Replace Engine in 2002 Camry LPG or Give It up and Buy Newer Model?

I'm after some opinions/advice on my current situation..

I have a 2002 Camry Advantage that runs on LPG/Dual Fuel @ 212,000KM's. Very cheap to run and I find it comfortable.
I have owned it for the past year and have driven about 25000KM's.
It has served me well and the guy who owned it before me had replaced the Radiator and Timing Belt within the last year of selling to me. Always looked to be logbook serviced and looked after.

Out of no where the other day the engine has started to make a ticking/pinging noise while accelerating.
I've had it looked at by 3 mechanics as I couldn't believe the first one said it is done for and will need a new engine.
All 3 different mechanics have confirmed it's done for, because of suspected broken Piston/Valves/Head?
Which sucks because it's still running fine, just has the noise. But I'm told it can/will combust and break down on me at any point.

So I've contacted a few wreckers and have found best case scenario I can source an engine for $880 and a mechanic will do the labour for $1000 = $1880 total. The wreckers claim the engine has only done 114,000KM's. But I don't know how that could be gauranteed..

My alternative to getting it fixed would be to buy a second hand Corolla or Camry and have to get a loan for $8000-$10000.
As I'm not as confident buying the older cheaper cars anymore.

So what would you do?
Replace the engine for $1880 and hope nothing else goes wrong and try ride it out for a few more years?
Look at buying newer model secondhand camry/corolla and get a loan for $8000-10000?


Poll Options

  • 23
    Replace the engine for $1880 on Camry 2002?
  • 10
    Take out loan for $8000-$10000 to buy newer model camry/corolla secondhand?


  • Buy a newer model.
    Also, add poll.

  • Leave it in a high crime location and make sure your insurance is up to date

    • Being 24 years old, car theft insurance costs me nearly more then my car :(
      So stupid the price difference for insurance as soon as I turn 25.

  • So I've contacted a few wreckers

    Did you ask them what the wrecking value of your car is?

    I can source an engine for $880 and a mechanic will do the labour for $1000

    Those figures don't quite compute for me. Who's pulling the engine from the wreckers car? Who's transporting it? What if it doesn't work?

    • I've only asked one wrecker and he offered $200 lol.

      The wrecker will be taking care of it, as it's on the same street as the mechanic. Apparently 'all there engines are tested and sure to work'. All pretty risky stuff, but both the mechanic and wrecker assure me it will be fine..

      • And if the engine doesn't work you'll be up for $1000 to swap it again. Never seen a used engine warranty cover labour. Seems like a risk.

        • Usually they can start the engine in the wrecked car to prove it runs, though that'll only be idle & free revving, so it might have dramas under load.

          Did ya get them to show you it running OP?

  • Drive it until it stops.

    At that time, empty car of your belongings, take off plates, cash in rego, cancel insurance, call scrapyard.

    • Good idea, chances are it will keep ticking along for years.

      • That's exactly what I'm thinking.

        Keep doing the oil and filter every so often and it'll probably go for another 25000k's or even more.

        • I just changed the oil and filter today, as I had spare laying around.
          Fingers crossed that this might be the case.
          Just need to turn my music up loud enough so I don't hear the noise haha good as new..

    • That's probably the best answer so far. I just fear it stopping somewhere very busy, as I drive Melbourne CBD most days. But thanks for your response

      • Make sure your hazard lights work and set some cash aside for a tow truck and maybe some witches hats to divert traffic around your car and you'll be fine and dandy

  • Personally I’d buy a new car as even with warranty other things can go wrong at this age.

    Camry and Corollas are pretty mechanically simple hence the good longevity. When looking at older ones you just want to make sure it has a service history and hasn’t taken significant damage.

    • That's where my trust has been damaged, as this 2002 Camry was in awesome condition with only one owner and full service history, never in a crash. Yet somehow it decided to suddenly do this to me, even though I gave it so much love!
      Secondhand cars seem to be a gamble no matter how much it checks out

      • @hoskings23 - New cars can also be unreliable.

