1991 Toyota Previa - Can it be reliable?

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391
Location
Detroit
Hello everyone,

I've got an old Toyota Previa 1991. I was in a discussion with a family member about the old clunker. The discussion was in regards to a recent breakdown the Van had on the freeway. The breakdown was entirely the fault of my inept DIY acumen. I had failed to secure a radiator hose in its respective holding bracket. Eventually the radiator hose contacted the radiator fan, severed it, and caused a pull-over situation on the interstate. I believe the reliability of the old van is not in question. I've owned the van for over 6 years and never had a mechanical failure. I drove the thing out from California to Michigan a few years ago, without any problems. In addition to it being a 90s Toyota, I also invested about $3000 worth of parts and labor into it. New engine mounts, new clutch, flywheel, belts, water pump, and new bushings all around. The parts list is quite extensive. It is the smoothest runner I've owned. No vibrations at all on the interstate, and a quiet idle.

Is it unrealistic to assume just because it is a 90s Toyota that it will be mechanically reliable? Would you treat a 90s Toyota Pickup 22re as nearly reliable or even as reliable as a modern car with preventative maintenance? My Previa has received impeccable maintenance. The valvetrain is so clean, you could eat off of it.
 

Kurtatron

Thread starter
Messages
391
Location
Detroit
180k miles. I am just debating in mind if it is actually worth keeping or not. So far it has not caused any headaches at all - ever. I get stressed out however, about the what-ifs. Is it likely that once I get the first mechanical failure, everything else will not be far behind? I've heard people say, once a car starts breaking down, mechanical expenses snowball.
 

Nick1994

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13,209
Location
Phoenix, AZ
How many miles? It can still be reasonably reliable.

My old Jeep for a while I was having some things die right when I thought I was kept up on it, but some things just get old, brittle, or worn out and you might not think of those parts.

Things like, I had a rear brake hose start leaking. Starter got tired. Differential bearings worn out. A/C compressor clutch died. Power steering hose started leaking bad. Catalytic converter broke inside into chunks. Stuff that I didn't really think to proactively replace.

So you've just got to think outside the box and replace other stuff besides the normal tune up stuff.
 
Messages
456
Location
Gainesville, FL
I'm sure it can be exceedingly reliable with proper maintenance. Probably as much so as any new vehicle. Everybody makes mistakes from time to time and that is not to be blamed on the vehicle.

I daily drove a 1966 Dodge pickup for years, still drive it occasionally. Over the course of a couple hundred thousand miles it never once left me stranded. I wouldn't say a vehicle's age has much to do with reliability, more so with parts availability. Do frequent inspections and address small problems before they become big ones.
 
Messages
307
Location
Arizona
^ this.

OP: "Is it unrealistic to assume just because it is a 90s Toyota that it will be mechanically reliable?"
You've owned it for six years with no problems. You have your answer.
Stop overthinking it and give yourself a mental break [but ohhhhhh do I get it !!!!].
 

Kurtatron

Thread starter
Messages
391
Location
Detroit
^ this.

OP: "Is it unrealistic to assume just because it is a 90s Toyota that it will be mechanically reliable?"
You've owned it for six years with no problems. You have your answer.
Stop overthinking it and give yourself a mental break [but ohhhhhh do I get it !!!!].
Yes, it is true that I overthink these things, hence why I'm on forums all the time. I stressed so much over my 2001 Honda Civic because forums had mentioned that they are prone to head gasket failures. I obsessively read internet content about them over and over again, meanwhile my Civic never blew a head gasket.
 
Only you know your cost vs value vs reliability vs stress equation. It's a 30 yr old van with 180k miles. Rust will probably kill it if you drive it year round in Detroit but you started that clock when it left California not 30 years ago. If you don't trust it on a trip take something else. If it's your only vehicle then you're back to reliability vs stress. They were a unique design for sure, I've heard not easy to work on.
 
Messages
5,539
Location
NJ
Many cars tend to wear out. Seals, rings, transmission, leaks, etc. Usually, you get ample warning something is amiss. To me, that's reliable. It's not going to strand you. Even new cars can have a major problem and leave you on the side of the road.
 
