By on May 27, 2014

TTAC Commentator bpscarguy writes:

I need some advice – I am struggling with a decision on what to do with our daily driver. It’s a 2002 Infiniti I35. 140,000 largely trouble-free, easy, no fuss miles. It does everything we want, has some creature comforts, is in very good, clean condition.

The problem is, last month I put on new front brakes to the tune of $245.00. At that time my mechanic told me of some looming items that will likely need addressing in the next month:

  • Leaking head gasket – $535.00
  • Front axle boots – $385.00
  • Front wheel bearing – $620.00 ( I did the other one last year)

This car has been the most trouble-free I have owned, but I also understand that it is getting on in age and will likely start needing more and more attention. I am very tempted to sell it and get something newer (not new) with less miles on it. Likely another Infiniti or possibly an A4 or older E class Mercedes.

Or should I repair it and just chalk this up to bad timing that all of this is happening at once, and therefore making it seem worse than it is?

Thoughts? Many thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Isn’t it funny how one decision can cause a chain reaction? Or-if you choose wisely-not?

Here’s the deal: if you buy a used A4 or E-class (lacking a handy CPO warranty) you’ll regret not dumping a pile of cash on I35 reconditioning.  The I is certainly an older car needing constant frequent attention, but it’s not a money/time sucking Pit of Disappointment. With those nasty German parts costs and labor rates, that perhaps you aren’t considering.

Perhaps one day we can say a 4-10 year old vehicle from this part of the world is a fair proposition for people living in the USA: perhaps time will tell.

A newer Infiniti is the smarter choice: it keeps you in the premium luxo-sedan game and is less likely to punish your wallet than the German alternatives. But newer Infinitis lack the I35′s inbreeding advantages with the Nissan Maxima. With that in mind, dare I suggest a Camry-bred Lexus ES?

Generalizations are all fine and dandy-it’s at the core of the Internet in general and Piston Slap in particular-but what does it boil down to?

It’s about your time value of money.

Is the I35 gonna leave you stranded more often than a newer car?  Likely. Will it be cheaper to fix those unexpected surprises and the normal wear items? Most definitely.  So will you miss the I35 if it goes bye-bye?

If you replace it with an out-of-warranty Benz/Audi, I can almost guarantee it.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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81 Comments on “Piston Slap: The I’s Have it?...”


  • avatar
    Spartan

    I’d go with a V36 2007 G35 Sedan. They still had the VQ35 and can be had for the low teens now with >100k on the ODO. The G37′s are good as well, but they’re a bit more $.

    I had a 2010 G37 6MT Coupe for a few years. I loved that car and if I wasn’t thinking about expanding the family, I’d buy another. Infiniti’s are great cars. Underrated and not marketed nearly enough. My car was rock solid reliable and I had zero issues.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    $1500 worth of age-related repairs doesn’t seem that terrible if a random $1500 German surprise repair could be in your future.

    That said, what about a newer Maxima? Fully loaded, there shouldn’t be any features missing that you’ve grown accustomed to in the I35.

    • 0 avatar

      Newer Maxima is actually the best idea.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        But according to what I see on truedelta, the Maxima appears to be less reliable than a comparable G35/G37 sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        You’re kidding, right? The Maxima is an automotive evolutionary dead end – it’s hasn’t had a reason for its existence since higher-line Altimas came into being.

        You think it’s a good idea to pay non-orphan prices today for a car that probably will soon be an orphan?

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          So, pay the $1500 to stretch the Infiniti out until Maxima values nosedive?

          I’m not saying the Maxima is absolutely the best choice, but if they like the I35, it stands to reason they’d like a newer Maxima. I find it feels more luxurious than the G37 (which is the product in Nissan’s expanded lineup that really deserves the 4DSC sticker).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Nobody has considered an M with same engine?

            Or an 03 I35 with low miles?

            Or really a Max as well.

        • 0 avatar
          SatelliteView

          So, how does newer Maximas running around make getting an older one better, as opposed to no newer Maximas running around? Genius!

