Hammer Time: Saving Bluebird…

It was a long day at the auction. Over a thousand cars sold in a matter of three hours. Dealers were busy paying for their pre-tax season purchases and the size of the line seemed to just grow bigger at the understaffed counters. Everyone had ‘issues’. To make matters worse, along with the lines and chaos I had a headache. A crushing headache.

So instead of engaging in random conversations with friends I’ve known for forever and a day, I wandered off to the most remote corner of the sale. The TRA lane. Also known as ‘crusher fodder’. This is where banks, car dealers and charities get rid of cars that are usually worth more dead than alive. Bidding starts at $450 plus the auction fee and for that you can either help ‘export to China’ or find the parts needed to make a problem car good again.

In the very last space sat an old 1987 Volvo 240 wagon… a Bluebird… and she had one helluva story to tell.

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Piston Slap: Come and Dance With…who???

Chris writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Love the website and love your reading your column. My question is I am looking to get a minivan within the next 6 months to a year. I am only looking to spend around 8 grand on one. I am leaning heavily towards Chrysler’s vans, and found some really great deals on older ones with low miles. But then I read your article about how it’s not always good to go with older, low mile automobiles. So would I be better to get say, a 2002 model Town and Country, with a little over 100 hundred thousand miles? Or should I not even bother with Chrysler at all? I was leaning towards a Windstar as well, but then there’s that whole rear axle breaking thing, and I quite enjoy living. In your personal opinion what is the best minivan for my budget.

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Piston Slap: I'm on Tonight, You Know My Gauge Don't Lie!

Dave writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I just bought a 2000 Saturn LW1 6 weeks ago. It has a L4 2.2 Liter engine with 200,000 miles on it. After 3 weeks out of the country I came back and started it up. Was a little rough then smoothed out. I just changed parking spots. Did this one more time. The third time starting it up it would not fire. No strange noises, just no running engine. I suspected bad ignition coil. I had just changed the spark plugs before my trip and they had about 50 miles on them. Ignition coil was fine at all four points using a ignition tester. I even put new plugs in again. Fuel rail has the specified 60 PSI. Theorizing that may the fuel injectors were shut down i tried starter spray in the air intake. The motor will not fire. A compression test with a gauge picked up at advance gave me less than 10 PSI on the two outer cylinders and about 24 on the two inner. The Haynes manual is very unhelpful and only states for compression specs. that the lowest compression cylinder value should be no less that 70% of the highest compression cylinder value.

I read on-line (http://www.saturnfans.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1781795) the same but that no cylinder should be less than 100 PSI. While cranking the engine there was some light smoke visible behind the engine above the exhaust manifold, but unable to determine the source.

My question is: are you aware of catastrophic head gasket failures on these engines? I am surprised that the engine will not fire at all even if the head gasket does have a problem. I have removed the valve cover and see that the timing chain is still there and working.

When I changed the plugs last month I applied anti-seize thread sealant to the plugs as instructed in the manual. I am now having wild imaginings that the anti-seize thread sealant got into the cylinders and impregnated the gasket and is somehow responsible for this catastrophic failure. I am going to tear into the engine tomorrow and try to replace the head gasket, because i need to get this car running again ASAP. I am being hopeful and unrealistically optimistic that I cold get some input/ thoughts from you before morning when I start this laborious task…

Ideas?

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Hammer Time: Our Disappearing Rear Ends

Yesterday's butcher is today's forensic anthropologist..

Can your car move a corpse?

Well, if you lived in my home state of New Jersey in the 1970’s, most any car of that time could accommodate this minor inconvenience. Imapalas, Aspens, Volares, even so-called sporty subcompacts like the Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon could handle that load.

Need to bury a starting basketball team that crossed the wrong bookie? Or a Little League team that needs to be put on Icees? Pull out the family’s Lincoln or Caddy and hack at it. Even a Chevy would do. You could have even towed about 2000 to 5000 pounds of authentic Teamster’s cement just to smooth it all out.

But nowadays? Trunk space? Fuhgeddaboudit!!!

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Piston Slap: 4.9L Pride at What Cost?

TTAC Commentator Cameron Evans writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am the proud owner of a 1992 F-150, 4×2, regular cab, long box, with power nothing and the Big Six. I love everything about the truck, except for the one concession to my wife, the E4OD gearbox.

Now that the tranny is shot (slip city, followed by violent shifts), I need your advice. The Ford has a lot of new, high quality parts (Michelin’s, o2 sensor, egr valve, coil, water pump, alternator, exhaust, etc), but it’s also rusty as hell from 19 Minnesota winters and the body is beat up from being a municipal truck.

Simple question, drop the cash on a rebuilt tranny or cut my losses?

Thanks in advance!

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Hammer Time: Turkey Day Deal

“Hmmm… is that a Turkey? Or a Scion xD in drag?

Yesterday was a busy day at the auctions. With Thursday as an official holiday, one very large Thursday sale moved their auction to Wednesday. We’re talking about a 2000+ vehicle sale behemoth. An 800+ pound gorilla in the Atlanta market known by at least three different names.

