1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: On Its Last Legs?

February 14, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

I've owned a lot of old used cars and I've noticed that, when there are a few problems, you feel like a car's on its last legs. But if you keep the faith, and fix the problems, it suddenly seems good as, well, not quite new, but at least back up to speed.

Such is life with our 1996 ES 300. As Ron described in his post another editor experienced a hard start problem. A short time later, the check engine light came on again! Oh man, it seems like this car's falling apart.

The engine code indicated that there was a vacuum leak, which could have been almost any loose piece of spaghetti under the hood. Or it could have been something major, like the charcoal filter under the exhaust system. And then again, maybe it was triggered by replacing the O2 sensor. We decided to reset the code and hope for the best.

Monday morning, after a weekend of driving, with no reappearance of the check engine light, I took it to the car wash for a quick bath. On the way back to the office, I noticed my attitude toward the old car improving. "How could I have ever thought it was down for the count?" I wondered. "This has plenty of life left."

But every couple of miles, I nervously glance at the gauge cluster, dreading the glow of the check engine light.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor, @ 153,452 miles

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