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Having the “pleasure” of driving them on at least a monthly basis thanks to Hertz’ warped sense of what an “upgrade” is, I can report that the current Maxima is a steaming pile of wobbly crap. Do not go there.

        Just fix the Infiniti and drive the thing another 100K miles. You would lose more driving a Maxima (or any other $35K car) off the lot than the Infiniti will cost to drive another 5 years. Unless of course, you just want a new car and are using the repairs as an excuse.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I rented a G37 in Florida recently and was underwhelmed. The engine is coarse and unrefined. The cockpit too tight to be comfortable as was the backseat. The I35 was a better car, if less performance oriented. I’d agree with Sajeev that an ES 350 is closer to what the I35 was. The last two iterations were actually fairly handsome cars as well. Much better MPG and space than a G car.

    If you can stand the styling (beak) the TL would also be a reasonable option. Or if you want newer, the current Accord and Fusion are both darned good. I don’t think they are much of a step down, if at all, from a 2002 I35.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Those prices look very fair, except for the wheel bearing. is the entire steering knuckle being replaced or something? Pressing out a bearing (with the proper tool) should not take more than 30 minutes. A new bearing should be $100 or less for a good one (avoid Chinese and Korean ones).

    You’d be leaping from the pan into the fire if you buy a used German car to avoid paying $1500 of service on your Infiniti. This generation Maxima/I35 are great cars, just watch out for rust if you’re in an area that salts roads. Besides that I think it’s just occasional sensor issues (crank position sensor) and wear and tear stuff, I’m surprised the headgasket is going, is it just an external leak right now, coolant isn’t getting into the oil or combustion chamber is it?

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      If the bearing is press fit, how would you press it out/in without removing the knuckle? I would think that’s where the labor cost would bring the cost of that job up to $500.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        You have to remove all that.

        I did it on our 02′ Jetta several months ago. Not that bad of a job, german pain-in-the-ass engineering and all. I took the knuckle down to a little local shop who pressed the new one in for about $30. While I was at it I put on new rotors and pads since I was already to that point.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          There are impact wrench driven pulling tools that allow you to press the old bearing right out, you just have to get the front axle out of the way (not hard on a macpherson strut fwd nissan). I had this done at my brother’s friend’s shop on my old MPV, whole operation took maybe 45 minutes from putting the car on the lift to taking it back down.

    • 0 avatar
      SatelliteView

      The car is 12 years old now. Nothing surprising there.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    I say fix the I35 and move on with your life. Any of the cars you’re looking at are going to be much more than a $1500 outlay for the purchase alone, not to mention any repairs that are needed to make them tip-top. Used cars without a warranty (factory or CPO) are a crapshoot, so best stick with the devil you know and all that.

    And I agree with gtemnykh – that wheel bearing quote seems high. I had one replaced on my M45 with OEM parts and it was only about $400.

    • 0 avatar
      SatelliteView

      I agree, fix the car. Maybe even do a little extra, like new shocks and drive it for another 2-3 years

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Agreed. Fix the car. Spending $45k to forgo a $1500 per year maintenance obligation seems suboptimal to me, at least while the car is middle-aged over the next 5-10 years.

      It sounds like it’s taken 12 or 13 years for this car to turn into a used car. That’s freaking awesome, and bodes well for the car over its next 15-20 years of operation. Maintenance costs increase as the car ages, but they’ve just gone from 0 to “way less than a car payment on anything even remotely comparable”.

      Used cars like this one are fantastic to own, but they do require a different attitude toward maintenence from their owners. The present owner may or may not want to make the attitude shift, but the car is fine. If he doesn’t want to make the attitude shift, or if he just wants a new car, he should buy a new car – but let’s face the reason head-on, rather than pretending he’s going to save money.

      Remember, if he trades it in, the car isn’t wasted. Someone who wants will likely buy it, drive it, and appreciate it for years to come. And buying a car like this at a steep discount and spending $1500/year on maintenance will probably fantastic deal for THAT person. The question is whether the OP would like to be that person and embrace the deal.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    If you can’t afford, or just generally dislike, the notion of having to spend $1,500 on a car you have no business getting a used German anything, especially the Audi (seriously, don’t get the Audi!!) Those cars are just such livid pieces of garbage.

