My friend just bought a 1992 Toyota Tercel for his late-teenage niece. She was previously driving a 1970s-era Volvo that was recently involved in a collision and now has post-collision mechanical problems that make it unsuitable for any sort of driving other than in town -- overheating, etc.
He got the Tercel for a decent price from at least the second owner. The seller had only owned it a week or two and had purchased it for his own daughter assuming she would have gotten good grades this last semester. As she didn't, he put it up on Craigslist.
The original owner is not known to my friend, and no service records accompany the vehicle. The previous owner did indicate that it's recently had a new radiator and water pump installed, and it does have new, non-major-brand-name Chinese-made tires.
When he purchased it, he gave it a once-over, and it appears to be in reasonably good working order consistent with the 190,500 miles on the odometer. Minor body scratches and nicks consistent with use (paint looks to be factory original), a few minor mechanical problems (trunk latch can occasionally stick, making it difficult to open, driver's side seat belt doesn't have a lot of tension but still locks when jerked, etc.), and generally looks to be in good shape.
His niece doesn't really do much car maintenance, and mostly just counts on my friend to remind her when to take it into the shop. As she's moving out (hence the gift of the car), she'll have only the sticker on the windshield and her own memory. They ordered an owner's manual on eBay, so she'll at least have that.
My friend and I want to have her car well-prepared for its time with his niece, and so I come to seek the advice of BITOG as to what maintenance might be useful.
Here's my thoughts, organized by category. Any additions, subtractions, or changes would be most welcome.Oil
Car currently has unknown miles on unknown oil and an orange Fram filter. My friend is going to send a sample off to Blackstone to see what they think, and to see if they can detect any hidden problems. Unknown if the car burns any oil and, if so, how much it burns.
AutoZone is running a promotion now for Quaker State conventional oil (the green bottle) and an STP filter for $13.99. Same price for Mobil Clean 5000 and an STP filter They also are promoting Quaker State High Mileage and a Fram Tough Guard filter for $17.99. Castrol GTX and an STP filter are $16.99. Mobil 1 (both standard and high mileage) and a Mobil 1 filter are $29.99, while Mobil 1 Extended Performance and a Mobil 1 filter are $34.99.
I've always been a bit skeptical of "high mileage" oils, and so was going to recommend either the Mobil Clean 5000 or Quaker State standard oils. I've used Mobil oils for years with good results in my Camry, but have never used Quaker State. Thoughts?
The Mobil 1 Extended Performance oil and filter are a pretty decent deal, but I'm concerned with possible oil burning (as mentioned above, no idea if the car burns oil, so why bother with burning the good stuff?). If it doesn't burn any oil, the 15,000 mile protection seems like a good idea for a person who may neglect maintenance. Any truth to the rumor that switching to synthetic oil may inadvertently over-clean the engine, removing deposits that would otherwise keep seals intact? Current seal status is unknown, but there does not appear to be any visible oil leaks.
According to the Mobil website, this year and model of car calls for 10W-30 oil. It will be driven in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Sacramento. No towing or other heavy duty. Any concerns with using the originally-specified oil weight with 190,500 miles or should we use a somewhat heavier 40-weight oil?Air Filter
Mostly clean, but there's a pencil-sized hole in one of the pleats. Unknown how long it's been in this state. Will replace with an STP filter in the appropriate size.Fuel Filter
Unknown status. Costs $22 or so to replace. Hopefully would be easy to replace if needed.PCV Valve
Unknown status. About $4 to replace. Thinking of doing this just to be on the safe side. Is there any way to test the PCV valve for proper function?Spark Plugs
Unknown status. Copper plugs are cheap, so we're thinking of changing them. Is it worthwhile to do so if the car continues to run fine?Distributor/Wires
Wires look to be in decent shape. Replacement cap and wires are $44, with a replacement rotor for $4. Any sense in replacing it if the engine runs fine?Transmission/Differential
Friend took the car into the local Chevron Oilstop to have them change the fluid in the automatic transmission and front differential. No idea what the status of these fluids before was.Power Steering/Brake Fluid
Color looks normal on both, as does the levels. Not going to do anything here.Coolant
Level appears good, though there's some gunk on what appears to be the original radiator cap and overflow tank. New radiator seems to be in good shape and doesn't have any noticeable leaks. Not going to do anything here.Brakes
Going to take the wheels off tomorrow and check the front disk brakes for pad and rotor wear. Never taken apart drum brakes such as those found on the rear, but it shouldn't be terribly hard. AutoZone's website has a takedown guide for the brakes, which is handy. Will replace parts as needed.Timing Belt/Water Pump
Previous owner claims that they were recently repaired. Haven't checked in detail yet. Serpentine belt appears to be in good condition.Interior
Driver's seat belt is a bit floppy, as the tensioner spring is weak. Also appears to be fraying a bit along the edge, but does not appear to pose any safety risk. Still locks when jerked. Any idea where to get a replacement seat belt on the cheap?
Any other suggestions? We're hoping to start work on the vehicle this afternoon (it's presently around 3am; I'm a night owl), and can work on it for up to a week or so (the niece can use the Volvo for the time being), but we'd really prefer to get stuff done as soon as possible (e.g. in one or two days). We haven't put the car up on stands to check the underside, steering, etc. but will do that today when we're doing other work.
We'd like to do this as cheaply as possible, as the car was only $1,200 and there's a lot of minor quirks one can live with, so long as the vehicle is in good mechanical shape and safe to operate.
We can do pretty much all of the work ourselves (my friend used to restore old Volvos, but it's been a few years -- I'm pretty handy, but still learning the details. Neither of us are afraid of turning wrenches or getting our hands dirty.) so labor won't be a problem and we've got the tools for the job. We'd like to keep the whole job under $200, with $100 being a far more preferable maximum limit.
Any suggestions or input would be most welcome.