Another smaller evening sale with about 200 units followed suit. The two smallest… dropped out. This meant bigger crowds than usual.

For me it also meant some unique inventory… from some unique consignors.

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Hammer Time: Good Buy, Bad Buy

It was a pearl of mediocrity among a putrid vat of automotive shit. A 2005 Chevy Malibu. It came equipped with a V6, alloy wheels, a lime green paint job that would make Kermit proud, and only 47,000 miles. The sole great car relatively speaking among a hundred plus repos by a title lending company.

The bidding started at $3000, then $4000, then…
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Piston Slap: It Ain't Easy Being on the Front Right, Either!

Jeff writes:

I have owned my 1965 Mustang convertible for 30 years. It has a problem that puzzles my trusted mechanic and me. The right front wheel cover rotates on the rim, counter-clockwise, as I drive, which pinches the valve stem in about 50 miles. I have swapped wheel covers and had the tire remounted on the spare’s rim with no joy. There is no vibration felt in the body or steering wheel or body when driving, nor is there any uneven wear on the tire.

Ideas?

Sajeev Answers:

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Piston Slap: It Ain't Easy Being on the Front Left!

Matt writes:

Hello,

I own an 06′ Hyundai Elantra GLS hatchback and tire wear on the front left tire has been much worse than the other three, despite rotating the tires. The outside of the front left tire is worn down so that it is smooth and now I can see a secondary layer of rubber being exposed. At first I thought maybe there was something wrong with the alignment but I took it to three places, one wanted to charge me a $90 “diagnostic” fee so I walked and the other two couldn’t find anything wrong. One place mentioned that since I had directional tires I couldn’t really get a proper rotation and thats probably what’s causing the wear.

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Piston Slap: Shifting In, Wiping Out, Zoom-Zoom-Zoom

David writes:

I am driving a 2010 Mazda3 2.5 with a 6 speed manual. 9000 miles in, the trans is still sticky, especially going into 1st while rolling. What could help reduce this?

Second, the automatic wipers are amusing to watch. How exactly do they work?

In Panther love, I sighted a sleek black Signature L, a rare one. 6 inches more rear leg room and 1 1/2 inch wider track. Should be a nice ride. The longer wheelbase helps reduce the inverted bathtub look.

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Hammer Time: Does Acceleration Matter?

I drive about 200 hundred cars every year. Some go 0 to 60 in about 6 seconds flat… others take as long as 10 or 12 seconds. Even the slowest of these cars are amazingly fun to drive when you are in the right place and time. As for the fastest? Well they offer sport and convenience, and more opportunities to feel a Baruthian thrust.

But given how most people drive their cars these days… does it really matter?
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Hammer Time: Escaping The Crusher

There are vehicles at the auctions that are supposedly worth more dead than alive. Inop vehicles. Cars and trucks that are not running and a mere bid away from the crusher. It’s the hardest area of all to find a decent vehicle… and also the most fun.

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Hammer Time: Some Buy Cars, Others Buy Names

October and the first half of November have historically been a great time for dealers to buy cars on the cheap. There are no spending holidays. No Christmas or end of the year bonuses. No tax refunds. Not even a hint of federal legislation that may push old beaters onto the ‘cheap’ side of the ledger.

But there are thousands of used car sales managers that see nothing but big losses on much of their inventory at this time of year. The green Hummer that seemed like such a great deal back in red-hot June may be molderizing at the back of the lot by November. Same goes for the trade-in’s that were valued perhaps a bit too strong… just so the deal on the new car could get done.

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Piston Slap: A Lifted Lone Ranger?

dane writes:

My 1999 Ford Ranger XLT is starting to come under some serious wear. I got it a while back and thought it was good enough, an upgrade considering my dog grew to be 70 lbs and didn’t fit into the back of my immaculate 1996 Acura Integra hatchback. I needed to upgrade in size so I did.

Now, this truck came with a few ridiculous caveats. With 140k on the clock, it’s starting to enter my personal danger zone for cars. Additionally, it had a big tow package on it, a 2 inch body lift and big 33” by 12.5” tires on it. Did I mention it has the smallest 3.0 V6? The previous owner did not regear the truck and therefore it’s a bit sluggish. Upon inspection of the truck after removing the bumpers, which were improperly re-installed after the body lift, it looks like whoever did the lift cut parts of the frame near the rear of the truck. It’s looking worse and worse.

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Piston Slap: Being On The Level With One's Self

TTAC commenter jems86 writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I need your help again. I live in Colombia and, as you already know, I am the owner of a 2000 Subaru Forester (the 2.0 EDM model). This particular model has rear self leveling struts and recently they went bust. My dealership is asking 4 million pesos (about 2235 USD) for the replacements. I really think it’s a little bit steep so I’ve been searching online but haven’t been able to find the OEM parts. I read on a forum (http://www.subaruforester.org/) that you can put the non-self leveling struts. Is this a good idea? How much would the driving characteristics of my car change? If I go this way, what other components of the suspension should I replace? Thanks in advance for your help.

