The Truth About Cars » Lemon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Lemon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Hammer Time: Reversing the Clusterscrews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-reversing-the-clusterscrews/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-reversing-the-clusterscrews/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:54:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=660202 I admit it. Every once in a while I buy a vehicle that simply doesn’t work out. Everything checks out at the auction. But then, I get a birthday surprise. It could be a transmission that randomly goes out of overdrive after about 20 or 30 miles. Or an engine that has far too many […]

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I admit it. Every once in a while I buy a vehicle that simply doesn’t work out.

Everything checks out at the auction. But then, I get a birthday surprise.

It could be a transmission that randomly goes out of overdrive after about 20 or 30 miles. Or an engine that has far too many aged wires for me to easily track down a stubborn check engine light.

Sometimes I buy a 4000-pound ATM machine that only allows you to put money into it; a rolling lemon, par excellence. Then I have to figure out how to make it into lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon tart, and even repair fodder for the other rides on the road that are still lemon-free.

Lemons are never fun… but every once in a while fate has a wonderful way of smiling on a pitiful set of circumstances. 

Two months ago I bought three vehicles at a sale. One good. Two bad, in their own unique ways.

The good one was a ‘99 Toyota Camry Solara SE in red with leather, sunroof, V6, all the options and garage kept. I managed to steal it for $2400 plus a $200 auction fee. By the time I transported it, replaced tires and did some small recon work, I was still south of three grand on a unit that can be easily financed for around $7k.

It would take two years, and plenty of risk for me to realize the potential return (or loss). And when you finance a car to a stranger, there are always serious risks to consider.

Will that customer be honest? Will that car be cheap to keep? Or will I wind up with a ride that has been all ragged out three states away and worth more in parts than as a whole?

Even the grandest of Olds can wind up with a human hurricane of a customer. This glorified two-door Camry still looked promising enough to buy, though. A popular well-made car that attracts an older affluent demographic tends to work out risk wise, so long as you do your homework when it comes to your customer.

That Solara turned out to be the beauty that was bought between two horrific beasts.

I also bought an Explorer, right after the Solara, which seemed to possess the same qualities of good eye appeal and a responsible prior owner.

It had a rip-free leather interior which is unusual for a 16 year old SUV. The sunroof was fast and didn’t leak, excellent tires, and it had a lot of little things that all seemed to add up.

Over the years, I have found that an owner who spends good money on his rubber tends to be one who likely spent whatever was needed to keep the rest of the vehicle in good running order. This isn’t always true, but the tendency is there and those vehicles wind up on my list for further inspection at the auction.

A car with a service contract issued for it is a big plus. One that comes from a buy-here pay-here lot, especially one that is out of business, tends to be a no-no nadir. Michelin and Bridgestone are good, real good. Tiger Paw, generic Chinese knock-offs, and non-matching tires with unhealthy wear patterns are indicative of abuse and expensive suspension issues.

A lot of little things, dozens of them that become apparent once you inspect the vehicle, tend to add up to a complete overall picture of a car’s condition. With this Explorer, I particularly noticed the parts used under the hood such as several replacement parts from the dealership. The top of the line battery, and hoses and belts that were apparently replaced once those expensive parts needed attention.

I also looked at the personal items and repair histories that were stored in the glovebox. They all give you the little ingredients you need to figure out if the owner and the car were right for each other.

This Explorer had the right stuff: Thousands of dollars spent maintaining it at the dealership; common sense upgrades to the stock radio system; no paint fade after 16 years of Atlanta commuting; only 111k original miles. I bought it for $1650 – about a $300 to $400 premium over the usual wholesale price.

Then everything pretty much went all to hell. Not as bad as a Clinton Era Explorer mated to under-inflated Firestones,  but pretty damn close.

It wasn’t the Explorer’s fault. When I bought the vehicle, the lane clerk on the auction block apparently put it under the wrong buyer’s number. The auction was also short-staffed which meant that after a lengthy discussion with a new employee who didn’t know the auction business, and 20 minutes of loathsome waiting, I said to myself, “The hell with this!”, paid for the other two vehicles, and left.

A week later one of the office managers comes up to me and says, “Hey Steve! When are you going to pay for that Explorer?”

My response, “According to the lady that took care of my check-out, it wasn’t mine.”

With a mild smirk she said, “Let me guess. Late 40’s. Blonde hair. Nice smile. How about if we knock off the buy fee?”

The buy fee was about $200 on the Explorer. I figured that alone would be enough to take care of it all. Sure, why the hell not?

The only strange thing is… once I paid for the Explorer… I couldn’t find it… anywhere…

I looked at the sold lot, the lane where new car trades were lined up for that morning’s sale, and even the temporary junkyard where the true horror stories that don’t run wait to be bought by the local auto recyclers.

