Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Car question

For the past two years- or getting close to that- I have been depending on other people for motorized transportation.  I had a blowout in a blizzard and messed up my alignment (and obviously lost a tire) and can't afford to get that fixed.  And now there are other problems my poor car has due to sitting unused for a couple of years.

But I am sick of depending on others when I need to get where I need to go- I use my bike in town, but this town lacks a lot of what I need to get to, and I also have other things I need a car for, even though I try to combine trips and eliminate them if possible.  The "main town" is about 13 miles away, and not realistically a bikeable situation.

So, hypothetically, if I were ever somehow able to get enough money to fix the car (I'm estimating around $2,000), would it make sense to fix the car, or should I just buy another used car even if it cost me more?  I'm tall enough, and my legs are so ridiculously long, that I can't fit in, or safely drive, a compact car of any kind.  I have owned a standard transmission car but I despise standard transmissions with a red hot passion, but if I had no choice...

I'm not a "car guy", so your "Ford vs Chevy vs foreign car" stuff is meaningless to me.  As is just about everything else of a technical nature.  So I need it in "Captain Dummy talk".

It's not likely that I'll be doing anything soon due to finances, but I guess I should be thinking which way to go.  And I suppose I should go ahead and sell my car if I'm never going to fix it.  Any advice?



  1. You can find older Ford Taurus' and Chevy Impala's usually at bargain basement prices. They build so many of them that the older ones can be had for under a grand. Both of those models have the legroom for you tall guys. Two grand to fix a font end seems a bit high unless they have to replace a lot of the parts.

    I don't know a lot about the foreign cars as far as leg and head room. I do know that Honda, Toyota and Mazda all make very dependable cars if you can find one with the space you need.

    You should check the want-ads in the paper of the nearest larger city. When you get into the bigger markets, the older cars get cheaper because of market saturation. Especially the cars that they build a lot of. You also might want to check on a older minivan. Besides the leg and head room you need, you can haul a lot of stuff and keep it out of the weather.

  2. It depends Kent is the car wrecked because of the blowout or is it just a tire issue.Are you sure the alignment is out.2000 sounds like an awful lot to spend repairing an older car.I would like to help but more info is needed.Maybe a pic and the model of the car is needed.Then I can give you some unexpert opinions on your situation.I am an expert on keeping my jalopy running that could be of use to ya.

  3. I'd say sell yours and get another. There's some decent vehicles around for 2 grand, I got a '96 Cherokee 4x4 for 2 grand. It ain't pretty but it runs and drives good, and the 4 wheel drive works too.

  4. The $2000 is what I estimate to get the alignment done, another tire, a new battery, a tune-up to clean all the gelled gas out of the system, and brakes. I could be wrong.
    I would rather smash my thumb with a hammer than work on a car, but I will if I have to- it usually results in someone else having to fix what I worked on, though.

    It's a '95 Chevy Blazer that I got new back when money was easier to come by, and it has over 200,000 miles on it- but it has given me few problems. I had the transmission replaced several years ago, and have had the brakes repaired a few times, but other than that it has been a very good car.

  5. Kent, where do you live? Drop me a line (my e-mail address is in my blog profile). If you're in striking distance of Nashville, TN, I may have a solution.

  6. Perhaps you can write a couple of books. It's obvious you need to increase your income.

  7. Yes, I do. The books I have written so far have probably barely paid for themselves, so unless I can find some subject more popular than liberty to write about...

  8. The problem with fixing the car is that there's a good chance that once it's "fixed," you'll continue to find things that have gone wrong with it (clogged up with debris, froze up from disuse, etc.) while it was sitting there.

    In my opinion (and yes, this is from experience), you're better off getting a car that costs what you would have spent on fixing this one -- a car that has actually been running recently.

  9. Kent,

    2k is waaaay high-you can likely buy a running '95 blazer for that.

    As far as the sitting for a few years goes-that should be fine, frankly. You might want to spray out the intake with a $5 can of intake cleaner, but really fuel injection is far less fussy about bad gas-get the old gas out of there, put fresh in and I bet she starts. Once you get it to run, you might want to put an injector cleaner in the tank, but you're likely fine.

    "Tune ups" really don't exist anymore with electronic ignition-either the ignition computer and coil packs work or it doesn't...if it doesn't-hit a junkyard. You might want to replace sparkplugs...but if it ran with them before, it should still run now. GM actually started making decent engines in the 90's, and as long as you changed oil regularly, etc., that motor should still have quite a bit of life on it.

    MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE OIL BEFORE YOU TRY TO START IT! Not just level, if it looks like it has water in it, or if it is overfull, it may have gotten water in it somehow while it was sitting...if so just drain it and put new oil in.

    Have you tried charging the battery? A lot of places that sell batteries will also charge them-either free, or for just a few bucks.

