Piston Slap: Mad Vulcan Powah? (Part II)

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap mad vulcan powah part ii

Tony writes:


My new wife brought to the marriage her ’07 fleet-queen Taurus. She’s not a car pamperer by any means, but she does change her oil. This car got flogged like a racehorse in its previous life. Its body tightness is well-nigh gone, it unpredictably emits a strange unidentifiable groan from the depths of the dashboard center on moderate acceleration, the dime-size floormats are practically ground into dust, and the trunk barely agrees to open even when unlatched.

But the heart of the problem is in the engine bay. At 130k, the engine light has been chronically on for the past year-plus and the car flunks smog tests. A couple of good independent mechanics have variously identified the problem as being the catalyst or other things; I’ve read the PVC system is a typical offender in aging Vulcans, and these guys were smart enough to check it. Each of the last two test intervals, the mechanic coaxed the car through the test to keep it legal for another two years.

For all that, the car doesn’t drive badly, and it’s quit over the road only once as she’s continued to rack up the miles. It’s also got enough visible wounds outside and inside that it’s virtually worthless in resale. I know the typical answer in this situation would be “drive it until it drops dead.”

But one thing that gives me pause is that stranding incident — a year ago the engine sprang a leak and starting puking its coolant all over the ground, prompting an emergency service. I don’t remember which gasket it was (head?), but I heard it was endemic to that engine and set her back about a thousand bucks.

I’ve got my wife pegged as a dream customer for a 3-year-old Prius, since she’s born for its combination of stratospheric gas mileage, eternal reliability and utter void of driving entertainment. I’m not made of money, but I suspect the price of these will jump back to its old higher level when the price of gas does. She doesn’t mind the Taurus a bit unless it fails.

Keep flogging the old bull? Try to outguess the Reaper? Thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

ZOMFG SON, if I met a woman with such a sweet ride, I would totally marry her so I can do this to her Vulcan Taurus.

While an Eaton M90 blower fixes everything on your wife’s sweet ride, the sad reality is that neither of us could make it happen. How sad!

I heard the last Vulcans had a cylinder head defect leading to OBD-II trouble codes, and I reckon yours is in the same boat. So yes, it’s a case of run it ’til it dies. If the Taurus is still a decent runner and it’s worth more to you than anyone else, I wouldn’t scoff at replacing the long block with a low mile junkyard unit. That might get you another relatively trouble free 80-100,000 miles in an otherwise reliable vehicle. Maybe. If that’s what you really want.

That said, as gas prices continue to spiral down, I suspect a used Prius (or Nissan Leaf) on the cheap is in your future.

[Image: Shutterstock user Guteksk7]

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.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 24 comments
  • Wstarvingteacher Wstarvingteacher on Sep 03, 2015

    You don't say what you drive but there is an alternative if your concern is her being stranded. Swap cars and find the problem. 130k is just broken in. I normally put my wife in something newish and drive the olds ones myself.

  • Salguod Salguod on Sep 05, 2015

    We bought a 2007 Prius Touring 2 years ago with 112K with new tires and brakes courtesy of the selling dealer for $10K. We've since put another 50K on it with no expenses but gas, oil changes and a pair of tires. I expect it'll go another 100K with little trouble if we are willing. Soulless machines, but bullet proof.

  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.
  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
  • Jeff The car itself is in really good shape and it is worth the money. It has lots of life left in it and can easily go over 200k.
  • IBx1 Awww my first comment got deletedTake your “millennial anti theft device” trope and wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones keeping manuals around.
  • ToolGuy "Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC; Mercedes-Benz"• I bet I can tell you which is which.