I checked every nook and cranny of an auction that I have known for 14 years as a member of the auctioneering staff, remarketing manager, and now, car dealer.

The Explorer was nowhere to be found. Well, I’ll just let the assistant manager know about it and have him/her get the lot manager to chase it down.  It’s got to be here somewhere.

The Explorer was gone. Like a well-oiled politician who has finally been given enough taxpayer largesse to retire in sunny Bermuda, all that was left behind of this SUV was old paperwork and the stale promise of finding my property someway, somehow.

And get this: that Explorer wasn’t the only vehicle that wound up missing.

A 1997 Honda CR-V was gone as well, and this one turned out to be a real stress case.

I had bought the vehicle a couple months back as ‘title attached’, which meant that I would have to wait for the auction to get the title. In the meantime, the auction would hold my check.

A seller has 30 days from the time of sale to submit a good title to the auction that is free of errors and issues. A ‘clean’ title.  During that time, the auction holds the buyer’s check and you, the buyer, pretty much have a car without having to pay for it until everything is right with that title.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that most dealers will wind up putting money into that vehicle in the form of repairs and detail work. Sometimes they will never get the title from the seller.

At such times you are left with only two options:

1) Apply for a bonded title. This cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. And good luck if there’s  a lienholder or two that haven’t been paid off on the vehicle’s balance.

2)  Eat the labor cost of each repair. Eat the transport cost of picking it up and dropping it off, and return the vehicle back to the auction.

I have learned through the hard knocks of this business that the second scenario is hellish. A few years ago I had bought a new catalytic converter for an Audi A4 and did about $500 worth of repair work to it.

This Honda started off harmlessly enough. I got the title from the auction within the required 30 day period… except the back of the title where the dealer writes out who buys the vehicle was completely wrong.

The seller never signed off on the title and the mileage disclosures went from 157,000 miles to 187,000 miles. Even though the CR-V had only about 160k.

I called the auction and was told that they wouldn’t deposit my check for the CR-V until the title got cleaned up.

I sent them back the title and two days later, a check for $2090 went through my bank account. Then I never heard back about the title. So I ended up returning the CR-V to the auction along with the Explorer and a couple of other ‘mistake’ cars I bought a couple months back.

I had gone out to where my vehicles were lined up for the auction. Two parking spaces were empty and those two were meant for the Explorer and the CR-V.

I jogged about a quarter mile to the office. It turned out that the CR-V was never checked into the auction according to their records. It never showed up.  Two phantom vehicles with nearly $4000 invested. Gone.

I went behind the counter with the office manager… looked at the paperwork for the CR-V… something looked fishy…

“Hey. It says here that the last entry to the CR-V was on November 13th. My hauler dropped it off on the 8th according to my records, and how could Cobb County Hyundai pick up this vehicle if it had never been checked into the sale?”

It turned out that the vehicle had the same old bar code on the window from two months back. When the car was brought back to the sale, the car was never given a new one. Hence, no record of check-in. Cobb County Hyundai had picked up the vehicle because it went over the 30 days needed to provide me a clean title.

That solved one mystery. But what about the other…that pesky Explorer?

I found that one behind the repair shop. I drove it back to my other vehicles, and realized that the odometer wasn’t ticking over. So I drove it around more, and more, and more, until I was sure that the car indeed had a broken odometer.

My saving grace at this point is that everyone I deal with at this specific sale is nice and experienced. I can’t tell you how valuable these two qualities are when constantly buying and selling automobiles. So we ended up undoing the Explorer deal and I agreed to put the vehicle under my own name when it went through the block so that it can sell for a decent price.

The Explorer sells. But with the new announcement “True Miles Unknown”, it sells for only $800. I go inside and get my old check for $1650 on the Explorer, and a new check for $2090 on the CR-V. I then thank the Lord for helping me stay solvent in a time of high weirdness, and spend the remainder of my day organizing the 53 other vehicles that are either a repair or a customer away from being sold.

A lot of you have experienced the same scary scenarios of losing everything when it comes to your cars.

Maybe your car could have been lost, stolen, driven through a flood caused by substandard sewer work, or even struck with the white lightning of catastrophe. Feel free to share your story. Since I am most thankfully finished with mine.

