By on July 10, 2018

Image: David B. Gleason/Flickr

Old, beloved cars can easily consume every last minute of our spare time while draining every last cent from our wallets, but not everyone is as fastidious as you might be. Often when a little thing goes wrong, we just let it slide. Sometimes the vehicle’s age, mileage, and accumulated repair costs mean our intervention’s no longer worthwhile. It’s time to throw our hands up in the air and say, “Screw it, I’ll just live with it.”

Yes, it wouldn’t take much to pull that dent or buff out those scuffs, but it there really any point anymore?

Usually, when car/owner relationships reach this point, the vehicle in question is not long for this world. Like a horse that’s run its last race, the glue factory beckons. And yet a friend of mind once spend countless hours applying endless layers of filler and primer and paint and clearcoat to his ’03 Altima’s bumpers to eliminate a number of stubborn scratches. Meanwhile, the sedan’s undercarriage resembled the Titanic (circa 2017) and the engine and transmission had clearly used up their borrowed time. For some, the quest for outward perfection never ends.

What’s the biggest nuisance you let slide?

I can think of a couple of afflictions that plagued my ’89 Prelude in the months before a failed clutch cylinder finally landed it in the classifieds. Certainly, the subsequent Camry you’re sick of hearing about had no such flaws. It was, in a word, flawless. The sexy red Prelude Si, on the other hand, eventually decided I need more elements in my life. Elements like air and water.

The driver’s side window eventually stopped its upward motion four inches from the top of the frame, and made sure to do this while I was strapped for cash. In the middle of a particularly brutal winter, no less. Rather than pull off the door panel and tinker with the pane and lift mechanism in a frigid, wind-swept driveway, I just pulled the pane up into place, hoping that, against all odds, it wouldn’t just plop back down after I gingerly shut the door. It rarely obeyed. That heater got a workout that winter.

Then the power moonroof decided the front seat occupants faced a risk of dehydration, so it unsealed the cabin from the outside world, dumping cold water on us whenever it was left parked in the rain. It was a hit or miss affair, as some rainy overnights wouldn’t result in six to eight ounces of chilly water cascading onto out heads after reaching the first stop sign of the trip. A perpetually saturated carpet became the norm. Try as I might, I couldn’t resolve that pesky leak — nor was I willing to spend much money trying.

So, think back (maybe not all that long ago), and share your stories of automotive ailments you couldn’t be bothered to fix.

[Image: David B. Gleason/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

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84 Comments on “QOTD: When Have You Thrown In the Towel?...”

  • avatar

    The fact that it’s a rotary.

    Or the fact that I installed a racing seat and now it’s a pain to get the seat belt buckled.

  • avatar

    I don’t let anything slide. I take great personal satisfaction in maintaining my cars. When maintenance or repairs become too overwhelming or expensive I simply get a new car and start over

    • 0 avatar

      Same here. However, when repair costs, repair frequency, and reliability reach a certain point I call a charity that wants donor cars. I then buy a new car and repeat the process for another 15-20 years.

  • avatar

    My wife had a 2002 Q45 that by 2013 had accumulated a little over 200,000 miles with no issues. It was ugly and boring but dead reliable. One day she ventured on to a rough unpaved road and hit a large rock which damaged one of the stainless exhaust manifolds and the power steering rack. The cost of replacing both of them was nearly the same as the cars value so I ended up trading it in on a low mileage CPO 335d which was one of the most fun and rewarding vehicles Ive ever owned.

  • avatar

    As a certified masochist, I will retain my 85 Biturbo
    & its plethora of parts. Haters can mock, but I just
    consider the sour grape soaked sources. Mockers
    can hate, but I own the car. (or does it own me?)

  • avatar

    I had a ’95 525i I racked up 270,000 miles on. During the years I had it I spent more on repairs/maintenance than what the car was worth several times. Finally after being stranded on the expressway twice in 2 weeks I bit the bullet and sold it.

  • avatar

    For me it was a 1985 Caprice Classic.

    The power window switch for the driver window stopped working. I unscrewed the power window switch assembly, pulled the wires and opened and closed the windows by holding the wiring ends together.

    Then the A/C stopped working and the car would only blow hot, all the time. So we left the vent selection set for defrost, all the time.

    Then one of the cylinders on the small block V8 developed enough of an oil leak that the spark plug would foul about every 3 weeks. So I kept a supply of really really really cheap A/C Delco plugs and did a plug replacement about once a month.

    The car was 3 tone color: burgundy red down to the belt line, metallic grey below that…..and rust….everywhere. So we stopped washing the car so the rust wouldn’t flake off as quickly.

    The rubber gasket on the passenger door ripped and fell off, liquid nails reattached it to the door pretty well.

    It was, really, a good car. It when roughly 250,000 miles before the hammer fell. Got into it on day, turned the key, there was a muffled staticy “crump” sound under the hood….some smoke…then nothing. A catastrophic failure of the electrical system. Couldn’t ignore that!

