Piston Slap: When Does the Mystique Wear Off?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

piston slap when does the mystique wear off

TTAC Commentator SupremeBrougham writes:

Hey Sajeev, out of the blue a man calls me up and makes me an offer to take my Chevy HHR off my hands. I made a counter-offer and the deal was done. Hooray, no more car payments, I’ll just keep and drive the Mystique!

But, as luck would have it, the Mystique decided that it didn’t want to run anymore, so I had to have it towed to my local independent shop, and it’s been sitting there for a while. It turns out that the main wiring harness under the hood has disintegrated and needs to be replaced. He has tried calling a number of junkyards and he said they all laughed at him, and said they all cut the harnesses when removing the engines on junk cars, so none are available. At the dealer, they quoted him a price of ~$800 for a new one! He told me that he is going to try and see if he can salvage enough wiring under the hood to try and reconnect the ends together so that the car will run again. Also, I’ve tried looking online for this part but I haven’t had any luck.

So now I am stuck with no car (though thankfully my parents have been kind enough to loan me one of theirs) and I don’t know what to do. Some folks have suggested rather strongly that I need to sell it and buy another car, while others have said just cough up the $$$ and get it fixed.

I would prefer to keep the car, as I rather like it. Despite the fact that it’s almost seventeen years old, and has some rather dried-out leather inside, the body is in very good shape (thank you Ziebart!), and it still has that wonderful suspension that makes it such a joy to drive.

I did decide to go and look at cars today, but here in my neck of the woods (Northeast lower Michigan), most of what’s out there in the price range I’d like to stay in ($10000 max OTD) has LOTS of miles and is worn out! Yes, I could afford to spend a good deal more, but I do not want to. Today I looked at some Ford Focus models, a Honda Civic and a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Part of me really wants a Ford Fusion, but they are way over priced up here these days. Plus, it’s just me, so I don’t need a large car. I have been driving my mom’s ’05 Mercury Sable, and while very nice, it just seems like too much car for me. Also, gas just went to well over $4/gal. here, so mid-20’s mpg is not acceptable anymore.

So here is my quandary…Should I just get the Mystique fixed and hope for the best that the repairs will last for a while, or sell it quickly (which I don’t think would be a problem) and buy something else? And, if so, what? I liked the Civic, even though it was over my self-imposed budget, but then I was reminded that no mechanic up where I live will touch a “foreign car”, and the closest import dealers are ~75 miles away. The idea of a PT Cruiser is appealing in that it has the higher H-point that would help me when getting in and out (bad knee), and the extra cargo space would be nice. And, they are cheap! The Focus also has the higher H-point, but a lot of them have lots of miles and a high price tag?

PS, for my contribution to Panther Love, I have already put in my request for Grandma and Grandpa’s 1991 Town Car Cartier to be left to me in the will one day, so that future problem should be solved. ;-)

Sajeev answers:

You like the Mystique, but are you a regular member of Contour.org? You better be, otherwise owning Mercury’s finest Mistake at this age will drive you nuts. That said, I am the Super Moderator (yes, really) of LincolnsOnline.com and my Mark VIII still drives me bonkers at times. There’s no easy answer for people who value their time over the repairs needed to keep an old car at 100% functionality, but the forums do help you make local friends that give you access to parts, labor for the cost of pizza and beer, etc.

If you can’t budget 1-5 hours a week on the forums (at least initially) for the next month or so, it’s time to sell the Mystique. Buy that PT Cruiser, and sell it when the Cartier Town Car arrives in your garage. If you can stomach the Mystique’s, ummm, mechanical mystique: get that new wiring harness (or have the mechanic fix it) and you can save money using the forum’s hook ups later.

Good luck getting the Panther Love that you so truly deserve. The best of Ford USA and Ford Europe in the same garage is nothing to sneeze at.

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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3 of 43 comments
  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Jul 21, 2011

    Interesting post! Back in 2009, I was able to buy replacement parts for my shifter in my 1992 Ford Ranger truck (well, most of them anyway) and they WERE still available, and yes, from the dealer too although I'm sure I could've found parts elsewhere too. mostly it was the nylon bushings and metal washer rings that went bad and those ARE available still, at least at that time anyway.

    • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Jul 21, 2011

      Some major Ford sub-assemblies were designed to be repairable down to the component-level. As Ford outsourced the design and production of a replacement for a family of these to my employer at the time, I put a stop to this long-held practice. When Ford asked us for a list of all the sub-components we would be providing to Ford Parts and Service, I replied "none". This resulted in a repeated request, and then a discussion. My rationale was, why service these assemblies if it is now cheaper to just remove and replace? Further, because my product is a saftey-item, I had great fear if I applied the doctrine of "the best repair can only be as good as that done by the worst mechanic on his worst day". For my own peace of mind, and to avoid at-minimum pointless warranty claims and discussions, and at maximum really-really-really-undesired product liability lawsuits later, I refused to allow anything on our product to be servicable. My economic argument of: "What sense does it make for a 100$/hr tech to repair a 50$/pc item (with a risk of impairing its FMVSS function)?" sealed the deal.

  • Supremebrougham Supremebrougham on Dec 04, 2011

    And now for the conclusion of this story... Today, after much thought and discussion, I sold the car to my best friend James. Like me, he "gets" these cars, and he couldn't wait to get it. I know he will take care of it and enjoy it as much as I did. Plus, with him having it, I'll still get to ride in it on occasion, so it's all good :)

  • TheEndlessEnigma Fiesta ST, I have a 2016, I'd love to grab the newest spec 2023.
  • Redapple2 Jimny - obviously.
  • ToolGuy Something like this.
  • ToolGuy Here's the part I'm struggling with: Who knowingly runs a vehicle until the brakes are metal to metal? (It's in the listing.) Did we ignore the wear indicators squealing all this time? (Internet says this vehicle has them.)I did that once with my first car, and I still feel bad about it.
  • TDIGuy I'm boring, but VW Passat Estate, Diesel with manual transmission.