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Piston Slap: Inject Fuel Directly into…Oil? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/piston-slap-inject-fuel-directly-into-oil/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/piston-slap-inject-fuel-directly-into-oil/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 12:49:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497213 Evan writes: Sajeev, I have a piston slap question for a friend at work. She drives an ’11 Mazda CX-7 2.3. For over a year she has had an issue with fuel in the oil. Enough that the oil level has been as much as 1″ above the full mark on the dipstick as a […]

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Evan writes:

Sajeev,

I have a piston slap question for a friend at work. She drives an ’11 Mazda CX-7 2.3. For over a year she has had an issue with fuel in the oil. Enough that the oil level has been as much as 1″ above the full mark on the dipstick as a result (oil level was checked after service, and frequently between services). This is noticed within weeks of service/oil change.

The issue seems to be worse with more short trips, and the car has been serviced as recommended by Mazda (or more frequent oil changes when warranty fixes attempted). The dealer has had the car repeatedly over the last year, and now continuously for over 2 months. They have replaced the HPFP 6 times as well as replacing the injectors twice. Leakdown and compression tests show no issues. Canada has no lemon law (just horrible binding arbitration), or the car would probably be a buyback by now.

The dealer has spent over 13k in repairs trying to fix it. They are at a loss, and Mazda forums haven’t helped, so I come to you and the B&B hat in hand. Also, even if they can fix it how much damage will so much fuel dilution cause? Should they demand and reasonably expect some sort of engine warranty extension?

Sajeev answers:

I am totally bummed to hear about your lack of Lemon Law-ing ability in this case.  O, Canada! 

I would seek more information on arbitration and contact Mazda Canada formally (AND via Social Media) to see if they’ll do anything. Sell this Mazda after the (possible extended engine) warranty expires…unless you’re thinking what I am thinking.  Ya know, an LS4 swap.

Mmm, LS4-FTW…that would be so awesome.

(cue harp strings, dream sequence) 

ls4shirtfinal

OH YEAH!  Front wheel drive…with BALLS!  Zoom-ZOOM-Zoom!

Ahem, now where were we?

Finding conclusive information on why fuel-oil dilution exists is tough via Google, but this SAE paper might contain the truth. Too bad I’m too cheap to buy it, too lazy to read and summarize for everyone’s benefit. Maybe some engineers with active SAE memberships can chime in here?

What say you, Best and Brightest?  Time to get a lawyer?

 

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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How To: Invest In A Beater http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/how-to-invest-in-a-beater/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/how-to-invest-in-a-beater/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457458 Congratulations!!! And my condolences. You have just bought yourself a vehicle that may be worth more dead than alive. Did you follow my car buying advice? Of course not! You wanted cheap to the extreme and now you got it. Bald tires. Doors that may be lovably ‘scrunched’ just a little bit thanks to those […]

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Congratulations!!! And my condolences.

You have just bought yourself a vehicle that may be worth more dead than alive.

Did you follow my car buying advice? Of course not! You wanted cheap to the extreme and now you got it. Bald tires. Doors that may be lovably ‘scrunched’ just a little bit thanks to those pesky inanimate objects. But hey, at least the ashtray still works.

Now you just have to figure out what to do with it?

 

A beater will have any one, many, or all of the following issues.

  • Bad engine
  • Bad transmission
  • Bad steering and suspension mechanisms
  • Bad body damage
  • Bad frame damage
  • Bad electrical issues
  • Bad reputation
  • Let’s face it. It drinks. It smokes, and it hangs out with the bad boys.

The operative word in all this loathsome criticism is ‘bad’. Forget about the very concept of ‘good’ for now. Until you can get this beast rolling safely in the same general direction of the nearby traffic, don’t even think about your car as anything less than illegal roadside architecture.

Let’s take a recent example. This 1999 Taurus was recently traded into my dealership with 213,000 miles and the obligatory transmission fluid container in the trunk.

Ugly? You bet. But the beginning of the bad news here is a bit more obvious. The headlights have performed the late-90’s water seep and headlight shatter that is as common as kudzu here in the South.

So, do I invest in it?

The cost for the headlights is $75 on Ebay and about fifteen minutes worth of my time. I could go with a $30 junkyard version. But nice clear headlights that are devoid of plastic exfoliation are a better bet. Few things make an old crappy car from the Clinton era look like new than a pair of Chinese headlights and a full set of Malaysian floormats.  Throw in a $5 automated car wash from down the street, and you’re pretty much all set.

This is what we call in this business ‘the $99 upgrade’. It does wonders to nearly any beater.

 

 

What else did we forget? Inspecting the car of course. Get ready to take out the ‘bad’ checklist.

The body had all the dings, dents and bruises that you would normally expect from a 13 year old beater. All doors opened and closed fine. So body wise, we’re already ahead of the game.

I opened the driver’s door and….

Clean. Surprisingly clean.

Yes, there is also the obligatory Southern dashboard peel that seems to provide a nice contoured holder for all your papers and related knick-knacks. But any car that has soaked up the Georgian sun for 10+ years without the occasional protectant spray is gonna get a burned and warped dashboard.