    Why do you think the alignment is out? If it was just a blowout, I really doubt it is an issue. You might have broken or bent something, but otherwise alignment should be ok. I used to drive 1000 miles a week for work, the total number of alignments I've had done in my life is zero...and I also used to work in an auto shop that did alignments. If it is real bad, it will wear your tires out quick but its really not a safety issue unless something is broken or about to break like a tie rod end..or it is so far out that it pulls hard one way or the other-good news is that steering parts are actually pretty cheap and also fairly simple to replace.

    Don't forget junkyards, you can get a decent used tire there, and a battery if you need it. I'd do the battery first and see if you can get it to run before spending money on a tire.

    You really ought to be able to find a used tire for less than $40(I could get one for $25 here, mounted). Same w battery if you need it-or for that matter you should be able to find a new batt for $50 or $60.

    As far as brakes go, that really is something you can do yourself-disc brakes are pretty idiot proof, and those are what should be on the front-the one on the back get far far less wear, and are likely ok. I'm sure there is a you-tube out there for changing brake pads on that vehicle...the pads should cost between $20 and $30 bucks.

    You must know someone in the area who is handy with cars? Ask for some help-I live on the other side of the country, or I'd take a look...but really it doesn't sound like you have too much major work-offer to buy beer or something and get somebody to give you a hand.

    The other option is: I'd bet that you could get somewhere around a thousand for the truck as she sits...more if it will start and run...and you can buy a car in running condition for that.

  10. The reason I think it needs an alignment is that after the blowout (and I did drive it for about a week afterwards) it pulled pretty hard to one direction.

    I have started it every few months while it has been sitting. I haven't thought to check the oil, though. I will do that.

    Each time I start it I have to charge the battery, and by the next time I check it is totally dead again. I charged it Sunday, and started it again, and even drove it halfway around the block to the back of my parents' house to put it in a garage (which is what made me start thinking about this)- I'll go check later today to see if the battery is already dead.

    The brakes, no, that's not anything I am even willing to try to do. The anti-lock system is what the problem is- I think. But the brakes don't seem to be really working even though they were fairly new when I stopped driving it. I would have to stomp the brakes and the car would barely stop at all. And you could hear the anti-lock brakes engaging even though there was nothing on the road.

    I don't know anyone around who is good with cars, whom I would trust to work on one I was depending on. In fact, I can't even think of anyone I know who works on cars at all.

  11. Oh, good. It runs-there is really no reason why it won't keep doing so....I was thinking it was sitting w/o running. Sounds like you just need a new battery there. I'd bet you bent a tie rod....if so you can probably tell just by looking-which os helpful when you try to sell it.

    I bet the brake issue is either the Master Cylinder, or the ABS block itself, or probably both. Master cylinders are usually not super expensive new, and the ABS can be junkyarded(those are spendy otherwise.) Both just bolt on.

    You might have a leaking brake line somewhere as well-that's easy to check-fill the master cylinder, have someone pump the brakes with it running and look for leaks.

    It's useful to try to figure out at least what it is before you go to sell it....and you should sell it.

    Since it runs and can(sort of) drive, your best bet might be to stick it on Craigslist. If it's 4x4 I'd ask 2k plus, and see what you get-these are not expensive fixes for someone who knows how, just say what all you think is wrong...don't even bother getting a battery-just charge it so people can hear it run. The batt may not even be bad, I think you might have a security system that uses a little juice...which after months will drain the battery...unhook the battery cables after you start it when your going to leave it for awhile. Then go buy a car...you'll have money left over.

    Prices there might be different, but around here any kind of 4x4 that runs and moves w/o engine/transmission trouble will bring at least $1500 all day long... hell, the scrap price(at a scrapyard-NOT junkyard) is likely $400 bucks or so...and that's just the metal. If it's not 4x4, it will be less, but if the body is decent you should still be able to get well over a thousand.

    Or trade. If I wasn't so far away, I'd trade you my 04 impala-everything works, high miles-for that truck as it sits.

    It really is the sort of thing somebody that knows how can buy, spend a weekend fixing, and sell on Monday for a profit. Craigslist is a great source for this.

    You should be able to get something that runs and drives for what you get out of the blazer.

    Hope that helps. Good luck.

  12. If I weren't over a thousand miles away, I'd be happy to help you fix it. Unless there is a major suspension component that has been damaged, I could probably fix it for $300-$500 (battery / tire / a few small suspension components / alignment / repair inexpensive brake components).

    Since fixing it yourself doesn't seem to be an option and you don't have anyone you trust who can fix it, I'd recommend taking it to a shop to get an estimate. Estimates should be free, so the only thing you'd lose is a couple hours of time. Knowing what parts it actually needs would help make the decision easier for you...

    If you decide you want to fix it yourself or find someone who can do the work, I'd be happy to help with finding parts and giving advice. RockAuto.com has lots of parts available at good prices and I've got a 5% discount code.