Should I have any concerns buying a car with a 31 year old engine?

Our reader is considering buying a 1990 Toyota Supra. They want to know if by buying a car with an old engine they’re letting themselves in for trouble.

Buying old cars

Buying any old car is a risk. Whether they’ve been used a lot or not very much, they’re still old. That means components like seals will be potentially drying out and leaking. Joints might be worn and any number of other things could be affected by the ravages of time. Whether you’re comfortable with that depends on your attitude to risk. But there are some things you can do to mitigate the chances of something going wrong.

Do your research

For a start, find out about the car you’re interested in and the foibles that affected it. The Toyota Supra model our reader is interested in (like the one below) was plagued by blown head gaskets. Our reader knew about this and discovered that the head gasket on the car he was interested in had been replaced and the problem sorted.

He also knew to check that the engine hadn’t been tuned and that the tailgate can leak. When he went to see the car, he poked around beneath the boot carpet to ensure there was no water in the spare wheel well. Looking into the car you’re buying plus all its potential problems can save you a lot of pain and potential cost later.

old engine

How has it been looked after?

There are a number of ways of telling this. First of all, what condition is it in? If the seats look like they’ve been kept clean, the carpets vacuumed and the bodywork polished, chances are it’s been well loved. And if it’s been looked after to the naked eye, there’s nothing to suggest it won’t have been cared for in areas you can’t see too.

First of all, ask if it’s got any service history. This is particularly important for a sportscar and could ensure you get many happy miles out of an apparently old engine. If it’s got a regularly stamped service book that’s great. If there are pages of bills on top, showing extra work that’s been done to it, so much the better.

Assuming you’re buying the car in the UK, you can also check its MOT history. This is a free government service and enables you to input the reg number and see how well or otherwise the car has done in its annual roadworthiness test over the years.

You might also want to get an independent report into the car’s health. The best way to do this is to become a member of the owners’ club. There will be plenty of experts there whose experience of the model you’re interested in might prove invaluable.

What will you use it for?

Our buyer was planning to use his Toyota as a weekend runabout. For something like a Supra with Toyota’s famous bullet-proof reliability this should be easy to cope with. And depending on how far he’s driving, it might bring a smile to the face on otherwise mundane trips.

But if you’re planning on covering thousands of miles a week, buying an old car probably isn’t the best way to go.