By on April 7, 2009

MPAVictoria writes:

Hello everyone, thank you for taking the time to read my question. I own a ’97 Ford Probe with around 160–170 thousand kilometres. I am not sure because the odometer quit working about a year and a half ago.

In the last six months I have spent about $2000 replacing the timing belt, alternator, other belts, the exhaust system and the windshield. My mechanic is now telling me that I need another $1,500 in suspension work in the very near future. Plus, my car is now holding revs until it warms up so I think I may need to get that checked out, and I also think it will soon be time to replace the crankshaft ignition sensor for the third time in 4 years, about an 8–9 hundred dollar job. All of these expenses on a 12 year old car have got me thinking about replacing it with something newer.

I am curious about readers’ opinions on this question. Keep it and fix it? Or sell it and look for something new? Also has anyone had any experienced buying formal rental cars? I am looking at some 2008 tauruses (taurusi?) that were previously rental units. They tend to have very low mileage, about 30-40 thousand km, and very attractive prices, about 15–19 thousand depending on the options. Could one of these be a good idea if I do decide to sell my current car? (Note: prices in Canadian dollars.) Thanks in advance.

Sajeev writes:

Probes are a love/hate affair: girls love (loved?) them, which is odd considering the seemingly offensive name. But I digress . . .

Most of the work done sounds normal for a car this age, with that mileage. Exhaust systems rust out and alternators go bad. Belts are standard wear items. Your funny idle could be bad vacuum lines, a call for a tune up (spark plugs, etc.) or possibly an idle-air control solenoid. All are somewhat cheap to fix. The problem with the crank sensor sounds fishy, either the wiring needs attention (it never was the sensor) or the sensor is a cheap replacement.  No matter, unless you have a “check engine” light or starting problem, I wouldn’t worry about it: that sensor either works or you’re stranded.

If my only other alternative is a $15,000 Ford Five Hundred/Taurus (which sounds like a lousy price) that’s so rental-grade it Hertz, I’m gonna stick with the Probe. And pocket twelve grand for your retirement. Its a great platform that’s an absolute blast with a fresh suspension and re-tuned motor. The Taurus?  Not so much. And your car’s connection to the wacky-insane 1980s Ford concept cars with the same name only make the appeal more intriguing. Or perhaps, probing?

Drive other cars and see if you want to take the plunge. Remember how much money this will cost, too. If driving a Taurus makes you want that Probe out of your head, talk to TTAC’s own Jonny Lieberman. He’ll get your beater a new home and a short, painful life as a participant in the 24 Hours of LeMons. Probes are one of the hot tickets for that event.

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48 Comments on “Piston Slap: Probing the Outer Limits?...”

  • avatar

    Uhm,to spend so much dough on an old car is crazy. You could get another probe for 1500$. As this car is identical to mazda mx6 and mazda 626/ including the derivatives Xedos6/millenia,so you could simply buy some parts from mazda. Your engine is revving up because probably either of idle sensor going nuts, or oxygen sensor going out of work. But it`s not conclusive, it could the same way be valve gaskets leaking oil, which trash oxygen sensors out much faster. I suggest you should have bought a 2.5 liter engine Probe, as it is much more fun to drive. The exhaust muffler on probe 2.5 was made of stainless steel, so it shouldn`t have rusted out. The problem areas might be the welding places, which due to welding process make it corrosion welcome. remember it is a complete mazda job, only the `tin` is somewhat ford, but actually both versions rolled of a Mazda assembly plant. Even the 2 liter engine is mzr.So Ford has almost nothing to do with engineering this car.( as always). The previous ford was more Fordish with a 3 liter Vulcanizing engine .And the concepts simply have similar names, but not platforms or anything ,the last one was probe v( as in 5) in mid 80ies. If the car in the picture is yours, then it has been crashed, because I see it has got the bumper from 2.5 liter version while it is missing side skirts/claddings which was characteristic of a 2 liter version. So I guess you have a 2 -liter car with a replaced front bumper. Which would also explain why you don`t have the original fog light s in the bumper. So it was a serious collision most likely. But then again, I think it is not your car, because 97` version had side markers in front fenders and even 2 liter base version came eqipped with sideskirts already, unless you damaged them to and replaced with older fenders.