    • 0 avatar

      Lol, sounds like your poor Chevy wanted to go long before you were willing to let it go. I actually feel kind of sorry for it and hope it’s now resting peacefully ;-)

      • 0 avatar

        I used to see box b-bodies still in daily driver duty in my old neighborhood (2015), they’re actually surprisingly rust-resistant, considering I don’t see to many other 1980s cars around period. Just sturdy old tanks. The ones I’d see were sometimes in some stage of transformation to donks, most often they’d have some degree of lifted suspension but were still rolling on steelies. My neighbor had a Parisienne sitting immobilized in her driveway, I was tempted to inquire about it. I also got to see a guy whip an old Ninety Eight(?) through an intersection and get completely sideways. Man living there was a hoot.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Naw. Somebody got it and now it’s riding around with 28s on it.

  • avatar

    Looks as good as new.

    Or better, it has patina and most of the bugs have been worked out.

  • avatar

    My short lived experience with an ’00 Maxima SE. Bought for $1600 with some very blown out shocks and some decent body scrapes and rust, but a strong motor and good feeling transmission, straight smooth tracking on the highway, fresh Bridgestone tires and working A/C. It had a loud exhaust and CEL from an exhaust leak somewhere near the Y-pipe, slow leak from the transmission, a water leak from near the cowl, and the most serious issue that I didn’t catch when buying, a rotted out lower radiator core support that the lower motor mount attaches to. Put new struts and brakes on, did some body work, drove it all summer (noticed the trans would slur 2-3 and 3-4 upshifts when I got on it), then sold it for a minor profit ($2350). ’97 Ranger bought for $1700 oddly enough I got burned AGAIN with a rotted core support, this time it was less critical since it is a frame based vehicle but still unpleasant. Again drove it a while, cleaned it up and got some things fixed and sold it for $2500. I had bought a new core support to weld in but it was just too far down the rabbit hole for me, I wanted out. My ’94 Ranger is much more structurally sound, I know what to inspect on those trucks. Oddly enough I miss driving that Maxima more than any of my other beaters, it was legitimately fun to rip around in, even with the automatic. Much more so than the ES300 that followed (the ES was a vastly better car in every way).

  • avatar

    My 2004 330i’s rear passenger window regulator failed, not letting me roll down the window. By the time it happened, I had spent thousands on out-of-warranty repairs and didn’t feel like barfing out more. Nobody rode back there, so I let it slide. Sold the car a few months later.

    • 0 avatar

      My friend in San Diego has a beater E46 he picked up for $1500. Rattling front end, peeling trim on the a pillars, never washed, windshield washer doesn’t work, feels like a bad driveshaft center bearing at high speeds on the highway. When I visited him we were driving around and one of the rear window regulators crapped out. He had a pretty nonchalant response to it. He has reached true beater-mentality zen with that car. Engine is still turbine smooth, auto trans shifts fine.

    • 0 avatar

      When I bought it the rear window regulator wasn’t working on my 2004 325i – it was only an hour job to do, using a $20 part I bought on Ebay. Turns out the wire busted on the old one. Trickiest part was removing the trim on the door. Replacement was easy after that.

  • avatar

    “Screw it, I’ll just live with it.”

    Cars are just like marriages!

  • avatar

    I let a failing brake master cylinder ($750) go in my Cadillac. Just pump up the brakes a bit as you stop!

    As well as a slow leak on the power steering rack ($900). As well as the AC not working [R12] ($1,000). Oh, and the rear air shocks were on their way out ($825).

    It was at that point I realized the thing was a lost cause, and let it go.

  • avatar

    Not my car, but my side by side is at that point now.

    In the past 2 years, I’ve had to do the following:
    – Starting issues solved by changing and relocating the battery from a motorcycle one under the seat to a deep cycle marine battery under the hood.
    – Replaced 2 rear axles.
    – replaced 2 bent tie rods
    – two drive belts
    – new water pump to fix overheating
    – new starter, as the old one burned out last fall while in the middle of nowhere.

    After replacing the starter over the winter, I took it out on its first run in May. It had been sitting since September. In that time, I didn’t realize there was a small coolant leak, so after all those months, it was basically dry.

    I took it out on it’s first run of the year and saw that it was running kind of hot and smoking a bit after 10 km or so. I took the engine cover off and noticed a breather hose hadn’t been hooked up and was resting against the block. It was smoking a bit from that, so I reconnected it and went on my way. After another 20 km or so, I pulled it over again as it was smoking more and starting to ping a bit. I checked the oil and it all seemed fine. No lights to indicate it was overheating on the dash either.

    By the time I got to 50 km into the trip, it was pinging, smoking, and had lost a lot of power. I finally pulled it over and noticed that the plastic trim piece on the side of the engine had melted off. Also, the coolant temperature sensor had snapped off somehow. Because of this, there was no indication of the overheating on the dash. Normally it would flash at me and spin the speedo needle back and forth.

    I then checked the coolant and it was dry. I let it cool off and filled it up with water for the 10 km ride back to the truck.

    It still starts and runs, but the freshly changed oil looks like chocolate milk. At this point, I’m hoping it’s just the head gasket and not a warped head. The old oil that had been changed a week earlier looked like crude oil and smelled awful.

