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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Toyota Nation,

This is my first post, but I'm very familiar with forums. I used to be a Classic VW guy a few years back and practically lived on forums lol. I have been looking into buying a Camry for a commuter car and decided to go for a 3rd Gen because I have always been a fan of that body style. I have already begin looking through Craigslist, Offerup and Auto Trader for potential cars to buy. But I did have some questions that maybe the Camry community can help me with. When looking at these years of Camry's what are the common issues to look out for? From what i read thus far I've seen door latches breaking, engine sludge issues and EGR Valves going bad. Is there something else I should watch out for?

I'm looking to spend any where from 1,500-2,000 for a decent car that runs and drives good. I have seen some good condition cars go for $2,500-$3,000 with Mileage in the 120,000-180,000 range. I looked up KBB values, but they are not matching the markets values of these cars. From your opinion what is a good price for a Mechanically Sound Car? or a car that is cosmetically and mechanically sound? I live in Southern California... not sure if that makes a difference.

I'm looking to make this a 2nd car to commute and learn how to do basic mechanic maintenance things like Breaks, Tune Ups, Oil Changes, and basic repairs. with this in mind I have been told that I should look for a 1996 model that has OBD2 to make it easier to diagnose issues in the future. Ideally looking for a 2.2 model as well.

I really appreciate everyone's input. Looking forward to checking out the forum when I find my Camry.

Cheers,
Fernando B
 

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Awww yeah, another potential Camry DOESN'T bite the dust!

Outer door handles are an issue once the plastic gets old, brittle, and fatigued from so many door pulls. EGR is not an issue with these cars per se, it crops up a lot around here because it's getting that carbon buildup from so many thousands of miles (and we drive old cars). Beyond 100K, these cars love to leak oil, but are pretty easy to reseal. 1MZ will suffer from sludge issues more than gen3 5S, so check for proper oil changes. 5S will burn oil when the valve stem seals go (at about 100K), telltale signs are bluish smoke from tailpipe on cold startup, and bluish (white if really really bad) smoke on hard acceleration or taking off from sitting for a while. If you get a 3VZ, note that head gaskets should be done preventatively every 150K max, it'll blow like clockwork.

5S distributor oil leaks will cause problems; external (mounting o-ring) is easy to fix, internal (shaft seal)...best course is replace with new or reman distributor. Not aftermarket new, those all suck and have problems getting to the right timing. Internal leak will show up as dripping from the weep hole pointing toward the firewall.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hey insightbrewery,

Thanks for the input! I keep an eye out for leaking oil, tail pipe smoke and distributor issues. That i will definitely add to the check list. Looking to find a i4 2.2 model and its a little better on gas. When replacing equipment i plan on going OEM or refurbished. Being from the classic VW world most aftermarket replacements would break or be unreliable right away, it seems like this goes for the Toyota world as well.
 

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+1 to what ISB said. Some add’l random thoughts...

Toyota switched the AC refrigerant to R134a in ‘94. Converting an earlier year from R12 isn’t difficult, but if you’re not comfy working with AC gear, having someone else do it is expensive.

Inner door handles commonly break too. Easy to fix, and parts are cheap. Some colors may be hard to find?

The wire bundle going into the drivers door commonly has wires break. This can cause door locks not to work, and power windows not to work. Easy to fix by splicing in a short pc of wire.

Same problem with the wire bundle at the LH trunk hinge. Affects tail and brake lights.

Radiators crack along the upper end cap. Easy to replace, and a good Denso rad runs about $80. But if you find one with a leaky rad, beware of HG failures if people ignore it and let it overheat.

Both the I4 and V6 are non interference engines. Timing belts should be replaced every 90k miles, but it gets deferred a lot. A kit from Aisin for the I4 runs $100, $150 for the V6.

The V6 got OBD2 early, in ‘94, with the switch from the 3VZ-FE to the 1MZ-FE.
 

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Drive a 1MZFE
Drive a 5SFE
(I own both)
the longevity and gas mileage will never justify not getting the V6 unless you drive like a 80 yr old
 

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^yes, +1. My 1MZ manages 20 MPG with worn spark plugs, leaky injectors, and clogged EGR. My 5S manages 22 over the same drive pattern if I baby it, and has almost 60 less HP.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thanks Guys! I appreciate all the input.