  • avatar

    I’d ditch your Probe; they are not long-haul cars for the most part (I haven’t seen one in years). Your mileage at 165,000 KM (or 102,000 miles) is not that extreme and it sounds like it has already become a money pit.

    I would not buy a former rental car, it’s a real crap-shoot as to what you will get. I use to live in Orlando, FL where it is rental car city and many end up back in the general auto population, privately owned. Yes, I know you can pick them up cheaply but you generally get what you pay for I have found in my experience and that of others who have purchased ex-rentals. They are generally not maintained well and frequently abused. You just don’t know……

    The world is your oyster right now, there are a lot of solid bargins available on reliable used cars that have been maintained, are certified and hold some resale value. I’d look around a bit but ditch the Probe.

  • avatar

    Your car is going to cost you money soon and in the future. Any car with that much mileage has things that wear out. It is inevitable. Buying a new(er) car will at least get you some safer technology and a newer platform with less worn parts.

    Cars wear out and unless you have the ability and inclination to fix things yourself you end up paying someone else dearly just to keep it running. As far a used rentals, many people brag about the deals they get by buying rental. I don’t see it. If I was a rental agency I would do the minimum maintenance, if any, to the cars just to keep them running for a year then dump them and buy new ones. Don’t think that they maintain them well. It isn’t cost effective if you are keeping a car for only a short time.

    I would never want to buy a car that I had rented since I tend to beat the crap out of rentals just to see what they can handle. Most rentals I’ve experienced were bland vanilla cars bought only because they were a good deal for the rental agency, not because they were good cars. I would not stick with the Probe since it is such an old, worn out car nor would I consider a Taurus. They are the blandest of the bland rental cars.

    Since you tend to keep cars for a long time consider investing in a new car and look to keeping it for the next 10 years. Over time I think you will save money and lots of aggravation.

  • avatar

    I love the Probe, My cousin had a brand new one when i visited him in Ohio in 96. one thing that still intrigues me though. we were doing 80mph on the highway, and the frame less window on my passenger side was lifting off the rubber seal, and closing again. i was worried it would break and chop my head off. other than that minor life threatening scare, i like the looks of it.

    looking for an ultra cheap ride to replace my arthritis prone Chevrolet Celebrity. ( I live in Lebanon, so US prices don’t apply.)was thinking to start shopping for a MK1 Golf GTI. most probably if i find one it would be completely rebuilt, but it doesn’t hurt to search… i could get a 77 e class 280 for $1000, but i just loath
    that car.

    given my family’s long relationship with the Celebrity since 83, i would advise you to put some money in the probe and have fun with it for another 3 – 4 years. give it some more power while you’re at it to increase the fun.

    what about a late generation Celica to take over the Probe? would be better than a Taurus i bet…

  • avatar

    Wow, seems like you’ve sunk a lot of cash into that thing for not a lot of KM’s. Then again it’s 11 years old and from my experience more often than not, age catches up faster than miles, or KM’s in your case.

    You do have a 1990’s gem of a car. ’97 was the last year of the Probe and it was replaced with the ZX2, which IMO was a POS compared to the Probe. Since the car was dumped so many years ago it’s starting to be quite a rare occasion to see one on the roads, especially the Gen I model. Damn did I love the original 2.2L Turbo Probe. Ultimate sleeper car with just a small boost kit on it. Anyway, I digress.

    My opinion is that it’s almost always a better idea to fix up and keep driving the car you’ve already got. It’s paid for and engine/drivetrain on any modern car can last well over 200k miles (322,000 KM’s). I drove a 1990 Taurus well past that mileage and that wasn’t near the vehicle a ’97 Probe is. Fix it up, keep it maintained and take it on a road trip at least once a year to keep it well oiled. She’ll last you another 10 years no problem.

  • avatar

    Over the years I’ve purchased 3 former rental cars. In ’97 I bought a ’96 Camry that felt more solid than the new ’97. It was totalled at 89K, so I cannot tell whether it being a former rental affected its long term reliability.