    It’s kind of impressive that it was able to run for 50 km over rough and hilly terrain with basically no coolant.

    Oh, and to top it all off, a rear axle seal started leaking on the same trip and the front brakes are basically worn to nothing too.

    Regardless, I’m done now. It’s going up for sale this week as-is with a description of the problem.

  • avatar

    I’ll generally throw in the towel when there is a major repair needed (blown engine or transmission), or terminal rust. I don’t care about cosmetic issues or non-critical items not working. The car in the photo has a nice patina. If it is otherwise still sound, who cares?

    I buy solid older vehicles for cash. They may need some TLC like maybe alternator, radiator, brakes, or other service that I can take care of myself. Then I drive the heck out of them until something expensive goes wrong, which tends to be at least several years. Rinse and repeat as needed. (I am debt-free and 100% unwilling to go into debt or take money out of savings for a new car.)

  • avatar

    I was mid way through fully restoring (and enhancing) a 2nd gen camaro when I got in it, drove it down the street, and said “I don’t even have fun driving this thing”. And at that point, it was over. Relationship ended. We broke up.

    But when that happened, I didn’t just “let it go to heck”, I sold it.

    And thats what I do when I get to that point… I list the car for sale.

    the closest I’ve ever had to a car I don’t care about anymore is oddly my CPO Hyundai Sonata. The reason is because its a DD doing lame DD duty. I love the car, but I don’t care about the scratches, stains, and marks. I haven’t washed the thing once… but its a utility DD, just to be driven until the warranty expires at 100k miles, and then it’ll find itself traded right back in…. but thats not mechanical issues. Mechanical issues will get fixed.

    So I guess my answer is, Unless its a beater car, nothing. If your at a point where you’ll let things slide, I say sell it. Every non-dd car I’ve owned has been sold in better shape than it was when I bought it, and I don’t buy junkers, so that says something.

    And if its a DD, its just the cosmetic stuff, because who cares about cosmetic stuff on a point a to point b car. All other mechanical stuff is either covered by warranty or I pony up for it.

  • avatar

    Seven years ago, our last Previa, an Evergreen Mica ’95 LE S/C (supercharged) had racked up 187,000 miles, and the front struts and strut mounts were shot, the power steering leaked, the SADS revolvers were worn out and noisy (I’d replaced them once), and the a/c worked off and on (it would start out cold, and then eventually switch to blowing out warm air). We had located a 2008 Sienna at a used car dealer two hours away, so we headed that way to look at it and drive it.

    About 3/4 of the way there, after alternating between blowing hot and cold air, the a/c compressor seized with a loud screech. We decided we would just drive the Previa back home (whether we bought the Sienna, or not), but even with all its problems, the dealer gave us $1500 for the Previa, and knocked $1675 off of the Sienna. It turned out that the guy that owned the dealership had gone to high school with a cousin of mine, and he gave us a break.

    The Sienna has 178,000 on it now, and is mechanically and cosmetically in decent shape.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    When I totalled my 85 LeBaron GTS in 1992, I had it fixed and drove it another 8 years until the rust got ahead of me.

    Generally, my limit has been rust or safety issues, including electrical gremlins I can’t find.

  • avatar

    I’ve told the story of my ’77 Mercury Grand Marquis that cost me $6,000 to repair over four years. Accumulating only 11K miles during that time.

    When did I give up?

    When, after fixing the electrical again, I started to blow fuses on the power windows. a 20 amp fuse would blow just touching the switch and the window might move a sliver. I was at critical max and didn’t care about the car anymore. I upped the fuse to 25 amp, but the window only opened about 1/2 way before blowing. Upped to 30 amp, would open and close once before blowing. Went to a junk yard and got a 40amp A/C fuse.

    Look, now it works! I really didn’t care if the car burnt to the ground. I rarely used the windows anyways. The car barely drove and I had already sunk cash into the A/C system.

  • avatar

    While I was resto-modding a 1986 Monte Carlo SS, white with red stripes and that’s 80s bordello interior, I also bought a $400 brown 1981 Malibu station wagon.

    The wagon was a rusty thing with a bad rod knock. I ended up replacing the tired 305 with a $200 305 I bought from someone a few towns over. And I started in on the rust repair work with my shoddy bondo skills. Meanwhile my wife used it as a daily driver. While ferrying our toddler son to school, a teacher commented: “You know you could apply for social security and get it.”

    By the time that summer ended I was sick of working on both cars. Because we were moving to a house with less garage space I sold the engine stand and cherry picker, gave away some of my tools. I ended up selling the MCSS and the Malibu. Just got tired of the constant work and the $$$ drain.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I am deep into this now…my 57′ has a TH400 trans that leaks like the Exxon Valdez. I am fairly certain that it could be gone through and sealed up. Problem is I really want a 700R4, the car really needs a fourth gear. The next problem is loan committee does not generally approve new (expensive) parts unless the previous one no longer works. So, yeah, I am letting the excessive leaking occur, periodically topping it off sort of waiting patiently until I know the funds exist to be used for a new transmission.

    No chance I will let the car go over this of course, just the parts I no longer want that are currently installed….

