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Considering buying a 2nd gen...

45614 Views 914 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  Kingdom934
Hello. I've owned two cars in the past; a used 2008 Toyota Yaris (that I only owned for five months before totaling it in a car crash), then a new 2011 Mazda2, which I totally loved every day until it was repossessed and immediately auctioned due to financial troubles on my part earlier this year. I've been without a car now for three months in the most car-dependent state on the planet, and yeah, it sucks.

So now that I'm steadily employed and relatively financially stable again, I need another car, and fast. I absolutely do not want to deal with monthly payments, aside from auto insurance and regular maintenance/gas. At first, I was looking at 4th generation Camrys, since they're still everywhere and those were the last generation of said reliable car before all the cars started getting really fat and bloated (high beltines, anyone?). But the average price of those Camrys is too high for me to save up for at the moment ($2300-$3300). I also looked at used 2000s cars to buy outright, but most under $2500 are full of problems. So I opted for pre-1997 cars for less than $2000.

That's where the 2nd generation Camry comes in. Here in Southern California, especially in L.A. and vicinity, there are still quite a few of these 1987-1991 Camrys zipping around, and with no rust. In my city alone, there are probably a dozen or so of them on the roads (white seems to be the popular color of choice). I see enough of them daily to where I feel they have proven themselves to be sturdy, reliable vehicles for their age. I see just as many 1986-89 and 1990-93 Honda Accords and Civics here, but those are stolen even more, and I don't need that. I also could have opted for the just-as-good-if-not-better 3rd generation Camrys (1992-1996), but they're too round and ordinary-looking for my taste. The 2nd gen Camrys got it right IMO, not too boxy but not too round either.

So I've been doing extensive research on these 2nd gen Camrys every single day for the past month now, and there are over 100 of them for sale locally on craigslist. Many have between 100K and 200k miles; I've even seen some with 300,000+ miles on them (!!!). So I'm currently saving up about $1500 for one, that seems like a reasonable price to me. Now I am not a mechanic nor am I very mechanically inclined with cars (the most I've done is change the air filter on my 2011 Mazda2), however I'm willing to learn what is needed to keep the car running smoothly. In fact, it kinda seems like it would make me feel more personally attached to the car, thus making it even more special. I would not typically drive long distances in the car, I just need to get to my job and college (all within a few miles) and occasionally my friend's house and stuff like that. Local driving, mostly. However I should mention that the roads here are pretty crappy in general. We also have many, many curvy & twisty roads, often with long, gradual as well as very steep grades/inclines. I hope the Camry can handle it.

I do love listening to music, oh man do I love me some good tunes. So I've already looked into Pioneer audio systems for the car just in case, as I don't believe the stock stereo/speakers will do the bass any real justice.

As for safety, to be honest, I'm not all that concerned. Post-1985 cars I'm not worried about. It has just enough for me, I'm fairly minimal in my preferences in a car. All I need is a good sound system, A/C and the typical power steering/etc and I'm set. I'm 23, by the way.

So tl;dr - are these good cars? Is $1500 worth it? Any advice/tips/recommendations/etc? Thank you.
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And the new one seems to be all metal instead of metal and plastic! :)
I've read the beginning and the end of this thread only.

I read up to the advice given that to save money for maintenance and not upgrades.

Here's a tease:
How dare you then upgrade from that plastic fuel filter to a metal one?

BWHAHAH. The less you mean a joke the more fun it is. :)

Did you just maintain and fix then? (Hey, everytime I fix a car, it FEELS like an upgrade. :)
"RPM would not go past 1400, and the car would move like a grandma - no matter how hard I pressed the gas. Very low power, and eventually stalling."

If when you pressed on the gas pedal less the car actually ran a bit better, I'd think the fuel pump was under performing. See, when you press the gas pedal, really what you're doing is opening the throttle plate. If there can't be enough fuel and you give it more air then it'll run worse. If in this condition less throttle plate doesn't help either, then I might be barking you up the wrong tree.