        Personally I'd expect most non v8 engines to die around 250km unless it's done all highway milage.

        I'd keep an idea on used car sales to see if you come across any bargains and do what Oscargamer above suggested.

      • Sure, second hand cars are a gamble, but before you consider a loan for a newer model and forget about second hand cars all together have a look how many similar age camrys are still out and about. I suspect most of those that aren’t on the roads are off the road because of accident damage or rust rather than engine faults.

        $1900 for a newer engine is a lot cheaper than a loan for a new car, and while it is a risk, you know the condition of the rest of the car.

        • I have a camry of same era and where I live there are heaps of them still around. The MCV20 engines were known to be very reliable ( obviously if servicing done ) and have made quite the name for themselves. Didnt realise how many were still on the roads till I bought one and seen them everywhere then. Some cars you can service till the cows come home but they'll still break due to inferior quality.

    • All cars around that era are mechanically the same and even on newer models theres only slight differences ( air pumps, vvt ) but combustion engines are typically the same. The pollution setup can get more complex on newer ones.
      What changes is the electronics, extra sensors and body computers to run cars.
      So from that era of car they are electronically simpler ( not as many sensors but still plenty enough ) than brand new.
      The longevity comes from high quality materials in parts ( not using inferior metals and plastics etc ) plus the quality of assembly.
      You can service a low quality built car till the cows come home but it will still fail early, there's alot to say for materials, tolerances and engineering practices.

  • Are you running it full time on LPG? And are you only doing short trips? You could just be getting preignition from the spark plugs carbon buildup or various other issues e.g. bad tune on the dual fuel setup. My stepdad has a LPG converted RAV4 with probably the same engine and its a temperamental beast. If 3 mechanics have told you it's got internal issues then it's quite likely it does. When was it last serviced?

    To me there's no point spending more than the car is worth to get it back on the road…. get the oil changed and get someone to inspect the oil filter internals to see if there's metal shavings in the oil & filter that would suggest major internal damage to the engine, from there decide what to do.

    • I'm only an amateur/self taught mechanic, but if the piston or valve was broken, it is likely a chip of metal missing out of which ever part is that broke, causing a sharp edge which causes the pre-ignition under load. This will make it ping really easily regardless of how much load you put on it or your fuel quality, so basically accelerate at all on either fuel & ping ping ping, I'd say they're right. If it only does it under really heavy load, then you could look at plugs or fuel delivery problems.

      The missing metal probably shot out the exhaust valves & got embedded in the exhaust system somewhere (first baffled item, so likely cat), so you might not see anything out of the ordinary in the oil, so clean oil doesn't mean the engine is ok after all.

      Definitely you could try stuff like combustion chamber cleaner in a can (to clean out any carbon buildup, as it can cause this, but only high load not any load like a sharp edge), new plugs, then oil and filter - but most likely the mechanics got it right* so this would be wasted money you could put towards the engine swap or new car, so it depends how important confirming the fault for yourself is to you.

      Edit: oh, if you have access to a compression tester, that coming up really bad on a cylinder would give you a confirmation that either a bit of valve broke off, or whatever broke off damaged an exhaust valve on the way out. From memory they're under $100 (maybe under $50, I bought mine like 15yrs ago) or if you know a car nerd you could borrow one? Probs is it might come up no problems even with the engine rooted.

      (*three mechanics coming to the same conclusion from three different workshops is pretty definitive, though three at the same workshop would be sus)

      TL;DR - By all means throw cheap steel plugs in it, but don't go getting proper high end platinum plugs or spending any real money on this that you might regret.

  • Before deciding to replace the engine, look at the LPG conversion date. If the conversion was done more than 10 years ago it will need re-certifying, which can be expensive (Pressure testing the tank etc) if its only got a year or so to run again its probably not worth fixing.

