Should I buy a 2002 Camry with a rebuilt engine?

I’m considering a 2002 Camry that has had its engine rebuilt by the dealer when it was essentially new. Cause was a bad oil change where the wrong filter had been installed. Engine went dry. I was told there have been no problems with it since. The car has very low mileage and has been regularly maintained. Should I be scared off by the rebuilt engine?

Possibly. The word “rebuilt” is one that is widely abused and can mean any one of a dozen procedures. Only one procedure is the correct one.

The only way I would buy this story would be if the entire paperwork trail behind this alleged rebuild was provided. This means a complete parts list involved, machine shop costs, etc. Without that, bunk.

At a minimum, you could have a quick compression test and a more detailed leakdown test performed along with an oil pressure test.

Compression should be up in the 190 PSI range and oil pressure will vary based on temperature, type of oil, etc. You should see 30 PSI at a minimum at idle speeds.

I can’t believe that the engine received a rebuild in the dealer’s shop. A good engine rebuild is very labor intensive and dealers in my area don’t do this. Instead, they install a factory rebuilt engine. If this is the case, I don’t see a problem. However, if the rebuild was done in the dealer’s shop, I would have concerns.

The reason for the rebuild, a wrong filter, sounds a little suspect to me. I have often gone through oil filter choices in a store’s stock and have interchanged filters to get one with more filtration area. Except for diameter, length, gasket diameter, and thread size, filters look pretty much alike to me. Almost none have no antidrainback flap. The bypass may have different pop-off pressures but with a clean filter this should be no issue. I find it difficult to believe that an oil filter that fit could permit engine damage. If the filter fits, there should be no wrong filter unless it is too small and gets plugged with debris which is unlikely if the oil and filter are changed per the owner’s manual.

If the filter was double gasketed or if the gasket was forgotten, the oil may have leaked out onto the road; then the engine could have run out of oil to make damage. Ask the dealer for more detail about this “wrong filter”.

The owner has a receipt for more than 7K from a local dealer in early 2003 that indicates the engine was rebuilt. We’re in the suburban Chicago area. The quick-lube oil change place paid for it. After that, all work was done at a local dealer. We’re going to have it checked out using the suggestions ok4450 made.

I would almost bet that the dealer installed a factory rebuilt engine. Most dealer service departments don’t have the equipment to rebuild an engine. If the dealer pulled the engine and sent it to a machine shop that rebuilds engines, this would be acceptable. Ok4450 gives good suggestions for checking the engine. If it passes this test, the engine is probably fine.

For 7 grand this should mean a proper, by the book rebuild. I’ve worked for dealers and have rebuilt a fair number of engines as have some fellow mechanics.
Machine shop procedures such as crankshaft machining, cylinder boring, cylinder head surfacing, and (most of the time) valve jobs are a sublet item farmed out to a local auto machine shop.
The tech at the dealer sets everything up when the parts are in a pile and all of the machine work is done. It’s not that rare.

Whether an engine is rebuilt or whether it’s replaced is usually a decision based on economics. When it comes to foreign branded cars engines are often very expensive and it may be cheaper to rebuild than replace.

The part that I don’t get is with 7 grand involved why even rebuild it. A new long block or short block could likely have been done for that kind of money. A rebuild at 3/4/5 grand maybe, not 7.

For that kind of money I would assume that it was done right but without seeing a complete parts list and machine shop sublet list it’s impossible to be sure.
Just a suggestion but maybe you could contact the dealer that did this work and verify what exactly was done or not done. They should not object to providing this information.
If it’s a matter of semantics and that engine was actually replaced with a new factory long block then I’d say go for the car.

Looks like we’re buying a car. After looking at the original receipt for the “rebuild” we found out that the engine was actually replaced at the Toyota Dealer. The car has only 31,000 miles on it and has had regular service with receipts from the dealer. We’re planning on replacing the serpentine belt and tires. The battery has been replaced, fluids and air filters recently changed. Any other things we should consider? This will be driven by a 21 year old girl, so we want it to be reliable.

That certainly cleared that up and there should not be any problems. Drive it right, perform regular oil changes, etc. and it should easily go 300k miles.

There are differences of opinions on what constitutes regular oil changes. My opinion is that it depends on the environmental conditions and type of driving the cars sees.
Dusty and/or humid conditions means more regular oil changes as does short hop driving.
In cases like this I would have the oil changed every 3000-3500 miles or at roughly 4/5 month intervals.

Something to always keep in mind is that the oil should be inspected regularly (every few weeks) and if the oil light ever flashes on or the temperature gauge starts to climb to HOT the car should be stopped immediately and the engine shut off.
Doing this can prevent a 20 dollar fix from becoming a 5000 dollar one.