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Hammer Time: Learning From Failure

Every car at an auto auction is a failure. Well, maybe not the 4Runner that Bertel and Ed saw with me that had 459,000 miles (it sold for $1800 by the way). But there always comes a time or a point where an owner will say, “Enough!” and proceed to accept a wholesale price for a retail vehicle.

There are many reasons for failure… and here are some of the most common ones I find at the auctions…

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Hammer Time: If It Sounds Like A Duck, Is It A Catera?

Wholesale heaven is a miserable place. For every Mercury Milan that finds itself at the auctions, you have at least three ex-rental Chrysler Sebrings that have yet to find a permanent home. As I mentioned to Bertel and Ed this past week, “Everyone wants a good deal at the auctions. But no one wants a Mitsubishi.”

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Piston Slap: The Time Value of Automotive Love

TTAC Commentator A Caving Ape writes:

I have a 2001 VW Jetta 1.8 with 130,000 miles on it. It has its shortcomings that I can’t fix (front drive, rear legroom), but for the most part it’s a fantastic vehicle for me. But I worry that it’s a time bomb.

I do most of the small/easy maintenance myself, and and happy to pay an independent for stuff I’m not comfortable with (timing belt, front end stuff, clutch when the time comes). This will likely be true with any car I own. I’m very satisfied with the running costs of my car, but from what I can tell I am the only person in the world with a well-functioning early 2000s VW with more than 100,000 miles. This makes me worry that it will crap out on my one day. It’s my only car so this would be very bad.

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Piston Slap: What is The Poor Man's TARDIS?

TTAC commentator horseflesh writes:

Sajeev,

Last year I wrote to you seeking the B&B’s help in selling a car. Well, Grandma’s Park Avenue is gone now, in short, I found that the best way to sell a Buick is to befriend a used car dealer and supply him with BBQ meats until he calls some other guys he knows who move a lot of Grandma cars. Done correctly, this takes your friend 5 minutes on the phone, and costs you only 15 minutes at a dealer. It’s a beautiful thing!

But now that the Buick is gone I find myself needing another vehicle… also large, and perhaps also white. I’m looking for something cheap and boxy to haul my toys around in. Mountain bikes, scuba gear, model airplanes… These things can be moved around with a sedan, but it’s a chore and there is never enough room for everything. Oh, there is a Triumph Bonneville 750 in the garage too, so naturally it needs to be taken to the mechanic from time to time. And did I mention the pinball machines that I need to move sometimes? Currently I need to ask friends with trucks for help with those things, and I’d like to become self-sufficient.

So, the ideal vehicle will have a fully enclosed cargo area of TARDIS-like capacity, be indifferent to muddy toys, and be able to haul 500 lbs of broken British motorcycle plus two people. It will be a changing room and occasionally a workshop when a toy breaks. It won’t have to go off-road, but it will have to handle a dirt road. Some kind of sink and potable water tank would be a big plus too–that isn’t mandatory, but being cheap and reliable is.

The ubiquitous Ford E-150 van looks like the right sort of thing, but I don’t know anything about its reliability when well-used, or what other good options might be.

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Piston Slap: Strut 'yo Stuff or Make A Wish?

When you wish...

TTAC Commentator Seminole 95 writes:

Sajeev,

I enjoyed reading the responses on my NVH question.

Here’s another question for you. How significant is that Honda uses a double wishbone suspension on their family sedan (the Accord) whereas the Toyota Camry, Chevy Impala, and Hyundai Sonata use the cheaper MacPherson strut? Does the DW suspension make handling better in the turns? Does it last longer than a strut suspension, thereby giving you better ride quality as the car ages? Is the DW something that a car buyer should favor, or is it more complicated than that? I remember that many fans complained when Honda switched the Civic from DW to strut.

It looks like the Ford Fusion might use the DW suspension, but I am not sure. Interestingly, it also looks like the BMW 3 series uses a strut suspension, so maybe the DW is not necessary.

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Piston Slap: The "Fat" Panther, The Self Aware Man

George writes:

Sajeev, I enjoy TTAC and your writing. Okay, I succumbed to the blandishments of you Panther lovers (and to fond memories of my father driving his Fords and Lincolns), and bought a 1996 Lincoln Town Car Cartier. The car has about 143,000 miles on it, all in North Carolina. The previous (2nd) owner was reportedly a little old lady, and because of the condition of the driver’s seat she could not have weighed much more than 90 or 95 pounds. It is well taken care of and straight.

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Piston Slap: Honda Slushbox Fail...Averted!
Jonathon writes:

I’ve been remiss about getting results back to readers. I took the car to the Honda dealer who pushed hard for the power flush . . . only to have the technician do the 3X manual flush. Turns out that only some 2003 V6 Accords have the available connections to handle power flushing.

Results? The transmission has been Smoooooooooth ever since — how could it NOT be when the old fluid looked and smelled like old, overcooked coffee? Because the final draining still smelled a little off, I’ll probably do yet another tranny drain with the next oil change.

Thanks for the advice.

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Hammer Time: Insurance… Optional?

Insurance? For moi? What do you think I am! A jackass?

What’s the most dangerous thing on the road today?