  • avatar

    I’m too far along the spectrum to let anything stay broken these days.

  • avatar

    I used a pair of vise grips to shift my ‘72 Mark IV for the final four months I had it. The shifter snapped except for a small piece right near the steering column, I could have welded it but I was pretty busy back then. I found a cherry Chrysler Newport and sold the Mark. I had to knock a few bucks off for the broken shifter.

  • avatar

    I usually throw in the towel when the car is worth is less than the cost of the repair. Other times, it’s when cars nickel and dime you to death. Also, I’ve gotten rid of a few cars in the past because of recurring problems that no one can seem to fix.

  • avatar

    I bought a beater ’87 Cressida once. When I opened the trunk a few days later, after some rain, I saw the reflection of the sky on water sloshing around in dark places along the inside of the quarter panel. That made me immediately drive it to the wrecking yard where I got $80 for it.

  • avatar

    I let go of my Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle when a $3 part took out a $300 part.

    With that bike having a big single cylinder engine, it has balancer shafts to counter the vibration it otherwise would make. The balancers are driven by a chain that has a sprocket pressed onto the left end of the crankshaft, with a tensioner that is usually fixed in place but has a tension spring to move it when the fixing bolt is loosened to allow the adjustment to happen. When (not if) the tension spring fails, the tensioner backs off and loosens the chain instead of tightening it; then the chain runs loose and wears out the crank sprocket. (And I even had the aftermarket parts that were supposed to address this, but my spring still failed.) The left end of the crankshaft was about a $300 part on its own, or I could have bought a $600 crank assembly, or gone on eBay and bought a $1000-$2000 engine assembly… for a bike with 50,000 miles so worth maybe $1000 at that point.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah the infamous “doohickey.” I upgraded mine out of internet fear-mongering, but sounds like It was fairly justified after all.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I haven’t thought about that in years. I ordered one and got it even before I took delivery of my 2007 at which point I tossed it in my toolbox and proceeded to put 40k miles on the bike with the original doohickey and sold it. The replacement still resides in my toolbox as far as I know. It did go through oil towards the end, but for a big 650 single that saw a fair amount of high RPM use on the interstate it still ran well.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The 1980 Oldsmobile Toronado diesel I once owned gave up the ghost when the Mr Good Wrench motor blew. I could have had a 307 or 350 rocket gas motor installed but I figured I’d cut my losses and sell it.
    1981 first generation Honda Prelude. It was starting to rust and a bit uncomfortable for my 6’2” self so I sold it to a worthy buyer.

    I keep my 95 Thunderbird in fine stead. A tie rod end for $90 installed plus a wheel alignment is well within normal maintenance.

  • avatar

    When I eventually got tired of continually repairing the pop up headlight on my Saturn coupe, I drove around with one eye open and one closed for a while, then eventually with both open all the time. I’m convinced that anyone who is nostalgic for pop up headlights has never owned a GM product with them in the salt belt.

    Also, in college my 98 GTP became afflicted with the common windshield wiper issue where GM midsize cars suddenly decide to swap the home position and up position for the wipers. They still operate fine, just reset to the full up position. Didn’t fix that one for a couple years as a broke student who didn’t have tools. I still see older W bodies and such with the wipers stuck in the up position and just smile.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I don’t typically put up with a ton of broken stuff (not counting teen years where my choice of car depended on the genorosity of others), though over the years there have been exceptions. My Saturns all used oil (They all do). I actually fixed it on one of them with a rebuild, careful ring selection, and all that but by in large I just checked it when I filled up.

    My 92 Caprice had a stuck rear window (wouldn’t go down). I never sat back there so I let it ride. My 90 Miata was a base model (roll up windows with AC as the only option). The AC broke. I fixed it by removing it and changing the button to the non AC option (was a toy car that I didn’t have to take out in the heat). Even so, I couldnt stand the button being there and the AC broken so I had to do all that.

    Even my truck has a sirius/XM subscription largely because I cant stand the button not doing anything.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Like you, I have a VERY low tolerance for substandard operations. My current daily, a 2015 Mazda6 has a stubborn bluetooth module. The related TSB gave dealers carte-blanche to replace for free while car was under warranty (36k miles) but my module didn’t start it’s wonkiness until 40k…so dealer decided to charge me $490.00 for the fix…which I politely declined (in my head, not so politely!).

      It still has some functionality, but takes about 5 minutes to pair with my phone, and won’t display texts on the touchscreen (as it should) but will still play Pandora from my phone. I probably won’t bother fixing it.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I would suggest aftermarket, but you will spend more than 490 bucks to get a decent head unit and make it communicate with all the aftermarket controls for an interface that is likely lacking.

        Id say also try another dealer, but we are talking Mazda so there likely isn’t another one near you. That is something I’d live with too, but it would annoy me to the point I’d probably swear off the brand.