    In ’02 I bought ’01 Buick Century that served my wife, my son and now my father-in-law. I had the rack and pinion replaced under the original manufacturer warranty. Could it have been result of rental abuse? I don’t know and don’t care much – I’ve got a brand new for free. At about 80K-85K it had the infamous Dexcool/lower intake manifold gasket problem. Could it have been result of some rental abuse? I doubt. If abuse was greate it should have taken less than 60K miles to show up. And I’ve got $400 back from GM via the Dexcool settlement.

    In ’04 I bought ’03 Taurus for my sister in law. At the end-of-warranty inspection it showed some deterioration in the front suspension, but mechanic assured that it was common for all Tauruses and did not look like a rental abuse damage.

    My rule for buying the former rental cars is to buy a “boring” family sedan with enough remaining original manufacturer warranty to last 6-12 months. You should not buy it if you actually enjoy driving or if you get embarrassed when a rental clerk asks you: “Are you picking up or returning your rental?”

  • avatar

    Fix it? Are you for real? MPA Victoria, I just had a quick look at There is a 2007 Mustang V6 with 30,000km for $14,900. I am sure you could easily get it down to $14,000 flat.

  • avatar

    To have had had all those repairs with such a relatively low mileage car is bad. Cut and run away fast.

    My rule is never repair a car when the repairs will cost more than the trade in value. Sometimes one can get sucked into it with 2-3 “minor” repairs adding up. The reason for this is that you will end up paying more per mile than what a new or newer used car costs per mile.

    I once drove a 1985 Dodge Aries to 220k miles keeping careful records of repairs. I bought it with about 100k on it. It turned out that as the car neared 200K the repair expenses exceeded on a per mile bases the cost of a new/newer car on a per mile basis. And I did the repair work myself.

    Your experience with this car tells me it has to go. Dumping it will save you money in the long run. No one should have to put up with what has happened to you.

  • avatar

    Those maintenance costs sound high for the work that you listed. $1500 for suspension? I replaced shocks, springs, sta bars, tie rods and every bushing on my Bimmer for that.

    Still, I’ve heard the Probe has some rare and pricey parts. My friend had the ABS sensor go and he claimed it was a ~$1000 part. If you truly do need to put that kind of money into it, I’d say move on but, for the love of god do not get an ex-rental Taurus. In the $5K price range you could find a nice late nineties Silvia/240sx.

  • avatar

    You should drive/push/tow this thing to the nearest wrecker (after you have squeezed the last mile out of it) Don’t spend another dime on it….it’s already gone farther then most of them made it.
    If you are in the market for a new car this is a great time to buy. Used cars are up in value because of the credit squeeze.
    Buy Honda/Toyota for long life/great resale. Buy GM/Ford if they are CHEAP and low mileage and I wouldn’t buy either without some warranty protection on major components remaining. Chrysler products??? Forget about it unless you can wait until the bankruptcy sales.

  • avatar

    Ive been with Mazda as a tech for 27+ years, and the Probe/MX-6 is bulletproof IF you take care of it.
    If you have the GT 2.5 V6, the sensor you refer to is the distributor, and if your mechanic is using an aftermarket unit, he is doing you no favor. Either the Ford part of the Mazda part is the one one to use. The actual crankshaft position sensor is relatively cheap and is located below and to the right of the crankshaft pulley. The only failure Ive seen with that part is wires misrouted and being cut by the drive belts.
    If you have the 4-cylinder, again, the distributor is the failure part and do not use aftermarket parts.
    The main suspension issues are: rear sway bar bushings, steering rack inner joints, front or rear sway bar end links, front lower control arm bushings..and that’s just about it. Not real expensive for any of it.
    BTW–I enjoy my ’93 Probe GT, 228K miles and still as new.

  • avatar

    If you love your car, keep it and spend a little dough. Any car that’s been around for several years, things are going to deteriorate just by time alone, regardless of mileage. Springs sag, plastic and rubber disentegrates, gaskets shrivel and leak. Keeping a car more than a few years costs money, but it’s up to you to decide when it’s no longer worth it.

    Regarding the high idle at startup, if you have no check engine light, then you may try cleaning the throttle plate, as carbon buildup can cause it to hang up and not move as freely as it should. Could also be an IAC (idle air control) valve going out, but I’d think you would have a check engine light come on for that issue.

