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The myth of maintenance free Japanese cars (...that go to 200k with just gas, tires, and oil)

Hondas? Just “gas, tires, and oil” is a big lie. Tired of hearing this. Most people selectivelt forget how much money they plow into their Hondas and Toyotas.

First, most people who drive Hondas do not DIY, so their maintenance cost is WAY higher than a BMW guy who thinks his spare Honda costs peanuts to maintain. After getting into BMW DIY, my cost of Honda ownership would also plummet, b/c I would now DIY.

For example, here are the 3 major repairs I had on my Camry between 85k and 115k (about 2 years and 30k miles)

Check Engine: O2 Sensor $449.00

Timing Belt. Water Pump.
Check Engine Light. Tune up $902.00

Check Engine: Evap Cannister $627.00

That’s $2000 in 2 years. Hardly “just change the oil, and it will get to 200k!”

Then I stopped fixing stuff, and decided to let it ride (BMW visions dancing in my head…)

By 130k, the car needed a ton of other stuff.
Suspension was literally rattling…
Window wouldn’t go up straight, etc
Check engine light was on…

So, this could have easily been another $1500, if I wanted to spend the money to keep it running right.

It lasted until 140k when it blew and oil seal and killed the motor.

Maintenance free Japanese cars that go to 200k with just gas, tires, and oil (and a 90k timing belt) is a total lie.

What’s been your experience?

Being an ex-dealer Japanese car mechanic I tend to agree with you. The parking lots outside the service doors kind of verifies it.

One thing you should omit from your major repairs list is the timing belt and water pump. That is a routine maintenance procedure and not a sign of a faulty car.
It’s also possible that an O2 sensor and evap canister problem could have been something inflicted upon the car by the previous owner and may not be indicative of a bad car. Without details I have no way of knowing.

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Anyone who thinks ANY car can go 200k with just oil/filters/tires is wrong. Simple as that. What the OP had is pretty normal aside from the ‘blew an oil seal and killed the motor’ - that’s a first one here.

My experience with my 16 year old ES300 (Camry based) includes motor mounts, radiator, power steering hose, a/c compressor, rear suspension bushings, front right CV joint, drivers door window motor, and various gaskets. All of which was fine with me, 16 years/140k of use REQUIRES repairs, in addition to maintenance.

I’ve got a 1992 Toyota Celica with 365,000 miles on it. It has had more than gas, tires, and oil, but not much more. After 12 years, it got new struts. It has had 3 clutches and 6 brake jobs. It is on it’s 3rd timing belt and 4th water pump. I’ve replaced the valve cover seals once. and has had spark plugs replaced numerous times (NGK copper plus seem to lats about 15,000). The battery has been replaced 4 or 5 times, I can’t quite remember. But, the engine has never been taken apart. Believe me, I’ve gotten my money out of this car, and it still keeps rolling, no oil burning, and passes emissions year after year. Keeping up with maintenance is the key.

But, if you have a 10+ year old car with 130,000 miles on it and spend only about $1000 dollars a year on maintenance items, I cannot see how you can do much better. I spend about that much, but it is a lot cheaper than a car payment. Take the BMW in for service, and prepare to cry. BMW = Bring Money With you.

I’d like to create a list of common repairs that Japanese cars need on their way to 200k miles. I want to kill this myth once and for all.

I own a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Sequoia, Ford Thunderbird. I’ve had to spend some money on each of them for repairs but nothing too dramatic. I don’t expect a Japanese car to go to 200K with just tires and oil changes. All my Japanese cars have timing belts and all have been replaced once so far. I don’t believe in the “myth”, but I am very happy with the way my Japanese cars are holding up over time and miles.

What were you expecting? You drive a car 140,000 miles and you think its not going to need repairs? Really? Cars live hard lives, with unpredictable roads, crashing into whatever you don’t notice, very sketchy maintenance of the simple things like tires, brakes, alignment, oil, coolant. There’s no way a car could be expected to be maintenance free.

Your teeth don’t last forever; your refrigerator needs the dust cleaned from the coils, the furnace needs new filters, a drop of oil on the hinges of the doors, some graphite in the front door lock. Stone walls fall down, highway bridges collapse, the Statue of Liberty needed to be restored, the pyramids in Egypt fall down.

Gee whiz.

@ usedeconobox……I want to kill this myth once and for all.

Not sure you can with my experience with a 1986 Nissan 720 pickup.

That vehicle was excellent, but as a simple no frills machine, there was little that could go wrong, so maybe not a fair comparison. No a/c, no electric windows, etc. Bought it used with 180k, when it was about 5 years old, the guy was anxious to get rid of it thinking all those miles would scare people away, so I bought it on the spot for half of what it was worth…good omen. The body and interior were both fine and it ran well.