        Have you tried escalating the issue to a regional manager or something? I have had just out of warranty stuff break and usually get some help at least at that level.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Also had an old Bronco II that the syncro for 3rd gear was bad on. I skipped 3rd or double clutched it. That was for like a decade though it was not in every day use for much of that.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    And as to Steph with the Prelude vs Camry stuff…I would put up with an awful lot from that generation Prelude for a couple of reasons. First off, I love those. One of my favorite cars to this day Secondly, with Hondas of that era were I to fix it with original parts it would likely stay fixed…they were well designed.

    The Camry, less…those cars are like a washing machine to me. I wouldn’t do much to it.

  • avatar

    1990 Beretta GTZ.

    – That engine would blow its expensive front engine mount about 3 times a year. When it happened, an expensive aluminum AC line would fracture without fail.
    – Broken window switches, headlight / high beam switch
    – Door panels falling off and repaired a few times a year.
    – Wipers would have periodic sword fights and sometimes successfully tear each other off
    – Leaking trunk would kick water into it from the wheel well
    – Broke a brake cylinder once
    – totalled it and replaced the whole front end once

    What did it in? Electrical gremlins under the hood. I replaced sections of the wiring harness, ECU multiple times, injectors, coils, everything I could. That car would start up with a misfire 2 out of 3 times, and there was nothing I could do to prevent or correct. Just held my breath every morning to see if I was going to make it.

    What a fun car though. Loved it.

  • avatar

    Oh my. I was gifted a 1995 Volvo 850T wagon from a friend, in midnight blue with a black leather interior. One of my bucket list cars. It was sumptuous. It was gorgeous. It was fast. It…had electrical problems I couldn’t solve. I couldn’t get the trunk latch to latch. It overheated bc the relay wouldn’t start until 105 C, well out of spec. My locals told me it wasn’t worth it; I believed them though I did what I could myself to fix it. Then I couldn’t get rid of it. I was gonna do a buyback program and found out the title transfer got lost, so here I was with a car I couldn’t drive and couldn’t sell. Luckily the original owner is, of course, a friend, swooped in (in a 1988 Chevy Sprint turbo!) and got it taken care of. I’d buy another, but only one that I knew had been totally clean and never been to Burning Man (that dirt kills cars). I definitely took a hit on the wallet for that car but it was the right move. Still, I’d love a long roof…

  • avatar

    The other was a 98 Escort wagon, which was gorgeous outside and which I adored, but which had slogged through several New Hampshire winters, and like the proverbial Altima, looked great on the outside and was trashed underneath. The exhaust fell off twice; I had it fixed by an exhaust welder, then the brake line went. I nursed it home from Boston, only to get rear ended by some party girls in an Audi, and the insurance totalled the car for book value, not even looking at the undercarriage. I took the money, donated the car, and ran. :)

  • avatar
    R Henry

    My college car–a 1980 white Pinto Pony (base model) station wagon.

    When purchased secondhand, it had 55k miles. Shortly after I got it home, the former owner called me quite desperate…he had left some of his “personal property” in the car, and needed to recover it IMMEDIATELY. Turns out it was his “doober box” in the glove compartment.

    Anyway, from the day I got it, the differential pinion whined under load. Once I released the accelerator, the whine disappeared. Well, 8 years and about 90k miles later, the pinion still whined under load. It never fixed itself (damn!) and it never worsened. That, after using my lowly 88bhp Pinto to drag my motorcycle trailer (with two motoX bikes) all over southern Calif for several years!

    Laugh at Pinto’s all you like, but my little wagon was VERY reliable during my college years. My (now) wife and I had our first date in that car. She hated the car, but loved me…so there’s that!

  • avatar

    I give up on a car either when it cannot pass safety inspections, serious rust, transmission issues (rip Ply Horizon), or if a part becomes a PITA to source (Cold start injector hose for a Volvo 240). Usually I’ll get said part anyway just so I can sell the car for extra cash, but then I move on.

  • avatar

    When the supercharger let go on my Duesenberg SJ, I decided I didn’t really need the full 320 horsepower and would just get by on the remaining 265, because parts have become really hard to get since the factory closed in 37. I also decided that it was a good excuse to spend more time driving the Packard Twelve, which has just needed plugs and oil changes for the last 82 years.

  • avatar

    I am about there with my wife’s 2008 Subaru Tribeca. It only has 85k miles but we have spent about 5k dollars on it this year alone replacing a catalytic converter (I hope the other one doesn’t fail) and head gaskets. I have also in the past had strut mounts replaced, front CV joints replaced, and a timing chain cover oil leak repaired, and a leaking A/C condenser replaced. Luckily my dad has a dealer’s license and we got a good price on it off lease at Manheim.

    Heck I daily drive 2 British vehicles….a 2009 LR3 and a 2002 Jaguar XKR and this Subaru has required more repair money than both of the brits combined.

    Her prior Subaru was a Forester that we sold at 180k miles and required nothing other than basic maintenance. Regardless, I’m no longer feeling the Subaru “love”.