    I’m curious about your crank sensor issue. I’ve never seen a car actually need one replaced as many times as yours has apparently been, and certainly not on a car that’s got as few miles as yours. You must have something else that’s killing them. I know that on some vehicles you need to do both cam and crank sensors together, or the newer sensor can take the older one out. Chryslers are pretty well known to do such a thing.

    For everything else, you will sink a lot of money into the car changing out things that wear out, but if the car suits you well, why not? You could easily spend more money on something else you won’t like as much. The Taurus is a no go IMO because I know how people treat rental cars, and you don’t want to deal with the problems down the road.

  • avatar

    Had a 95 Probe GT owned it for 13 years, 130,000 miles.

    The car was flawless, not one problem (original clutch, rotors …everything except normal maintainence items)) until last year when the rim developed a corrosion related leak and the it developed a stumbling issue. Cosmetically it was starting look it’s age due to me not putting any effort into it but it was a better car than most people give it credit for. I’d come out and say it was a better car than a comparable year Mustang GT.

    It had a great smooth revvy V6, outstanding just lost out on peak power compared to it’s competition.

    That being said…I lucked out mechanically with mine. as good a car as it was FOR IT’S DAY….get rid of your asap. There are plenty of cars out there worth the effort. An old Probe is not worth the effort or expense.

    Old Miata’s are CHEAP and rewarding to own…

  • avatar

    I think with any car, after a certain point, you should only own it if you can do your own mechanic work. All of these $1500-$2000 jobs at a mechanic are $400-$600 if you DIY.
    2008 Taurus is a fantastic car. (remember people, 2008 is the new one)

  • avatar

    Wow! I first would like to thank everyone for all the responses! I really do like my probe and all in all it has been a good car and I love the way it looks! Plus it has been in my family since new so I knew all the maintenance had been done. The crankshaft ignition sensor is a weird issue. Every 2 or so the car suffers from an intermittent failure to start. This could be a real pain if I was for example late for work, though it would always start if I left it for awhile. After spending thousands of dollars replacing fuel pumps, distributors and ignition wires the dealer finally figured out it was the ignition sensor. Since then I have had it replaced 3 times (once with an original ford part and twice with aftermarket ones) and lately the car has been doing the intermittent failure to start thing again so replacement number 4 is coming up. ( I should note that I excpect it is the bitter cold where I live that is the issue with this part, as the failures always seem to happen after a week or two of below minus 40 degrees centigrade.)

    I am a little surprised by the lack of love for the Ford Taurus. I drove several examples and came away impressed. Comfortable ride, decent interior, and okay handling for that big a car. Plus loads of room. Not as exciting as the G8 but not a horrible car by any means. The fact that I was looking at rental vehicles did eventually put me off though, and in the end I decided to go new.

    So to make a long story short I ended up buying a new car yesterday. A DEEPLY discounted 2009 Pontiac G8 in Stryker Blue! Awesome car! Loads of room, plenty of power and really nice handling for a big vehicle. Plus rear wheel drive! Obviously I am still looking at it with new car love in my eyes, but I think I will be very happy with the purchase. 

    (And to answer one question in this thread, the car in the picture is not mine and my car has never been in a major accident.)

  • avatar

    Oops! I forgot to clarify, my probe is the 2.0L one.

  • avatar

    200k-min: “from my experience more often than not, age catches up faster than miles.”

    I have a clean ’88 Mazda 929 with only 80K miles but it needs $1,000 to $1,600 in A/C repairs (the other flaws I can live with). The timing belt has been replaced. What’s likely to break soon just from old age?

  • avatar

    Congratulations! No question the G8 delivers some of the biggest bang for the buck the new car market has seen in quite some time. Enjoy!

  • avatar

    Pull the speedo and send it to Tacoma Speedometer for the Odo repair.

  • avatar

    As one of the readers noted, I too have experienced that older Probe/Mazda parts can be very expensive. Not exactly sure why. You’re better off sticking with Honda/Toyota for both reliability and parts availability.

  • avatar


    I have a clean ‘88 Mazda 929 with only 80K miles but it needs $1,000 to $1,600 in A/C repairs (the other flaws I can live with). The timing belt has been replaced. What’s likely to break soon just from old age?

    Well, my wife’s 98 328i has about 52K miles on it and has been driven gently since new. Additionally she has covered parking at work, and the car is garaged at home.

