I have a friend who keeps nagging me to get rid of my "heap of shit" 1998
Sable because of all the repairs I've had performed on it lately.
First of all, this is a guy who is in his mid-30's and only recently
learned to drive, and who admits that he knows absolutely nothing about
working on cars. He tries to convince me that I can buy a good 10-year-old
Honda for only $1100 and I'll get another 100,000 miles out of it with no
What have I had done to my Sable recently? Here's a backwards list, not
counting normal wear and tear like brakes, belts, oil changes, etc, though
I do include replacement of an oil pan gasket.
Right now it's in the shop to investigate leaking coolant. I think it
might be coming from the radiator. If not, one of the hoses and it's just
running down the air dam or something and dripping from there. Other
problem it has right now is pulsating lights, but only when running the
headlights - (all lighting -- probably the alternator going out), and the
AC compressor just started making a strange noise. The heater core is also
clogged up, so there's no heat.
11/23/2004 - 166,899 miles - No overdrive, hard shift from second to third
- Replaced valve body in the transmission and gearshift solenoid - $1,133.
11/5/2004 - 165,500 miles - Shimmy in front driver wheel at highway speeds
- Replace front brake pads and rotors, replace worn out tie rod end,
replace right front tire - $254.95
7/8/2004 - 153,737 - Overheating problem. Water pump had gone out, the
engine got hot (though not quite maxed out) and warped the heads. $838.80.
6/21/2004 - 151,259 miles - Water pump went out - $85.
6/9/2004 - 150,418 miles - Check Engine light had been on for the last
62,000 miles. I knew from my own scan tool it was an oxygen sensor. Had
it replaced and fixed some screwed up wiring for $271.27.
3/19/2004 - 134,187 miles - Oil spewing from the underside of the engine.
Replaced engine oil pan gasket - $232.11
11/1/2003 - 122,042 miles - Coolant loss due to a leaking radiator.
Replaced radiator. $371.55.
6/11/2003 - 106,647 miles - Imprecise steering, slight horizontal drift -
Replaced front left lower ball joint - $160.09.
Prior to that date, the only other work done was paid for by the dealer and
that was for the replacement of the rack in the steering mechanism. The
car was virtually undriveable it was so bad. Other dealer work was for
normal wear & tear (brakes, bulb replacements, and other things needed to
get it to pass inspection).
So in all, not counting normal maintenance costs, I've only spent $2,507.97
for 65,000 miles of driving from April 2003 until now.
For the replacement of the heater core and alternator, that's probably
another $800, then if the radiator is bad, another $400 or so, for a total
of $1200, not counting the compressor.
That said, mechanically the car runs great. It doesn't smoke, the engine
is very responsive to the gas pedal, especially after having the
transmission worked on. The only problem I do have is that I have to burn
premium gas or it clatters, but the mechanic says the inside of my engine
is exceptionally clean. It's clattered since I first bought it with
101,000 miles on it. The A/C still blows cold enough to make you exhale
fog in the middle of summer and all the electric windows and locks still
work, though in really cold weather, the front passenger window seems a
The body of the car is in great shape, too. There are no dents except for
about three barely noticeable dents on the roof - probably a touch of hail
damage, but they're so hard to see that I didn't even notice them for the
first fifteen months I had the car, if they were even on there at that
time. The only complaint I have about the body is the typical yellowed,
hazy headlight lenses, but those can be replaced for $500.
So based on all that info, does it really sound like I have a heap of shit?
Or does it sound like I have a car that's in good shape overall, but some
of the parts (alternator, compressor) are just nearing the end of their
normal operating life?
I want to keep the car because I really love it a lot -- even more than the
newer models. Plus I don't want to take on a big car payment right now,
not when I'm so close to getting this one paid for. I only owe $1300 more
on it and I'm determined to keep it at least that long. I want so badly to
experience the freedom of life without a car payment once again.
So he thinks I should sell the "piece of shit" and get a car for $1,000 --
a Honda. Now what would you do? Hell, I certainly don't want to drive a
Honda. When you spend as much time behind the wheel as I do, comfort
becomes an issue. My Sable is comfortable. A Ford Focus is not. Even the
2003 Taurus I've been driving in recent days is not as comfortable as mine.
What are your words of wisdom? Yes, my Sable has drained all my last
pennies from my checking account with the most recent repair, and I'm
having to get a friend to lend me a little money to get this coolant leak
fixed, but if I can just get a month of trouble-free service out of it, I
can recover and be financially prepared for the next major repair.