  • avatar

    I bought a 98 Volvo V70 (5 cyl turbo) for $3000 since my 960 wagon was struggling. My then Volvo mechanic knew the car and pointed me at the lady selling. Bought it and life was good. It needed little things, interior fixes, minor things at first. Then the stupid air pump decided to take a drink of rainwater and died. Perpetual check engine light. Then 2nd gear started slamming into engagement at part or full throttle. Then it started missing. Played games with coils, wires, plugs, etc. Rode the flatbed a few times. I still liked it, but it was getting tired.
    One day wife drove it to the grocery store and parked it facing an Escalade. Looked like someone was nosing around under the hood, but she didn’t think much of it. At the checkout, she sees a black tornado outside–the Escalade caught fire and the flames were blowing across the front and top of the Volvo. She ran out, a fireman took her keys and backed it away from the spot. Damage was minimal, but the front end (made of plastic) melted a little so it looked like the car had a stroke. Insurance for other party states: Act of God. No sh1t. No payout.
    We took it to a little BHPH lot to trade it on a CX-9. As we were cleaning out the Volvo, I opened the drivers door and heard a loud PWAAAANG and then clattering. The door mechanism springs let go and fell inside the door. I gently pushed the door closed and it did not latch. We quietly drove home in our new-to-us Mazda.
    Last I saw that car, it was for sale on Craigslist, CEL lit for all to see.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Saab is a low-maintenance garage queen that gets maybe 1000 miles a year. It current needs a $2500 roof but the solution is to now driving in downpours.

    I’ve spent way too much on the Trooper with it’s fragile GM French transmission, but I love that car and when I retired it to vacation duty at 250k miles it’s done alright with +/- $500/year maintenance costs.

    I do appreciate all the electronic safety doodads on current cars, so as my Subaru hits its 150k mid-life milestone I’ll look to get a new/newer daily driver with all the toys….

  • avatar

    I’m debating that now. I have an Infiniti FX45 w/ almost 200K miles. So far it has needed a starter, a door lock actuator, and a fan clutch. The driver seat has a crack in its side and the dashboard is starting to look like it will crack if someone touches it (so I forbid touching of the dash – oh and it needs its recalled airbag replaced). Otherwise the interior and exterior are nearly perfect.

    The front end has just developed a slight noise – kind of a creak/click when I brake hard – especially w/ a trailer. No one else can hear it, but I can feel $$$ through the floor.

    I like the car a lot, but I don’t know how long it is reasonable to expect it to last. If it only has a year left (that would be ~220K) I don’t want to start replacing leather and suspension pieces. Because it is a fairly limited run vehicle, if I need an engine or transmission, they only properly fit from an ’06 to ’08 AWD model. Therefore, it is very likely that an engine failure will be the end of the run. The transmission, though specific for this vehicle, is essentially similar to every other Nissan RWD 5 speed auto, aside from unique clutches and gear ratios.

    It is worth about nothing now and will be worth even less if it is dead. At this point, I assume I would fix the A/C if it quit, but I’m not sure beyond that. Unless I make the commitment to potentially spend $10G to replace the engine and transmission when they fail, and keep driving it long enough to justify that expense.

    The flip side is that I can’t find a suitable replacement that I enjoy. We replaced one of our other cars last year with a new Mercedes E400 sedan w/ AMG package (and yes – the idiotic light up emblem which I have not yet figured out how to turn off), I really don’t enjoy driving it.

    If someone made an LS conversion kit, that could change the attitude.

    I’ve only ever given up on two cars due to neverending problems. An ’04 Audi A4 (got rid of it in ’08) and an ’86 Toyota LE Van (got rid of it in ’90 or ’91).

  • avatar

    Paid $3,200 for a Volvo 850GLT, which was the lowest mileage, best condition, most documented 850 in my area. Driving it home the check-engine light came on and I knew I was screwed. Spent $1,500 on a full tune-up, spent another $1,000 on seat repair (which fixed nothing) and a suspension issue. Cleaned the MAF and TBI myself, the thing never ran well despite all this. Then the heater/AC crapped out and the instrument cluster began to fail. Sold it for $1,100 after 8-months of grief.

    • 0 avatar

      I cant help but notice that theres several Volvo 850/S70 posts here, that was one of the cars I completely gave up on too, to the point that I refused to buy any other examples. Volvo got so much wrong on that car that even the door hinges, oil dipsticks, and wheels would go bad! Basic, ancient technology!

      Really the Maxima of that time did the whole “sporty blocky FWD sedan” thing better, shame they didnt hold up against rust as well as Volvos. Nissans interiors held up a heck of a lot better though.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Funny you should say that. A week after my wife and I got married the engine blew in her Mazda. We decided it was time for a new car more in the family way, so we shopped sporty sedans. She’s always wanted a Volvo; I had great luck with my Nissan 3.0 truck so was pushing for the Maxima SE. The dealers just happened to be next door to each other. It took all afternoon but we finally settled on a S70.

        By 4 years and 60k miles it needed close to $10k worth of work on the ABS brain, total A/C replacement, and rear suspension work. Loved that little tank, but we took a bath and fled back to Toyota.

