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


Think about that argument. A microwave is an accessory to the house. You can have a fine house with no microwave. Is a timing chain an accessory to the car?

I’m not against making repairs at all. But I wouldn’t say “I drove that Dodge truck to nearly 200k miles. Dodge’s are quite reliable” without including the fact that the trans went kaput at 130k miles. It doesn’t mean the Dodge is a bad truck. But when you disregard major repairs along the way and talk about high mileage, it muddies the waters somewhat in my opinion. Sort of along the same lines as the guy argued way back when the original post started. Not that I agree or disagree with his opinion on domestic vs Japanese brands.

Bottom line, to me it’s more credible to say X car went Y miles with no internal repairs vs. X car went Z miles, after I replaced the timing chain, head gasket, etc.

And Bing is the only person I’ve ever heard of in my life who had a transmission overhaul as preventive maintenance. But that may not be a bad idea considering he got half a mil out of his rig.


Perceptions of reliability vary, I guess. My wife’s car when we got married was a Toyota Camry. We replaced the timing belt, changed the plugs and wires somewhere around 100k miles. It went to 208k miles and developed a miss that the Toyota dealer couldn’t figure out so we traded it off. I’d consider that fairly reliable. The Dodge truck I owned at the time started missing gears in the auto trans around 130k miles. I changed the fluid and filter religiously every 30k miles, mainly because I’d heard horror stories about Dodge transmissions. The most recommended transmission shop couldn’t diagnose it and told me to keep driving it (it shifted fine for them). Pretty soon it locked into overdrive and stalled. Wouldn’t downshift anymore after some erratic shifting. Transmission wound up getting rebuilt, so Toyota beats Dodge in that scenario.

Fast forward to the present, Buick Lesabre I now own has had zero repairs other than a thermostat replaced that failed open. 160k mikes. My wife’s Toyota had to have a catalytic converter replaced at a little over 80k miles. It’s got 110k miles now, no issues. So I suppose thus far GM more reliable than Toyota in this scenario.

I guess overall it’s a wash, depending on each particular model/engine/transmission. But I still don’t trust Chrysler transmissions!


If you were driving a car with 300,000 miles up in northern Minnesota in the wintertime, 400 miles from home, and it’s 20 below out, $2000 is a small price to pay to even the odds of not getting stalled in the middle of nowhere. I just figured I wasn’t more than 50-75,000 miles premature when it would need it anyway. I just picked when and where instead of letting the car pick.


Add one to your list!

I was helping a friend of mine to swap his original transmission on Toyota Echo with 223K miles and not a single transmission fluid change.

It was indeed preventative, as transmission was showing it will fail soon-ish.

The sign was a vibration in final gear, was found to be quite worn due to old/black oil there, he said after that he finally agreed to my argument that fluid has to be changed, it is NOT a lifetime.

Other than that, his car is in great mechanical shape, engine compression is still good, no oil leaks, 250+ on odometer.

To the point of repairs, he had wheel bearings to fail, one by one, between 160K and 200K miles, had to redo brakes, etc… Neither of these are “accessories” in the aforementioned metaphor of a microwave, but I do not consider them to be of “repair” type, more of “normal maintenance” once car is past 150K miles.


As long as we’re telling each other to think about our arguments, think about yours. :wink:

A transmission dying at 130k miles is not the same thing as a timing chain needing replacement at 350k miles. Today’s transmissions should and routinely do last far beyond 130k before they develop problems. Timing chains routinely last that long too, but 350k is quite a bit more than 130k.

Components of engines die. If a component of an engine dies at 350k miles, that’s not a terribly rational reason to proclaim the car unreliable.


I agree 100% and didn’t say otherwise. Maybe I was unclear. Timing chain replacement (or basically any replacement) at 350k mikes wouldn’t make me consider a vehicle unreliable. All I meant was if I was talking about the vehicle’s reliability, I’d say it was basically untouched for 350k miles. I wouldn’t say it ran to XXXk miles beyond the 350k and leave the timing chain replacement out (or transmission, or any other major item). So maybe we’re not arguing.


Oh, yeah, we’re not 'cause neither would I. Heck, I mention the $1.50 power steering pump washer I had to replace when talking about my Acura’s reliability. :wink:


something tells me it is not $1.50 you are frustrated about? :slight_smile:


More like “and the total $120 or so I’ve spent on unanticipated repairs in the 12 years it’s been on the road includes this $1.50 washer.” :wink:


The only Asian car with that price for a timing belt job would be a V6. The cost of the timing belt job for an I4 engine is about 60% of that amount.

The job gets even more expensive on a minivan, but not a car.


Closer to a grand with a V6 if you have them replace all the other stuff you should replace while you’re in there.


Depends on the vehicle. If it’s a transverse mounted V6 then yes it’s more expensive because of labor involved. But the timing belts on my Pathfinders (90 and 98) were easy. Far easier then my Wife’s I-4 Accords.


The $800 figure was not meant to be a bid but only to illustrate a point. Years ago, I have paid $500 for a 4 cyl and zero for a V6. The point was not the dollar amount but viewing one as a maintenance item and the other as a repair for accounting purposes.

I’ve been trying to bow out of this discussion but keep getting pulled back in.


If you were to bid $800, I’d let you do my next T-belt on the TL. :smiley:


Mine was free on the TL, and the coffee was free too.


I bought my 93 Toyota Pickup new and the only repair required before it reached 200,000 miles was a water pump and timing chain set, and front brake pads at 190,000. Now at 300,000 miles it’s still going strong and uses no oil. Still has the original clutch, starter, alternator, and even radiator hoses.


Thanks. I needed a laugh this Monday morning.


I hope econobox realizes that the Japanese were by no means the only ones to use rubber timing belts


I’ll happily plead guilty

me and most of my family members have had Japanese cars for well over 30 years

no complaints


So did I



My 1998 Civic cost $14,000 new.

If you paid $30,000 for a lemon Camry, I wouldn’t be bragging about it.

Maybe the issue was your indy’s diagnostic skills, or lack of them.

Based on the symptoms you encountered and the life of your other cars, it sounds like you’re very hard on your cars.