By on February 6, 2012


Sajeev writes:

Writing this Piston Slap during “the Big Game” is especially sweet for me, thanks to all of you.  Last week’s plea for more content generated about 75 emails for your reading pleasure, which at the rate of 2 a week, means you will continue to enrich the lives of everyone who reads Piston Slap.  Which makes me more proud than I can possibly convey in a short period of time. So let’s do this thing!

Mark writes:

I drive a 06 Civic sedan with about 138K on the clock.  I only drive about 18 miles a day, and the car is in decent shape.

Some exterior flaws;  scrape on the rear passenger wheelwell from my wife, a fist sized dent on the recently replaced hood from where I hit a deer.  The struts seem to be going (ride is getting rough, I am assuming its the struts not something more sinister), the AC compressor died last summer, and the stereo is working on 3 speakers only for some reason not related to the connection at the speaker.  Being a repressed, mid life crisis car guy I want to dump the thing and get something new with more bells and whistles.  The wife thinks this is the dumbest idea I have ever had, and that the last thing we need is another car payment.  All that said:  what do you think?  Should I bite the bullet and dump a few bucks into this car, or is it throwing good money after bad?


Sajeev answers:

I like your wife…no, not that way!  Anyone who likes to limit their exposure to debt is a person after my own heart.  That said, from investing in a college education to liar loans, debt does make the world go around. Question is, can you find a happy medium?

The answer is obvious: light up the credit card to Pimp ‘yo Ride, son!

You need new struts for sure: Koni, Bilstein, KYB (or whatever) performance dampers will make life more interesting.  Or just get a complete spring/strut assembly, as they are (usually?) less labor to install and your coil springs are certainly not performing as they did when new. Find a set of Civic Si sway bars, they are significantly bigger and more hoon-worthy. Oh, and a strut tower brace and X-brace will help make an old car feel new and tighter than ever before.  New (all season or summer) performance tires, maybe new wheels too. I’d go with those retro-70s concept car rims from the Hybrid model…so cool!

And obviously a replacement aftermarket stereo: four channel amp, decent drivers, and maybe the latest Navi-Sat-Traffic-iPod laden head unit.  Fun!

I say this because I did just that; slapping on Fox 5.0 Mustang performance parts onto my Fox Mercury Cougar XR-7.  That was almost 13 years ago. Now in need of more updating, I drove it into the ground once again. With a smile on my face, I might add.  The Cougar kept me mobile while waiting for my custom-ordered Ford Ranger, leaky header gaskets, wandering steering, worn tires, flaky dashboard grounds (my bad) and something awfully stiff in the suspension didn’t hold me back.  What’s my point?

I love my new vehicle, and you would too.  But I’d never sell my RestoMod Cougar: it shall be fixed up once again to continue the journey…this time as just a weekend toy. And, believe it or not, I’d say the same darn thing about your future-modded Civic.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

19 Comments on “Piston Slap: But how much Debt makes the World go ‘round?...”

  • avatar

    Fix the AC Compressor. Then see what you can get for it. You notice the declining ride, a buyer may not. 138k is a lot for an 06. If you don’t get any takers at your price point, do the minimum to keep it functional. You have to disclose anything broken, like the speaker and Compressor, but something you merely expect is a looking expense, like the struts, not so.

    Don’t break the bank, but you should be able to get something more interesting and more functional without spending too much. You only live once.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    If you love it, do as Mehta says.

    If you don’t love it… good luck convincing the wife.

  • avatar

    Getting that stuff fixed is going to be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay cheaper than a new car. With only ~6 years on the car you’re still a ways away from the annoying age related decay and only looking at mechanical wear from the miles.

    At only 18 miles a day, if you can live with it for a few years then it’ll only have slightly high miles for an ’06 instead of really high miles and you’ll and you can trade it in and use the money you saved on car payments as a nice down payment on something new.

    Or, find some way to convince your wife something out of one of her nightmares will happen if you don’t trade it in… something along the lines of breaking down and leaving you stranded in a bad part of town, at night, surrounded by marauding bands of highwaymen, roving packs of feral dogs and prowling, maneating mountain lions.

    Me, I had no problem spending $500 last year to get the A/C fixed on my 15 year old, 140K daily driver but then I also can do a lot of repairs and maintenance myself and am comfortable living with an aging car.

  • avatar

    wait- I thought Hondas were just barely broken in by 138,000?

  • avatar

    The key question is whether the wife simply doesn’t understand why you want a new car, or whether it would actively piss her off. If it’s the first answer, then you may be able to plead midlife crisis, or at least get her to understand that your car choice goes beyond practical considerations, and it can make you feel good or bad. If replacing the car would piss her off, then do the minimum repairs you can live with and enjoy your stress-free domestic situation.

    I also wonder where you live. The weather will affect how serious those problems are. Is it hot enough that you must have working a/c? Is it snowy/salty enough that the scrape will start rusting? I’m thinking about, What’s the bare minimum amount of money you’d need to spend in order to keep driving this? Even though it’s an ’06, the car has graduated to a quasi-beater — something that goes from A to B reliably enough but without much comfort, fun, or impressing people. Many of us are fans of such cars. Making this Civic anything better than that probably isn’t worth it. And that’s because I think it would sell surprisingly well if you chose to dump it. With high miles, cosmetic problems, and non-essential (a/c) failures, you’d drop the price so that it’s the cheapest ’06-11 bodystyle Civic anyone will find. And there are zillions of people shopping for older Civics who will sort the search results by price and discover, Wow!, I didn’t realize I could afford the next generation! A few of those zillions of people will accept the miles/problems in order to grab the newer generation, and boom — you have a sale if you want it.