  • avatar

    1960 Mercedes 220S sedan, cream colored with red MB-tex seats and column-shift 4-speed. bought it used in 1967, took it to my wife’s workplace to show it off, opened the trunk, and one of the trunk hinges jammed. I managed to get the deck lid closed with not much cosmetic damage.
    I commuted to work in the car for quite a few months and found out that I’d become known as “that crazy bastard in the yellow Mercedes”. I was amazed at the power and speed that car provided out of 140 cubic inches.
    I asked at the Mercedes dealer why there wasn’t much airflow through the dash vents; they said it was so it wouldn’t blow too hard at 120 mph. If I wanted to flash the high beams to pass someone I could just hold the turn signal lever toward me and the high beams would flash on and off – there was a flasher in the circuit.
    But it did have a few problems – my mechanic referred to the car as a Bosch because of all the Bosch electrical parts he replaced. The windows had this coating of crud on the inside – I could get most of it off with thorough scrubbing, but let the car sit in the sun for a day and it was right back again. Probably from an early version of Armor-All or something like that. The nut holding the pulley to the end of the crankshaft loosened, and ever afterward it wouldn’t stay tight. It was a two-person job to tighten it – one to hold the brake with the car in 4th gear, the other to turn the long box-end wrench that lived in the trunk. The exhaust pipe fell apart when I was traveling; I found out that there was only one clamp left at the very back of the car and the pipe had finally just broken about 3 feet back from the exhaust manifold. I just sawed it off right before the break and drove home with the loudest 220S in the world. I did replace the tailpipe before I sold the car.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Echo has a permanent CEL, because the middle wire on the TPS harness isn’t getting the 5v it wants. The light comes back on 20 minutes after a reset (though it stayed out for 3 days when I loosened the rear motor mount and jacked the engine up and down a few times). Aside from a mildly wobbly idle in a few circumstances, the car starts and drives fine so I let it go.

  • avatar

    My 2000 Golf, about 0.02 seconds after the warranty expired. It was as if the electrical gremlins had been awoken from a two-year slumber. Window regulators, sunroof, lights…you name it, all went FUBAR. I got tired of driving it back to the repair shop. Sold it not long after that warranty expiration.

    Fast forward and my 2017 Cruze Hatchback is already pushing my buttons, and not in a good way. Lights not working properly and the automatic door lock mechanism has a mind of its own. Been back to the dealership five times, no dice on a fix. This is probably 60% car issue and 40% lack of capability by the dealership to properly repair (and they couldn’t remember to install the TPMS when they replaced one of the tires a week after I bought it). If I hadn’t just bought the stupid thing a month ago, I’d consider letting it go. If a relatively new car (25k on it) is already having repeat minor issues, what can I expect from it down the road? And how much confidence is there that the issues will be repaired properly? I’m now thinking I should have held out and found a more reliable hatchback…

  • avatar

    Back in the 90’s when I was a teenager, I had a ’79 Pontiac Grand Prix with no reverse. Not a problem as long as I parked it in the boonies.

    Then I had an ’88 Volvo 240 wagon with no AC (in Florida) and that leaked a quart of oil every week, allowing huge plumes of smoke to rise up from under the car whenever I stopped at a red light. The door hinge was also rusted away, requiring great skill and risk to body whenever closing it. Despite all this, it just would not die.

    I only threw in the towel on the Volvo after I bought another 68k mile example for dirt cheap.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Years ago my brother gave me an 85 Mercury Lynx with a 4 speed manual. I had it for 2 years and spent more on it than it was worth. I had to replace the fuel gauge, the electronics on the carburetor (had electronic controls on the carburetor), and the manual transmission went out (first time I ever had to replace a manual transmission but replaced with a junk yard transmission). The engine was overheating and needed a head gasket. The body itself looked good and I had put 4 new Michelin tires but then my mechanic discovered that beneath the firewall the vehicle was rusting and that there were holes. Trade it in on a new Escort wagon. I have had other cars with problems but that was the worst car I ever had but I got it for free except the cost of repairs.

  • avatar
    George B

    I have a 1999 Honda Accord coupe that I drive when severe thunderstorms and hail are in the forecast. It’s been hit by at least 3 hail storms, the paint is peeling, the rebuilt automatic transmission is failing, and it has multiple fluid leaks. However, it has no rust and keeps running so long as I manually shift the automatic until it warms up and keep the fluids topped off with inexpensive Supertech fluids from Walmart. I’ll keep driving it as long as it’s reliable around town and the air conditioning still works, but I’m not replacing anything.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I was gifted a 230k mile W124 300E. Wow…a free Mercedes you say?

    Every fluid was in the process of escaping. The head gasket was my favorite however…it leaked coolant down the side of the block AND into the combustion chambers–amazingly, engine oil also seeped out of that wretched head gasket. Despite all these niggling faults, the damn thing kept running reliably….as long as you took time to refill all the reservoirs–daily! I sold it for $500, which was the same price I was offered from a wrecking yard.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I also owned a 75 Mercury Cougar XR-7 with the 351-W in silver with the bordello red interior and magnum 500 wheels. The older version of the car pictured.
    Did the normal maintenance on it until the rear main engine seal starting weeping but got worse. I thought of fixing it but cut my losses and sold it.

  • avatar

    91 Escort LX.

    Didn’t bother to fix anything that didn’t lite up the CEL, like suspension, ATF change, oil leak, AC, rust, turn signal, interior, etc.

