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TN User
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I perform repair and maintenance work on our 96 Camry Sedan, 5SFE, and it still runs good. This is a one owner, garage parked, no rust vehicle in good condition. I desire to keep this Camry in tip-top shape.

What I am seeking: What are diagnostic tests that I should perform on a routine basis to care for this Camry?

Are you waiting on idiot lights or the CEL to turn on before taking action? Or do any of you run your own diagnostic tests on a routine basis?

I understand routine mechanical maintenance stuff (changing oil, plugs, etc.) is front and center important; but what I am asking about is any digital stuff you are monitoring.

I currently perform the following diagnostic tests annually or more often. (These tests are relatively quick and easy to perform, so I do them.)
  • fuel trims, O2 sensor values (I do review all scanner live data, but mostly am focused on checking fuel trims and O2 data).
  • DTC’s obviously, if any are present.
  • I attach the scanner to the car anytime I perform maintenance or repair work these days.
Digital multimeter:
  • Battery voltage check
  • Battery voltage drop loss check between battery post and terminal connection
  • Alternator voltage check (under load across battery posts) (at idle, at 2K rpm)
  • Alternator circuit, voltage drop loss check (alternator positive post to battery negative post) (compare against value obtained across battery posts)
  • Again, if I work on the car for any reason, I often get out the multimeter.
I have also run compression and vacuum tests – all important – but do not perform these tests on a routine basis.

I understand that the purpose of idiot lights, CEL, and the PCM is to bring attention to various problems. I am not trying to replace these built-in warning systems with my own tests.

However, anything that requires a scanner, digital multimeter, or similar tool – used on a routine basis by you – that’s my interest. Again, what tests are you routinely running, if any? Think I am wasting time with the few checks I perform?

Thanks for your time and candid input.

short-throw dipstick
6,161 Posts
Wait for CEL, or it feeling out of the ordinary. Statistically, this happens rarely on these cars compared to most other cars.

Personally, that's that - I change fluids on time and do a visual check whenever I open the hood (about once a week). I have a Chinese TPMS system mounted above my instrument cluster so I can check for tire pressure and wheel temperature abnormalities. Other than that, keep a weather eye open while driving, you know. For example mine has 189K and just started clunking from the right rear. Probable cause: worn strut insulators, since the front right is coming off in bits and pieces. Also I have a vibration when braking above 70 MPH...rotors were turned when I resurrected this car, and I see cracking on the rearward control arm bushings so it's probably from that. Both of those will get addressed when it hits 200K. Etc etc
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Premium Member
1993 Camry SE,V6-5MT
1,014 Posts
I agree with insight, don't overthink it. If there are no lights its fine internally. These engines are known for the extreme longevity of their sensors and control devices.

Regarding fluid and filter changes: One fluid that isn't called for in the owner's manual or the shop manual, is the power steering fluid, don't forget to change it when you do the transmission and differential and coolant change every 30k,~50k miles. Also change the PCV at that interval. These things could all probably easily do the original 100k service intervals but when it is a car you want to last forever a little extra attention never hurts.

Change the brake fluid every 2 years to prevent corrosion internally.

The alternator and starter should easily go 200k + miles. When they do cause a trouble they are easily rebuildable. If you do choose to replace, make sure what you buy is a Denso unit to get the same longevity.


TN User
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Appreciate the input; understand the input.

Agree with norm356 about PCV. I change PCV valve and radiator cap every two years automatically; don't even think about it, just do it.

I’m satisfied that the few health checks that I run are more than adequate given that the basic, collective response to my question by knowledgeable heads was: do routine maintenance on time – that’s most important.

The few health checks that I perform I will continue to perform primarily because they are easy and quick to run, and are valuable broad indicators of engine health. I likely will not add to my list of routine checks since I seem to being doing more than most already.

With all of the above said, I did run compression, vacuum, scanner, and digital multimeter checks at around the 200K mark to gauge the general health of the engine and various subsystems. Other than a carbon buildup condition, everything looked good. The data collected went well beyond what idiot lights and the CEL tell or don’t tell me. So now, I know after running these tests that we generally have a good engine, and thus will continue to invest in repairing/maintaining this GEN 3 Camry with the reasonable anticipation that it has more years and miles left in it. (Pretty amazing for a car now in its mid-twenties.)
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