If it wasn't carbureted, I'd be thinking bad O2 sensor, so on the carb side of things it makes me think the carburetor should be gone through. By the smell it seems you have too much fuel. Though pour combustion, as you've worried about the coil, can also been poor compression or the engine wearing out instead of spark.

If it isn't the other things, getting back to the carb:
Get a kit with a thorough diagram so every little bit goes back in place right.

Briansmobile1 has done a number of carburetor videos on YouTube. I'm sure none of them are on your car, but it'd be a good way to get the general idea of them.

I'd guess a rebuild kit would fix you up if those fuel pressure tests don't point elsewhere.
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If this car has a TPS, it too could make the fuel not get appropriately matched to the air.

Of course, an alternator that's underperforming would cause similarly less burnt fuel and it'd cause the lights to dim more than fuel issues.

I hope it helps that I'm just thinking all over the issue. I hope it helps.

Do you know how to do a voltage drop?

If you measure in voltage across a cable, say both ends of a negative cable and there is a voltage reading more than .02, that means it's using/wasting/has resistance on the energy that should have gone through it.

This is the easy way to check around in the wiring on the positive side as well.
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I still like the car and put too much work into it to give it up - I'll just put a tarp over it, if it does end up being the timing belt. Some day I'll rescue it again.

I dropped off the keys with the mechanic this morning and explained the situation with the car. He said they'll try to get to it today, but if not, then tomorrow for sure. I showed him the video as well.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday, and I'm not sure what it means yet - while waiting for the tow truck, I hooked up a spark tester to the #1 spark plug and cranked the engine. Didn't see any spark, but it was kind of hard to tell with the sun shining directly onto it. I told this to the mechanic as well, for what it's worth.
Disregarding the sun, if the cams weren't turning, then the distributor wouldn't be either, and then there would be no spark.
Now I'll have to learn about throttle bodies, various sensors, the ECM, and the fuel injection! :)

I probably won't hear any more news on the Honda until Monday.
Scotty Kilmer has commented in the last week of his live questions answered on YouTube that if it wasn't catastrophic failure, and it runs okay, sometimes continuing to drive it will beat the valves into a little better shape and sealing better.

If I remember right you were driving slow when it happened, so long as the engine speed was also low, you still have a chance to get out of buying another car for a while. :)

Chin up and our prayers are here for you.
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I agree - the Accord was a bit of a problem child. But I have news...

Mechanic called me today. I lucked out - no engine damage at all, valves were not bent. He put a new timing belt on there and the car started right up and ran fine. He said it wasn't misfiring or even idling rough. He also replaced the power steering and alternator belts, free of charge. So for a little while, I can still drive the Accord while I save up for another car.
You're wise to take it as a temporary win.

I really enjoyed seeing an old (80's) Honda wagon on the highway the other day. I saw it's for sale sign and listened to the engine carefully. I figured half of it's cylinders were down on compression. Even Honda in it's hey day eventually gives up the ghost.
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Hey. Still having transportation for now is good. Maybe this thread effected me, but that old Honda was BEAUTIFUL. lol

Gold, not to bad on the body. Interior looked clean and good for a quick drive by like it was really kept up with. Better than I ever treat a car's interior.
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Nice you lucked out.

Maybe the new timing belt will help improve everything else? whos knows

I thought the 80's accord were very nice. Classic design. Everything 80's looked better than nowadays, but then again every 80s now are death traps lol.
Yeah, maybe it'll help it run better. If that timing belt was worn enough to be causing problems but still some how let it keep running, then yeah, everything should be in time and that theoretically would help. Hey, in the least, sometimes when belts get old they make the cams "catch up" from too much slack and "get behind" on slow down, all of which would make it run worse.

As far as 80's go. I think I'm nostalgic to like their look. They're really much more simple and less refined looking cars for the most part. It's like the past has a way of looking cute when it was so ordinary at the time.
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Nice car mate

Sent from my LG-H340 using Tapatalk
Agreed. That car is beautiful. The underhood looks exactly like a 95 Toyota pickup of some sort that I tried to work on.
Looks like it was recently vacuumed or shampooed too. :) You can see the lines.
Dry rot on tires is an age thing overall - doesn't matter the miles or whether it sits or gets driven. It also usually takes 5+ years to happen.

