What needs to be done to our 2002 Toyota Camry?

My husbands MO-buy a Toyota, drive it 100K miles, change the oil every 5K miles, sell. He has never done any maintenance other than oil changes unless it’s a breakdown situation or the tires are bald. We are honest with buyers about our lack of maintenace, usually get a lower price as a result.

This car, however, is going to our oldest child, who is just getting his license. I am not happy just handing over the keys without some maintenance, but husband is adamant that we should just wait until something breaks, and that the maintenance schedule is just to provide dealer profit.

What is the bare minimum you would do to a 2002 Camry with 93000 miles before you gave it to your only son?


Frankly, your husband is an idiot. All he has to do is follow the required maintenance listed in the Owners Manual/Maintenance Schedule. The maintenance does not have to be done at the dealer; you just must save receipts.

Many other questions come to mind: Has he had a warranty claim denied due to lack of scheduled maintenance? How would he feel if your son was stranded in a remote location with a cooling system failure that was preventable by changing coolant? How would he feel if your son was killed due to brake failure when the brake fluid wasn’t changed?


The car is now 7 years old and there is a lengthy laundry list IMHO. Assuming this car has had zero anything other than oil changes and tires you could start with this:
Trans fluid change
Fuel filter
Air filter
Thorough inspection of all suspension components and brakes
Wiper blades
Brake fluid change
Coolant change
Spark plugs and plug wires

That’s just to get the ball rolling. The unknown part is any future problems that may crop up due to your husband’s failure to maintain the car properly. (Example. Failing to change the fuel filter on a regular basis may cause a premature fuel pump failure).

Your husband is off base to put it politely (way off base) and the maintenance schedule is published by the people who actually build the car, not the dealer. It sounds like your husband is the poster child for the type of person I rail about on this board all of the time; ignore a car to oblivion and blame the car maker/dealer/mechanic/world when something does go wrong.

And I agree with Rockford. There are some things there that have the potential to cause a breakdown at the least and possible injury/death at the worst. No way would I turn a neglected, uninspected vehicle over to a new driver.
It’s one thing to sell a car to an adult with the disclaimer that maintenance has been neglected; it’s quite another to palm it off on your own kid. Pathetic.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but your husband isn’t someone who should have anything to do with cars…ever…if that’s the way he treats them. The maintenance schedule is only for dealer profit?? That’s one of the biggest laughers I’ve heard in a very long time. I guess he’s never heard of people doing their own maintenance. How does the dealer profit from that?

And you really want to hand off a severely neglected vehicle to your own child? Let’s run through some nightmare scenarios that are quite possible given this car’s history:

  • Brake fluid not changed? At some point during hard braking, the fluid boils away because of moisture buildup and vaporizes. SHAZAM - no brakes!

  • Fuel filter never changed? Go to start up the car, and it won’t kick because the fuel pump has given out, a direct result of being overworked because of a plugged fuel filter. SHAZAM - stranded!

  • (If this car has the V6 engine) Timing belt not replaced? Rolling down the road, and the engine just stops. The belt snapped because it wasn’t replaced on time, and since the V6 is an inteference engine, the pistons smacked into the valves and bent them. SHAZAM - $1500 repair bill (at the least)!

Honestly, why even own a car if you’re only going to neglect and abuse it?

I disagree on “idiot”. If you purchase a car with the intent of keeping only to 100k even 150k miles, bare minimal maintenance is a cheap route to go. I personally would change the coolant though and brake fluid for safety every 2-4 years.

Kudo’s for them on being honest to the next owners, I would not risk buying myself though.

Your husband’s methods are quite reasonable in certain perspective. He does not intend to keep a new car for its entire natural life, so he starts by buying a car renowned for its reliability and longevity. He keeps it only to the point where, as many Toyotaphiles would say, “It’s barely broken in!” Then he replaces it. So if he does not maintain any car for the long haul, saving money all the while, his methods may be considered quite sound. Well, economical at least – provided his gambles pay off.

But now you wish to extend this car’s life. Good idea, and no big deal. The car’s owner’s manual contains a list of recommended services at the 90K or 100K mark. Take care of all of them. You would want the new spark plugs and you will replace certain fluids, change some filters, and so on. It’s all in the book.

These services may set you back some $300-$500. This is a small amount to pay for your son’s ‘free’ car. Most car owner’s pay this sum every year, as they should if they intend to keep a car forever. Don’t begrudge this amount.

Note that you don’t have to have the work done at a Toyota dealership. Any independent shop can do the job, typically for much less.

ok4450 has provided you with a very good, comprehensive list of what should be done. However, in view of your husband’s…I will try to be polite…rather ignorant view of automotive maintenance, I suspect that you will not be able to convince him to do these things, even if it might potentially save your child’s wallet or his/her life. So, I would suggest just giving this list to your child, along with the promise to pay for all of these procedures as soon as he/she has had them done.

Of course, my suggestion presupposes that your child has taken after you, rather than his/her…negligent…father. If the child has been molded in the image of his father’s personality, then you can’t trust him/her to have these things taken care of and you will have to take charge of the situation and have proper inspection and maintenance taken care of prior to transferring title.

Hopefully, you can access sufficient funds, independent of your husband, in order to give the necessary money (anywhere from $400. to a very large sum, depending on what other problems were caused by your husband’s inattention to maintenance) to your child in order to have these procedures taken care of. Even if your husband doesn’t mind having your child stranded on a country road in the dark of night, and even if he doesn’t mind having your child experience possible brake failure, I assume that you are intelligent enough to see the risks to which your husband would expose your child.

