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Should we repair our 15 year old cars?

I have a 99 Acura TL, 100K miles & it has an oil leak; hubby has a 98 Toyota Land Cruiser, 200K miles which has an oil leak & some brake work is needed. Should we put ANY repair $$ into two 15 year old cars? Maybe fix the TL & replace the Cruiser? Replace them both? Does anyone have any suggestions?

Oil leaks and brake (edit, brake not break, geez I did it myself) work are really almost maintenance items on older cars. Depending on what the cause of the leak is, I sure wouldn’t throw a car out for that. I had a severe leak (1 quart per 500 miles) that was just a $15 oil pan gasket. So I guess I’d fix them and decide about replacement on your own terms and time table. If you don’t like them anymore, then trade, but not for minor repairs.


If the bodies on these cars is showing some rusted areas I’d consider replacing them. But, if you have no rust, then both of these are are pretty good candidates for a lot more miles. If you want a new car then a repair bill is a good excuse to go for it.

Oil leaks in older cars are kind of assumed and it depends on how significant the leak is whether you repair it or live with it. A dealer mechanic is told to point out some dirt on the motor and call it a leak. IMO if there is no evidence of a few drops of oil on the garage floor, then the leak is minor and not worth fixing. Brake work is just part of driving any car, so that isn’t really an issue at all.


+1 to Bing’s comment.
Whether you should put money into them depends upon the condition of the vehicles overall and whether you can afford to replace them. My current car has 210,000 miles, and it’s still going striong. My last Toyota pickup had 338,000 miles on it when it got hit and totaled. If you’d like to do this, you can too. Keep the vehicle maintained, repair things as they happen, and you’ll save TONS of money over trading them in.

The cost of repair vs. the car’s value is only important if you’re trying to convince your wife to let you get that shiny new Hupmobile.

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If you have the money then it’s nice to have at least one newer vehicle. If you don’t, then it is less costly to keep an old car going until the repair costs become larger than payments. That can not be predicted but your judgement will tell you the right thing to do when it is happening. It will include a quality of life factor that will tell you that life is too short to waste it driving rubbish.

If the vehicles are solid, then repair them and keep driving.

I drive my vehicles until one of three things happens. The engine or transmission fails, or the body/interior are totally rusted/worn out.

Sure beats car payments and higher insurance premiums.



Agree with @uncleturbo and @same in general from an economic point of view. Your repairs are not deal breakers (like transmissions and motors) as long as the cars have solid bodies. From a personal standpoint @WhatWho and @Bing make sense too. If I can afford it, I don’t drive 15 year old cars with over 200k miles with poor mileage that I have to depend on. I might wave good buy to the Land Cruiser… Everyone has excellent thoughts on a situation that may not have a wrong answer.

For many years I said I’d drive my car until it collapsed in the middle of the road. In '89, I actually did. I had a '79 Toyota pickup, both sides of the frame rotted out, and it literally broke in half in the middle of the road. I heard a banging sound and things got wobbly. I pulled into a parking lot, pushed on the top of the bed, and the top of the bed was banging against the back of the cab. I looked underneath, and the only thing holding the front half and the back half together was that the front bed mounts were spanning two totally rotted out places where frame used to be. I had it hauled off to my local boneyard, and the owner took it in, bolted 2x4s between the cab and the bed, and used it as a yard truck. It’s probably still running.

Other than agreeing with fixing them if they’re solid, I have to wonder exactly what all those vehicles need maintenance-wise if there is balking over an oil leak and brakes.

How much of a leak?
A little seepage and an oily patch around the source is normal at 15 years, but dealer service writers love to point at minor leaks and scare customers into a big repair job or trade-in.

+++ to Circuit’s post.
And it always irritates the bejesus out of me. To my mind, it’s downright dishonest.

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I’m with OK…If you’re crying about repairing leaks…and brakes !..what else are you NOT doing for these vehicles that you know dang well you should be ?
Therein lies the caveat which we cannot see from here ; the overall condition of the rest of the vehicle.
Do you brush your teeth so you can keep them ? then maintain -as needed- your vehicles.

As has been said also ; the value of a fifteen year old vehicle lies in its ability to be kept active and functional. NEVER its selling price if you’re keeping it as long as possible…I have a 1979 and , guess what ? I’m KEEPING it ! not selling it so I don’t ever even wonder about its ‘‘value’’ to anyone else but me…keeping it.