A drunk driver? Some moron who is self-absorbed in his own little texting universe? Maybe an older person who simply doesn’t have what it takes to drive a car anymore?

Not quite.

The most dangerous thing on today’s roads are those folks who fall into these categories and dozens of other high risk behaviors… and don’t carry auto insurance.

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Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin' Over CVTs, Part II

Brian writes:

Not sure if this would be appropriate “piston slap” fodder or not, but here goes:
Our blossoming family recently expanded to five. My wife and I, and a three year old, a 20 month old and now a 2 month old fill up the house. We occasionally travel with our 75 lb dog. Knowing the Volvo Turbobrick would not handle the cargo/dog/people, and the PT Cruiser remains the most reliable vehicle ever built (even if the timing belt changes are a big pain) we decided to sell the Volvo for something more appropriate, if a lot slower and FWD.

Enter the Freestyle. We routinely get 28 mpg on trips, parts are cheap, we have lots of cubbies for kid’s junk and the car seats fit easily. I purchased a high mileage (150k) example that was a one owner (ish) with all receipts. It was a fleet car for some guy who then bought it when his company was done with it. It had the CVT replaced at 118k miles with a remanufactured transmission from Ford, installed at a dealer.

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Piston Slap: The Two-Sided Ethical Dilemma


Bill writes:

Hello TTAC crew!

My Mom is in need of a new car. The problem is her trade in: It is a 2002 PT Cruiser with a serious overheating problem ($1700+ quote at two reputable repair places) Now here is the problem. Do I keep my dang mouth shut when we go to the dealership and do the deal? I have a spare car that she is driving until it cools off and the overheating problem will not be noticeable at trade in.

I would never sell the car to a guy off the street without disclosing a major problem. Even to a car dealership I think I feel guilty in not disclosing it. We are not going to be financing, and will be paying cash for the car. So it is not like they can unwind the deal if they discover the problem.
Having ethical dilemma about screwing over a car dealership who exist solely to try and take as much money as they can from you in every conceivable way is weird.

Bonus question. These are the three cars we are considering Hyundai Elantra Touring, VW Jetta Wagon and Ford Focus Wagon. Any recommendations of the three or reasons to avoid them?

Thanks in advance for any help!

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Hammer Time: Repo Etiquette

“You didn’t have the decency to knock on the door! I have your 200 in cash.”

There are three key ingredients with most repossessions. Don’t pay. Don’t tell the truth. Don’t return calls. In the case of this former customer, the check that was ‘in the mail’ and the phone that didn’t work had suddenly transformed themselves into ‘cash money in hand’ and 27 phone calls right after the vehicle got taken back.

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Piston Slap: There's a Rattle on the Frontier!

TTAC Commentator Benderofbows writes:

Sajeev,

I always enjoy reading Piston Slap and want to ask about my truck, a 2007 Nissan Frontier with the VQ40DE (4.0L V6), 6-speed manual, and 42k miles. Sometimes the truck will rattle while accelerating at around 2200 RPMS. This only happens after completing a long freeway run (an hour or more) and occurs in every gear regardless of throttle position. The noise goes away after a few shifts or always after the truck has been shut off and restarted. It has been going on for 6 months or more (it took me that long to figure out how to duplicate it) and doesn’t seem to be getting any worse, plus it doesn’t trip any check engine lights. I can’t imagine how to replicate the noise for the dealership service department. Any ideas? Computer issue with the air/fuel mix maybe?

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Hammer Time: Longevity

How many of you have ever eaten horse chow? What? You don’t know what it is? Well it’s made out of four key ingredients. Oats, olive oil, honey and a bit of peanut butter added if you want extra richness. It’s the basic original granola and for the last fifteen years it has encompassed most of my breakfasts. Sounds healthy and a bit dull on paper. But it’s surprisingly good to eat.

Which brings me to a related question about our cars. What we can do to and for our own vehicles to keep them healthy and running strong?

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Piston Slap: Hello Kitty! Contouring the American Mondeo's Future?

TTAC commentator sastexan writes:

Sajeev,

You proved yourself smart by changing over to the older rod shift transmission linkage on your Cougar SVT. My shift cables are broken again – although this time probably due to the 1st mechanic’s ineptitude and unwillingness to finish the job he started and align it correctly. The end that attaches to the shifter is worn out so the shifter keeps popping off the cable end – which was interesting to reconnect while I was driving in stop and go traffic on the (in)famous Washington Beltway. Unfortunately, the plastic insert on the Contour cables is not replaceable – the only way to fix it is to replace the entire cable set – which is a giant PITA. Oh well.

I also talked to Terry Haines, the transmission guy – if you haven’t heard of him before, he’s a former Ford engineer who has his own shop now, mostly working on MTX75 transmissions. He rebuilt my transmission at 100k, upgraded the shift forks, put in a quaife, replaced two syncros that were going bad. He walked me through the procedure to replace the shift cables (more than I can handle) and we also discussed why the Duratec V6s are puking rods – he unequivocally believes that it is due to the powdered metal connecting rods Ford started using around ’97 – he said that some spec must have changed because earlier Duratec have no con rod issues. In his teardown of motors, he said all the ones that have thrown rods had nothing to do with oil starvation – it all had to do with the con rods stretching out of spec and causing spun bearings then snapping the con rods. He also said SVT engines are more susceptible, due to higher compression and typically harder lives. And he said that the 3L upgrades everyone is doing has the same con rods and is just as at risk – Ford just ignored the problem in the Duratec.
Since you have plans for your Cougar, thought you would be interested in this line of thinking.