    Last time I had training I was going back and forth with another technician trying to figure out what was the bigger pile of garbage; my 01′ Jetta or his mid-00′s Audi A4. We both came to the conclusion that they’re a never ending problem and we’re never buying VW products again.

    I’d keep your car, and I’d say buy a tool set and get to wrenching too, but most people these days are pretty incapable of doing such things…

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I’m blown away that a wheel bearing cost more to replace than a head gasket on a FWD V6? must be one hell of a wheel bearing…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Agreed. Even at retail a resonable quality aftermarket hub and bearing can be had under $150 and installed with about 1-2hr worth of labor. Perhaps the OEM part is a lot more expensive? I wouldn’t waste the money in that case.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Slightly off topic: do German cars have higher labor rates? Where I live, German dealers have market-average rates. The local dealer that’s known for ratcheting-up the rates is a Ford shop.

    Same with parts. Toyota doubled their parts prices a few years back, and they are often more expensive then Audi/BMW/Mercedes. The local BMW shops advertise cheaper brake jobs than GM shops.

    I know that German cars stereotypically require more maintenance, but I haven’t found this maintenance to be priced higher. If anything, the difference is that German car owners are willing to pay for maintenance on older cars. Case in point, Brad who is considering scrapping his Infinity over $1500 of “stuff that may need to be done soon.”

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      The biggest difference is likely to be from independent shops as opposed to dealers. I’ve confidently taken Acura’s and Infiniti’s to an independent dealer and caught dealers being, shall we say “implausibly over cautious” with recomendations.

      I can’t say I’d feel as confident that an independent shop would get the same exposure to technologies and under a German hood.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        I have a friend who worked as a service writer at a Ford dealership. Their “philosophy” was to convince their customers to replace parts before they broke… in other words, get the maximum number of dollars from each visit, no matter what.
        He struggled with the ethics of this until he found better employment elsewhere.

        My advice (from the standpoint of a DYI/cheapskate who likes to see how many miles can be had before it’s beyond saving) would be to do the repairs when you can afford them, and keep on driving. A thorough detail and set of shocks (or struts) go a long way to making a car feel new again. Put the 30K you save into dividend paying stocks.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Around me, the local Toyota and Chevy/FIAT stores are more expensive than the BMW and Mercedes stores for labor. And I find the idea that Infiniti parts are any cheaper then BMW parts laughable. Actually, the only Infiniti dealer and BMW dealer in my state are the SAME dealership! They give a nice BMWCCA discount on everything to BMW owners, no idea if there is such on the other side of the building. I tend to doubt it.

      Based on friends with Hondas at least, the local dealer is horrifyingly expensive. And if you take an out of warranty car there for state inspection, you might as well plan on a $1500 wallet vacuuming.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Yes, but you also have to account for the frequency of repairs. My used Fords and used Toyota have had a flurry of repairs around 100k miles (except for the Prius which seems to have waited for 150k miles), but have been largely free of repairs otherwise.

        My Volkswagen was in a constant state of entropy and disorder the whole time I owned it. Volkswagen’s reliability should be predictive of Audi reliability, and the BMW folks seem to have a repair frequency that is more like the VW than the Toyotas.

        For BMW money, I really expect them to sell a car that is better than Toyota in every way, not just in the intangibles.

  • avatar
    JCK

    These seem like pretty run-of-the-mill problems for a 12-year-old car.

    Brakes, Axles, CV joints/boots, bearings, all start to go at this time.

    It depends on your personal tolerance for repairs. It will be much cheaper to repair these items and delay the purchase of a new(er) car as long as possible.

    You will have many more of these types of repairs over the next few years, so keep that in mind.

    My choice would be to keep the car until something big goes. But I don’t know the details of your commute and other needs.

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    Hi All,

    I’m the one (Brad) that emailed Sajeev. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts. Good stuff here (as expected!)