    Now, some of this might not apply since they’re functions of the Texas heat and Sun, but the rubber bushings on the suspension and the shock mounts all dried out because of age and had to be replaced. The paper (Gee BMW!) speaker cones have started to fail (I’m replacing all 10! of them as they go) because of age. Of course the belts and hoses have all been replaced. A rear shock developed a leak. The flapper door in the Air Conditioning had to be relubricated… The plastic top of the radiator dried out and cracked…

    All of these things are age related. The car is cosmetically about perfect, and runs beautifully. I regularly feed the leather and keep it waxed (well, Klassed). It’s had all the required maintenance regularly and the mechanics all love the car.

    Still, If something were to happen in the engine or transmission, it wouldn’t take too much to total the car on a financial basis.

    These are the kind of things that eventually kill a car. It’s hard to justify taking the dash apart on an 11 year old car just because the AC flapper door is sticking sometimes….. but it you don’t all the little things add up and suddenly, it’s graveyard day.
    Age catches up with all of us.

  • avatar

    50merc – my only concern with older low mile vehicles is how long did they sit? There was a thread about all the new cars just sitting right now. An ’88 is over 20 years old. Door seals, belts, tires…all that plastic/rubber stuff doesn’t last forever, especially if its been out in the sun. Struts, brakes and wheel bearings all like to get used ever so often to keep them in good form. If your 80k vehicle got out on a 300 mile road trip every month for the past 20 years I’m sure you’re fine. If it’s been sitting in a barn since 1990, I’d be worried.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I keep several old high mileage vehicles running in our family mini-fleet, but the key is that I am able to do my own repairs and I enjoy doing them.

    If refreshing all the suspension bushings and thus having a good excuse to use your hydraulic press doesn’t excite you the way it does me … dump the Probe. It is likely to keep eating several thousand dollars a year if you have to pay to get work done.

    Better to be putting your hard earned cash into something a lot newer IMO.

  • avatar

    As people have mentioned, anytime you send a car out for someone else to repair you can expect to pay double what the job would cost you yourself…or more, depending on the shop (for example, dealers can cost 4 to 5 times as much.)

    Still, it is easy to dimiss a car as worthless when you hit the next pile of aging repairs, but ask yourself, how much would a new…or newer car cost. A cars cost isn’t only measured in monthly payment. A newer car will cost you a huge chunk of change in tax to start out with. Next you can expect the insurance to be 2-3 times higher because the car’s value is higher. Then there is interest on the loan…which can add another $500-$1000 a year. In some states the licensing fee is directly related to the car value…more money. In the end, these other costs could easily add up to, or exceed the repair costs of your current ride. Unless you haven’t maintained it well, or the car has known issues…it is almost always more cost effective to keep an older car “till the wheels fall off.”

    Having said that, there are a lot of reasons to get a newer car. You want a nicer ride. You need something different (ie. van, truck.) You want to, or need to lower your risk of getting stranded. You are embarrassed by your run down ride…etc. All those reasons are legitimate ones for buying something newer. Saving cost, generally is not.

  • avatar

    Ooooo, a G8! Now there’s a reason to get that Probe out of your backside. The Taurus wasn’t gonna do it for me, personally.

    MPAVictoria : After spending thousands of dollars replacing fuel pumps, distributors and ignition wires the dealer finally figured out it was the ignition sensor. Since then I have had it replaced 3 times (once with an original ford part and twice with aftermarket ones) and lately the car has been doing the intermittent failure to start thing again so replacement number 4 is coming up.

    There’s your problem, you went to the dealer to service an old car!!! No, no, NO!!!!

    No offense to service techs who may read this series, but too many people in my life have been raped by dealer service departments throwing parts at a problem for no good reason…other than to make a shit-ton of money before showing the unsuspecting owner the new car showroom.

    15 years ago, when I just started driving, I learned something. I got a clue after some jerkwad salesmen put a new car brochure with his business card in my (serviced) car. Did he really think this teenager could ask mommy and daddy to buy a new car? And there was years of insane repair bills (20 years ago) and the snickering I saw when other hoopties rolled into the driveway. And from then on, never again.