Sajeev answers:

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Piston Slap: The Hawaiian Shirt Finds Park Avenue Love

TTAC commentator horseflesh writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Many moons ago you posted a question of mine on Piston Slap. As requested, today I can share the conclusion of the saga!

I actually wrote almost 1300 words on the story of Grandma’s Park Avenue for my own amusement, and to share with my friends. If you wanted to run all or any of the material on TTAC, you are more than welcome. I pasted it in below after the quoted old email. At the least, I hope you enjoy reading it!

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Hammer Time: Abandoned Hope

It was Tamara’s first new car. A 2003 Saturn VUE AWD with a 4-cylinder and all the options. Out the door at $25,000. Overjoyed to have finally afforded her very own new car, Tamara splurged and spoiled it. Saturn seat covers soon adorned the interior and a chrome grille guard was added to give her cute zonker yellow ride a bit more gravitas. The Vue would be her absolute pride and joy for the next seven years.

Until it died. Seven years, two transmissions and only 69k miles, Tamara got fed up with being one of many victims of an under-engineered CVT. Besides she couldn’t afford the $5000+ bill.

Yet she wasnt alone. Far from it. Tamara is just one of thousands of folks who have been given the stiff arm by a manufacturer. All the major manufacturers do this to a degree and no, it’s not because they are evil and uncaring. You have to draw a line somewhere.

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Super Piston Slap: This LeMons Fiero Gets Revenge on FoMoCo

Since there are multiple TTAC Hacks on assignment here at the 24 Hours of LeMons, you’re getting into the mix from multiple angles. And, here in the Piston Slap corner of the world, the Cars are the Stars! But some whips simply have too much going on: feats of engineering superiority, a collection of creative/rare parts and a dump truck full of historical irony. That’s right, historical irony…with a touch of revenge!

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Hammer Time: The County Auction

Have you ever dreamed of owning a big red fire truck? Well here’s your golden opportunity.

Counties, cities, municipalities and parishes throughout the country get rid of their surplus government cheese through auctions. Police cars, fire trucks, commercial lawn mowers, dump trucks, confiscated merchandise, and most everything you can find inside a modern office are available for bidding.

The trick is to know when to bid enough.

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Super Piston Slap: The Buick-infused Fiero at LeMons

Perhaps you already know a little about this car from a previous post, but let’s look a little deeper into what makes an engine swap in a Fiero so positively epic.

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Piston Slap: Daily Driver It Ain't!

John writes:

I have a 1989 Mercedes 300CE. Fantastic car, if I’m honest and it has made me fall in love with straight-6’s as well as old school German solidity. Not to mention it is nice having the only seafoam green Mercedes I have ever seen, making it incredibly unique. That being said, in the 6 months that I’ve owned I’ve had to put almost two thousand dollars into it for various wear parts. While it is to be expected with a 22 year old car of any ilk, the added cost of owning a European car have begun to take their toll I’m afraid.

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Hammer Time: Of Man And Minivan

Want a cheap car? Buy a minivan. Even in today’s tough market, a minivan is a tough sell. A dealer friend of mine now has over 50 minivans spread out at four different locations. Not a single one sold so far this month. Only three sold the month before. In our business we don’t call that slow. We call that, “Yikes!”

It’s as if minivans are the automotive version of leprosy. Or perhaps the 2000’s version of a station wagon. Nobody wants em’. Nobody buys em’.

But should they?

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Hammer Time: The Chosen

Every night before I go the an auto auction, I do a mental exercise. It involves figuring out exactly what I’m going to bid on and why. My lot is small and as a consequence, I’m very minded of what is chosen. If the vehicle you buy is bought at a great price but sits, you just screwed yourself. It’s always better to get the popular cars… unless you find something really out of left field.

Then you can get a real killer deal.

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Hammer Time: Fascism on Four Wheels

“We just got cited Steve.” My wife had called me and sounded as confused as could be.

“What?”

“Something about Code 2009… I can’t read this… hold on…”

“Honey? What the hell does that mean?”

It turns out that I had been cited for a truly heinous and despicable act. Parking my own car on my own driveway. Some misguided jackass (we’ll just call her Jacqueline) had decided to inform me that my car, the Barnacle Bitch, was now a flagrant violator of the county’s brand new law.

Here is what it stated:

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Piston Slap: Relationship Advice, Accord Vs. Panther Love?

Scott writes:

I am a regular TTAC reader and have a question that I hope you can shed some light on. Currently my wife and I own a 2004 Accord with about 100,000 miles and in good shape and a 1993 Grand Marquis with about 90,000 miles which is also in good shape for its age – according to my mechanic we can get at least two more years with basic maintenance. I commute to work in the G. Marquis every day about 50 miles round trip and my wife put 15-20,000 miles per year on the Accord for her job (her Gas is reimbursed at 50 cents / mile).