    One thing I left out is that my wife drives the car about half the week. Her job requires her to make it to work regardless of conditions. We live in the Northeast. While the I35 is pretty darn good in winter conditions, I have decided that when/if we replace the I35, the replacement MUST have awd (but I would still like to stay in a sedan). Therein lies the consideration of the A4, E class (4 matic), G series and M35 (both X). I also figured that the A4 would be best on gas.

    I am not unaware of the upkeep on German vehicles. Our other cars are a 1994 BMW 318i convertible (now a fun weekend car, my daily driver before the I35) and a 2011 Chrysler Town & Country.

    When I bought the I35, I really, really wanted an A6. But, I thought that two German cars in the fleet would put us in the poor house. Most likely that thinking is still valid.

    I would say that I lean most to fixing the I35 at this point. Sajeev makes good points of course. Its not tons of money and the car is mostly still sound and we know it. When time to replace, I would likely lean most toward a M35x. They seem to be somewhat ignored in the market and can be had for decent prices, yet still a good car. GiddyHitch, what are your experiences with your M?

    Thanks again all!

    • 0 avatar
      JohnnyFirebird

      The M seems like a good choice – I’m always terrified of Mercedes and BMW repair bills. And take this with a HUGE grain of salt – I’m a used car manager at a Volvo dealer – you miiiiiight want to look at a 2011 S60 T5 / T6 AWD. They’re always about $5000-$10000 cheaper than the Germans (so is Infiniti though), have a good CPO warranty, etc. The S80 depreciates even more, though be very very cautious of any with the adjustable 4C suspension, that is very expensive when it goes wrong.

      Edit: depending on your price range the earlier S60s are also a cheaper choice, but I find the model lasted way too long – while a good deal (and a nice car) a 2008-2009 S60 AWD doesn’t really match the “prestige” feeling of a similar Infiniti, Acura, Lexus, BMW or Mercedes from that era.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Just to clarify – there is no such thing as a 2010 S60. The current generation was introduced as a 2011, and the only configuration offered was the T6 AWD. For 2012, a T5 was added, but it was FWD only. The T5/AWD combination appeared for 2013. It’s a very nice car in any configuration.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I would drive the previous P2 platform S60 (through 09) over the EUCD, but if were talking the newer EUCD platform I would go S80 over S60 and nix the AWD.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnnyFirebird

          You’re going to save a lot of money going for the older platform for sure. Why nix the AWD? Reliability issues? I’ve not had any 2011+ S60s here yet, but the S80s / XC70s (same platform, right?) have had few problems, but the same problems (steering rack, HVAC problems).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            1. I don’t want to pay a mileage penalty for something that’s not needed.
            2. I don’t trust Ford/PAG’s differential voodoo.

            I have not worked on any of the EUCD’s yet because they are too new to come through our shop so I am unaware of any platform specific issues. However the newish S60s I have seen seem to be noticeably smaller vs P2. I think the XC70 retained the P2 platform through its discontinuation while the S80 moved to EUCD in MY06.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            28-

            The life of the Ford/PAG AWD transmission voodoo can be extended if you change the PTU oil/fluid every 40K-75K miles. The true voodoo is that the PTU listed as something that doesn’t need maintinance. If you tow, get it changed at 40K. If not, I recommend changing it at 60K.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @bball

            I have heard that, but since it wasn’t recommended by PAG/Volvo good luck finding something on the block or pp that actually had it serviced at the proper intervals.

            NA 5-cyl 5-speed S60 FWD would be the most ideal, but is prob a unicorn. MY03+ P2 based S80/S60/V70 FWD is prob the value buy, just be prepared to possibly put a transmission in them.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ford/Lincoln had issues with the PTUs on the D-Platform AWD vehicles and the CD3 AWD vehicles, most notebly the CUVs. Many have been completely replaced. Good luck finding out if one had a PTU replacement though. You could always have someone check the PTU oil. If its black and sticky, its dead. It is supposed to be light brown. It also smells foul if its leaking onto the exhaust. If its a post 2010 vehicle, it should be okay.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @bball

            I’m seldom shopping anywhere near MY10 but that’s good to know.

