When is it time to Say Goodbye?

When should I stop putting money into a 96 Camry that has 195,000 miles on it, runs great mostly, but has needed A LOT of maintainance in the last 6 months (including exhaust pipe, muffler, brakes, tires…). I ask, because after all this work, I’m suddenly down three quarts of oil after getting it changed 2 months ago, something that has never happened before, AND I still have a condensation leak from the front area of the exhaust system. It seems sinister. Is this car trying to tell me something?

Everything you mentioned is considered maintenance items…something you’d have to replace eventually on ANY vehicle…even vehicles with many of thousands of miles less.

If the car is running fine then keep it.

Replacing exhaust pipes, brakes, mufflers and tires is entirely normal as a car ages. When a car has over 190k on the odometer, those items are inevitable, no matter what make of car we are talking about.

What would worry me much more is the car “suddenly” needing 3 qts. of oil two months after an oil change. When a car has this many miles on it, a lot of tender loving care is necessary if you want to keep it going. If you did not check your oil for two months, that falls into the category of neglect, rather than tender loving care.

Only you can decide when it is time to get rid of this car, but whether you keep it or get rid of it, you should get into the habit of checking your oil IMMEDIATELY after an oil change, in order to verify that no mistakes (overfilling or underfilling) have taken place. And when a car gets on in years, it is really a good idea to check the oil at every other gas fill-up, at the least. Oil consumption can increase VERY rapidly on an old engine, and running an engine with insufficient oil for an extended period of time–as may well have taken place with your car–can be the final nail in the coffin.

This generation of vehicles was made to last 200,000 miles relatively trouble-free, so unless you are going to continue to maintain it, you should sell it to someone who is willing to take good care of it.

You really need to find the source of your oil loss before you or I can make that call. It could be a simple fix, like a valve cover gasket or an improperly-installed oil filter.

In what part of the country do you live? I would love to get my hands on a car like yours with brand new brakes, tires, and exhaust system.

Don’t worry about the condensation leaking from the exhaust unless it is also leaking exhaust gas. I have seen brand new engines leak water from the muffler.

Let me suggest a couple of ways of looking at it. First, periodically evaluate the vehicle like you were considering it as a used car purchase. Knowing what you know about it, would you buy it for the price you are sinking into it in repairs and upkeep.

Second, given the price of new tires, brakes, a radiator, or whatever it needs at that point, how many miles do you need to get out of it to make the investment worth it? For example, assume your car is worthless, and that is what we are talking about here if you are considering getting rid of it. If your new set of tires are going to cost you $300, and you expect it costs you 30 cents or more a mile for any reasonable car, you only need to get 1000 miles out of it and you break even. What are the chances of your getting another 1000 miles after the new tires?