My wife wants a new car (SUV-we’re thinking FLEX) and I would get the Accord thinking we move up in fleet reliability with more room to tote around a toddler, a large dog, and related items. The Accord has trade in value ($8,500 – $9,500 according to KBB) and the G. Marquis does not ($875-$1,100 according to KBB).

I think it makes more sense to keep the Grand Marquis as long as we can and trade in the Honda considering its value. My wife disagrees. What do you think?

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Hammer Time: Dave Ramsey, Bad Math & Statistical Quagmires

Dave Ramsey has done an awful lot of good in this world. Millions have been helped. Billions in debt has been eradicated forever. Plus now a lot of folks finally understand that consumer debt is little more than a barnacle of financial enslavement. When it comes to frugality and avoiding consumer spending traps, Dave Ramsey offers a lot of solid advice.

So having said that, will this article be another soulless puff piece about the virtues of Dave Ramseys methods? Hell no!. As much as I love the fact that he helps so many, I think his math is horrific and his conclusions are dead wrong. .

At least when it comes to cars.

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Piston Slap: The Wheel That Won't Budge

Matt writes:

Hey Sajeev. Looking for your wisdom, or perhaps that of the B&B. I’ve got a 2005 Hyundai Elantra with about 50k miles. Back around 40k, we had new tires put on it at Sears. Now I want to rotate the tires (yes, I know, I should have done this a while ago), but when I got to the very last wheel, I ran into a roadblock. The rear right wheel is fused to the hub! It seems to be rusted on. Poking around a few forums online, I got a couple of ideas:

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Piston Slap: E39 M5, Labor of Lust?

Still The Ultimate...

Jul writes:

Hey Man, I’d like to have your opinion: What do you think of the E39 M5?

Let me rephrase: What would you think about a 98000 miles absolutely mint condition, owned by an older gentleman with 3 or 4 other cars (the E39 not being his daily driver), with VANOS changed, clutch changed, and everything that could break down been changed as a preventive measure, E39 M5? … For $15K?

Wondering if I would treat myself to a potential money pit here buying this beast (that I already test drove, I’m in Love) knowing that I will not be driving it more than…5000 miles a year for the next two years MAX!

THANKS!

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Hammer Time: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Hammer Time: Growing Up, Growing Fast

Our oldest daughter is in fifth grade. It scares me that in only four short years she will be able to drive one of our cars. Ten years from now she will be as old as I was when I met my wife for the first time. Is she finally growing up? Am I beginning to grow old? Who thought middle aged life would be so damn intense?

Like any Dad, I want to plan a few things for her. On one side I don’t want her to become in terminal need of ‘Economic Outpatient Care’. She has to establish her own merits and foundations.

But I also want her to have the freedom to focus on what’s important. School, learning about life far beyond the classroom, and the ultimate freedom to pursue what interests her without having to deal with the modern day debt trap.As much as I love cars, I realize that interests rarely pass down through the generations. Cars are nothing more than debtful transportation appliances for most folks. So here’s what my wife and I plan on doing for our daughter … car wise.

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Super Piston Slap: Fuelish Thought on Additives, Part II

Sajeev writes:

I received a brief but telling email from Mr. Hussam Adeni about a previous Piston Slap. The attachments he sent were an eye opener for someone as chemically challenged (so to speak) as yours truly. As you can see from the man’s resume, this won’t be a discussion for the faint of heart. But let me try anyway, it is a great read if you can channel your inner geek long enough in this age of twitter and rapid fire auto-tuned pop sensations.

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Piston Slap: The Budget is Tight, the Ranger is Right?

Ryan writes:

I have a friend who just got her PhD and is moving to Texas for her post-doc. She has never owned a car, but now needs to get one so she can go out in the field to do research. I’ve agreed to help her find something used, probably a small manual-transmission pickup truck. Needless to say she’s not a car person at all, just wants something inexpensive (under 5k), that she won’t have to worry about too much. I’m recommending something after 96 or so, to get the R134A A/C and maybe a few more airbags and safety features.

I have owned a couple Nissans (Frontier and Rogue), and a Toyota Tacoma, and my brother owned a Nissan Frontier, all were mostly problem free. I also had a 91 Ford Explorer before that, which also gave me few problems up to 200k miles.

Given my experiences, I’ve been thinking Tacoma or Frontier for my friend, I think they will be more reliable at the high mileages she can afford. But looking in the local (Phoenix, AZ) Craigslist – By Owner section, I see that Tacomas are relatively more expensive, older Frontiers are cheaper but less common (many are also heavily modified), and there seem to be lots of less expensive Ford Rangers available.

Do you agree with the 96 or later idea? Or do you think something older could work? What about the Ranger’s reliability as opposed to the imports? Also, are there any other models with a proven track record she should consider? And finally, given that a 10+ year old truck with over 100k miles is going to need maintenance no matter what, what about parts availability and ease-of-maintenance between the brands?

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Piston Slap: The Anchorman Plays Valve Roulette

Stay Classy, Honda!

TTAC Commentator Anchorman33 writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Love TTAC, and the Piston Slap series. I’m not a fixer, mainly because of time and space, but knowing a community like the B&B/TTAC is out there definitely makes me think about my automotive choices more than I ever did before.

I’ve got a 2006 Honda Odyssey that’s coming due for it’s 105k mile service. I’ve had it for about the last 3+ years and done basic maintenance, to include changing the brake and transmission fluid about 10k miles ago. don’t know when/if they had ever been changed before. It’s been in at least two wrecks, rear ended before I bought it and not fixed properly – the driver’s side rear bumper has about a 6″ bolt holding it on; and side swiped on the drivers side about 18 months ago, fixed properly. I Overall it’s an ok ride,but definitely showing it’s age cosmetically and mechanically. The current plan is to keep it for another 6-8 months and replace it with a new(er) van that’s a keeper.

The local independent shop (SoCal) is quoting me $1100 for the timing belt, water pump, radiator hoses, fluid and oil change. Local dealer is saying $1850 for all that plus valve adjustment. My question for you and the Best and Brightest is, how big of a gamble is it to just change the oil and hope the rest of the items can make it 8-12K more miles? I obviously don’t want to blow up the motor, but I’m having a hard time swallowing that much cash outlay on an older than its age/miles would suggest vehicle that I’m planning on getting rid of in less than a year. Thanks.

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Hammer Time: The Thrill Of The Shill

There are three roads for auto writers.

The first is the ‘golden’ road. You simply buy or test drive a car with no string attached. Consumer Reports and guerrilla reviewers who ‘test drive’ at the dealership are the recipients of this honor.

The second is the ‘reality’ road. You use the press fleets and go to sponsored events. It cost less. But you realize the shiny happy PR people are going to try to twist your arm.

Most successful journalists start at the guerrilla side of number one and end up at number two.

But there are a ‘chosen few’ who embrace a third road… the mouthpiece road. Who knows? If you can shill and ‘build’ your relationships, you may just end up with a Maserati.

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Piston Slap: RTFM FTW

It actually comes with a little book too!

Patrick writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Avid daily reader of the site but infrequent commenter… Pony Cars and old Volvos sometimes drag me out of my shell but I have a couple questions about my wife’s car and I wanted to see what you and others might think.

We’ve got a 2007 3.5L Impala with 60,000 miles on it and it is due for an oil change and checkup:

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Piston Slap: The Spare 300E Needs a National Bricklin Museum?

Fabio writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have been asked by an uncle if I would like to his 91 Mercedes 300E (he has supplied all of his children and is now moving to the extended family). It has 230K km (140K miles) and looks to be in pretty good condition. He’s mentioned that it has been very reliable. The purchase price would be negligible and the insurance is reasonable. One of my concerns is that I would be using the car as my daily driver (it would be replacing my current 99 Grand Am (170K miles) and I wanted to get another take on that – is it reasonable, or is it not a good idea.

I’ve read a bit up on that vehicle and it seems to have a decent reputation for longevity (with the required maintenance). I was hoping if you could provide some insight as to whether this seems like a feasible idea, or would I just be better off sticking with the Grand Am.

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Hammer Time: The Real Rock Stars

“Steve, whatever you like! It’s yours!”

I was standing inside one of the most notorious strip clubs in the French Quarter. Women everywhere who collectively had less clothing on than I had on my right foot. There was a side area where I could enjoy the newfound festivities without the prying and amused eyes of my host. I was young, 30, wife and two kids. Thankfully, that area also had an exit.

The chance of me doing something was about the same as the Kia Rio becoming the official car of the Royals. It wasn’t gonna happen. But there was a LOT that did happen, from that first day on through the next two years.

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Hammer Time: What Pisses You Off?
Piston Slap: Relevant Lessons Taught by Panther Love

Hey, it coulda happened!

TTAC commentator HeeeeyJake writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I love the column and I’m a daily TTAC reader, though I rarely comment. We have been a Panther household since the mid nineties, and have had great luck with our vehicles thus far. My parents had two ex-Budget rental Town Cars, a white ’93 with blue interior, and a medium willow green ’96 with that greyish-beige. I had a pearlescent silver ’91 in high school with black interior and a black canvas top (I added ’02 Cartier wheels , P71 front springs, and a dual exhaust with turbo mufflers). All were zero-problem vehicles. Which brings us to our current Town Car, an ’07 Signature Limited, fresh out of warranty, which is also an ex-rental, but I do not know which company.

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Hammer Time: 17 Hours of Hell

A 2000 mile road trip to drive…the 2012 Toyota Camry? Oh well. I needed a break from the world, and what better way to do it than with some quiet time and a huge tax write-off. At 5:54 A.M. I fired my ride for what turned out to be 17 hours of pure hell.

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Piston Slap: Fuelish Thought on Additives?

(www.arthursclipart.org)

Robin writes:

Sajeev,

Longtime reader, first time writer. I love reading your stuff, well worthwhile.

My query is about fuel additives, after-market specifically. I have used the Lucas Oil products and found them to produce a mile or two better MPG in my 94 D21 four banger. (Note: that’s a Nissan Hardbody – SM)

What is your take on additives? Have you found any others to be of significant value to the user/user’s vehicle?

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Super Piston Slap: <3 for Nissan Canada?

TTAC commentator SpeedJebus writes:

Hi Sajeev,

You may remember that I wrote in before about my 2007 Honda Civic, and it’s haunted DBW system. That ordeal is over, but apparently I’m a sucker for automobile drama. Here’s the tale of my Juke: an ordeal that has been going on for over three months now. I’d like to share this cautionary tale. Here we go!

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Piston Slap: Zip Ties and the Love Of Leather?

TTAC commentator mistercopacetic writes:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

Big fan of TTAC and Piston Slap. I have a 2001 Honda CR-V with a cloth interior which I would like to switch out for a leather interior. I am doing this mostly because I am too cheap to buy a new car, but want to feel like I am driving a new car with leather seats. I found a store online selling a Roadwire leather seat kit for $595, on sale until June 15 from $962 list. It looks like this is a replacement interior, not just seat covers, so I will be pulling out the old seats, removing the cloth from the seat frame, and installing the leather. My question: is this something I can do myself, or is it better to get a professional installer? I would like to save some cash, but if it is a job that requires expertise I would rather pay someone who knows what they are doing. I’ve searched some forums online and my impression is that an aftermarket leather interior can either look terrible or meet or exceed a factory leather interior in look and quality, depending on the skill of the installer.

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Hammer Time: Let's Party Like It's 1989

Wake up. Have breakfast. Head off to work. Wait… you need to put on some decent clothes for goodness sake! You’re not a teenager anymore.

You put on the finest thrift store clothes you can find and head off to your car and… wow! Who put a Delorean with a flux capacitor and gullwing doors on your driveway?

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Piston Slap: Blinded by the E39 Wagon's Light?

(from motoringconbrio.com)

Kurt writes:

Sajeev,

Really enjoy Piston Slap and could use some help working through this problem:

I am an expat working in Europe. I brought one car from the US with me and picked up a 1997 BMW 528i Touring (5 speed) here. I just found out that I will be transferred back to the US next year and have to make a car decision pretty soon. I really like 528iT and would like to take it back with us, but it seems that the cost to self-import the Bimmer to the US is about equal to what I paid for it (and its a little long in the tooth). I really like the combination of the Touring’s performance and carrying space and am trying to decide what to buy next. The short list is:

  1. Find another E39 Touring in the US (hopefully with a manual and a little newer)
  2. E61 Touring (but am concerned with reliability)
  3. 2003 745i

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Piston Slap: Trust In Yourself, Love Thy Acura

Jeffrey writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I had a question regarding one of the vehicles I own and the potential for head gasket issues. Suprisingly, this is not in regards to the Subaru!

We have a 1998 Acura 3.2TL, a great vehicle and perfect sized. I am the second owner and it does have just over 134,000 miles. It was first purchased in Boise, with an easy commute…spent some time in California with a more grueling San Jose commute, and back in Boise for 6 years. I drive it pretty easily on a 20 mile, roundtrip, commute every other day and a couple trips on the weekend. I enjoy this car. It has the classic Honda feel to it; low cowl, buttons and switches with a fluid movement, handles nicely, double-wishbone suspension, longitudinal drivetrain means no torque steer, heated mirrors/seats, excellent climate control (cold A/C). The only item(s) that do need replacing are the shocks. But overall, I’ve put minimal money into a car I purchased for $4500. Only accessory I added was a PIE Hon-Aux auxiliary port. Only dislikes are excessive wind noise in winter, due to frameless windows. Yet, I always liked frameless windows on a four-door…Subaru has them too.

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  • Inside Looking Out Why EBFlex dominates this EV discussion? Just because he is a Ford expert?
  • Marky S. Very nice article and photos. I am a HUGE Edsel fan. I have always been fascinated with the "Charlie Brown of Cars." Allow me to make a minor correction to add here: the Pacer line was the second-from-bottom rung Edsel, not the entry-level trim. That would be the Edsel Ranger for 1958. It had the widest array of body styles. The Ranger 2-door sedan (with a "B-pillar", not a pillarless hardtop), was priced at $2,484. So, the Ranger and Pacer both used the smaller Ford body. The next two upscale Edsel's were based on the Mercury body, are were: Corsair, and, top-line Citation. Although the 1959 style is my fav. I would love a '58 Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop sedan!
  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.
  • Lou_BC High end EV's are selling well. Car companies are taking advantage of that fact. I see quite a few $100k pickups in my travels so why is that ok but $100k EV's are bad? The cynical side of me sees car companies tack on 8k premiums to EV's around the time we see governments up EV credits. Coincidence? No fooking way.
  • EBFlex "I'd add to that right now, demand is higher than supply, so basic business rules say to raise the price."Demand is very low. Supply is even lower. Saying that demand is outstripping supply without providing context is dishonest at best.