            Your value buys IMO

            MY10-12 Lincoln Zephyr 3.5 FWD
            MY12+ W-Impala 3.6
            MY10-12 Chevy Malibu 2.4 or 3.5
            MY07-11 W-Impala 3.5
            MY06-MY09 Buick Lacrosse/Grand Prix
            MY06-08 Buick Lucerne
            MY03-09 Volvo S60 FWD
            MY03-05 Volvo S80/V70 FWD

            Earlier 3800 W/H/G/C body is a given.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnnyFirebird

          Something Brad might want to consider, even outside of Volvo – adjustable suspensions in general. I’ve had some nightmares with luxury vehicles of pretty much every make equipped with them from GM to Volvo and Mercedes. Is it always something to avoid, or do any luxury makers do an adjustable suspension that either lasts a long time (he keeps his car a while) or are cheap to repair?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ford/Lincoln air ride was notorious for years on the Contis, Marks, and when present for Town Car. The air bag replacement cost used to be $125 a wheel, everyone I knew with them just put coil springs in.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnnyFirebird

            @28 Days Later, Mercedes air suspension is 10 times that. Yikes.

          • 0 avatar
            naterator

            No,it isn’t. 3-4x tops. And lasts a heck of a lot longer.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Sorry but the Ford air suspension is not troublesome, the problem is that people don’t know how it works or how to fix it properly. Many shops will not turn it off when they lift or jack up the vehicle. The system then deflates and when they drop it back down the bag can get pinched and then tear when it re-inflates. The most common failure is the o-rings that seal the solenoid to the bag. It is a 15 minute fix with about $8 in parts. I’ve had a number of vehicles with the rear air suspension that have gone 200K and more than 20 years without a problem.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree many shops probably broke them for lack of understanding. I’m not sure what the material the air bags were made from but I am skeptical it was strong enough to withstand multiple Northeast winters over the car’s life. My last personal experience with Ford Air Ride was with my 90 Town Car where the bags would not properly re-inflate after I disabled the system via trunk switch for towing. Shortly thereafter the brake line broke while I was driving it and the air ride issue became moot as I junked it.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Brad,

      Just a thought: The 07-14 C Class is arguably the most reliable Mercedes since the 80s. Plenty of off-lease CPO 4Matics around.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        ’08-’14, actually. Yes, they are MUCH more reliable than earlier C-Classes.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnnyFirebird

          Even with 4Matic? Any difference reliability-wise in the C250 versus C350 4Matic?

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            No particular issues with the 4Matic so far.

            I think the C250 4Matic was Canada-only and used a de-tuned V6. The US got a RWD 4 cylinder C250. Not sure if they sold many Canadian C250s, they weren’t much cheaper than the C300 4Matic.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnnyFirebird

            They sold a LOT of the C250 4Matics here – it’s the majority of C series that I’ve seen in Quebec.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      If AWD is a necessity, definitely check out late-model TL’s then. It’s a really nice Accord, and the beaky styling never really caught on, so that might work to your benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Brad, my experience with my M45 has been pretty good over the past 2.5 years I’ve had it. It’s an 07 Sport with close to 115k miles. It’s a big car with a spacious backseat but the drivers seat feels like a cockpit (which I like), rear doors open a full 90deg which helps get the kiddos in the backseat, the trunk is large, the map graphics on the nab are different and cool, the freeway passing power is delightful with the 4.5 V8, and it takes turns surprisingly adeptly with Michelin PSSes and the four wheel steering. Downsides are the nervous ride quality (especially compared to the wife’s RX350), fragile paint, lazy throttle tip in, lack of fold down rear seats, and hard seat bottoms with stuff leather (at least on the Sport). Reliability has been good if you’re willing to look past some of the electric gizmos. I had to have a wheel bearing replaced and a short in the fuse box replaced since I got it at 90k. I’m generally anal about fixing the niggling problems with my cars, but I have passed on getting the seat frame fixed (known issue, drivers seat rocks front to back about a quarter inch during hard acceleration/braking and the steering wheel position sensor (for the tilt wheel on exit feature) seems to be wearing out, so I just disabled it in the settings menu.