A/C… works! You have no idea how important A/C is to the evolution of Southern life. Forget about all the politics and ‘the city too busy to hate’ propaganda. Air conditioning finally gave us Southerners a feeling of luxury that no Tara styled mansion, ceiling fan, or mint julep could ever provide. Thanks to A/C this beater car has no sweat stains or frayed fabrics.

The interior is clean overall. The A/C works as noted. Radio works as well as all the speakers. The trunk has no leaks. Turns out this was one of those ‘owned in the same family’ cars that gets traded in once the younger folks want something that is a bit more fun to drive.

Tires are mediocre, not great. The trunk has no leaks. What am I missing???

Everything else needed to drive it.

I opened up the creaky curvaceous hood and saw a few small things.

Like the battery. It isn’t the right one. Apparently one of their other cars must have bit the bullet in the past and they decided to put small battery #1 into car #2. I’ll brace that battery correctly should I decide to retail it.

The power steering hose is leaking. A standard feature in most older Fords.

No recent tune-up. Then again, the check engine light wasn’t on at initial start up and a quick hookup with an OBDII scanner revealed that no codes were pending.

A few pictures didn’t make it to this article. The coolant reservoir was empty. A lot of buyers will assume a head gasket issue once they see an empty reservoir. This may be the case here. But a quick splash of water pointed to a small crack in the container. Some Fords get it, and nearly every Mercedes I have ever seen from this era will have this as well. Another potential Ebay order.

I popped open the copious plastic covering the radiator and found a brand new one in there. But why the heck did they get a new radiator and use the old hoses? Cheap bastards! I’ll have to keep an eye for leaks.

Oil looks fine. It’s not new which is a good thing because a lot of ne’er do wells will put in new oil to try and hide the milky residue of a blown head gasket. The oil cap seems fine. I start it up and verify that the transmission fluid is just below the min mark. I put in about a quarter of a quart from the free container and go on a fifteen minute drive.

One tire needs to be replaced. The heat doesn’t work. The temp gauge doesn’t get to the right point as quickly as it should. I’ll want to put in new hoses and a thermostat when the time comes. After I drive it for 15 minutes and park, I look at the oil again to verify the lack of head gasket issues and take a glance underneath the car for leaks.

The underside is ‘frosty’ dry. Just a little bit of residue which is a shocker.

Other than a few cheap repairs, this old bull of a Taurus is still surprisingly decent. Except for one thing.

It has a transmission whine. Not even giving it new fluid via a hand-pumped Mityvac will remedy that. This process usually helps keep a bit of the grit in place while giving the car new blood. The transmission is shifting well. Perhaps some time spent at the prestigious Taurus Car Club of America will help remedy that potential issue.

So here comes the golden question…

Should we be driving this beater a lot, a little, or at all?

Unless you have a friend, cousin, or sister named Vinny who is in the transmission rebuild business, don’t bother with the frequent driving. The AX4N transmission is the best one ever put into a Taurus. But at 215k, this particular one has given all it can to God, country, and the prior owners.

I would consider this a short trip car. You need to drive seven miles or less to work and back? This type of car can be an interesting oddsmaker. So long as the fluids are kept clean and on level, this type of car can work well as the ‘airport’ car or ‘bus’ car if you live nearby one. But make sure you have a second family car for when the tranny does decides to go south.

It may take years for a beater to become crusher fodder at the local junkyard. Or instant death can happen on a hot summer day in the middle of outbound traffic. Beaters, cheap as they come, are like a free box of Gump chocolates that have been left in storage for an indeterminate amount of time. You may get a great deal.

Just make extra sure you don’t kill yourself in the process.

 

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Have You Ever Said Goodbye To… A Money Pit? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/have-you-ever-said-goodbye-to-a-money-pit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/have-you-ever-said-goodbye-to-a-money-pit/#comments Sat, 11 Aug 2012 12:40:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456323     A 1995 Volvo 960. Supple leather that made long trips easy. Great safety and visibility. It represented what I thought would be the perfect family car. I financed it quick enough. But then the troubles began. First the engine coughed up a burnt valve. Took care of that. Then the strut mounts started […]

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 Courtesy of flickr.com  Photograph taken  by hinterland-1

 

A 1995 Volvo 960. Supple leather that made long trips easy. Great safety and visibility. It represented what I thought would be the perfect family car.

I financed it quick enough. But then the troubles began.

First the engine coughed up a burnt valve. Took care of that.

Then the strut mounts started to groan a bit.  A quick Ebay purchase and a little labor solved that one.

As soon as that was cleared up, the rear hatch door handle stopped working.