Making sure to add these things to the list to watch out for. The cracked radiator and Timing belt especially. Toyota changing to OBD2 in 94 with the V6 models is good to know. I really have been interested in potentially a wagon V6. Knowing that the mileage is not much different really peaks my interest haha! It looks like most Wagons were V6 models from my searches.

I have already set up a meet up with a potential buy. I attached pictures. I will be bringing a OBD2 reader to see if it has any issues. Planning on checking it out Friday after work. This was the description....

The asking price is a bit high, I'm going to see if they will budge to $1,800-$2,000 if the car look good,runs good and appears to have its maintenance done. What do you guys think?

1996 Toyota Camry
1 owner all original
170,000 miles
New tires
New Brakes
New Radiator
Ice Cold Air
Runs great
2750.00
 

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That looks like a nice one. And rather low mileage too. I doubt he'll take a whole lot less than his asking price. A bit under $2500 maybe??

Like the others said, the fuel mileage penalty of the V6 isn't huge. And it's *such* a smooth running engine. If at all possible, test drive both before you buy. I think you'll fall in love with the V6. As for longevity, both motors are capable of racking up >300k miles with decent maintenance, as evidenced by our hi-miler thread here.
 

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Thanks for the quick reply BMR. It does look pretty clean over the pictures. I was able to communicate with the owner over email. It appears that he is actually the 2nd owner, who bought it from a family friend. No Service records just hand written ones. I also noticed that the car has been posted for over a month on craigslist, so that might give me more of a chance to get it for less? I'm pretty reasonable, if all check out I would not mind offering $2,200 which is a fair offer.
 

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I also found this one... See pictures.

Spoke to the owner and this is what he told me.

-Mileage 129,xxx
-2nd owner (used to belong to his friends father who passed away)
-Always garaged- why the paint is to clean
-Recently got the windows tinted in Mexico lol
-Check engine light is on for bad EGR valve (According to him, I would have to verify with OBD 2 Reader)
-Tires have about 50% life in them.
-Timing belt was changed in 2009 at 49K miles (Would need replacing very soon).

Thinking I could offer $2000 for it. Issue is that I would have to fix it right away so i can register the car in my name. California strict SMOG standards, cant register the car until I Smog it.
 

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That one looks really nice too. I spy a black door handle on the driver's door, so it's been replaced. Shows the owner takes *some* care of it. If that unpainted handle bugs you, color-matched painted ones can usually be found on eBay.
 

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Something to keep in mind. The only transmissions that are bulletproof in the 3-4th gens are the 5 speed ones for the V6. Since it's your daily, is it a requirement of yours to have it automatic transmission?
 

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Something to keep in mind. The only transmissions that are bulletproof in the 3-4th gens are the 5 speed ones for the V6. Since it's your daily, is it a requirement of yours to have it automatic transmission?
Huh?

Both V6's had 4 speed autos. Either the A540E with the 3VZ-FE, or the A541E with the 1MZ-FE, for both Gen3 & 4. Both trans are near bullet proof.

The 4 cyl got the A140E throughout both Gens. Also nearly bullet proof.

The 3rd digit being a "4" means they're all 4 speeds, with 4th being overdrive.


Perhaps you're thinking of the Gen5/6? I'm not familiar with those, so just a guess.
 

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I commute quite a bit and an automatic would be best in bumper to bumper traffic in the LA and Long Beach area. Normally I would not shy way from manual , but I have been driving a manual for the last 4 years just want to cruise without gear changing.
 

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I'm looking to make this a 2nd car to commute and learn how to do basic mechanic maintenance things like Breaks, Tune Ups, Oil Changes, and basic repairs. with this in mind I have been told that I should look for a 1996 model that has OBD2 to make it easier to diagnose issues in the future. Ideally looking for a 2.2 model as well.
OBDI will give you codes without scanner. I've never had a problem diagnosing with OBDI over OBDII.

It's an old car, even with Toyo durability you'll need maintenance and fixing - stuff just wears.
 

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Camrys with sticks are rare, and usually found on the DX, the lowest trim level. Which also usually has no AC, no power windows/locks, fixed antenna on the driver’s side A pillar, unpainted exterior door handles, and a few other cost cuts I’m forgetting.
 

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