My poor mother's car's tires always went on frequent short trips. The tires would dry rot with plenty of tread. Honestly, kind of a painful waste...but better than having to replace them too often from too many miles?

This one especially seems like a blast from the past. :)

Wow, are these old Cressida's really that valuable?
The persistent misfire issue is back - although it only seems to happen when it's cool outside. It just means excessive vibration when I'm stopped at a red light. The RPM is way down to only 400 when that happens, so maybe I just need to bump up the idle speed on the carb.

The car is still running well even when cold outside (we've been having our coolest nights since April recently). I've driven it home from work every one of the last few nights and it hasn't acted up at all.
My truck ran smoother in the cold for a long time. It was a pretty slight miss, below the misfire scale that'd set off a code or even a more sensitive counter.

I bought a infrared thermometer. I hadn't bothered to take it out of my truck. My truck was getting hard to start. It was the only tool I had to see what was up. So I checked the temperature on the spark plug wires and one of them was 30-40 degrees F hotter!

What's crazier, is that when I ohm it, it checks out good. Ohms tests can lie when there is any path for the electricity, like say a strand of wire out of a bunch of wires, but it won't be able to carry the accompanying amperage - and the wire will heat up.

It's worth a shot.

I've also used it to see which fuel injector was running hotter, though if spark is hotter in the same chamber, it'll change the fuel injector temperature too, so you have to rule out other things to be sure of what's going on.

Sorry, couldn't help, but throw the fuel injector in there. I know you have a carburetor on that Honda of yours.
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The persistent misfire issue is back - although it only seems to happen when it's cool outside. It just means excessive vibration when I'm stopped at a red light. The RPM is way down to only 400 when that happens, so maybe I just need to bump up the idle speed on the carb.

The car is still running well even when cold outside (we've been having our coolest nights since April recently). I've driven it home from work every one of the last few nights and it hasn't acted up at all.
Hmmm....runs well when cold...yeah, it could be that the cold idle is fine. You know it should have two idles. One for cold starts, and the second for once it's running.

I'm saying with with general studying on carburetors, not your specific model.
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Like at first sight!

Color coded coolness. :grin:

I want some, but I can wait years for when there is also a need.:|
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My instrument panel backlights keep randomly dimming while I'm driving today and yesterday. I'm going to AutoZone tomorrow and having the alternator and battery tested again as a precaution.
Here's hoping those formally bad connections didn't damage the alternator.

Maybe pull them off again and be sure it's truly metal to metal? The slightest pit of paint getting inside the connection and you're toast. Those protectants have certainly caused a lot of problems.
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It could still be power production or the connections too, but just not bad enough to show up on a standard test. Do a voltage drop test across wires.
It could still be power production or the connections too, but just not bad enough to show up on a standard test. Do a voltage drop test across wires.
I've been really sick and therefore lazier on my posts. Sorry for not describing voltage drop.

Once you learn this video, I'll be more than happy to discuss it with you confirm you learned it.

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Could be strut mounts or even lower ball joints. power steering pump might be whineing..might want to take a visual look
Pick up the front end. Shake things. Find where there's movement that shouldn't be.

If it is ball joints, lift the car on the control arm until you can lever under the wheel to see if they have play. The rest of the tests can be done with the front wheels off the ground.

I'm sure ericthecarguy has a video on the complete concept. Maybe not on your specific car.
Not sure if you meant this, but I took lift the car on the control arm to mean jacking the car up under the control arm. Wouldn't that be likely to bend the control arm and require it's replacement?
Ericthecarguy has said as much on one model of Honda for the rear control arms. They look tempting to the unweary, but they're very thin on that model and will bend and foul up the alignment until replaced.

The difference between a beefy one and a wimpy one is pretty obvious.

I've never had any luck finding a bad ball joint any other method than what I recommended.

When the car is lifted normally or sitting on the ground, bad ball joints look good. The parts are usually too far apart to pry against and test.
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