Two weeks later the electrical issues began. Erratic turn signals. The rear lights vanished due to a worn out wiring harness. The front lights began to do their own dancing in the dark. That was likely either an ignition switch or a multi-function assembly.

I started to think this car would someday soon be worth far more dead than alive.

At this point I told my customer, “Take this!” which was a Subaru Forester that didn’t give them one lick of trouble. I shucked the Volvo to a nearby dealer auction and chalked the experience to the laws of averages.

You can’t polish a rolling turd and expect to come out ahead. Sometimes cheap isn’t. Which brings me to a question that can only induce shudders and flashbacks to the long-time enthusiast.

Have you ever finally said goodbye to… a money pit? A rolling Beelzebub that swallowed dollars, Euros and parts like Kobyashi swallows hot dogs?

Extra credit will be given if you ended up using a flamethrower, a cliff, or in my next door neighbor’s case,  a sledgehammer.

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Hammer Time: And Now For Something Completely Different… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/hammer-time-and-now-for-something-completely-different/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/hammer-time-and-now-for-something-completely-different/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:58:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453892   This 2009 BMW 535i has 45,000 miles and looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. It offers nearly the same acceleration as a 550i, and far more space than the 335i, which is more sought after in the enthusiast world. To me, if you’re a true keeper, all of this is good news. The better news? […]

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This 2009 BMW 535i has 45,000 miles and looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. It offers nearly the same acceleration as a 550i, and far more space than the 335i, which is more sought after in the enthusiast world.

To me, if you’re a true keeper, all of this is good news. The better news? It’s a lemon!

Specifically, this late model BMW is a lemon law buyback. It happened back in the first year of its existence, due to BMW’s chronic fuel pump issues when it was first released. The recall has since taken place. The part has been over-engineered and the problem solved and warrantied for the life of the vehicle.

As for the title, it will be branded as a ‘Lemon Law Buyback’ until either the end of the time or the moment it’s exported.

These common 5-series models are not particularly popular in the export market either. So the question now becomes, “What is it worth?” The rough book on this model came down at right around $22,500. With the branded title and the bad history of way back when, it sold for only $17,300 at this morning’s auction.

There were two other vehicles that I ended up finishing in a firm but profit vaporizing second place.

This 2010 Impala LS has the tried and true 3.5 Liter v6 and 28,000 miles. The bidding went all the way down to $9000 and I jumped in at $9100. Once the price hit $10,400, a few hundred below the rough book, that’s where it stood. The auction fee probably put it right around $10,650.

Then there was a 2010 Honda Insight LX, which I still kind of regret not holding on to the bidding. The unpopular hybrid had some dings and small scuffs, but only 9,700 miles and a perfect Carfax history. Rough book was $12,800. I jumped in at $11,000 and walked off at $11,900.

Part of the reason was because we are getting right near the model change and 1 to 2 year old vehicles can take some nasty hits during this time period.

The other issue is the vehicle in question.  Unpopular models can be hard to unload and experience has lead me to be more of  a hedger than perhaps I should be in my daily life. I am more willing to bid up a low cost car than a high cost one due to the fact that it’s easier to finance on the lower end.  There were a whole lot of second place finishes today and I deeply hate the fact that some potential deals slid right by my eyes.

However, the higher end of the used car world can be a tough market. Some folks try to wholesale the inventory and let that be that. But I’m always wanting to retail vehicles like the Impala and the Insight. My overhead is far lower than the new car dealers and I’m still of the persuasion that a good presentation can always beat up a big bowtie or giant H on the front of a building.

We’ll see. In the meantime, if you folks want to enjoy the sweet lemonade of a killer deal, you often have to throw some lemons into the mix. Branded titles and the unpopular ‘retail’ car are just two ingredients I try to throw into my personal recipe.

 

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Piston Slap: A Sticky Subie Situation? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/piston-slap-a-sticky-subie-situation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/piston-slap-a-sticky-subie-situation/#comments Wed, 25 Apr 2012 11:53:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441494   TTAC commentator gessvt writes: Sajeev – Looking for some advice on a “to sell or not to sell” situation. A little background: I’ve been a fairly faithful Blue Oval guy for most of my driving years, with a few brief forays into cheap, reliable imports for college duty, and a recent contract gig that […]

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TTAC commentator gessvt writes:

Sajeev –

Looking for some advice on a “to sell or not to sell” situation. A little background: I’ve been a fairly faithful Blue Oval guy for most of my driving years, with a few brief forays into cheap, reliable imports for college duty, and a recent contract gig that required me to drive The General’s products (GMC Sierra 4×4, Saab 9-5 Aero and Chevy Cobalt SS). We also own a trouble free Monterey minivan and a perfect ’93 5.0 notchback. My new job has no such requirement, so I made the decision to pay cash for a unique, fun, safe daily driver.

