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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone

I saw an ad about a used 2000 Camry XLS V6 with 35,700 miles on odometer for sale by the estate of a senior citizen who passed away.

I am hoping to get some advice please about what problems might be likely

Her son who posted the ad does not know if his mom's mechanic changed the motor oil once a year or once every two years or if she paid for conventional or synthetic. Assuming she went on very short distance drives, would there be high probability of engine sludge? If so, would Mobil 1 high mileage help to clean out the sludge over three or four oil changes?

Also, would the timing belt be prone to cracking or ripping due to age?

Thank you very much
 

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Camreee
'99 Auto V6
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353 Posts
The mileage and the fact that it's an XLS V6 are definitely a bonus, but don't consider that in your pricing.

The timing belt is more prone to snapping if the car was only driven once a month to get groceries. The engine won't break when it snaps, the engine will just die, you will lose power steering but still have brake vacuum, and need a tow.

It's not a big deal if they only changed the oil once per year, if you see a carfax showing oil changes then don't worry about that part considering the milage and likely driving style. That's 2000 miles a year mileage.

Mobil 1 High Mileage is an excellent quality oil, but it won't save a sludged up engine.

Here's the part to worry about: It sounds like you're already aware of this, but this is a special case because it's so low mileage and senior ownership.

For some cars (most), senior citizen ownership is a plus, cars with the 1MZFE v6 are not one of them. If the owner drove it the way most seniors do (no long trips, no flooring it, and mostly/only short grocery/doctor trips) then I would say more likely than not you will need a new engine or a full rebuild sooner rather than later from sludge buildup blocking oiling.

Trying to break up or remove sludge while the engine is not disassembled will likely cause catastrophic engine failure very quickly. The sludge will clog the tiny oil pathways and channels snaking through the crankcase and moving engine parts. When a rod bearing runs dry you will get a hole blown out of your engine or if the cylinder oiling rings get clogged with sludge a piston will seize in the now dry cylinder and your connecting rod will become a disconnected rod and probably break a bunch of stuff inside your engine or blow a hole in it.

There is no easy way to verify if it's free of sludge, or if the engine is fubar. That's why sludge scares people off easily, it's the monster in the dark.

So this is just me, but the only way I would buy that car (and I would buy that car), is if the owner first negotiated a price, and then agreed to let you pull the front valve cover to check for sludge, as it builds from the top of the engine downwards if the valve covers are not full of gooey chunks you're probably fine. Normally a PPI would suffice and for $100 I'll always recommend people get one, but joe schmoe independent mechanic isn't going to have check for engine sludge on his PPI checksheet so this one you'll need to do yourself.

To answer your question if it's a good buy?.....negotiate a price, pull front valve cover to check for sludge, and then good buy or good bye.
 

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short-throw dipstick
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I inspect a lot of cars, especially lately since people are going back to work after lockdowns and need used vehicles to replace those they pawned to stay afloat.

In my experience, low-mileage vehicles will have accelerated wear and need premature maintenance compared to well-maintained, driven vehicles. Few examples:

1. I've been inspecting gen1 Lexus IS and gen2 GS for a friend who needs to get his daughter a first car. Last week I inspected a 2002 GS300 with 65K on it...it had leakage issues like a 180K- to 200K-mile 2JZ. Guy bought it from dealer, original owner was some old lady who probably only did short trips to the grocery store. Valve cover leaking, cam phaser leaking, upper oil pan leaking, radiator top tank looked so bad for an original, 65K-mile radiator (about to blow, all those heating/cooling cycles). Other than that, interior and exterior were 9.5/10, unfortunately what most car buyers look at. That's why you always, always, ALWAYS get an inspection if you can't or won't do it yourself; $1-200 per car is nothing when you're buying a large chunk of your life. I don't care if it's considered "reliable" like a Toyota or Honda or whatever, you always get it inspected.

2. Once worked on a 2003 Honda Accord that a guy bought from the original, geriatric owners (seeing a pattern here?) with 83K. Driving habits matter; they must have been the kind of driver that is always on one pedal or the other, nothing in between. Control arms were absolutely shot, no rubber left.

3. Right now, doing a timing belt on a 2006 Highlander that is used as a fleet vehicle (delivery, 400 highway miles a week for its entire life thus far). Timing belt is original at 180K (! Yes, the 3MZ is interference. Apart from a lot of rust dust, belt and components look to be in OK shape...), and it has absolutely no leaks anywhere (factory sealing). It's been properly maintained, fluids have been changed on time. If it were up for sale, this would be a great buy.

4. I work on a 2000 Camry 5S-FE that the guy bought from his father-in-law for his daughter's first car. It has 60K on it. In two years I've resealed the oil pan, oil pump, valve cover; also cleaned out EGR, replaced various VSVs that have all that old-person, short-trip duty cycle wear; changed control arms. Otherwise cherry.

