1996 Lexus ES 300: 150K + Maintenance = Uncharted Territory
November 06, 2012
We asked your opinion and you gave it to us: how should we handle the 150K service visit? Our dilemma is that, with a car this old, we're not going to do everything the manual recommends. So what's really important to do?
The general consensus, which we agreed with, was this: find a mechanic you trust, get him to give you a list of necessary work, and then prioritize. That's what we did. And here's what happened.
We took the ES to Overseas Garage, in Long Beach, Calif., which is highly recommended on Yelp. We told Andy that the car was due for the 150,000-mile service but we didn't want to do everything the manual recommends. His expression was somewhat blank as if he wasn't real concerned about what was in the manual. The cars he deals with are basically, off the charts.
We told him to give us an oil change and tire rotation and give the car a look-over. We added that other mechanics told us we have an oil leak. Again, the blank stare. But a few hours later we got a call from Andy. "Okay," he said, and sighs heavily. He tells me there is an oil leak around the timing belt cover. And if you take off the timing belt cover, you might as well do the timing belt. And if you do the timing belt you might as well do the cam seals and the water pump. Bottom line: $798.
Well, as Andy says, the leak "isn't gushing." In fact, we don't even see oil drips under the car. Occasionally we get an oil smell in the cabin but it mixes with various other old, musky, funky smells. And another mechanic told us the timing belt looks good. So we are tabling a decision on this repair as the money in our repair budget adds up. Remember, we are putting ourselves in the place of a family who needs cheap transportation but owns the car outright. Our fictional family budgets $365 a month the typical amount for a used car down payment -- for repairs. Now, after spending $75 for our oil change and tire rotation, we have $629.
By the way, Lexus is cutting us loose into uncharted territory. The 150K service is the last in the owner's manual. From now on, we'll have a blank look on our faces when anyone refers to the owner's manual.
Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 150,890 mile