I’m outside of Chicago, and with the exception of this year, am usually subjected to significant snowfall and slow-to-react city
plowing service. A friend left his WRX wagon with me last winter so that a local body shop buddy could do a quick bumper respray in order to sell it. We had a blizzard during this time, and the WRX had Blizzaks, so I drove it around and was *hooked*. This car had too many miles and had been subjected to his car-guy wrath, so I searched for the Holy Grail of Subarus: the 2005 Legacy GT 5-speed wagon.

After a few months, I found one with 60,000 miles, had the dealer replace the clutch (first warning sign), and paid cash for it. Since then, I’ve put 20,000 miles on it, and have really enjoyed the car…when something wasn’t going wrong with it. In 12 months, the following repairs have occurred:

  • replaced a hung up front brake caliper and pads/rotors (did both sides to be safe)
  • chased down an intermittent cylinder misfire and poor idle (replaced intake manifold gaskets, air fuel sensor and a fuel injector)
  • had a wheel bearing replaced under a Subaru TSB.

It sounds like another wheel bearing is getting ready to die, the 3rd gear synchro grinds (something I attributed to the weak clutch before I purchased), and one of the new front calipers got hung up on my drive to work this morning.

I’m at the point where I think I should fix the synchro and other misc issues and unload the car. At 80,000 miles, it’s still worth about what I paid for it. I love the power, the way it looks and drives and the poor weather performance, but I’m thinking that I’ve purchased a sorely neglected or problematic car. It may have turned me away from turbo Subarus for good. My question for the B&B: sell it and head back to Ford, or suck it up and drive it?

Apologies for the wordy rant.

Sajeev answers:

OMG SON! You said “perfect ’93 5.0 notchback” and…now that’s all I can think about.

Mmmmmmmm, Fox Body. (drooling)

Well then! I understand your Subie situation and agree with your assessment.  Turbo and manual transmission optioned Subarus are a serious threat to your wallet when purchasing on the used car market: they are too fragile for the abuse that might be thrown at them. And it sounds like you are one of the unlucky ones.  Not a big deal, since we all know that true Internet Pistonhead street cred comes from owning a wagon with a diesel and a stick. The Internet does not lie, you aren’t that cool.

I would do the bare minimum to the car for reconditioning, and let your service records do the talking.  You obviously loved the car enough to write this well crafted letter to Piston Slap, so I suggest you take all those receipts (that you saved) and put them in a cheapo 3-ring binder. Presentation is everything in selling a niche vehicle like this.  If your receipts show you care, the potential buyer will appreciate it…and won’t be so mad when stuff breaks on their clock.

And since you are a Ford guy, the 5.0 and the Mercury van need a Panther or Ranger 4×4 companion.  Obviously!  Too bad I can’t decide which is better for you!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

 

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Piston Slap: of Lemons and VW GTIs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/piston-slap-of-lemons-and-vw-gtis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/piston-slap-of-lemons-and-vw-gtis/#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 13:05:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437564   Paul writes: Good Morning Sajeev, Today is my 2010 GTI’s 15th day in the shop (shocking, right?). Earlier this month it was in for 13 days, I had it back for 6, and I dropped it back off two days ago. The issue is somewhat strange, but in my mind, easily fixable. I have […]

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Paul writes:

Good Morning Sajeev,

Today is my 2010 GTI’s 15th day in the shop (shocking, right?). Earlier this month it was in for 13 days, I had it back for 6, and I dropped it back off two days ago. The issue is somewhat strange, but in my mind, easily fixable. I have been getting CEL 2294 and when I run my own VCDS scans, I have been getting the following logs (edited down).

  • 004501 – Fuel Pressure Regulator Valve (N276)
  • P1195 – 000 – Open or Short to Ground – Intermittent
  • 008852 – Fuel Pressure Regulator Valve (N276)
  • P2294 – 000 – Open Circuit – Intermittent

Note that the above mentioned valve is integrated into the fuel pump and cannot be changed.

Since the issue has started the dealer has replaced the high pressure fuel pump relay (makes sense), the fuse box (makes less sense to jump to that with no other issues, but I get it), and the throttle body wiring harness (also makes sense). The three previously stated fixes were done on the first visit, and seemed to work for about 3 days (well the throttle body wiring harness seemed to work for about 3 days, the other fixes didn’t fix anything). Late in the day yesterday (day 14 of shop time) a call was placed to the VW tech line as the dealer was stumped. As it is being covered until Power Train Warranty and I have received exceptional service (frequent updates from Service Adviser, free loaners), I have been reluctant to force the issue of why they are not replacing the last, and seemingly obvious, point of possible failure: the high pressure fuel pump (Note I have a TSI, not the FSI with the known HPFP/Cam Follower Issues).