For a car with 35K? Beware. Proper maintenance matters more than anything else with these (and most reliable) cars. I bring up my personal beater a lot, one more time: 2000 Camry 5S-FE auto. The work that went into the engine/trans swap and refresh are documented in the DIY sticky. I have zero leaks, and I beat on it all day. Gets a lot of WOT all the way to redline (7-10 per diem), which is still within operating specifications (don't get me started on people who think they know more than those who designed our cars). I change the fluids at good intervals, and it runs like a champ, feels like brand-new. Again, proper maintenance. HTH
 

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'00 4 Cyl. Auto Camry LE
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The work that went into the engine/trans swap and refresh are documented in the DIY sticky. I have zero leaks, and I beat on it all day. Gets a lot of WOT all the way to redline (7-10 per diem), which is still within operating specifications (don't get me started on people who think they know more than those who designed our cars)
Stop womping on your Camry, and driving like a 16 y/o High School kid late for school ISB. :D * You did a great job on that rebuild / the DIY thread BTW.
 

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01 Avalon XL, 03 Avalon XL
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This thread is a treasure-trove of information around low-mileage, elderly cars. Every point brought up by camreeeee and insightbrewery is valid.

Our 01 Avalon (66k) had its timing belt replaced at 16,990 miles because the TB was 12 years old at that point, and all 12 years had been in St Pete, Florida sun. I've edited a bunch of technical papers on elastomers and I know that regardless of what the materials guys do to prevent oxygen and heat from ripping apart the molecular bonds, even the best materials can't survive (externally) for more than 10 years.

Fortunately, the 01 has no leaks. (Elastomers, again -- those gaskets relax and their main purpose in life, to seal, gets compromised).

Unfortunately, its on its 5th set of rear brakes -- it came to us with every service receipt since its 50th mile, so we know everything that's been done to it. At 66k, its original rear brakes should only now just be broken in. The dismal record is probably the result of 12 years in salt-air Florida and the remainder in salt-winter Massachusetts.

Our 03 Avalon (98k) sat for two years while the estate of its owner was settled. I feel that a car needs to run every couple of days to remain limber, and this one had been immobile for a hell of a long time.

We purchased it knowing we had to do rear struts, valve cover seals, timing belt, brakes, and of course all fluid changes. The seller factored all that in & lowered the price. We ended up paying (in total) the market price for the car with the needed repairs, which we think is a decent deal. We did get a surprise a/f (oxygen) sensor failure, but these lose their heater circuits anywhere from 100k to never, and it was just time (we have never owned a cars that had never in their vocabulary).

This one didn't come with any repair records, but we knew the family that owned it, and I figured the owner, a world-class scientist at the Brookhaven Labs on Long Island, was probably meticulous. Most of its active life was spent driving the 60 miles from Brookhaven to Manhattan -- the owner was an avid theater-goer -- so there were few short hops on this one. Plus, the car was garaged and rarely driven in winter. Point is, if you want an elderly car, ether know its owner or know its repair history, and you're golden if you know both.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
The son is asking $3,800 Canadian which translates to $2,800 U.S. I think his asking price is on the low end of the range for that generation of Camry here in Canada

I think you fellas are right about needing an independent mechanic to check for sludge and leaks. If it was actually well maintained by his mom's regular mechanic, it would be worth more like $5,000 CAD or $3,660 USD

Thanks so much to everyone who replied. I learned a lot
 

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Camreee
'99 Auto V6
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353 Posts
Uhhhh...you never actually mentioned how much they're asking for it.
A perfect condition one might go for $3500 private seller, regardless of the trim and that it's a v6; to most sellers and most potential buyers it's just a 20 year old camry, one of tens of millions, and a car they can find for $1000 in drivable condition on craigslist in the U.S. For many buyers of a 20 year old camry a v6 would be a downside due to fuel consumption.

My point being it's a low mileage car in a good trim with the stronger engine, so it's a good car if you're into camrys and the engines solid - but the average joe won't consider paying twice the price of the 10 s**tboxes in the same market and model year, but with better gas mileage and an interior that looks just as bland; and so market price for cars like these is pretty stable and low variance.

My assumption is that OP already knows it's going to be a decent price for the car (son of deceased, estate sale, camry, 20 years old, etc) and just wanted to know if it would be a poor decision to purchase it based off it's service life.
 

