'97 Camry 4-Cyl @ 65K miles - Switch to Synth?

SWS

Messages
390
Location
Tennessee
I am a new member today! This looks like a great site! The oil pan gasket on my '97 Camry 4-Cyl @ 65K miles started leaking several years ago, but recently no amount of GENTLE torquing of the oil pan bolts stopped the leak. This was not a major leak, but since I am planning to have a new asphalt driveway installed, I did not want to mess it up with oil drips. Anyway, I went to the dealer I like and had the oil pan dropped to fix it. They let me see the crankcase so I could see if there was any sludge. I found the entire crankcase area to be clean and shiney! Note that I have used conventional (dino) Pennzoil 10W-30, changing the oil & filter (Toyota filter only) myself every 3 months since the car was new in Feb-1997. Since I am a short-mileage, in-town driver I think that this is the correct service interval for this car. However, I have noticed when changing the oil, always with less than 3000 miles on the oil, that it has significantly darkened and appears worn-out. Of course this is a subjective opinion from someone who does not know what "worn-out" oil is! The "worn-out look" is worse in the SUMMER than in the winter! This effect is opposite what I expected - the other cars I have had always seemed to have cleaner oil in the summer using similar oil. Note that I live in Tennessee, so the the climate is moderate. The mechanic fixing the oil pan agreed that everything looked good, but his suggestion was to switch to a semi-synth or full synth oil since my engine is known to run hot in the head. (His observation was that the V6 was worse for sludge than the 4-Cyl that I have). I realized that my dino oil was probably near thermal break-down in the summer (sitting in traffic) and that was the reason that the oil looks more worn-out in the summer in this car. SO TO MY QUESTION --> Should I switch to Synth oil at this time? I can afford the extra cost, and do not plan to greatly extend my oil-change intervals. I am considering M1 full-synth. This oil has an advertised thermal-breakdown above 400F. This is probably an important factor for this engine, which is a poor thermal design. The mechanic said that leaks should not be a problem, especially since I now have a clean engine. I would really appreciate any comments that you may have. Thanks! Note: I am a middle-aged family man --> no racing. I do want to keep this car for many more years. SWS
 
Messages
11,284
Location
Spring HIll
First off, [Welcome!] Switching to synth is a good idea for the questionable Toyota engines, I used to own one of them. If you're looking at Mobil1, 10w-30 is good for this setup. I do suggest an Auto-Rx run in your car prior to moving to synth, though. It's worth it...my mileage is up, NVH is down, and it idles in a much more behaved manner. I've had no problems with leaks or other issue moving to synth on my vehicle at the 100K mark using Auto-Rx. Well worth it IMO. [Cheers!]
 
Messages
930
Location
Southeast
I think you are fine with dino, unless you want to do less oil changes. My '94 tercel (76K) and my parents '97 tercel (56K) have seen dino and both run great. The '94 burns a little because my dad let it go too long without a change way back when. Other than that, they are fine on dino. And as long as you dont hot rod it, it will probably last a ridiculous number of miles. [ April 12, 2004, 12:00 AM: Message edited by: FL-400S ]
 
Messages
9,427
Location
Pensacola & Vero Beach FL
quote:
Originally posted by FL-400S: I think you are fine with dino, unless you want to do less oil changes. My '94 tercel (76K) and my parents '97 tercel (56K) have seen dino and both run great. The '94 burns a little because my dad let it go too long without a change way back when. Other than that, they are fine on dino. And as long as you dont hot rod it, it will probably last a ridiculous number of miles.
I don't think that this is an inaccurate observation, although I'd be more cautious with an early 4th generation Camry ('97-'01), because unfortunately, the engines in these cars were more prone to sludging. The engine will be fine as long as you don't cross the nebulous line into conditions where sludge starts forming. The problem with these cars is that the line is closer to normal operations than it is in most cars. Of course, it's difficult to define where that line is -- best to just stay as far from where it might begin as you can. IMHO, using Mobil-1 (or other syn with similar or better #s would be a big step in the right direction). I presently own an 03 V-6 Camry with about 33,000 miles on it. At around 25k, the front valve/cam cover was replaced and I got a glimpse inside the engine, which has had synthetic since 2k. It was absolutely spotless, silvery bare metal. And I drive in the furnace hot gulf coast area. But most importantly, just keep changing whatever you use on a rigorouos, regular basis.
 
Messages
3,031
Location
Florida
I would just go with M1 10w30 and change it twice a year. You don't drive many miles so in theory you could do one oil change per year, but it would be better to do the two changes. You will notice consumption at first with the synth. The oil will darken quicker since it will be cleaning out the residue. Another thought, you have been doing good with your dino changes, why change what has been working for you the past 65,000 miles? You may develope leaks with the switch. Daily Drives: -2003 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner XtraCab, 2.7 Liter , Mobil1 Synthetic SS 5W-30. ODO 8100 Miles. -1995 Toyota 4-Runner 3.0 V6, Mobil1 Synthetic SS 10W-30. ODO 84500 Miles. http://community.webshots.com/user/amkeer
 
Messages
7,256
Location
USA
Couple things I learned. If you check oil and want to even use color as an indicator only do so with hot oil. Cold oil is darker due to more particulate settled onto stick. If oil is thinner than its likely not worn out even if darker. Worn out oil is very thick and sticks to dipstick but really this is subjective. You really have to do a UOA to know.
 
Messages
47,829
Location
Everson WA - Pacific NW USA
I just want to make an observation here. Maybe it's my (mis)perception - but I think there should be a big thumbs up to your mechanic. No this isn't a "bash mechanics post" - on the contary, this sounds like an enlightened person. For him to work this close to you and speak about the bonuses of certain oil types is excellent! As for your car - it comes down to personal choice. The others have pretty much put it in front of you. You could go with synthetic and extend your interval a tad with no worries.....the AutoRx clean cycle is an excellent suggestion.
 
Messages
11,284
Location
Spring HIll
quote:
Originally posted by Amkeer: Another thought, you have been doing good with your dino changes, why change what has been working for you the past 65,000 miles? You may develope leaks with the switch.
Keep those pesky leaks away by using a dose or two of Auto-Rx....
 
Messages
11,284
Location
Spring HIll
quote:
Originally posted by Pablo: I just want to make an observation here. Maybe it's my (mis)perception - but I think there should be a big thumbs up to your mechanic. No this isn't a "bash mechanics post" - on the contary, this sounds like an enlightened person. For him to work this close to you and speak about the bonuses of certain oil types is excellent!
Pablo, Excellent point! How many mechanics that we run into really understand these things we speak of here on a daily basis? I hope you can keep him as your mechanic for years to come...
 
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