Your opinion please: fix the 93 camry or get a newer car?

Hi all, I own a 93 Camry V6 wagon with 137k miles (pretty low for a 17 yo car). Runs quite well, but needs power steering and coolant topped off 1-2x per month. I have done zero maintenance except for routine oil changes for last 4 years.

Finally took it to a good mechanic: multiple oil leaks, power steering pump/gear leak, timing belt, L outer axle shaft boot tear, R front control arm bushing torn apart, tranny fluid is black and burnt, and front brake pads are at 15%…Needless to say, he estimated about $2000-3000 in repairs.

So, fix it or ditch it? The dilemma is that it is a vehicle that meets all my needs, and I have heard of many people getting 300k miles out of them…

Any thoughts?

Can you break down the costs?
The big dollar concern of mine is the transmission, if it is toast there is no logic in putting any money into the car as I would guess that is a 12 to 1500 dollar ticket item for a rebuild. I am guessing the estimate was for just a trans fluid and filter service.
The big safety issue is the control arm bushing.
What was the cause for coolant loss?

Camry wagons are pretty rare and there are devotees of this unique car. If the body is rust free I’d tend to fix it up. At 17 years old it is going to need some repairs, and what you outlined is not out of line with the age of the car. Hopefully the coolant leaks are minor issues.

If you can’t tackle all the repairs at one time, do the critical ones now and some other in 6 months and others in 1 years etc.

I hope you’ve changed the timing belt atleast twice already due to age alone, if not, it’s no small miracle it’s lasted this long.

I think the previous owner did, but I haven’t! Bought it at 84k

IMO, the car is worth fixing mechanically with two concerns,

  1. Is the body still in safe running conditions w/o rust.
  2. Do you feel you have any need for all of the safety features offered on newer cars that you don’t have on this ?
    There are many newer vehicles that will meet the same needs but will cost more than $3000 to replace. The yearly excise tax/insurance all weigh heavily in favor of keeping it.
    The two questions remain…body integrity and safety. Your decision.

Yes but you also have to think about new belts, hoses, new brake fluid, bleed all wheels,new air filter, gas filter, plugs, wires, rotor button and dist cap.
It is time for all this upkeep.

Spending 2-3 grand in repairs on a 17 year old car does not make econimical sense to me. Unless you have a special attraction to your 93 Camry, I would look for a newer vehicle. There are plenty of inexpensive used cars out there that will last you over 10 years or more with little unforseen maintenece.

Plus, it’s always fun to go car shopping.

I just traded a 97 Chevrolet Cavalier in better shape than what you describe; had none of those issues, also had about 135,000 miles, new tires besides and I got only $600 for it. It’s unfortunate that we could not find each other.

I suggest that you search the used car market for a sleeper $3000 bargain. You might have to look a while but there is an exceptional bargain out there for you and it will not be from a used car dealer.

Some of that stuff is comparatively minor.
The real snags in my opinion are the burnt black transmission fluid (means the transmission is going or gone) and the oil leaks, which could be minor or a sign of something major like a worn engine crankshaft, excessive blowby, etc.

If the transmission is shaky and the engine oil leaks are major then I would say that it’s time to kiss it goodbye.
A DIYer could keep it going but if you have to pay someone to keep this stuff up then it’s not financially viable.

There’s also more to a car’s lifespan than the mileage. Time is a factor also because time is what degrades soft parts such as gaskets, seals, fluids, etc.

What would you buy instead? Make a guess at that. Then figure that the new(er) vehicle will cost you about $500 a year on average to maintain – oil changes, tires, timing belts, etc and will depreciate to roughly the value of your Camry in 12 years from whenever it was built. Figure that the Camry will cost you about $1000-1500 a year to maintain. Plus that $2000-$3000 now. If there is a clear financial winner, go with it. (I picked those number out of the air. Maybe someone can/will refine them).

If no clear winner, I’d go with the car you are comfortable with.

Or, if you can easily deal with the Camry just dying some day because, for example, you are a two car family and can get by with one for a week or two, you can simply drive the Camry into the ground then junk it and buy a replacement. The only safety issue in your laundry list of problems is the control arm bushing. But I’d certainly change the transmission fluid as well. And the various leaks probably will get worse. The timing belt and eventually the torn boot will stop you dead – possibly in some really inconvenient place. But if you like adventures …

According to Gates you have a non-interference engine, so the only costs associated with not replacing the timing belt are the costs of towing, cab fare home from wherever it breaks, and whatever being in a really lousy bargaining position when negotiating price of repair costs you.

If you have a pro do all of this, yeah, dump it. If you want to get your hands dirty, the axle, the control arm, the tranny fluid, and the brake pads are things you can do yourself. Some of the leaks may be, too. Timing belt is iffy, and I don’t know about the power steering pump. If you do it yourself, you’re probably looking at 500 or 600 dollars in parts and tools (which I presume you don’t have), and the loss of a weekend.

I don’t think Camrys are worth saving, regardless. Crap handling, and crap fuel economy compared to the Accord. The only thing Toyota has over Honda is that they’re slightly less sadistic when it comes to designing for maintenance and repair. But if you’re in love with it, do what you gotta do.

The timing belt could snap–without a warning of any kind–tomorrow.
Have you considered the consequences of not attending to this maintenance?

Even though this is apparently not an “interference” design engine, when the belt snaps, the engine quits immediately, leaving you with no power, no power assist for the steering, and only enough power brake boost reserve for one or two good pushes on the brake pedal. If you are in the midst of 18-wheelers when that happens–all I can say is that I hope there is life insurance for your heirs. This is actually a safety hazard if you ever drive on a highway.

Some of the car’s other problems also constitute a safety hazard.

Personally, I would dump the car. The necessary expenses for a rebuilt transmission, timing belt, front end repairs, etc are just too high to be justified on a 17 year old car.

It is almost always cheaper to keep what you have than to buy new. Thank about how many car payments it will take to get the repairs.

A guy down the street owns a similar vehicle, and takes really good care of it since it suits his work needs well (he is a roving computer troubleshooter).

In view of the age of your vehicle and lack of maintenance, you are heading for a lot of expensive repairs even after doing all the currently required work.

I would get rid of it, buy something good and MAINTAIN IT WELL!!