My technical experience isn’t vast, but it seems like if all the downstream fixes don’t work, its time to go to the source. I also am a bit confused, as the amount of shop time this is costing them and the other parts they have invested, all add up to far more than the cost of a fuel pump ($250ish retail, so probably way less than that to them). So how hard do I push them down the last obvious road? Do I take it back and spend the $250 and a few hours myself, just to have it done? Do I trade it? Should I stop making assumptions?

Thanks for all you do,
Paul

(P.S. – Feel free to forum search the codes above, chances are you will only see my threads!)

Sajeev answers:

It is nice to see the Mk6 Golf continuing the last generation’s legacy. And by nice I mean it allows the B&B to make blanket statements about VW’s terrible long-term value without digging into the heart of the matter. Michael Karesh’s TrueDelta may beg to differ in a year or two, but that remains to be seen.

Replacing a wiring harness at this age? That’s a quality product right there!

Your dealer’s diagnostic sounds logical and I’m not dumb enough to remotely question their actions. Why? Because if the pump is putting out pressure within specifications, it was never the problem. And therefore it isn’t the next logical step. The engine computer itself may be the problem, and we may never know.

My advice? Time to start using the phrase “Lemon Law” with your dealer. Don’t be mean about it, just be honestly frustrated and seeking advice. And check your state’s specific rules on the matter, and see if (or when) your GTI fits into this category. I’ve seen cars get Lemon Law’d for less, so do yourself a solid and ask around on this matter.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: The Two-Sided Ethical Dilemma http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/piston-slap-the-two-sided-ethical-dilemma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/piston-slap-the-two-sided-ethical-dilemma/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2011 15:10:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414908   Bill writes: Hello TTAC crew! My Mom is in need of a new car. The problem is her trade in: It is a 2002 PT Cruiser with a serious overheating problem ($1700+ quote at two reputable repair places) Now here is the problem. Do I keep my dang mouth shut when we go to […]

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seekersofthebat.com

Bill writes:

Hello TTAC crew!

My Mom is in need of a new car. The problem is her trade in: It is a 2002 PT Cruiser with a serious overheating problem ($1700+ quote at two reputable repair places) Now here is the problem. Do I keep my dang mouth shut when we go to the dealership and do the deal? I have a spare car that she is driving until it cools off and the overheating problem will not be noticeable at trade in.

I would never sell the car to a guy off the street without disclosing a major problem. Even to a car dealership I think I feel guilty in not disclosing it. We are not going to be financing, and will be paying cash for the car. So it is not like they can unwind the deal if they discover the problem.
Having ethical dilemma about screwing over a car dealership who exist solely to try and take as much money as they can from you in every conceivable way is weird.

Bonus question. These are the three cars we are considering Hyundai Elantra Touring, VW Jetta Wagon and Ford Focus Wagon. Any recommendations of the three or reasons to avoid them?

Thanks in advance for any help!

Sajeev Answers:

Fair disclosure: my full-time job is in the automotive retail business, so I have my own ethical dilemma. And don’t ask what an autojourno makes, it’s precisely why I work there. With the Jeff Glucker incident fresh on my mind, I’ve decided to publish this query and throw myself at the mercy of the B&B.

I hope I made the right choice. Well…here goes:

Ahem, not all car dealerships are alike. Sure, they all wanna make a buck, but if the mainline dealers inspect a vehicle and deem it not worthy to sell, it heads straight to the auction…so some other chump can deal with the problems. This is one reason why the Buy-Here-Pay-Here lots have the reputation that they often (not always) deserve. You could easily trade in your ride to the big name dealerships, they will see the problem and dump it.

What I’m trying to say is, the dealer may be a little pissed that you traded in a lemon, but they won’t pass their karma on to their used car customers. That’s just bad business, in the long-term. Odds are their trade-in value is about what they’ll get at the auctions anyway, so even if your PT isn’t as promised, the loss will be minimal. Maybe even in the hundreds, as a PT Cruiser isn’t a late-model AMG Benz that’s been abused and almost ready for a $20,000 repair bill once the “extra life” additives wear out and its new owner gets a shocking surprise.

Then again, the converse is that you should be ashamed for not disclosing a problem you know. That’s just basic karma, and it’s something I usually believe in.