    If you want the Probe around as a spare car, you better find a independently owned (non-Franchise) mechanic that runs a clean shop and has no problem with you providing parts when you need the car serviced.

  • avatar

    For $1500 you can find a mid 90’s Buick LaSabre for $500 and have $1000 left to bling it out.

    But seriously, what kind of suspension work is your mechanic talking about? How high are the revs it’s holding? I’ve had older cars hold the revs at around 1000 RPM until they warmed up and just didn’t worry about it.

    But when it comes to owning an older car you need to take a different attitude: It’s never going to be perfect. Just let some things slide. If the problem isn’t igniting the CEL, seriously adversely affecting fuel mileage, or isn’t causing the serious driveability issues you may likely be able to let it slide. Even if you have a substantial driveability issue like a sloppy shifting auto trans it might be better to let it ride until the tranny grenades itself, or disclose the issue and sell the car dirt cheap, instead of repairing it. Don’t go chasing down intermittent problems because all you end up doing is throwing money at your mechanic while he goes around chasing ghosts. Wait until the issue turns into a solid failure. It’s a lot easier to diagnose them then. Until then, sit back and enjoy the ride.

    If you need to have your cars as near perfect as possible go get something less than five years old and buy a bumper-to-bumper extended warranty for it.

  • avatar

    Sajeev Mehta:
    Don’t worry, I only went to the dealer when the car was newer and none of the other mechanics I took it too had any idea what was causing the problem. Once they figured out the part I went back to a local mechanic I know.

  • avatar

    Good. But I think your other mechanic can do the diagnosis better, and for less. How much was the diagnostic fee for their work? Anyone who replaces a fuel pump when there’s an ignition problem does NOT have your best interest in mind. We are talking about a simple test for fuel pressure, then a test (tests?) for spark. If one of them works, you know not to touch it. Generally speaking, even on modern EFI cars.

    I better leave it at that, all the horror stories people (mostly women and older folks) tell/show me about dealer service departments working on their 8+ year old cars are all coming back to me. I think I need a barf bag.

  • avatar

    MPAVictoria – Good move. You narrowly avoided the slow death of your will to live by long term exposure to a Taurus. The G8 is a rocking ride and should serve you well.

  • avatar

    I really have to say I LIKED the taurus. It had a great ride, tones of room and plenty of power. Plus I think it looks classy in black. I just liked the G8 more, plus I was worried about possible problems related to the taurus being a former rental

  • avatar

    $2000 for a timing belt? $1500 for suspension work? I’m sorry, but I really believe you’re getting ripped off and should look for a new mechanic.

    I think the only sane way to keep a car that is that old is to fix it yourself (get the factory service manual). Fortunately your car is interesting enough that there are forums online to help research most problems and repair procedures. If you don’t have the time or desire you probably should get a new car. Remember, even a newer used car will need servicing when the short warranty runs out and that can get expensive as well. You don’t really ever save money when you buy a new car.

  • avatar

    Radimus: Tt was reving at like 3 thousand rpm, which was making shifting difficult and killing my fuel economy. The suspension work that needed doing was 2 front tired rods, 2 front control arms and the steering linkage.

  • avatar

    Do you know the way to the closest junk yard. That car has had a life now do the right thing and put it to sleep.

  • avatar

    It was not 2000 for just the timing belt. It was 2000 for the timing belt, alternator, other belts, the exhaust system and the windshield. As to whether my mechanic is making his boat payments off me, that could be. I just moved to a new city 6 months ago so I lost my former mechanic.

  • avatar

    MPAVictoria: Does the question on this page describe your problem:

    Anyway, after giving the issue some more thought I think that if the car really needs all of that suspension work, and you can’t do it yourself or find someone who will at a much better price, I would strongly consider replacing the car. I would either trade it in on something else or fully disclose the problems, as well as the new parts, and sell it cheap. Either way you’re probably looking at getting about $500 for it.

  • avatar

    Interesting. I still see a few Probes with this body style on the street and honestly think they look better and more fresh than anything Ford makes now. Or even anything they’ve made in the last decade.

    It’s also interesting that most of them ‘look’ like they’re very well taken care of. Maybe they were just built better back then.

    Except for the one in this story apparently.

  • avatar

    The paint on mine still looks great! Hardly any rust. I agree they are still very attractive cars.