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17,758
Location
NH
Stuff can age out. Wire insulation, gaskets, seals. Hidden corrosion. And when it goes, can you get replacement parts?

of course, when one says "reliable" just what does that mean? Never breaks down, breakage is limited to to things that don't require a tow, things that don't require more than a grand to repair? All repairs could be scheduled and done at the next service?
 
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675
Location
NC
There are approximately 30,000 individual parts (nuts/bolts/screws) in the average car. There are about 1800 component parts. Probably only 10% of the component parts are mission critical. Radiator hose yes, heater blower motor no. You have replaced how many of them? Figure the odds of some of the rest failing.

The question only you can answer is how risk averse are you? 🚙
 
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23,745
Location
CA
My parents have a 92 with 180K (coincidentally) that they still drive daily. They only put 3-4k yr on it locally. The issue I've ran into is that there is simply a lack of quality parts available and a lot of the OE stuff has been discontinued. The SADS shaft bushings are getting shot and there is no reasonable direct replacement. Similar story with the infamous oil level sensor. Ours still has the original radiator, water pump, hoses, etc. The only items I have replaced are struts, rear a/c evaporator core, front calipers and basic routine maintenance items.

Edit: At the end of the day, it is a 30-yr old car that was a low-volume model when it was new.
 
Last edited:

JC1

Messages
6,001
Location
Oshawa, Ontario Canada
The problem with a vehicle that old and not that popular is getting parts as time goes on. You may get stuck and it would take time to have someone help you get whatever failed repaired. The issue is how much patience and time you would spend on such issues.

Is the van only driven in good weather and not rusted out? Are you a member of Siennachat? There is a previa sub-topic on that site which may be helpful for you.
 

Kurtatron

Thread starter
Messages
391
Location
Detroit
My parents have a 92 with 180K (coincidentally) that they still drive daily. They only put 3-4k yr on it locally. The issue I've ran into is that there is simply a lack of quality parts available and a lot of the OE stuff has been discontinued. The SADS shaft bushings are getting shot and there is no reasonable direct replacement. Similar story with the infamous oil level sensor. Ours still has the original radiator, water pump, hoses, etc. The only items I have replaced are struts, rear a/c evaporator core, front calipers and basic routine maintenance items.

Edit: At the end of the day, it is a 30-yr old car that was a low-volume model when it was new.
Yes, that is what I think will ultimately lead to its demise.

It doesn't have any rust, since it is from California. I guess to think about things, if I can get a couple years out of it, that would be good enough. I just want to recoup the $3000 I put into it years ago. I did have the SAD bushings replaced also ($300 part alone!). After this thing runs its course, I want to get a vehicle that has a better parts availability market. Something like an older American car.
 
Messages
6,948
Location
Roanoke Virginia
Reliable absolutely. Parts well they are hard to come by when you do need them. Their are two or three of these vans in my area on my Toyota forum someone who lives near me sent me a message and we went to the junkyard that is on the mountain I live on they had three sitting in the corner and we cleaned them out of parts. I know a place out in California that has some too that he sells parts from the coolest guy I’ve ever dealt with over the phone when I called about a part for the guy who I helped van. He was in a Roadkill episode on YouTube is how I originally found out about him. We still drive our Toyota with 279,000 everywhere including on longer trips if it’s the car we are in we are taking it the worst thing we have had happen was one of the coils failed and made it misfire but my dad kept driving it and it made it back home.
 
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455
I see those older vans ALL OVER the roads in my area. Mostly driven by people who don't care much about maintenance other than get the oil changes every 20k or put gas in the tank. They just keep chugging along like total 1990's Toyota champions.

They are super reliable and worth fixing up as long as there isn't any major rust issues.

I have a '93 Toyota pickup from the same vintage and it runs better now pushing 350K miles than it did at 150K miles.

Even 300K miles is low miles for a Previa van.

KEEP THE VAN! :cool::cool:
 
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