Honestly, I’ve stressed over your question for weeks, and I still don’t know what the heck to tell you. I’m sorry.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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TTAC does the 24 Hours of LeMons. And Dies. Again. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/ttac-does-the-24-hours-of-lemons-and-dies-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/ttac-does-the-24-hours-of-lemons-and-dies-again/#comments Sat, 21 Nov 2009 16:24:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336325 The weekend of October 24-25 was the third running of the 24 Hours of LeMons at Motorsport Ranch in Houston, TX. TTAC was there for the insanity.  And it was the fourth time our LeMons race car, a 1972 Datsun 240Z hit the track.  I was an honorary “penalty” judge this time ’round (props to […]

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When life gives you lemons...

The weekend of October 24-25 was the third running of the 24 Hours of LeMons at Motorsport Ranch in Houston, TX. TTAC was there for the insanity.  And it was the fourth time our LeMons race car, a 1972 Datsun 240Z hit the track.  I was an honorary “penalty” judge this time ’round (props to Autoblog’s Jonny Lieberman and LeMon’s Founder Jay Lamm for that), so I did the best I could for my teammates when they got black flagged. But I’m no crooked judge, Jonny said I was too nice to other teams, too. No matter, it wasn’t enough for us to come close to victory. Then again, the Datsun Z is the butt of many a LeMon’s joke. What’s up with that?


How could a little sports car with a fully independent suspension and a healthy six-pot motor perform so poorly? More to the point, perhaps you remember some of the “cheating” we did to our LeMon’s ringer: a milled down stock flywheel, 280ZX long block and disc brake upgrades and a smokin’ deal on a coil-over suspension at a Z-club silent auction. Everyone expected Z-cars to perform well in these races, but no matter who runs the Fairlady from the Land of The Rising Sun, it all ends in Epic Fail. And so it was this time: our car performed well the first day of racing, with the power to pull hard on damn near everyone in the straights too.  But the competition is even better than last year, and the Z’s temperature gauge was none to happy about it. By Day Two, the head gasket said sayonara. So we paused, re-thought our action plans and finally packed it up to plan for next February’s race.

While I know that Z-cars are doomed to mediocrity because E30 BMW’s, Toyota Corolla FX hatchbacks (yes, really) and Foxbody Mustangs have taken the checkered flag, Jay Lamm’s own words about the Z-car tells the sad truth: Datsuns are out of date and hopelessly uncompetitive against modern vehicles. That’s sounds like a challenge to me, and TTAC’s crew chief Troy Hogan knows it.  Rest assured, his (insane?) dedication to the Datsun brand means that one day a Z-car will come up a winner.

Eventually. But these events are fun for racers, brand loyal fanatics, and anyone who loved these cars (mostly 1980s and 1990s iron) when they were new.  And enjoy seeing them get a new lease on life, or a stay of execution.  And much like TTAC, the 24 Hours of LeMons is all about the product, stupid. Much like C/D, the BMW 3-series comes up a winner far too often.  But that’s not the point.

If you haven’t seen a 24 Hours of LeMons race, go to one of next year’s events. The series is growing every year, mostly because of word of mouth and an unbelievably low cost of entry, relative to SCCA and NASA sanctioned motor sport events.  Even if you don’t race, you’ll be hooked after one lap of $500 heaps making an absolute mess (mockery?) of your local road course.

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Sign of the Times: Badvertising Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/06/sign-of-the-times-badvertising-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/06/sign-of-the-times-badvertising-edition/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2009 08:32:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=317770 What do you do when your £50,000 ($82,000) Range Rover requires, in the span of 42,000 miles, the following repairs? Six front ball joints; Four front arm bushes [bushings?]; One new seat base; Front and rear [near side?] struts; Air conditioning system; Anti-roll bar bushes; and A “full” suspension unit According to the Daily Mail, […]

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What do you do when your £50,000 ($82,000) Range Rover requires, in the span of 42,000 miles, the following repairs?

  • Six front ball joints;
  • Four front arm bushes [bushings?];
  • One new seat base;
  • Front and rear [near side?] struts;
  • Air conditioning system;
  • Anti-roll bar bushes; and
  • A “full” suspension unit

According to the Daily Mail, if you’re a Colchester, Essex, UK, man, you invest a bit of money in some vinyl decals, adorn your POS Range Rover with them, park it in front of the dealer and leave it there for any and all dealership visitors to see. And, because you’ve parked it on a public street, the dealership has no recourse to have the vehicle removed!

Workers at the dealership refused to identify the owner of the lemon. A spokesman for Jaguar – Land Rover says that all the repairs for the Range Rover have been performed under warranty and adds, “However, we are disappointed this customer’s experience has been unfortunate and as such we have made a goodwill offer towards helping him into a new vehicle.”

A generous offer on the face of it, but what about the man’s time and aggravation? Is that only worth a new Jaguar or a new Range Rover? Good luck to Mr. Anonymous.

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