My 08 Expedition just turned 100k…I’m keeping it too.
Front brake pads ( first time ), fluid changes and away we go .
I will do every thing it needs to stay going, and going, and going…and…
( tires are next up . 60k on these )

I’d find out where the oil leak is coming from in both cases, a leaky cam seal can cost more than a Valve cover or Oil pan gasket to replace but much less than buying 1-2 new cars. Assuming both vehicles have been maintained on schedule these issues are pretty much what you could expect at this
age/mileage. If you’re on the fence you might consider having either or both go through a full inspection like you would if you were buying the car. In our case it proved that our 16yr old car was still in very good shape with very little needing fixed.

I’d say they are both good for another 5 years. Fix what’s leaking, and re-evaluate then.

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I have a friend who drives his cars into the ground. He even licenses them as farm vehicles so they don’t have to be inspected as long as he drives them within ten miles of home. His PU broke in two as well. The sad connection is, as a runner, he used to run his running shoes into the ground. Now in his sixties, he can barely walk on arches that have totally collapsed. You need to know when hold 'm, know when to walk away and when vehicles become unsafe, know when to fold, on their use.

I notice OP hasn’t been back.

I really don’t like these “settle a difference between my spouse and me.” It feels more like marriage counseling than auto counseling. I suspect that, frequently, one side “runs it up the flagpole” just to see if they get a favorable answer. If they do, they use it as ammunition in “the war of sexes”; if they don’t, they just go away.

If the Accura hasn’t had its timing belt changed recently, then it is due. Replacing the oil seals behind the timing belt will probably stop any leaks. All together, this will be about a $750 to $1000 job at a dealer, and it should be done by a dealer. If it is close to needing new tires, brakes, battery, etc, then it might cost upwards of $2000 or more over the next year. But once all that is done, it will provide many more years of service.

Toyota engines have a seal in the cover behind the harmonic balancer that goes out at about this mileage and it will drop a lot of oil, very quickly if ignored. But it is easy to change. It requires a special tool, but I made one out of a 1x4 piece of wood and a couple of bolts.

THANKS everyone for all the input! Appreciate the different perspectives. The dealer indicated my TL had multiple leaks & >$1,000 to repair (valve cover gasket & oil pump housing). A private mechanic suggested we start from the top & repair the valve cover gaskets ($285). He indicated the oil pump housing was inside & could not even be seen from the outside, so the dealer may have just seen drippings from the v.c. gasket. TL is “clean” as all the mechanics tell me. It still looks like the day I bought it inside & out. I was just concerned about it turning into a money pit with repair after repair, but with only 100K miles, your input reinforced my desire to keep the old girl longer. PLUS new 2015 Acura TLX is coming out soon & I probably would want to wait at least for the 2016. I am taking TL in to private mechanic tomorrow. Jury is not in on Land Cruiser yet, but thanks for post about getting a full mechanic inspection - hubby liked that idea as he needs a $2,000 part for his brake issue, then labor, then oil leak issue resolved - more to evaluate.

Considering the repair costs, it would be impractical to recommend fixing a car which is 15 years old, as it would need multiple components replaced to restore it function like a new one, and be safe to drive on all kinds of terrains and including long distance travel. It is not impractical for hobbyists to be able to do that with just 1500 dollars or so, because labor is free, and the time spent is a mere enjoyment. Such repairs could cost upwards of 3k dollars in labor alone, that I just found out, on a second car that I wanted to restore. These repairs are only suggested if the engine and transmission have been well maintained with oil changes, and the body+interior are in good condition. Transmission oil changes are a must after 60000 miles or so, in my opinion, if one is expecting it to last 200k or more. This is a partial list of components, top to bottom, that are due for replacement around 100k or at 12 yrs good running car–valve cover gasket, adjust/check valve timing, change spark plugs, clean throttle body, rebuild power steering pump (mostly for the pulley bearing ), rebuild alternator with new bearings and possibly brushes, change AC clutch pulley, change belt and tensioner with accessory pulley, starter replacement if the car is driven on most of the days, strongly recommend changing water pulley, change all suspension parts and outer rods(perhaps inner)- as it is not worth salvaging anything out of these, consider changing drive shafts if they are showing signs of any failure, change harmonic balancer (no one tells how would they age and fail, but they will definitely not be doing their job as intended leading to unexplained vibration and premature failure of engine parts ), change brake oil, change main coolant hoses and clamps (even if they seem fine, as the more modern way the hoses wear is due to generated electric currents which degrade them from inside near their ends). An aftermarket power steering filter, new hoses and flush can potentually keep the system running twice it’s lifetime without leaks.

Good Greif Charlie Brown. Now their vehicles are 17 years old and would have made a decision by now.