Just take care of the safety related items, let your child drive it for a year, then junk the car. Hubby should agree to that plan.

with out making any suggestions/comments/or remarks about the cars history and maintenance history (or lack thereof)

as a first car just make sure the brakes are good. i would actually (and have done this for my kids) have all four rotors and pads replaced. and have a mechanic check and adjust (if necessary) the brake booster and Master cylinder.

the other things that may be wrong with the car wont cause your son any problem. yes, they may be an inconvenience if he breaks down, and is stranded somewhere, but other than the brakes, the other stuff is possible to go out on ANY car you may get for him. seriously, you don’t really think ANY used car is going to be maintained any better when you buy it off the street do you?

the unknown is scary, but in perspective the brakes are the real issue. the other possible maintenance issues have to do with the car going. if your son can’t stop, then you have problems.

Well you have gotten a lot of comments about what others think about your husbands thought on car maintenace so I won’t touch anymore on that. I only suggest that changing any fluids for the vehicle at the normal scheduled times would be a good thing to do. Especially in the engine and transmission areas. Also by doing those things it should allow you to get more money for the vehicle when it comes time to sell it.

One other important item to not ignore is engine timing belt changes, if the engine uses them. Break a belt there on an interference type engine, then someone better have a crying towel with them after they get the news on the repair cost, they are going to need it.

Finally, my recommendation to you and as others have already stated, is to change all fluids used in the vehicle. Check to see if a timing belt is used in the engine and what the recommended replacement mileage is, replace if necessary. Have the brakes and coolant hoses checked for any problems. Also replace all filters used in the vehicle. Then just have the whole car inspected for any other issues while working on it and it is on the lift. Knowing Toyota, the car may go another 93,000 miles.

I totally agree, but I would add one likely thing.  If this vehicle does not have a timing chain, it is likely time for a new timing belt.  If it an interference type engine (I believe it is) it is critical to have that belt replaced or it is going to stop without warning and cost a ton of money to fix.  

It is just plain foolish not to do basic maintenance. It is especially important to change that transmission fluid if it is an automatic and it would be good idea to change out the water pump if it is getting a timing belt change.

Change all fluids, including motor oil, trans fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. This car is way overdue for a timing belt. Include water pump with timing belt. Tune-up, including new plugs, wires, pcv valve, air filter, and fuel filter. Replace all drive belts. Check brake pad linings and tire wear.

Some time ago I was in the position of your oldest child. On an overseas job assignment I was given a Toyota Corona (similar to a Camry) which an Australian manager had merrily driven for 160,000 km (100,000 miles) withou ANY maintenance other than chaiging oil OCCASIONALLY.

Since my driving included going to remote jungle locations, I REFUSED TO DRIVE THE CAR until it had been to a reputable garage, and a long list of items similar to the ons of our posters here, had had been checked.

When the car came back it was great; the following had been done:

  1. Spark plugs and tune-up, including fuel filter
  2. Radiator flushed and all hose replaced
  3. New shock absorbers
  4. Complete brake job with fluid changed
  5. All ball joints and CV joints inspected
  6. Transmission fluid and filter changed
  7. New lightbulbs to replace the broken ones.
  8. All drive belts changed

The local Nissan dealer actually did the work. The only remaining problem was the alarm on the car had a mind of its own, and just touchhing the car when it was locked would set it off.

The total cost was $6400 Malaysian dollars or about $2100 US. The dealer used factory parts which are expensive over there.

In summary, for the sake of your child’s comfort, peace of mind and safety, find a good mechanic and do the items us professional guys recommend.

The minutae has killed and injured many people over the years. While I don’t remember the exact numbers involved, I believe several people were killed and several dozen injured due to Ford Motor Company’s TFI-IV ignition module, which was the subject of a class action lawsuit against FOMOCO.

Who would expect that kind of problem from a lowly ignition module of all things.
One ignored ball joint or badly worn brake pad slipping out of the yoke could produce the same results.
Selling it to a grown adult who can choose to inspect the vehicle is far different than pitching the keys to Jr. and saying good luck.

Where is the fuel filter in a 2002 Camry? On our 2002 Sienna, it is in the gas tank, and has a very, very long replacement cycle. At 141,000 miles it’s not even on my worry list.

My list for the Toyota Corona was TYPICAL of what a neglected, but well built car needs at 100,000 miles. Agree in the US, where gas is cleaner, the fuel filter has a very long life. My main safety concern is always the suspension (ball joints, steering connections, etc) and the brakes.

Other concerns are the health of the car’s mechanicals and how to make them reliable and long lived.

Thanks Docnick, your answer is great because it’s close to our situation. There IS a manual for maintenance at 90K and 100K miles, I just wasn’t sure the ramifications of all that has been ignored.

BTW, my husband is like many genius engineers, brilliant in some areas (oil refining) and just unable to see the point in others (potential danger to his only son).

About 30 years ago, H drove from Indiana to Alaska with 4 other teenage males in some old van. They had all kinds of mechanical problems. No cell phones, no credit cards. They always figured it out and he remembers it as a great adventure. Impossible for him to see his son could DIE from our mistreatment of the car.

Son is very much like his dad. He knows a lot about history and medicine at 16, not a thing about cars. Next time dad goes to Europe on business (before we hand over the car), I will get it to a mechanic with docnick’s list. He will bitch at me for a day about the money and then he’ll get over it. IMO, the money he makes being brilliant at oil refining allows me to pay for brilliant people to do everything else we need done!

Thanks again for your help, it is appreciated!

Thank you for your reply; I also work in the energy field but my specialty is Reliability Engineering and Maintenance, mostly of multi-million dollar installations.

I’m sure your husband knows that a typical refinery maintenance budget can easily be $30 million dollars or more per year. Many oil companies call maintenance “Capacity Assurance” or “Failure Prevention”.

Maintenance has much in common with good, proactive health care. Many very healthy persons lead unhealthy lifestyles or eat unhealthy diets.