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Old 05-12-2012, 08:17 PM   #1
BeeCeeGS OP
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'97 Camry: Easy for DIY?

Yeah, it's a light brown Camry. But it's got a new timing belt, newish clutch, and new tires. I need something (very) cheap, reasonably roomy, and reasonably efficient for moving the kids around. It'll be an appliance. 140 thousand miles.

I'm guessing that it'll run nearly forever if I keep on top of the maintenance, but I thought I'd ask the collective if there is anything to look out for (other than a boring driving experience) with this vintage of Toyota.

THanks.
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Old 05-12-2012, 08:53 PM   #2
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I had a 2001 Camry. Last year of the same body style. I bought it in September of 2010 with 43K on it. Sold it in January of 2012 with 55K on it.

Great car but it bored me to tears. It just made driving too damn easy.

I now drive a 2000 Jeep Wrangler!

The Camry should last forever. That was Toyota at their best.

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Old 05-12-2012, 09:39 PM   #3
tire joe
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Keep the oil changed 3,000 miles or less they are prone to sludge up. The oil pump o-ring gasket gets hard and leaks with high miles , auto zone replacement a lot cheaper than toyato. This applys to the four cylinder engine , good luck !
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Old 05-12-2012, 10:14 PM   #4
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Only like my 3rd post here (my others are in the ice road thread). I don't own anything with two wheels, but I read your Shiny things daily. I'll chime in cuz...

I have a 98 Camry with 220k on it. 4cyl, automatic. Mother in law bought it for the wife before I met her, for $5k with 65k on it. It has had exactly 2 problems that weren't "wear items" or preventative maintenance items... though I suppose at some mileage, everything becomes a wear item. A/C clutch, and transmission front seal. Car has never been to a shop since it's known me. I even did the trans front seal without an engine hoist - I lowered it out the bottom with an engine support bar... though that is probably the hard way, but it was the cheap way if you have to buy all the tools.

Right now in the process of changing ALL the hoses... vacuum lines, heater, radiator ect ect as preventative maintenance. Do the preventative items, the fluid/tune up items when they need it, and the wear items when they're worn and it should last long and trouble free.

Ditto on the 3k oil changes though. And the timing belt/water pump/oil pump seal/cam seal/crank seal. I didn't know about these items... the original pump made it to 165k before it started pouring coolant out round the shaft of the pump. Non-interference engine though, (not sure if the 6cyl is?) so no real worries if it lets loose.

B-I-L has a 97 with 240k on it. Likely the reason the M-I-L bought the wifes.

Oh... I'm getting 28 city and 32 highway. Most tanks run around 30mpg, cuz I'm doing 50/50 city/highway.
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Old 05-13-2012, 01:21 AM   #5
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Did the struts on my BIL's one before he got rid of it, everything was easy peasy. He never had any problems with it that weren't normal wear and tear.
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Old 05-14-2012, 12:31 PM   #6
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In terms of the OP's question about how difficult it will be for a DIYer to work on, I'd rank it a 6-7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being a major pain in the ass.

It's a cramped engine compartment with a transverse engine mounted to a FWD transaxle. This means belts are a PITA to get to and there is hardly any room anywhere. It will be as difficult as any other medium-sized FWD car.

The good part is you won't have to work on it often!
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Old 05-15-2012, 11:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tire joe View Post
Keep the oil changed 3,000 miles or less they are prone to sludge up. The oil pump o-ring gasket gets hard and leaks with high miles , auto zone replacement a lot cheaper than toyato. This applys to the four cylinder engine , good luck !
What does "prone to sludge up" even mean? Is this engine magically different from all the other gasoline engines in the world in a way that somehow changes oil to goop?

I would not change the oil in any old "appliance" car at intervals shorter than 5,000 miles. I would not hesitate to do 7,500, and would consider 10,000 miles. See what Toyota recommends.

As far as working on it, the engine bay is going to be tight, but it's a straightforward design, and quite a reliable one. Take care of it and it will last a LONG time.
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Old 05-15-2012, 12:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bolink654 View Post
....Non-interference engine though, (not sure if the 6cyl is?) so no real worries if it lets loose.......
AFAIK all Toyota engines since the 80's with a belt rather than a chain are non interference engines. Which is one of the reasons why we buy them after a Civic did almost $2000 worth of damage to itself when a belt broke prematurely. I will never buy another vehicle with the potential for that disaster.
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Old 05-15-2012, 12:51 PM   #9
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I had a 2000 Dodge Intrepid back in college that had a failure of the #6 cylinder due to oil sludge at 98,000 miles. And I changed the oil roughly every 5,000 miles on that car. Apparently it was a known problem in that car according to the mechanic that fixed it all. Anyway, from what he said, and I later confirmed on the internet, the oil just didn't flow well to that part of the engine, and it allowed sludge to form and block the flow. Kinda like people with atrial fibrillation

Quote:
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What does "prone to sludge up" even mean? Is this engine magically different from all the other gasoline engines in the world in a way that somehow changes oil to goop?
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kpt4321 View Post
What does "prone to sludge up" even mean? Is this engine magically different from all the other gasoline engines in the world in a way that somehow changes oil to goop?

I would not change the oil in any old "appliance" car at intervals shorter than 5,000 miles. I would not hesitate to do 7,500, and would consider 10,000 miles. See what Toyota recommends.

As far as working on it, the engine bay is going to be tight, but it's a straightforward design, and quite a reliable one. Take care of it and it will last a LONG time.
The design of the head is such that the oil will turn to sludge. Oil contains additives for that, but they wear out. So changing early helps make sure the additives are at a sufficient level for operation.

Rod
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:16 PM   #11
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Wasn't it Castrol that used to run the sludge commercials?

Wonder if it would make any difference?
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Old 05-15-2012, 04:53 PM   #12
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Camry

Everything on the Camry has been covered; BUT why not get an Accord of the same vintage instead????? The Accord is slightly less bland in the styling dept, but they're much nicer riding and driving cars. Stick with a manual transmission car, change timing belts on time and it should last FOREVER!


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Old 05-15-2012, 05:39 PM   #13
JGNC
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I just sold my SUV and bought a '98 Camry with 140k miles for dirt cheap. It had some horrible idle issues which a new idle control valve solved. It really is a boring vehicle but hopefully this thing will save me enough money that I can buy a second motorcycle outright this fall or winter.
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Old 05-15-2012, 05:46 PM   #14
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No side airbags and doesn't enjoy the benefits of the stronger passenger structure of newer cars, so try to avoid being hit.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:07 PM   #15
BeeCeeGS OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dukeryder View Post
Camry

Everything on the Camry has been covered; BUT why not get an Accord of the same vintage instead????? The Accord is slightly less bland in the styling dept, but they're much nicer riding and driving cars. Stick with a manual transmission car, change timing belts on time and it should last FOREVER!
Would much prefer the Accord, but the Camry can be had for cheap, cheap, cheap. Cheaper than any Accord around here. And that would free up some $$ so that I could actually ride one of my bikes this year.
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