The odometer broke at 309030 (always liked the symmetry of that) when it lost fifth gear when I was in Yellowstone, 1000 miles from home. Drove home in 4th gear, got about 25 mpg (It would get 30+ at 75mph). Transmission repair was about $300 (I did the R&R and clutch). I think it also had one rebuilt starter, a center link in the steering gear, a hanger bearing for the driveshaft, and ball joints, one clutch (with the trans) and one carb rebuild. Oil changes and coolant, brakes, mostly regular. Might have needed a couple mufflers, one at least. Did most of the work myself so costs were minimal. I won’t take the time to figure total cost, but I can’t imagine I spent over $1500 on “repairs” in the whole time I owned it.

In its later life, it was purely a work truck, including hauling, literally, about two thirds of its weight in sand a couple of times, and often pulling a utility trailer with 1 1/2 yards of compost UP HILL. In other words, I worked it pretty hard and even then, the clutch was still fine when I finally gave it up. Oil changes were probably not quite on schedule, but close.

So I owned it for 20 years when it apparently blew a head gasket. Odometer still said 309030…as it had for 14 years, so no idea how many miles it really went, but I’d guess nearly 400k.

In retrospect, I wish I had bought two of them back then so I would have had a spare now. Or maybe I should have swapped the engine with one from wrecking yard. Today I see them advertised for the same OR MORE than I paid 20 years ago. Compared to a Toyota truck I borrow from time to time (no sand or compost), I’d prefer the Nissan.

I think it would be hard for most owners of cars/trucks to reach 200,000 miles with out at leased some major repairs. No mater who makes them. Now that being said I have seen some do it. My 99 Chevy 4x4 truck Now has 330,000 + on it. Before 200,000 it only needed tires,shocks and a fuel pump. Oil changes were between 5000 and 8000 miles. Plugs,wires cap and rotor at 100,000. After 200,000 it got intake gaskets,water pump and a timing chain. Trans went do to the pan getting a hole punched in it. Just tune it up again. This truck go’s off road and hauls wood. I also pull a fifth wheel trailer. It don’t get washed much and now has a little rust. By the I live in northern Michigan.

Every car I have had has needed some repairs, mostly after 100K miles-well most of the cars were acquired at that mileage anyway. It is one thing with one car and another with another car. Each have their one quirkiness. I have not noticed much if any difference between brands despite what most claim. I have had GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Kia, Mitsubishi, VW, Renault, to name a few.

Just because you paid $450 for an oxygen, sensor doesn’t make it a major repair. The timing belt and water pump are maintenance unless the water pump was leaking and anyway it sounds like you were at the mileage to do it
It sounds like you are trying to justify to someone (yourself ?) buying a BMW by comparing DIY prices for the BMW to dealer prices for the Camry. Apples to Oranges. If you would rather drive a BNW than a Camry then do it. You didn’t have to kill the Camry through neglect, you could have sold it.
By the way, blowing the oil seal doesn’t destroy an engine, it is not shutting off the engine when the oil pressure light comes on that does that.

I’ve owned a Civic, 3 Accords and now a Matrix.
The Hondas needed their share of repairs over the years, but they never left me stranded by the side of the road 100’s of miles from home like my '76 Chevy Nova did TWICE.

There’s always the possibility that if a seal blew out as described that could have been caused by a stuck PCV valve which allowed the crankcase to pressure up. Servicing the PCV regularly is a normal maintenance procedure also and this is also a don’t know in this case issue for me.

I’m reminded of the old 66 Ford pickup a friend of mine had with the straight 6 in it that had so much blowby he had to baling wire the dipstick down to keep it in place. He got tired of hearing the dipstick bang into the hood every time he revved the engine.
Take off from a light, bang, let up on the throttle, shift gears, rev, bang, let up, shift, rev, bang… :slight_smile:

I disagree with a lot of what is in the original post.

I drive a Honda, and I do most of my own maintenance. I’ve heard few people make the “Just gas, tires, and oil” claim about any car, let alone a Honda, and when they do make that claim, a few questions always reveal they do more maintenance than that – or more accurately, they paid someone to do the maintenance – it just doesn’t register at the time.

The prices quoted seem pretty high, and perhaps you should shop around for better prices and stop going to the dealership to get ripped off. My timing belt/water pump jobs cost about half of what the OP pays.

My Honda is 14 years old and has gone more than 200,000 miles, and the only repair I’ve ever had to do is replace a cracked exhaust manifold and a cracked radiator. All the other work I’ve had done or paid someone to do was maintenance, not repairs.