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This thread is a treasure-trove of information around low-mileage, elderly cars. Every point brought up by camreeeee and insightbrewery is valid.
Bought a 96 3VZ camry with 88,000 km (~54,680 mi) on the clock, previous owner was a painter who said he always filled up with unleaded 98 (US would be premium), previous owner before that was old lady who drove only 5,000 km in one year at one point. Seems to have gotten in a minor fender bender or something because the front left wheel seems to be a bit closer to the rear of the well compared to the right front wheel but it otherwise drives straight and no significant frame damage from what I can tell. Full service history though, log book is filled out and stamped from dealers.

I got paid out $2,800 when I totalled my wagon but bought this one for $2,500, then spent another 2,450 or so in parts and labour together for a leaking head gasket and timing belt change done at 100,000 kms. Dealership wanted almost two grand for all the parts but I got them for around 800 lol. Knowing how low mileage over such a long period is bad for engines, I asked the mechanic and he told me the inside of the engine was actually very clean, I'm not sure if the several italian tune ups I did prior to the gasket change had anything to do with that lol. I'm not including the cost of all the parts I decided to go nuts with, rear sway bar, strut brace, bigger Y-pipe, OEM washer and coolant bottles just because I could, it certainly didn't help that I was sitting on a pile of money that I don't really ever spend. I think I've sunk around three to four grand into this car so far so it's basically market price at this point considering the stuff I've done to it and the condition it's in.

All things considered though, you are definitely taking a gamble with these sorts of purchases. You either roll a 20 and the engine has no problems, not even sludge despite the old timer miles on it, or you roll a 1 and you end up replacing the entire car.
 

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At that mileage and price I would jump on it, Food for thought, my family, I and acquaintances have bought several cars like this, about half of them has the transmission go out after you start driving them, the last one was my sister and the trany went out in about 6 months, the mechanic said what happens is if the car sets for over a month at a time is the trany fluid drains off the top of the clutch plates and that clutch material shranks causing an uneven clutch plate and the mechanic said you USUALLY dont have any other problems. I don't know a fix for this but the next one I get I intend to change the trany fluid right away and add some Lucas transmission fix.
 

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Camreee
'99 Auto V6
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353 Posts
At that mileage and price I would jump on it, Food for thought, my family, I and acquaintances have bought several cars like this, about half of them has the transmission go out after you start driving them, the last one was my sister and the trany went out in about 6 months, the mechanic said what happens is if the car sets for over a month at a time is the trany fluid drains off the top of the clutch plates and that clutch material shranks causing an uneven clutch plate and the mechanic said you USUALLY dont have any other problems. I don't know a fix for this but the next one I get I intend to change the trany fluid right away and add some Lucas transmission fix.
If what the mechanic said was true wouldn't literally every car that was garaged for the winter ever have a dead auto trans?

I would think if clutch plate material was so dependant on being in atf, they either become brittle and shrink before being installed for years on shelves, or expand too much to have optimal friction surface mating with the clutches after being exposed to aff?

I don't know enough to say whether or not that could be the case, but that sounds like b.s. and that he just didn't know what was wrong with it.

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Adding Lucas Transmission snake oil will literally contribute to your transmission dying faster than if you don't.

It's basically just a super heavy viscosity gear oil mixed with atf - people buy it because it makes the trans feel better with the thicker fluid for a few hundred miles to sell used cars, the other people who buy it are just wasting money.

Instead use a higher viscosity ATF like castrol import high mileage atf (owned BP for 20 years, they don't make garbage oils) and that product is THE highest viscosity atf on the market compatible with our cars, it is much more viscous (30% more viscous than the common synthetics like valvoline maxlife (lowest viscosity atf for our cars) - you don't need maxlife though it's a great fluid and lasts a long time, you need a trans that shifts properly without killing it in the process. The castrol will shear down quicker by virtue of being a more viscous fluid, but it should still last you 20-30,000 miles between changes if your trans isn't eating itself presently.

More viscous atf will work in your trans as atf is intended, provide you negligible mileage loss, better shift feel, less leaking if you have it, and won't feel great then shear down after 5 hours of driving to the point it's letting the trans slip because it has no viscosity left after being sheared down because it's way too thick for actual long term atf.

Our transmissions use roughly 2 gallons of fluid. That bottle has a quart of fluid. Half of that is atf/half mystery gear oil. So 2 cups of an oil causing 32 cups of fluid to become viscous enough to make a noticeable difference, 6% total fluid capacity affecting the entire system means that has to be some seriously thick oil.

Transmission fluids have a viscosity limit because they wear out faster the thicker they are. Castrol High Mileage Import ATF will last less than half the lifespan of valvoline maxlife ATF, while being less than 30% thicker to start out with. Imagine how quickly something orders of magnitude thicker would wear out.

Please don't put lucas oil in any transmission. Its a scam to keep you hooked on putting it in after it shears down, or used by scammers to sell cars with worn transmissions while making them feel decent on the test drive.
 