  • avatar

    MPAVictoria: that’s sounds like a pretty good price in that case.

  • avatar

    50merc :
    April 7th, 2009 at 9:28 am

    “200k-min: “from my experience more often than not, age catches up faster than miles.”

    I have a clean ‘88 Mazda 929 with only 80K miles but it needs $1,000 to $1,600 in A/C repairs (the other flaws I can live with). The timing belt has been replaced. What’s likely to break soon just from old age?”

    Merc, the timing belt/water pump was the usual repair on that series 929, but the real deal was the auto transmission failure. Replaced MANY of them.
    Also, aftermarket distributor caps and rotors kill those cars.
    There is also a large neoprene o-ring at the base of each of the 6 intake runners. There harden, and leak vacuum, cause all kinds of running problems especially when cold. $4 each, a cheap and easy repair.

  • avatar

    Holding revs until it warms up…. is it doing this when started up or when your driving down the road? If the latter I would stop right there and get that tranny checked out ASAP before it craps out. A transmission should shift on time every time no matter if it’s cold or hot. Check the fluid level with the car up to operating temp running at idle. If that checks out get the tranny serviced. This is usually around $100.00. If it just involves the engine holding a rev at idle that is an easy fix that usually involves cleaning your throttle body or replacing the idle control solonoid. I would assess the car from there. $1500 for suspension work is crazy. Apart from normal struts, strut mounts and tie rod ends there really isn’t anything that should be costing so much. Tie rod ends are cheap and you could pick up some new front struts at your local parts store for a few hundred bucks and have a local muffler brake shop install them for a reasonable sum.
    As for the Taurus, it is a great car with loads of room and comfort and a big improvement over the Five Hundred before it. The engine grew to 3.5 liters and the transmission is now the Ford/GM joint venture 6F unit which has so far proven reliable and a big improvement over the old CVT in the former car. The 2008 style Taurus is not to be confused with the old rental spec 00-07 mid sized car with the weasy Vulcan 3.0 liter V6, drum brakes and split bench front seats. Now that was a true rental car if I ever saw one. $15K Canadian is a bargain for that car. Many dealers are asking between $15,995-16995 US for those cars as they are typically pretty loaded up. My friend bought a lightly used rental 2008 with leather and roof and paid $17,000 US for his late last year. 20,000 miles later, he has not had a single issue with the car, it gets great highway mileage, has loads of trunk space to carry computer equipment all around the world and has a pretty imviting interior. If you decide to trade the Taurus is a great car for the dough. I have personally owned many rental cars over the years. If you look the cars over carefully or have them checked by a trusted mechanic, they can be a good value and will save you 30-40% off the original retail sticker price as the new car depreciation has already occured. Just be careful on what you select and do run a carfax report to find out which rental agency owned it beforehand.

  • avatar

    For 15-19k you could probably get an Accord new (in the higher end of that range), or at least a Civic, both of which have much better life expectancy than a former rental Taurus. Or a Corolla, which for all the yawns I can hear from the TTAC faithful, is probably more fun than the bull-ford, and certainly also more reliable. As for your Probe, as early as its 1999 annual auto issue, Consumer Reports listed the ’97 Probe (along with the earlier ones) in its “used cars to avoid,” the worst of the worst.

  • avatar

    I have a 95 PGT, Rio red, 68k miles. Yep, the “fun” car – commuting duties were held by others. Zero door dings, barely any paint fade (some is inevitable). Being that the mileage is so low, I have yet to do any significant repairs – until now. The 2.5 litre engine is known for oil leaks around the intake; I was quoted $400…Terry, is that fair? Other known Probe weak points – factory ignition wires, corrosion on the oil sending switch causing false low readings.

    These cars respond beautifully to minor upgrades; I can glue myself to almost any car through the twisties. Sadly. Ford softened the GT in ’96. I find it hard to believe you need all those parts and they seem to be pretty pricey to me. Compare prices at Rock Auto. These are really engaging cars to drive, think twice about dumping it…

    I never heard about CR’s negative opinion, but I do recall all the accolades bestowed by the real experts, the automotive press. COTY, 10 best, All Star. Another reason I ignore the toaster testers, it still resides in my garage, all 14 years worth. Pampered, but pounded on.