      You mentioned Audi and AWD systems – I actually remember an Automobile mag article around 05 or 06 where a g35x handed an A4 Quattro it’s a** in a snow traction challenge, for what it’s worth. You should check in with CoreyDL as he has an 08 M35x I believe. Go for the 08+ for the slightly less ginormous taillight sand updated gauge cluster if you can live without a good iPod interface option.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’m catching up on my reading!

        I have an 09 M35X, currently with 55K miles. Have had it since last November, and it performed very admirably in the winter, even clad with Goodyear all-seasons (which I’ll be replacing with a different tire). My driveway is a narrow hill down into the garage, and I once backed it out in 6″ of fresh snow, no shoveling. Took a couple of back-forth tries, but it did it, no problem. It’s really a beast in the snow. Certainly equivalent to my previous A8 Quattro.

        The ride is a bit jittery, about on par with my previous GS. I would have preferred a little less “sport” in the ride. You’ll suffer on your MPGs versus the I35. It’s louder as well, engine noise wise. Doing all my driving in town in warm weather, I get about 20-21. Winter was 18-19. If you’re mostly highway and gentle you might get 23-24. Premium, but you’re used to that.

        The nav graphics have aged very well, and everything looks modern inside. You were correct with your previous comment about them being ignored by the market. I prefer the non sport models for their wood trim versus aluminum – but you’re considering an X so you can’t have the aluminum anyway.

        The styling revisions for 08+ really had an effect inside and out, and I would certainly recommend getting an restyled version. It looks much more like their current product offerings, where the 06-07 was a little bit too blocky. There were also numerous interior trim improvements (better wood, more -real- metal), and restyled gauges (from meh orange to bright blue with blue halo).

        Only problem I’ve had so far is a rattling from below the rear parcel shelf – something loose in there which I’ve yet to look at.

        The good news on the tech front is that because Infiniti shoves every tech thing they can manage (including even lane monitor and adaptive cruise and HiD lights), this model has what everyone else is just now getting a few years later. Mine doesn’t have the adaptive cruise (or the rare, expensive rear seat entertainment package, which included video screen and sun shade).

        Overall, I like it and I got a good deal. Mine is a medium blue metallic which is VERY metallic-y with parchment leather, and a black/parchment two-tone dash. It’s so far, the only one I’ve seen with this color combination. The tan leather ages better than the black in all situations.

        Special note: The doors close with a very nice and solid sound, which passengers have commented on. That’s my favorite thing. Opening the doors makes a nice CLONK sound as the handle goes back into place.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    I’d say keep it and repair. Until you are ready for a new car. You know what you have and seem to still like it. The repairs are far less than the depreciation difference on whatever you buy vs. keeping yours, even if you ‘get lucky’ on the used car you buy. A rule of thumb buying used is have a fund of $ 1-2k on top of the purchase price for unforeseen costs.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    If you can get all that work done for $1500, fix it and keep driving it. Yes, paying for repairs sucks, but spending $10,000+ for another used car that also has the potential for $1500+ repairs won’t necessarily solve that dilemma.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Seems to me that the price to replace the boots AND the bearing are both very high. This car isn’t a fancy luxury car, it’s a Maxima with a weird clock in the dash, and Nissans of that era are some of the most reliable cars made. It’s generally cheaper to replace the entire axle than the boots, and in 3 minutes on Google I found replacement axle assemblies for about $75 each. Replacing the axle is 80% of the labor needed to replace the wheel bearing, so doing all of that at once should be maybe $600 tops. Hopefully the OP is using an independent mechanic and not the Infiniti dealership, so this should not be an issue. As for the leaking head gasket, is it even worth fixing? If its just a slow seep and you aren’t losing significant amounts of oil, or losing pressure, or leaving drips on the ground, then leave it alone and check the oil every week, add a little as needed. Our MR2 has a seeping head gasket, not even enough to leave drips unless it sits for 2-3 weeks. I hate seeing the oil on the side of the block but not enough to pay my mechanic to remove the entire engine and replace it. Once it gets bad then its getting an engine swap or replaced.