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If what the mechanic said was true wouldn't literally every car that was garaged for the winter ever have a dead auto trans?

I would think if clutch plate material was so dependant on being in atf, they either become brittle and shrink before being installed for years on shelves, or expand too much to have optimal friction surface mating with the clutches after being exposed to aff?

I don't know enough to say whether or not that could be the case, but that sounds like b.s. and that he just didn't know what was wrong with it.

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Adding Lucas Transmission snake oil will literally contribute to your transmission dying faster than if you don't.

It's basically just a super heavy viscosity gear oil mixed with atf - people buy it because it makes the trans feel better with the thicker fluid for a few hundred miles to sell used cars, the other people who buy it are just wasting money.

Instead use a higher viscosity ATF like castrol import high mileage atf (owned BP for 20 years, they don't make garbage oils) and that product is THE highest viscosity atf on the market compatible with our cars, it is much more viscous (30% more viscous than the common synthetics like valvoline maxlife (lowest viscosity atf for our cars) - you don't need maxlife though it's a great fluid and lasts a long time, you need a trans that shifts properly without killing it in the process. The castrol will shear down quicker by virtue of being a more viscous fluid, but it should still last you 20-30,000 miles between changes if your trans isn't eating itself presently.

More viscous atf will work in your trans as atf is intended, provide you negligible mileage loss, better shift feel, less leaking if you have it, and won't feel great then shear down after 5 hours of driving to the point it's letting the trans slip because it has no viscosity left after being sheared down because it's way too thick for actual long term atf.

Our transmissions use roughly 2 gallons of fluid. That bottle has a quart of fluid. Half of that is atf/half mystery gear oil. So 2 cups of an oil causing 32 cups of fluid to become viscous enough to make a noticeable difference, 6% total fluid capacity affecting the entire system means that has to be some seriously thick oil.

Transmission fluids have a viscosity limit because they wear out faster the thicker they are. Castrol High Mileage Import ATF will last less than half the lifespan of valvoline maxlife ATF, while being less than 30% thicker to start out with. Imagine how quickly something orders of magnitude thicker would wear out.

Please don't put lucas oil in any transmission. Its a scam to keep you hooked on putting it in after it shears down, or used by scammers to sell cars with worn transmissions while making them feel decent on the test drive.
sounds like you know alot more than I do about atf, allI know is what I've experienced (which is about half of these old low mileage cars trany's go out fast) and what i'm told, however I would think that a clutch setting on the shelf with no fluid on it would shrink evenly and supposedly lucas has somthing in it that causes the clutch material to expand, I have used it before with good results, The last time I used it was about 2 years ago but the car got totaled about 10,000 miles after that so long time fix is unknown but I do know that the less slipping a trany has the longer it will last because the clutch material gets worn less
 

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Camreee
'99 Auto V6
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353 Posts
When a fluid gets squeezed hard enough it deform and breaks apart on the molecular level. Even ATF, when it is compressed for long enough it breaks down on the molecular level, but this takes a very long time because atf uses long hydrocarbon chains that are very resistant to being broken apart by being squeezed at normal transmission operating pressures and temperatures.

The clutch pack discs and bands are made out of steel, with the friction plates being out of made paper mated to both sides of a backing plate. The packs squeeze together and the atf juices up the steel to prevent it from ripping the paper apart.

When they do break down, and the atf isn't slippery anymore to let the clutch packs mate smoothly, then the paper starts being shredded apart as the fluid being squeezed out of them doesn't provide enough lubricidicity to reduce friction between the friction disks and steel. This is why people find chunks of paper in their transmission pans.

Lucas oil doesn't have these long hydrocarbon chains, it would be too slippery when it gets squeezed in the clutch packs and not provide the "miracle fix" that it is. That "miracle" is just a bunch of hydrocarbons [ATF] combined with some unspecified insanely viscous liquid, let's assume glycerin. When it gets squeezed hard under pressure in the clutch packs and squeezed out of the paper friction disks it provides "grabbiness" to the clutch packs even if the paper is worn, however this same "grabbiness instead of slipperiness" causes the steel to tear the paper apart even faster; even if at the same time it is allowing the clutch packs to mate with less slipping.

That's even before we get to the fun part when the glycerin has been squeezed enough times to break all the molecules apart, now we just have atf, still worn/shredded paper friction discs, and also a bunch of useless molecules and paper floating around in our transmission fluid, which reduce lubrication even further and cause even worse shifting because the hydraulic pressure on the clutch packs is the same, but they shift even worse and certainly not any better because of the above reasons.

Lucas oil doesn't restore anything at all, it just masks a problem while simultaneously making it even worse, then it breaks apart and so does your transmission.

It's a viscous cycle.
 
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