    Crushed it to collect the “save the air” fund of $1k. The car was pretty well used up by then.

  • avatar

    I finally traded in my ’89 Taurus SHO as soon as I had the income to buy my first new car, an early ’04 TSX. I fixed many many things, often multiple times, in the course of taking that SHO from 68k to 160k miles. But when I traded it in, it still had the following maladies:

    – No A/C (dead compressor) in June
    – Slow coolant leak from dying water pump
    – 3rd gear synchromesh unhappy (about every third 2-3 shift produced a grind)
    – Rotted out mufflers for a nice weed-whacker sound
    – Dead rear left power window motor
    – Dead pneumatic lumbar and bolster controls on driver’s seat (compressor motor ran, but hoses and bladders were dissolving)
    – Cheap Ford leather disintegrating on front seats

    The dealer gave me $500 and was quick to note that it was that high only to make the deal work while charging MSRP for the new car.

  • avatar

    A BRAND NEW ’96 Suburban, picked up the day before Spring Break. In Newport Beach, the V8 Vortec decided to morph into a V6 Vortec, along with a dash that twinkled like Christmas with warning lights. Fixed, driven back to Oregon. About a month later, transmission fails in the middle of a 6- lane intersection, during the busy time, with the wife and three young children inside. Towed to dealership, transmission replaced.

    Refused to start at local Fred Meyers during a grocery shopping trip (yep, wife and three little kids again) a couple of weeks after new transmission installed. Towed to dealership, new ECM installed. Not long after that, refuses to engage reverse after wife picks up kids from school. Wife and a couple of friends PUSHED that big guy out of the parking space, and wife drove it to the dealership.

    Rented the wife a Park Avenue while waiting for the Suburban’s 2nd transmission. Wife informed me I didn’t have to keep checking on the status of the Suburban- she was done. Chevy wound up buying it back not long afterwards.

    *6 Suburbans in 10 years, 5 were perfect… and this one.

  • avatar


    1987 Taurus: When the repair bills cost my parents more than the payment on:

    1998 Dodge Neon Sport Coupe: at 18x,xxx miles, when the mechanic left a bolt/socket in the rocker/subframe and I could hear it rolling around as I drove, bought a:

    2008 PT Cruiser: at 108,xxx miles, I decided I wanted a:

    2015 Dodge Dart Aero: Gave up on it after the dealership couldn’t align the thing to factory specs after they installed the new Pirelli P4 tires and got a 4X4 Jeep.

  • avatar

    I threw the towel into the door of my ’70 Pinto in late 1974.

    Yes, in those few short years, the driver’s door had developed a huge rust hole. In addition, the doorskin had separated from the inner door. Talk about a frawsty left leg as the winter’s depth approached! There was a bit of a draft.

    The local bodyman had given the beast a squint several months earlier. “Cancer up to the waterline!” quoth he, and declined to offer any further assistance, even for money.

    The car had the two-litre engine which was supposed to be swift. Following a tip in C/D, and with the car a mere ten months old, I got the rural Ford dealer to check if the OHC belt was off by a cog. It was! No chahge. Now a minor rocketship, the Pinto rattled over smooth roads and kranged over railroad tracks like a true champ! Yessir, bring on those tractor-engined Vegas. Easy marks.

    Just three years after that “repair” and with performance diminishing, a look down the oil filler hole revealed crushed cam lobes. Very shortly thereafter, the door fell into ruin as related above.

    So after a winter with a large bath towel stuffed into the door to relieve the cold drafts, in May ’75 I sold the Anti-Establish-Mint green Pinto for $75 and got on with life.

    Which has included zero Fords.

  • avatar

    I have a 2001 BMW 330xi that i bought used about 4 years ago. It has 155,000 miles on it. i have spent a good 12 to 15,000 on it(mostly due to labor charges for taking it to BMW specialists)prior owner didnt really maintain it. so ive put more money into the car than its worth. why? it’s never left me stranded, it’s really good in the snow(i live in NYC)it handles and performs really great. if it gets to a place where the joy of driving it is worth less than the money put into it…………….then i’ll let it go. right now im married to it……lol!!

  • avatar

    2006 Pontiac Vibe. Let me say people, this car RAN utterly PERFECT for 230,000 odd miles. Except for the 1 HUGE issue i list below, this car cost me NOTHING except maintenance like oil changes and brake pads/rotors. I never even changed the spark plugs in the damn thing.

    But… but it was a stick, and I came to find out the hard way that apparently Toyota struggled with the stick they put in the Corolla/Matrix/Vibe.
    Like they were faulty.

    I replaced it once at 130,000 odd miles and ate the cost, but when it started acting up again at 220,000 odd miles I just ran it until i could barely get it to a dealership, where i traded it in. I was not about to eat another transmission when I knew it would just die again.

    Funny story, when i traded it in the salesman told me that the tech who went over the car for trade-in value had some problems getting the car in the bay. He said the guy must not know stick very well. I silently nodded my head and signed the paperwork to leave. I’ll bet they were pissed when they discovered the tranny was shot. Oh well.

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