    As for snow use, I suspect a good set of snow tires on the Infiniti would be a better choice than an AWD Audi or Mercedes and much less headache and expense. If your wife is a first responder and absolutely positively needs to travel in any type of weather, then you still need something better than an AWD Euro sports sedan, so trade the Infiniti for a good 4WD truck or SUV, or a Subaru. And still get a set of snow tires.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnnyFirebird

      I’ve sold (and reconditioned) a couple of Maximas of this era, the only non-wear weirdness I’ve seen are flaky ABS sensors.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Those $75 axles are more likely than not reman units, if not then newly manufactured pieces from China. I will gladly pay the labor to just have new OEM boots put on the original OEM axles (assuming the car hasn’t been driven with torn boot for long), even if the cost ends up being higher than swapping in cheap axles of unknown provenance. Remans are oftentimes unbalanced (shaking on the highway), or start to ‘click’ within a few months. The new Chinese axles are a step above that, but still nowhere as sure of a bet as the OEM axles.

      I’d say the $350 quote for both boots replaced is perfectly reasonable. You’re right, replacing the wheel bearing while everything is apart for the axles should be saving you on labor. If anything, the headgasket quote is indeed remarkably cheap. must be the front bank that’s leaking, and even then you’ll have to separate the timing chain to do this job.

      External headgasket leaks I’d agree with, just keep an eye on fluids. However if coolant level has been dropping and it’s not an external thing, watch out. Coolant consistently in your combustion chamber will eventually lead to failed catalytic converters and/or failed O2 sensors.

      • 0 avatar
        calgarytek

        $75 for axles seems like a bit cheap. They’ll fail pretty quick. I’ve had decent time getting axles from RAxles. About twice as expensive but they truly do meet/exceed OEM. Plus, they’re local (American made).

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      If the oil is leaking on any rubber parts, you can expect them to fail in a fairly short period of time. Personally I hate fluid leaks and fix them or pay someone else to do so. Leaving fluids on the pavement is just slovenly.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Its not my car, I spent like 3 minutes checking PartsGeek, the $75 axle wasn’t even the cheapest, it was one of their “premium” brands. But even if you double that, pay $150 for them, whatever, its simply not that expensive of a repair. For the record, I have had good luck with re-man axles, but I did have one that was out of balance. My mechanic replaced it again for free, so I am not complaining, he provided the part in the first place and he took care of it. Haven’t have any performance issues with it, but it’s an old car, just my daily driver. If I was doing the work on something special then I might spend more on fixing with OEM parts.

      Regarding my own oil seepage, its not “slovenly”, I have never even had to add any oil. Those drips are probably not even from the head gasket, I think it was left over from a oil fill mishap at the last oil change; I spilled into the frame rail back there, and they only appeared when the car was parked for about a month. It has sat in my driveway for 2-3 days at a time with not a drip of any kind. Its a tiny little seepage noticeable at the side, I guess it burns off when you drive it. Certainly not worth $600+ to pull the engine and replace the head gasket.

      My point was, some mechanics will note that type of thing as “needs attention” when it doesn’t always need immediate attention, like a CV boot does. If the OP cant or doesn’t want to spend $1500 all at once, he could save a few bucks, do the axles first, and keep an eye on the head gasket.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    The Nissan still has an easy 60,000 trouble free miles in it.
    Deal with the head gasket OIL leak, check the oil every time you get gas.

    C/V boots and a wheel bearing?? Just do it. It’s usually less costly to get new axles with cv joints and boots. Yeah they are sold by FEQ (far east quality and not Japan either!) but they will be fine for the last 60k you own the car.

    a grand for 2-3 years is cheap! If you want to sell it let me know – sounds like a great car! You would be crazy to sell it unless you place a high value on a newish car.

