Piston Slap: The Automotive Equivalent of The End Of The World?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the automotive equivalent of the end of the world

Steven writes:

Hi, Sajeev. I have a dilemma that I need your advice on.

I’m in a rural area of Central Ohio and have a 2000 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer, 5.4 V8, just shy of 144,000 miles, leather, 3rd row seat, air suspension, etc., etc.. We got it to tow our livestock trailer, but now with an ’05 Chevy Silverado 2500 Crew I no longer need it (daily driver into Columbus is a ’10 Subie Forester). It’s all paid for, so no pay off issues. It’s in pretty good shape, clean, loaded to the gills as most Eddie Bauer editions are. It has some electrical glitches that no one seems to be able to fix, so when it’s parked, all the time now, I have a battery cut off switch to save the battery. The engine did blow out a spark plug awhile back but the local dealer was able to helicoil the head and it’s held up.

I want to sell it. My issue is that the tires need replaced, they’re still legal, but barely. It appears this will be about $600 or slightly more that we don’t really want to put into it unless it will help sell it for more (and faster). There is also a bad shake in the steering wheel at speeds up to about 60. This will have to be fixed (?), what the problem is and cost I don’t know (any idea?), but the air suspension is in good shape, front and rear have been fixed up by the Ford dealer’s shop. Given the price of fuel and, at best, the 14 mpg this thing gets I think the demand for a big SUV will be low, along with what I’ll be able to get for it.

Should I replace the tires and get the shake fixed or just try to have it fixed and sell it with not so good tires? Or, just keep it around for awhile and hope gasoline prices come back down and there is more demand later (yeah, I’m dreaming)?

Sajeev answers:

Bill: there is always demand for an old work/family truck. Especially one that’s loaded to Eddie Bauer levels. The question is at what price for what condition?

Selling right now for reasonable money will be tough on an Expedition, especially without putting the effort to sell in Autotrader and (preferably?) Craigslist. You could certainly dump it for pennies on the dollar, but I would take my time to recondition it: finding cheap tires on Craigslist and shopping around for the repair by local mechanics. Bide your time and wait for gas prices to go down.

Regular gas (more so than premium, if what we usually see holds true) will go down again in months, maybe sooner if the word on politics and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is true. No matter what your political orientation, you might use this to your advantage.

As far as technical help on the shake: that comes from numerous sources in the front end. I can’t armchair that one: wheels, tires, ball joints, play in the rubber bushings…who knows? I would ask around for free estimates from multiple mechanics, or perhaps a paid ($70-90) inspection for an estimate from a trusted shop. Price the replacement parts by yourself (online, RockAuto.com for starters) and see just what exactly is involved in terms of labor hours: ask multiple shops (including the dealer) for the labor rates to replace said part.

That last bit is crucial. Homework is necessary. Nobody likes to be conned when it comes to a minor front end job that gets billed as the automotive equivalent of The End of the World!

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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4 of 28 comments
  • Rdvecc Rdvecc on Jul 01, 2011

    I recently sold the same vehicle except for it being a 2001 with new tires and in showroom condition for $9000. I put it on craigslist and it was sold within two hours. If the price is reasonable you shouldn't have a problem.

  • WildBill WildBill on Sep 14, 2011

    Hi, gang. Thanks for all the advise. Still have the beast but I'm going to get new tires and have the front end looked at. Since I wrote to Sajeev the transmission coolant lines have sprung another leak (temp repair done the last time, leak in a different place now) and a brake line leak has the reservoir losing all the Dot 3 from just sitting. Will get that repaired this week. I think I'll keep it parked, mostly, and wait until cold weather to sell. Folks in my part of the world (rural Central Ohio) don't turn their nose up at a full size SUV with 4x4 when there is snow swirling about! On the electrical issue, there is something draining the battery as it sits. I've even had it drain down to the point it needed to be jumped in the time it took to eat a pizza and have a beverage. This happened when I was driving it regularly. The battery is the third since I've owned it. Two different shops (one a Ford dealer) just replaced the battery and called it good, saying they can't find anything else wrong. The time it takes to drain it seems to vary. Have a battery disconnect switch on it now so I raise the hood and flip the switch and she goes. If I was to keep it I would find a good auto electric shop and let them have a go at it. Thanks again to Sajeev and the B & B!

    • See 1 previous
    • WildBill WildBill on Oct 13, 2011

      @Sajeev Mehta Hi, Sajeev and the B&B. Update on the Expedition... replaced the tires, brake lines and trans cooler lines. Rear brake were bad so had them replaced. There was a bad idler arm so had them replace that too. Taking the beast over to the shop the lower rear trailing arms broke, I mean, severed completely from corrosion, hanging down almost scraping the highway (Ohio winters, gotta love em, but apparently this is a common earlier Expedition problem). The guys at the shop wondered how I even made it there, they couldn't move it from where I parked until the arms got replaced. I found after market replacements from a place in Indiana that makes racing suspension parts, for half of what Ford wanted, and better quality. There were other corrosion related issues underneath but not real serious and nothing that would compromise safety or drivability. $1,600 later it rides like a new vehicle, big difference. Contemplated keeping it but the "boss" nixed that real quick. The front end shake was a separated tread in one of the front tires, so no work necessary up front, other than the idler arm. Pulling out of the shop in a light rain made me realize another item I neglected to have them fix, no windshield wipers. I could hear the motor running but the blades weren't moving. That day (still drizzling rain) I tore into it and discovered the arm from the motor to the wiper mechanism had popped off and was worn to where it wouldn't stay on. A little heat and reforming on the plastic fitting and some aluminum wire wrapped around it means we're all good now. Now if only I can sell it before something else breaks! Asking prices I've seen in the area for similar machinery look pretty good. Thanks again for all the advise!!