    BTW burnt valves are a fault with LPG conversions, the engine runs hotter especailly at the valve/head areas. You could go for 400K or 200K its just the luck of the draw, but LPG conversions put more stress on these components

  • Never take a loan out for a car. worst idea.

    Drive it till it dies, or just get a petrol engine and just swap it out. stuff the LPG.

  • My friend owned a 2004 Toyota Camry. The engine was replaced 2.5 years ago, He got a mechanic to replace the engine for $2500. Since then the car is still driving fine.

  • A newer car will be safer ,ie air bags,how much is your life worth

    • Take out road service on it and drive it till it stops. That way if you break down you can get home, towing company will take it to wreckers. But saying that you're then without a car to search for another?
    • Use this time while it still runs to search for another car and save more money if you can and also to educate yourself on buying a second hand car and if you find one you like, take to mechanic to inspect. Some good youtube vids on doing this. Once you find another car, sell it to wreckers and get your $200 plus rego refund to go towards your new car.
    • Do your research on what others have said about their cars, we use product review and it's been a good place for reviews. We've put reviews on there ourselves.
      Can be quite the quandary this sort of financial decision especially when involving cars.
    • Stick to Japanese made ( even though this one let you down it's not indicitive of toyotas or Japanese cars, that's all we'll buy and have had awesome success. Toyota, Suzuki, Daihatsu ). The previous owner may have done something wrong when replacing timing belt or did he replace it? Unless there's evidence of replacement of these things don't believe what people say. No receipts, no go especially timing belts. Also the timing belt may have slipped a notch.
      Your money situation and job security obviously come into it, can you afford a loan? I'd never take a loan out on a car. Pay too much for car through loan or you might find yourself at a car yard buying one for way too much getting their finance as you may have gotten a bit desperate. It happens.
      I have little faith in mechanics tbh unless they went the whole hog and did leak down test, compression test, cylinder balance test, vacuum tests. I bet they didnt as it wasnt worth their time and they just want to make money on vehicles in the shop for work and not mess about on yours.
  • Plenty of good cars around for $2500 to $3000

    But in any case I suggest putting some Nulon Lifter Free OR Wynns Engine Tune Up into the oil first and see if the noise goes away over the next 500kms. Wont happen immediately. See label for instructions.

    See here:

    Or better still for an instant fix do an oil change but do an engine flush first before draining the oil by putting Wynns Engine flush into the oil and letting motor idle for about 20mins. Then fill the car with SYNTHETIC oil.

    See here:

    These engine oil cleaners are only about $10 each so a very cheap fix if it works.

    Could just be noisy lifters making the ticking noise.
    Not uncommon for cars that have done high kms.

    You can all thank me later for this awesome tip

    • I literally just spent today doing this haha wow. Unfortunately not the easy fix I was hoping for.
      Confirmed damage to valves from running engine on LPG, which has left permanent damage from running at higher temp.

      • That’s why a proper lpg conversion includes swapping out the valves and valve seats for high temp/harder ones. The combustion chamber runs a lot hotter on lpg than on petrol. New cars that ran on lpg/dual fuel had a different head fitted compared to the petrol-only versions.

        Adding upper cylinder lubricant to the petrol on dual fuel cars can slow down the wear. And you need to run the car at least 10-20km a week on petrol to ‘clean out’ the motor.

        Back in the day, running on lpg could save you around 50% on fuel costs because lpg was largely excise-free and therefore much cheaper than petrol. But not anymore. Because of the number of people converting to lpg, the govt realised they were losing out on the petrol excise, so slapped an excise on lpg.

        Today, there are very little savings in lpg, particularly if you factor in the cost of a conversion, in which case you would need to be doing very high annual mileage.

        OP, are we assuming the replacement engine you have your eye on is also dual fuel? If I was in your financial situation (and you seem to be quite attached to your Camry), I’d probably swap over the engine and hope that’s the only significant spend on the car over the next 2-3 years. Also consider adding upper cylinder lubricant to the petrol.

        Good luck.

      • Oh dear

        It was worth a try

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