    If you do replace it look at new Accords and Fusions along with the used Germans. A ES30/350 would not be a mistake either.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I am about to retire a 2000 Maxima with 180k on the odo. I’ve done most of the maintenance myself and it’s been a good soldier.
      I vote for fixing. My Max may not have been put out to pasture if it weren’t for some small issues and a big rust issue around the rear arches. It’s mechanically sound and I’m sure some lucky college kid will probably be driving it around for another easy 20k before something pops.
      Just watch out for that high pressure power steering fluid pipe, it is due to leak soon and it’s a real motherf*!ker to replace. That was one of the few jobs I had a shop do and even the guy who did it complained about how much of a pain in the ass it was.
      Good luck!

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Excellent advice recommending the Camry/ES cousins.

    You’re making a lot of sense there, Sajeev!

    (Although the ES is a snore compared to Lexus’ other offerings.)

    The “B3 Service” in next 1200 miles light just appeared on my ’11 GLK350 info center. Guess I’d better get the credit card warmed up.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Walk away from the used E-series with your hands in the air and no one gets hurt.

  • avatar
    George B

    Fix the I35 if you still like it. It was built in Japan, doesn’t have a CVT transmission, and uses inexpensive parts from the Nissan Maxima. You can’t get that combination in a newer car.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “…or older E class Mercedes.”

    Like a W124?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    While you are in the front end that deep, change the struts…at that mileage the new ones will blow your mind…and no, at that mileage they are not still “close to new” like I hear so many people say…

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Good advice from Sajeev, but I wouldn’t trade the Infiniti in on a used anyting. Its a rotten time to be buying a used car and an excellent time to be buying a new one. I assume the impulse to buy a used car is economically driven. If so, the better move is to repair the Infiniti.

  • avatar
    CGHill

    This is apparently my cue, since I run a ’00 I30 with 150k — and had both wheel bearings replaced last year. (I paid slightly less than $620 each, but only slightly.) My original struts went at about 110k.

    It is, I think, pointless to replace the boots when you, or at least I, can get decent locally-rebuilt axles for $200 in the aftermarket.

    I figure on $1000-1500 a year in maintenance and repairs. So far, I have had no problem getting OEM parts where the car is finicky (think ignition coils and such), or aftermarket parts where it isn’t (I’m on my second radiator now). The ancient Jatco four-speed, running on synthetic ATF, not much pricier than Nissan Matic D, is still solid. I’m planning to keep this wee beastie to 200k, and maybe longer, depending on whether the tinworm gets hungrier.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Define “decently rebuilt.” Again, assuming no water/dirt intrusion when boots are close to failure, the OEM axles will outlast the car. Replacing the boots leaves you with literally good as they came from the factory axles. With any reman unit you’re depending on the care/quality control that the middle man that’s rebuilding these things. There’s a good chance your “new” axles came off of someone’s beater or straight out of a junkyard, got a coat of paint, new ball bearings from god knows where, and presto! “Fresh” axles.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Word.

        You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true . . . like $49 half-shafts.

        I’ll take the OEM any day, any time compared to the offshore stuff that can completely be worn out in as little as a few months (why harden the surfaces? That costs more . . . ).

        What’s sad is that my neice was given a cream-puff, always-garaged 1993 Sentra with only 29K miles on it, and it already had a Chinese-made axle shaft on one side – no doubt because the OEM boot had dried out and cracked. There is no way I would have let that axle get away – with a new OEM boot on it, it had another 200K worth of life in it and you can’t say that about the ‘new’ aftermarket ones.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    That headgasket quote is dirt cheap but those other prices are CRAZY. $620 for a front wheel bearing? Look them up on rockauto.com and then go slap your mechanic.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Keep the I35. You like the car, it looks great, and for $100 a month towards maintenance you can feel confident.

    The I35 reminds me of the pre-2009 Acura TL-S: classy, sporty, Q-ship.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Though several folks have mentioned the G37X as a possible replacement, also consider the unloved G25X, which was out there for only 2 years. I see a fair number of off-lease cars out there in the market and pricing is very competitive. Better gas mileage, lower purchase price and decent (not great) performance might be just the ticket as a reliable ride for the wife. That is, of course unless you want to keep the I35 and do the repairs.


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