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CarJunky AutoAdvice

To fix or to scrap...that is the question!

Showing 5 out of 5 Posts
Question From jnsantoro333 on To fix or to scrap...that is the question!

Hi, I need advice and intelligent options. I have a 1993 Mitsubishi 3000 GT (V6 3.0L 2972cc 181CID FI GAS N B). Since I first got her back in 2003, she has only broken down twice. The first time was in May of 2007. It was the transmission…and that was five years ago. I had the entire tranny rebuilt at a place called “Daffy Daves” in Key West. While she was there, he also replaced the water pump, crank kit, TIMING BELT, oil pump, crankshaft, balancer, oil filter, battery, and rear wheel bearings. Over the next five years, following these repairs…Mitsy ran perfectly. Mileage at that time was at 157,338. That ran me about $2,300.
In December of that same year, the exhaust flex connector deteriorated and my car started to sound like it had a jet engine. She had also begun to show signs of other wear and tear. While I had it in the shop, I also had the A/C fixed (retrofit/out of Freon), bypassed a leaky heater core, and mounted/balanced 4 new tires. Mileage was at 165,941. Again, another great experience $697.03 later.
It wasn’t until June 2010 that Mitsy had to go back to the shop again. She was making some odd noises, and I’d begun to notice that cars were flashing their bright lights at me. It turns out my headlights needed adjustment. While there I also had them do a rotation and alignment, a lube, oil, and filter service, replace a l/r wheel hub assembly that was grinding, replace the outer tie rod ends, replace the serpentine belt, replace the valve cover gasket, and replace an axle seal. Mileage was 172,453 and my pocket was $1,306.97 lighter.
About a week later, while doing a routine check of the oil level during a fuel stop…I noticed I was REALLY low on oil. The mechanic said he couldn’t see any leak…and would need to do a dye test to be certain…to which I concurred. The dye test showed a slight leak at the oil pan gasket. To repair this they needed to remove the exhaust system. I also needed to have my engine torque struts replaced, so I had them take care of that at the same time. The mileage was at 174,633 and when all was said and done…cost was $724.33.
Within the week I made it a point to check the oil following their latest repairs. To my dismay, I was once again leaking a significant amount of oil…at the same rate it had been leaking previously. I took it back the following week and the mechanic indicated it might be the REAR MAIN SEAL, but that to get to that area of the car he would have to remove the entire exhaust system AGAIN to determine if this was the case. In the interim, he replaced the PCV Valve to avoid excessive back-pressure. At that time, I just wasn’t feeling too good about their diagnostic skills. I felt like I was being milked. I parked Mitsy and went in search of a reputable mechanic. At that time, the mileage was 175,591, and that only cost me $54.68.
At the end of August, I took Mitsy for a second opinion to a dealership. Niles Chevrolet had worked on my wife’s new Aveo and she seemed very pleased with their work. Following about 20 minutes of diagnostics, they determined that the leak was coming from the REAR MAIN SEAL. They did not need to do any DYE TEST in order to see the source of the leak, which they said, “…was as clear as day.” In fact, after showing them the maintenance records from M&M automotive, they were shocked to see that they had just replaced the oil pan gasket in mid-July. They noted, “You’d have to be blind to miss a rear main seal leak…especially a leak this bad wehn changing out the oil pan gasket.” They said these areas were only inches apart, and that the mechanic should’ve caught that…not only during the DYE TEST…but whenever he was poking his head around the areas of the oil pan and rear main. I’d heard enough. Mileage was 177,285. I had Niles do the rear main seal fix, as well as fix a reservoir fluid indicator that had begun acting up. That was $1,136.86 later.
A little over two weeks later Mitsy died completely. She made the weirdest sounds I’d EVER heard before…and just stopped running. She wouldn’t start back up…and from the sound of it when I tried to crank her back up…I knew better than to keep trying to start her. I had her towed back to Niles, and waited for the news. A day later, it came…“You’ve got an interference engine system. Your timing belt has failed…and you may have some serious engine damage.” Right now, you’re looking at about $700 to replace the timing belt…but before we proceed…we need to check the valves and cylinder heads.” The next day they told me, “You may want to consider NOT completing these repairs…the cost is going to be in the thousands…because most of your valves are bent and there could be other associated repairs needed, as well.”
I am going to have her towed, to YET ANOTHER MECHANIC…and get a second opinion about the damage to the valves, etc. It would just make me feel better to get a second opinion from someone who didn’t work at a car dealership. I’ve already spent quite a bit on Mitsy. Most of the major components have been replaced or repaired. She was running perfectly until that damned belt snapped. I love her…and in another 7 years…she’s going to be a classic. I am not sure if I should repair Mitsy or if I should find another used car. I am definitely not going to buy a new car.
Here are the options I see at this point:
1. The safe bet: I buy a new vehicle. I am NOT going to buy someone else’s potential problem. I’ve been looking, and I can easily see spending at least $25K-$35K for a “mediocre” sports car or SUV. Of course, I would also have to eat a $400+ MONTHLY payment for the next 4-5 years. But then, I could ride with confidence knowing the bumper to bumper warranty would cover any major issues. That is VERY important to me. With two jobs that both require a fair amount of travel…reliability is crucial. Of course, it’s also going to cost me around $4,800 in car payments…each year…to get that warm, fuzzy feeling. This would be a last resort.