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    There is no way you should spend another dollar on that car, 12 years old. $3,500 in repairs and perhaps another $900 looming? It’s worth about $500 wholesale.

  • avatar

    I had a ’89 LX 2.2 sans turbo. The car was loaded with power everything, trip computer, digital dash, sunroof etc. Underpowered, but the handling was fantastic. Drove it north of 200K miles and only scrapped it after it would no longer pass inspection. Good but not a great car. The 90’s became the decade of the SUV, and Ford lost interest in the car, and let it die on the vine. Another one of Ford’s half-assed efforts.

    My car looked a lot like this, except it was White:

    Here’s a short history of the Probe:

    The Probe was originally intended to replace the rear drive Mustang in North America, but after howls of protest from both customers and Ford insiders against a “wrong wheel drive” Stang, Ford freshened up the ‘ol Fox chassis and released the new front driver under the name of Ford’s concept show car.

    Both generations of Probes used Mazda mechanical bits and Ford designed bodies. 626/MX6/Probe share the same mechanicals. The exception was the 90-92 LX which used a Ford 3.0 V6.

    The cars were build in a Mazda/Ford owned plant in Flat Rock, MI called AutoAlliance.

    The 1st gen turbo GTs were the fastest Probes. The turbo cars were only a fraction of a second slower in the 1/4 mile than V8 Mustangs of that time. Inter-cooled turbo cars were available with speed sensitive steering, variable suspension damping, anti-lock brake, four wheel disc and a bunch of other stuff you rarely saw on cars in the early 90’s — with the exception of expensive luxury cars.

    In the 8 years the car was in production, Ford moved 850K units off dealer lots. Not bad, but didn’t earn anywhere near the profits of the Expeditions.

    The Probe was replaced by the short lived Mercury Cougar — built on the Ford Contour chassis.

    Fact is that the market for small sport coupes is now very small. The average American is now too fat/old to get in and out of such small low cars. Pity, because sporty coupes are my favorite type of car.

  • avatar

    golden2husky :
    April 7th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I have a 95 PGT, Rio red, 68k miles. Yep, the “fun” car – commuting duties were held by others. Zero door dings, barely any paint fade (some is inevitable). Being that the mileage is so low, I have yet to do any significant repairs – until now. The 2.5 litre engine is known for oil leaks around the intake; I was quoted $400…Terry, is that fair?

    Yes, that’s a fair price. The oil leak are the valve cover gaskets and the 14 sealing washers involved.
    BTW–the 5th gear swap in my ’93PGT has given me an immediate 5+ mpg improvement on the highway. NO loss of power, great torque at any given highway speed, cruise still dead on no matter the hill. If interested in this swap, contact me at [email protected] An easy and inexpensive mod.

  • avatar

    i don’t really understand why people think because a car is 11/12 years old it’s not surprising to require a lot of mechanical work? i have a 20 year old Maxima i havent had to spend any money on. i owned an 11 year old Toyota Curren (sister to Celica) for 4+ years and 60000k & only had to change the water pump. maybe i’ve been lucky

  • avatar

    V6 : i have a 20 year old Maxima i havent had to spend any money on.

    How long have you had that car? 20 years? You must not be the original owner and/or don’t drive the car much at all.

    I called my friend with a 1990 Maxima just to make my point. In the past 10 years he’s had to change:

    1. alternator
    2. motor mounts
    3. brakes
    4. 3-5 dashboard clocks (and it still doesn’t work)
    5. window regulators (especially earlier models)
    6. exhaust resonator (even in rust free Houston)
    7. CV boots and shafts
    8. tires, belts, and hoses
    9. timing belt (every 60-70k)
    10. water pump (some mechanics replace it with the belt)
    10. Clutch

    So yes, you must be the luckiest person in the world.

  • avatar

    I say ditch the Probe before its too late. I sometimes put that much into my 3 series BMW with 157K miles, but it was still solid when it got hit and totaled. I still managed to get $10K out of a 10 year old car though. Something tells me there isn’t that much value in the Probe and there’s probably a reason I rarely see them on the road now a days. I say look around for another used car. It may be $1500 here, $2k there, then you’re still stuck with the old car and still shelling out a lot of money.

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