This reminds me of a story I heard about someone who had a Ford Taurus that required $700 worth of repairs over ten years of ownership. The owner got rid of it in favor of a Honda Odyssey, which required three transmissions in five years, and they were still singing the praises for that Odyssey and bashing on how horrible it was to have owned “such a poor quality vehicle” as that Taurus. I guess some people are just really hung up on that Honda quality thing.

J’ve had a variety of cars under my care over the years, including American, European, and Japanese makes. Excluding my early VW Beetle which ran cheaply & reliably, the only dogs were European. The worst, an Audi A4, a vehicle brilliantly designed by German engineers to be a delightful machine,…until just after the warranty expires…then suffer one major repair catastrophe after another indefinitely. The Audi mechanic in whose garage it was often repaired confessed to me that fixing broken Audis finally enabled him to buy a new Lexus.
Four American cars bought new were Fords. Never spent more than a few hundred total after years of use. Kept an Explorer for 16 years and had to get a new starter motor, which I installed myself, cost about $60. Two Thunderbirds never needed a thing beyond routine maintenance, e.g.-oil, filters, tires, brake pads, wipers, etc.
First two Japanese cars, a Toyota Celica GTS and an Acura Integra, both bought used, also ran for years with just routine maintenance (all of which I could do myself, BTW). The Integra especially suffered numerous abuses while being driven by my wonderful daughter, including an accident that caused the car to be “totaled” for insurance purposes. However, I was still able to drive it home (about 100 miles) and straighten out the wrinkles myself. She drove it a couple more years after that with no sign of trouble. I now own a new Accord, and an 8 year old Isuzu Rodeo. The Isuzu just got its timing belt/water pump replacement, cost about $750, and I replaced the shock absorbers myself. But it’s never required any work on unscheduled repairs due to failed parts. In between I drove a Toyota Tundra for 4 years, oil and filter changes only.
So from my perspective the myth is basically true. Drivers who have had to repair their Hondas or Toyotas must be tough on their cars or perhaps just a vocal minority.

I’ve owned Honda’s, Toyota’s, GM’s, Nissan’s, Fords, Chryco’s over the past 40 years of driving. I do my own maintenance. For the past 25 years we’ve owned 2 Honda’s, 3 Nissans, 1 GM and now a Toyota and Lexus…Maintenance costs on the Honda’s were by far the lowest of any vehicle we’ve ever owned. The maintenance cost of our Lexus so far is as low as the Honda’s. But we only have 80k miles on the Lexus. Wait til we get to 250k miles and see what the overall maintenance has been.

By far the highest maintenance cost was my GMC pickup. More then quadruple the repair costs of any vehicle I’ve owned in the past 30 years. It was basically junk after 120k miles…and cost me THOUSANDS to get it to 120k miles.

Anyone who thinks ANY car can go 200k with just oil/filters/tires is wrong.

While I don’t really expect it to happen…my wifes 96 Honda did just that.Put less then $4 in total repairs for the years we owned it. Gave it to my niece in 2008. It had over 240k miles on it. And it was running great. Before we gave it to her I had it thoroughly inspected just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Didn’t want her having any problems with it for her 4 years in college. The mechanic who inspected it wanted to buy it. Couldn’t find one thing wrong with it. She drove it for her 4.5 years in college…and then sold it to a friend. It was over 300k miles by then and still running great.

My Toyota 4runner has had just 1 reoccurring problem…Front brake calipers. The design of the front calipers causes the pistons to freeze. I’ve had to replace them twice now. But replacement costs are only about $90 per caliper and they are very easy to replace.

One last point…I’ve NEVER EVER heard anyone ever say that Japanese vehicles don’t need repairs. But from my experience and experience of neighbors/friends and relatives…they have been far less costly to maintain then any domestic manufacturer vehicle.

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We, the old or infirm have had lots of experience with our cars. The 1976 Impala was my absolute favorite car. You could get parts anywhere and they were cheap too.

I like the Toyota Echo but I also would let somebody else change the radiator. 76 Impala? Got a half hour?

Your problems have nothing to do with reliability issues. IMO, they have more to do with who is doing your service…900 plus for a tune up ? It’s either a dealer who wants to replace everything suspect or an independent who wants to be a dealer. I feel you need to take a more proactive approach instead of falling for every "replace it " suggestion.

Give you an example…I broke a leaf sping off roading and the Toyota dealer wanted to change me $1300 to replace all springs. I opt for a specialist who made up the one leaf…replaced it for less then $200. The specialist does all the work for Toyota dealership anyway, I just cut our the middle man. I coukd give you other items on my Toyota that a little research has saved thousands…but again, it has more to do with the service provider then the car. You are paying way too much for parts and labor …they must be OEM which for many items are unnecessary. Dealerships and some garages just see you as easy pickings.