2. A logical bet: Salvage Mitsy and buy another used vehicle. The problem with that, is that I won’t know a thing about that car’s history. I may be going from the frying pan to the fire!

3. The risky bet: Fix Mitsy, again…which will likely cost around $3,000. Take on a nice, easy $150+ payment for the next three years. BUT also be prepared to freak out anytime I hear the slightest noise…and with every repair…wonder, “Now what?!” I know MItsy isn’t getting any younger…but then again…the older she gets the more valuable she will become. And then of course, there is the argument that what I would spend on NEW car payments over the next 4 years…($19,000)…could easily cover any major repairs for Mitsy that remain (I mean really, what’s left?)…and have enough left over to get her a paint job, all NEW interior, and a better sound system. I could probably do this for HALF of the cost of what I’ll pay for a new car.

What would your decision be if you were in my shoes? New or used or keep Mitsy? What are your thoughts…in general? For the time being, I’m riding my motorcycle…but at some point…I need overhead cover. This is Florida…and I can only duck the rain so often. In addition, I have to make a decision about what I am going to do with Mitsy…and her insurance coverage. I could really use advice.
Thanks for any wisdom you can offer,
“Kate at the crossroads”

Response From Sidom

Well going by your post, it's pretty obvious you are very attached to this car.

From a strictly financial point, it would probably be better to get something new. Older cars typically start having more failures as time goes on, as you are already aware of.

The one big plus is it sounds like this car has been well maintained and that's huge so that needs to be factored in.

Any car is going to have problems, they don't make one that doesn't. Some of the aftermarket warranties are pretty good, especially for powertrain problems.....

This is a decision you are going to have to make. Your 2 options here would be either installing a low mileage used engine or going with a reman. I would compare prices and if it was even remotely close I would go with the reman. Repairing yours would probably be the most costly option...........

With this old of a car, while I don't usually recommend it, if you can find a good tech that does side work, that may be the route to go. But there is some cons doing this. Like timely repairs....It would be when he could do it... Warranty.....There would be none. Liability insurance.....Once again....there would be none.... but this is where you would probably find your cheapest price......

I just reread a bit of your post. Not to stir things up but there is no way you could've got all that stuff listed on the 1st invoice for $2300. A complete tranny rebuild, crank kit, timing belt, water pump, component kit. Any one of those three done with quality parts would be at the 2K mark or over.... There must be a miscommunication on what was actually done....

Response From jnsantoro333 Top Rated Answer

First, thanks for taking the time to read that novel...twice! Yeah, not only do I love the car...but I also hate to waste things. I feel like there has been so much work done to keep her running well and maintain her, that she's got some years left in her that may be relatively trouble free. I'd be much more comfortable investing $3000 a year into her...than paying the same amount (or likely much more) for a new car each year. I am certain you are correct, the older she gets, the more things that will likely go wrong...I just have to make it relative to what new car payments would cost me each year.

Regarding the cost for the transmission...I actually got that done in April 2005. I checked the invoice from Longwood Imports and it shows they "replaced transmission." The invoice lists the A/T and Torque Converter at $1860.18 and labor was $449.70. So from what you indicated...I did okay?

In the process of tracking that receipt down, I took a CLOSER look into my Mitsubishi "file"...and there were ALOT MORE repairs that I had forgotten about in the past. Brakes, water pump, belts, fuel injectors...lots of stuff. Oddly, now I'm even more determined and convinced that I should keep her...and the decision regarding a remanufactured vs. a low mileage engine is all that remains from what I understand? As I "casually" typed in engines...a TON of Mitsubishi engines came up for sale...and in a WIDE range of prices. It seems so sketchy. Is there any type of well-known vendor who sells remanufactured engines...with a warranty for parts and labor? Presuming you know ALOT more than I do about cars...is it feasible to drop a V8 in her? I mean...if I'm going to do it...I'd like to DO IT. I've heard the V8 (which I have heard has a twin turbo system?) in the "big boy" 3000GT's is a monster...I like that. Would it be an easy transistion...or would it require a boatload of retrofits and fabrication? Are the tranny's compatible?