    But the key is your wife. Run some diagnostics on her.

  • avatar

    Get rid of it and buy a gently-used Chevy Cobalt SS/Pontiac G5 – in yellow – you can have lots more fun and find more junk to hang on/modify/personalize it. Besides, they’re the future “Cockroach of the Road”© and will last forever!


    • 0 avatar

      @Zackman: It’s like you were calling me! LOL.

      I do have to say, even up here in GM country, the nicer Cobalt SS/G5 GT models are starting to get used up. If one were interested, they need to start looking soon…

      As for the OP, I’m too cheap to throw out a good running car at that kind of mileage. What kind of money would you have to drop to fix the car? Every person has their limits, I understand.

      Sometimes it’s better the devil you know. Keep this car, you know the history.

      I like cars, but I don’t like car payments.

      Throw on some fun items like a set of nice wheels and set you back another $1000 or so, and you still have a decent car that can run another 100K miles…

      If it’s just one of those things, you’d better start buttering up the wife (not literally).

      I’m lucky mine was raised by a motorhead.

  • avatar

    I gotta say, my 05 Neon at 125k (sold it) was in much better shape mechanically than this car seems to be right now.

  • avatar

    It’s cheaper to keep her. Both the car and the wife.

  • avatar

    Cars are emotional possessions much like clothing so logic sometimes does not apply. If you’re looking at this from a logical perspective then you should definitely keep the car. Fix what’s broken and have some fun doing it yourself.

    However, if you just hate the car then I would sell it and maybe opt for a 2-3 year old Miata. Fun, reliable, economical as long as you don’t have kids or gear to haul.

  • avatar

    You’ll never have a better market than this one to sell. Even with the miles and issues, a civic can fetch a lot. People seem to think those cars are made of gold.

    If you are sick of the car and want something newer and/or more interesting, now is the time.

  • avatar

    If you can get past that dash (as I assume you have after 138K miles) the 8th gen Civic is a great car. The chassis is really underrated and with mild work it can make for a thriller. Check Youtube and search for BMI’s race of the FD1 Type-R vs the S2000 & NSX. I think you will be really surprised to see what it can do.

    Only issue that would make me sell is if it’s an automatic. That would make a perfect excuse to move to an Si.

  • avatar

    You don’t mention your financial situation at all, which I think is key to answering this.

    If you’re on a tight budget, keep the car, do the bare minimum to keep it livable, and you’ll likely get another couple years out of it without major problems, assuming you’ve kept up on maintenance so far. It’s the best decision from a financial perspective.

    But if you’re fully funding your 401K, not saving for any major expenses important to your wife (like a baby / vacation / house) and you don’t have any consumer debt you should be paying off…buy a new car. It might not be the best financial decision but life isn’t solely about finances for most of us.

  • avatar

    Your Civic has a lot of life left in it. When asking about the life expectancy of an ’87 Civic, my favorite mechanic told me that the earliest he had seen one die was 180k miles. Its owners changed oil once a year if they remembered.

    What’s your financial situation? Are you essentially debt free with your retirement nest egg fully funded? If not, keep the Civic and use the money saved to improve your long term financial security. As has been suggested, your can turn your Civic into an entertaining ride for less than it will cost to replace it.

    On the other hand, if you are financially secure, why not enjoy the fruits of your frugality and labor? Just don’t buy a Porsche if you only have a Miata budget. A 60-something friend of mine wanted to buy his dream car, which he could afford. It was a five year old Corvette. His wife objected that it was a silly waste of money until he explained that the Corvette meant as much to him as new clothes meant to her. End of discussion. He bought the Corvette.

  • avatar

    Your car is worth more now than it ever will be, especially given the current ridiculous used car market. If you think you want a new one now or in the next year or two, now may be as good a time as any to trade.

    If you’re going to keep it, do the necessary maintenance, but skip the nonsense about Bilsteins and amplifiers. It’s a total waste of money that could be put towards a new vehicle. At the end of the day, it’s still just a Civic sedan (trust me, I drive one that’s worse than yours).

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    18 miles a day? Fix up the Civic and trade it in on a Leaf (or maybe a Volt if you know you don’t have to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel).

  • avatar

    You know what? The tone of his letter to SM is clear. He wants a new ride. In this case, a new car is the answer. He got a good life out of it and a cash strapped Hondaphile will easily snap up his present ride. Sometimes if you want it, and can comfortably afford to pay for it, you have to go for it. After the recent burials of two family members, I am inclined to quote my late mom: This is not a dress rehearsal; be responsible but know when it is time to live…buy a new car.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Kruser: My grandmother had an early ’70s Imperial coupe. From my perspective, it had “nicer” (in...
  • bullnuke: Who is talking about Thai? I made a comment on infotainment displays. One should never eat anything while...
  • DenverMike: It’s not relevant. Screens can be a pain, but we’re talking an annoyance. Playing with them...
  • Ol Shel: But will Dodge’s electric muscle cars still be the go-to for driving into crowds?
  • Ol Shel: Humans seek convenience and disengagement, and we fiercely resist the removal of those conveniences. Deaths...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber