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Keeping older cars safe

5speeder5speeder Posts: 97
edited March 2014 in Toyota
We are thinking about giving our '92 Camry to our college student son. We bought the car new (almost 12 years ago!). It now has about 187k miles and it runs great. A little rust in a couple places, but not bad shape considering its age. We've been doing all the required maintenence.

I don't want to give this car to my son unless I am sure it is safe. The tires were just replaced last summer (Bridgestones)and the brakes done about a year and a half ago. The owner's guide says to have the airbag checked @ 10 years. Haven't done this. Is it really important? What other things should I be concerned about with a car of this age?

I plan to take this car to a mechanic and have it checked like it's a used car I was going to buy, but I don't need him to tell me that the antenna doesn't retract any more and the seat belts don't roll back without assistance. I want him to look at those things that could be a dangerous mechanical problem. I'm thinking like steering, suspension, brakes. What parts might be worn? What else should I have him look at?


  • I have a 1992 accord with 123k miles on it. I haven't had the airbag checked, but that would probably be a good thing to look into. Call the dealer and see how much it would cost. If it is quite a lot of money, I would forget it. It's probably working fine anyway. You would think they airbag indicator light would tell you if there was a big problem. As far as brakes, they are probably fine, since they were done a year ago. Does it have ABS? If so, maybe a few quick stops in the rain to see if it is still functioning normally would be a good idea.

    Apart from the brakes and airbag, there likely isn't much that is "unsafe" other than the possibility of breaking down. Make sure he has a cell phone with him when driving, and has a road-side assistance service (AAA). Other than that, just do the regular maintenance and check the tire pressure and oil level periodically. If the belts and hoses haven't been changed it a while, however, you may want to have a mechanic check their condition.
  • vidtechvidtech Posts: 212
    as a driver of old cars,i would suggest you check the condition of the steel brake lines for excessive corrosion if you live where road salt is used.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    I'd agree, brakes are a major concern as is suspension and steering. Rubber bushings could be well worn out at this mileage and brake lines could be corroded. Also I'd flush the brake fluid for sure, and check all fuel lines for age and cracking as well.

    Other little things to check might be the battery hold down clamps, proper operation of lights and windshield wipers/washers, the rubber pads on the brake and (if equipped) clutch pedals (smooth pedals might not grip the shoe properly). Defroster should work, driver's window should work, car should lock. Speedometer should work, gas gauge also.

    Also make sure the exhaust system isn't leaking.

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  • 5speeder5speeder Posts: 97
    Thanks for your advice, taco, vid and Mr.S.

    Yes, lots of salt on the roads here in MN, will definitely have that checked. MrS, do you think I need to flush the brake fluid even tho I've done all periodic maintenance, or is this something not usually done on the schedule (I don't have the manual in front of me)?

    The bushings on this car are notorious for failing. I had 'em fixed about 5 years ago after driving with them down for a couple years because several shops couldn't diagnose the problem (wanted to sell me new struts, told me the spare was loose in the trunk, told me they couldn't hear anything, it must be me). A couple years later they failed agian, so I've just been driving that way and ignoring the clunk sounds. It's my understanding that the bushings are there just to deaden the sound, they have no effect on performance or safety. Is that right?

    The speedo stopped working about 8 months ago. Not a big problem since we live in the city and we usually just keep up with the rest of the traffic. On the freeway, we figure we're at about 70 when the tacometer reaches 2900 in 5th gear. Is it illegal to drive without a working speedo? (I'm really not a cheap person. I just question the wisdom of putting $300 into a speedo repair for a 12 year car that may be used only a year or two more.

    I had the struts replaced about 60k miles ago. Think I'll need new ones soon?

    Thanks, again.
  • In some states (PA), inspectors may ot pass your car through the safety/emissions test if the speedo is not working. I also heard that it's against the law having a broken 'mile counter' (the thingy that tells you how many gzillion miles you have on the car) in some states.

    Do you have a AAA inspection center around? There is one here in the Philly area that does not do repairs, just testing, and they will tell you anything that is wrong with the car safety/emissions-wise for $100 bucks or so.

    But, having owned a 150K miles car, I can tell you some things I'd do (which you probably have done/considered anyway): Get the brakes done, check belts/hoses (or replace them, they are cheap), check all fluids, and as someone mentioned above, make sure he has a cell phone while driving.

    Another thing I would do (and I may when my kids get older), is to make them 'responsible' for the upkeep of the car. I'm not talking about not pitching in if he has to spend major bucks to fix something, but I would try to get him involved 'shopping' around for repair shops, car advice, etc. It will be invaluable for him when he buys his own car(s) later on.

    My $0.02 - Guillermo
  • 5speeder5speeder Posts: 97
    Thanks, Guillermo, good advice. Yes, my odometer (the mile counter) also does not work. I don't think that's illegal in my state, you just have to document estimated miles when you sign the title to someone else. I don't think this will be an issue because when my son is done with it I will probably donate it to a technical college that has an auto repair program. (They just take 'em apart for learning eperiences, then send them to the junkyard.)

    We don't have emissions testing here in Mpls/St Paul any more and we've never had safety inspections (I'd hope that even the no-government-is-good-government crowd would wince at that one!)

    I'll try AAA to see if they have an inspection program here--otherwise will use a trusted mechanic (but NOT the one who does most of my work!). I agree, this'll be a good opportunity for my son to learn about the responsibilities of car ownership. He's already found out how much he'll have to pay for insurance (we're leaving the car and him on our policy but he'll have to pay the increased amount due to his being primary driver). We're also making him escrow some money for anticipated repairs.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    the notorious Toyota belt retractors: if they don't wind the belt in at all any more, they may be no use in a crash. They will be expensive to replace, but it can be done, and if you are really concerned about safety in this car, they could be very important. In fact, twelve years of aging can be bad for the webbing of the belts, and it may be that they also need replacement.

    Struts are important for emergency braking - they keep the tires in contact with the ground. The condition of the tires you took off the car 18 months ago would have told you if it was time to replace the struts.

    I am pretty sure it is illegal to operate a car here in CA without a working speedo/odo - I am surprised it is not there.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    You can just look at the color of the brake fluid...if it is clear like honey, then fine. If it is brownish-black then it should be flushed immediately.

    Some bushings are more than sound deadeners--they actually support suspension parts and affect alignment, safety, etc.

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  • 5speeder5speeder Posts: 97
    I don't know for sure that it's not illegal to have a nonworking odo in MN. I guess I assumed it wasn't because when you transfer the title you have to either certify that the odo reading is correct or that the odo is or was broken and the reading is incorrect. (But maybe it's one of those "gotcha" questions like on the IRS 1040 form where there's a line where you are supposed to put your income from "illegal gambling activities". I'm sure lots of people report that!)

    RE: broken speedo, I'm guessing that might be illegal in my state.
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