I was pretty surprised to hear that you thought the most financially sound idea would be to go with a new car. Believe me, I'm tempted. But I just don't see how I could spend more than $4,800 a year on Mitsy with all that she's had done already. If the gentleman at the last garage had suggested a change in the timing belt (ESPECIALLY knowing it was an interference engine)...we wouldn't even be having this conversation. I CAN NOT believe they didn't even SUGGEST it. Really upsetting. I'm not a big gambler...but I KNOW that I'm going to spend the big nut each year on a new car...no two ways around it. With Mitsy...if I keep the miles low and easy...I may be able to get around spending NEARLY AS MUCH for several years.

So again, THANK YOU. If you don't mind...I'd like to continue our conversation as I begin getting more details about how much damage was done to the engine...and what they think it will cost to repair it. With this information, I can then have something to contrast against what it would cost for a remanufactured engine. If you could guide me to some vendors/sites/people who are reputable...I will definitely look into the options available to me and consult with you for further advice...if you're okay with that? I'm in no hurry...and will research on my end too...but there are just SO MANY offers out there...I'm not sure what is really a deal...or what is probably a scam. Plus there is the whole aspect of "protocol" when it comes to buying an engine. How do I get it? Who manages the deal? How does the mechanic I use know if I've chosen the right one...I presume they need to be involved in the process?

Here's the ironic part. We live in Big Pine Key...which is about 30 miles from the college in Key West...where I work and go to school. We've decided to move BACK to Key West. This means that I'll be about 3 miles from the college. I'm probably going to take a mountain bike or motorcycle to work anyhow! Now, I also do property inspections all the way up to Key Largo...about 100 miles from Key West. I can rent a car for the day for about $40 and use it to do the inspections I conduct ONCE a week. Now that my travel needs are changing...and I can compensate on inspection days with a rental car...I'm really wondering if it's going to be a wise choice to bother at all...

Which leads me to the MOST IMPORTANT question. If I decide (oh, my aching heart) to scrap Mitsy...don't you think it'd be a shame to toss away all those repairs...and wheels...and accessories...and years of TLC...and just ALL THAT METAL in general? I've heard I'll probably only get a few hundred bucks anyhow. Man, that seems like such a waste!

Argh! What to do!

You're a saint for walking this thought process with me. I know I'm tossing a bunch of options out there...and maybe some would say the best thing would be to cut my losses now...but what if...what if?



Response From Sidom

I think the thing you have to look at here is the age of the car and what you need it for. This is a 17 year old car that you would be using as main transportation.

The big unknown right now is the cost of repairing the engine, if it's just top end and the cost isn't too bad that may be the route to go. If the pistons got decked I would probably go with a reman & good warranty. We've dealt with Jasper a few times and haven't had any problems and they have a good warranty.

If you go this route the best thing to do would be to find a shop that does this work, that offers a good warranty and let them do all the work. They will already have their suppliers and everything else needed. Really the only research you will have to do is finding the right shop. Ask around, friends, neighbors, relatives, BBB, you can use ase.com or iatn.net both have shop locators to get some names....

I don't get into custom work but converting that to a V/8 would be huge undertaking and very expensive. Not only getting the engine to fit but swapping the PCM & related wiring & sensor and then you would have emission laws to worry about. It would be next to impossible to get that street legal unless there was some street production model you could try to spec it to......

You've done a lot of work to it and I'm sure you could get more years out of it.

My honest opinion on this is, you should go new if you can or aleast mid 2000 range with a good AM warranty, keep the Mitsubishi fix the engine in it if it just has top end damage and turn it into your Sunday driver. From what you've posted, you'll regret getting rid of it and with your new possible situation it would probably work but would you trust taking it out of town on a long trip?

This is just my opinion but I consider anything under 2000 as old school.

Maybe Tom will jump in on this one he has some older rides he likes to fix up. The only thing to keep in mind here would be while you two probably share close to the same maintenance schedules......He's doing all his own work.............

Response From re-tired

Once you name a car your done ,you have bonded . It's only money . You will always find a way to justify the next check . Fix it and the two of you go on a nice trip.