drive that for a bit - while you are learning about engines and repairing your seized one. They are repairable. And ( has very good prices on pistons, etc. But this ends up making you into a mechanic and very knowledgeable about your car - and might not be your type of tea or experience at all…

Good luck.

I’m trolling Craigslist and starting to think I should replace the engine and then sell it and buy something newer! Celica’s are commanding a pretty good price in Los Angeles. I found a 98 Celica, not running, with 220k miles on the clock, asking $1800!

There are a couple of potential problem areas that might be pointed out.
One is that a used engine may have a problem (burning oil for instance) and the car may not pass a California emissions inspection the next go around.

Two is that from my personal experience and a non-scientific head count, about 30-40% of the used engines, transmissions, rear axles, what have you that I’ve dealt with have had a problem. Some have been comparatively minor and others were nothing but scrap metal.

If you go with a used engine make sure you have an clear, written understanding with the shop about who and what if a used engine turns out to not be so good.
If rust is an issue underneath then it might be time to just write the car off and crush it.

4 qts low? U started car that morning with 1 qt? And oil light went off? I really don’t understand how oil pressure system works or is “happy” with 1 qt? 1 month ago u had 4qts life is good. 2 wks ago u had 2.5 qts. Life is still good. No oil lights during driving. Today u had 1 qt. light is still off. Till motor seizes?

@Cavell, that light simply means there was enough oil for the pump to maintain 6-7 psi. If a 1/2 a quart in the sump covers the inlet screen of the pump, the light will not go on. By the time that light comes on, the damage is usually done. Continuing to drive just finishes the job.

That’s interesting, Busted, because I’m pretty sure the light didn’t come on. It’s possible I missed it, but what you said would explain why it didn’t. So if I did have an agreement with the shop about the new engine, what kind of agreement should I expect? Some sort of guarantee that it will pass a smog check? It’s due for one.

here is a forum for you

If you have the 1.8 liter engine, that is an “A” series engine that has a history with the front crank seal. They can and do catastrophically fail and dump all the oil quickly. This usually doesn’t happen until they hit around 250k miles and they usually start a slow drip before they let go all together.

As far as I know, the 2.2 liter engine does not have this problem but if you join the forum above, you may find out different. If you decide to sell, this may be the best place to do that from.

Being in CA complicates things a bit. You’ll need to make sure the replacement engine is a close match and you’ll need to get it smog tested before you can sell it. I’d look at for a replacement.