Car Care Conundrums
Back in 2009, as the world was crumbling around me, my late grandfather’s Chevy Cavalier had crossed a threshold I could no longer abide. I forget what the quoted repair cost was going to be, but there were enough things wrong with the vehicle that I basically signed over the title to have it scrapped. Shortly thereafter, I found a late ’90s Plymouth Breeze for $3000. Sporting power windows, power mirrors, and cruise control, it was a very modest step up from the Cavalier.
Three and a half years later, that Breeze was running rough. Rather than hassle with car repairs, I enlisted the help of my father, a former car salesman, to help me find another $3000 sedan. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that I would consider a GMC Envoy that had an asking price of around $8000, but my father encouraged me to try it out. After the test drive in which the “Service Engine Soon” light came on, I offered them $4150 and they took the offer.
So back to the Breeze. About six months later the Breeze was still rusting behind my house. I decided to take it down to “AAMCO Total Car Care” because they were only two miles away and I could easily walk home after dropping off the car. Basically I wanted to know if it was worth fixing. A few days later I got a call from the manager. It was the way he said it, “For what it is, it’s not in bad shape.” He gave me the rundown of everything thing that needed to be done. The total cost was around $700.
I got my Breeze back a couple weeks later, and it was running as good as when I bought it. That’s when the Breeze became my beater.
Months and years passed by. With a certain degree of regularity, I had to limp the Breeze back to the AAMCO for repairs, but this time was different… The price tag was a daunting $1250 for the repairs. There comes a point that you have to walk away, and this was borderline. Reluctantly I approved the repairs and the Breeze seemed like everything was OK again.
Four days later, I had barely driven the car a hundred miles when I heard a knocking sound. Then there was the sound of demons emerging from the bowls of hell coming from under my hood. I’m not a mechanic but right then I knew: “Water pump.”
The next day I took the vehicle back to AAMCO dripping coolant along the way. I couldn’t believe that after all that money spent on the previous repairs, it immediately broke down again. My emotions were swirling as I left the Breeze at the AAMCO. If I walk away now, that $1250 would have been for nothing.
So the water pump actually comes as part of a “kit” that replaces a bunch of stuff. All the belts, including the timing belt, the tensioner, labor, and a few other things came to $730. I nearly cried.
It was late Thursday, and the Breeze was finally ready to come home. I climbed into the car, adjusted the driver’s seat, and started the engine. It sounded pretty much like it always does… but different. More confident. As I pulled off the lot, the engine really had a new lease on life. It felt like a much newer car. The ride was amazing.
The real question on my mind is, “Was it worth it?” I mean, if I had originally been given a figure of $1980, I would have walked away and scrapped the Breeze, but splitting it up like that… Oh, and it’s not like the mechanics planned it that way. There’s no way anyone could have predicted the moment water pump would fail even though the car has 170,000 miles on it. It ran fine up until it didn’t.
But since the timing belt is new, the engine seems so much smoother. Also, the original repairs included an alignment and new drum brakes, so it handles like a champ… But that’s still an awful lot of money to put into a 20 year old car. What I’d like to know is at what point do I actually say enough is enough, and sell the car for scrap?