# Another Car Thread: Fix it or replace it?

### Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

#### eugenefl

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
I saw Doug's thread about his car woes and thought I'd chime in and see if I can get some expert life advice from some fellow TRFers. You guys seem to have a lot of experience in this area and I'm curious what decision you would come to.

SCENARIO: I currently own/drive a 1993 Nissan Sentra 2-door coupe. I've owned it since March of 1998 and have logged 126,000 miles on the car. Mind you, when I bought it there were already 72,000 on the odometer which brings us to a grand total of 198k miles as of today. Recently I've experienced a loud rattling noise on startup which indicates to me a timing tensioner problem. On deceleration I can hear what sounds like a chain dragging on the street. Nissans with timing chains are known to last up to 225k miles before needing replacement. I've researched the mystery sounds on Nissan forums and am spot on with my assessment of what needs to be done. Well, I'm just about at that point to where I know I am operating on borrowed time and need to make a decision on my transportation needs. The first estimate that has come in from a locally referred mechanic is $1100. This includes timing chain, tensioners, guides, head gasket, water pump, chain sprockets, oil/filter, and a few other misc parts and pieces. :y: My regular mechanic - who I kinda don't trust for this job - quoted me a ballpark of$1200-$1600 for an engine replacement. The KBB/NADA value of the car is$900-$1200 which at this point makes this "maintenance" procedure as an investment worthless. DECISION TIME: So I've got about$1500 in car replacement/repair money apart from an emergency fund specifically to deal with this situation. How I proceed from here is where I'll lean on your thought processes. There are several ways of approaching this scenario - which all make different sense depending on my needs I suppose - but I'm curious as to your insights. I've been pondering this issue for a least 6 months now, but with the recent severity of the engine noise I know I need to act sooner rather than later.

A) Fix it & drive another ~25-40,000 miles car payment free (or 2 years). I have a disdain for car payments nor do I require the vanity of a flashy vehicle, but there is also no guarantee of a trouble-free 40k miles.

B) Replace the Engine (low mileage rebuilt core - no accessories - around $600,$1200-$1600 total w/ labor. Again, no guarantees of a trouble-free ride.) C) Buy another high mileage used beater cash for$1500-$2000. D) Suck it up. Get something newer with lower mileage that will require financing and sell my car and get whatever I can for it. The budget would dictate a lower mileage vehicle (<60k miles), no older than 5 years, and a maximum of 3 years financed. ~$8k-$11,000K Tax/Tag/Title. Thanks always for your anecdotes and perspectives. Last edited: #### RangerStl ##### Well-Known Member My Toyota Camry, paid off, 79k to 96k miles. My maintenance in the last 4 years: Water Pump (timing belt, tensioner, oil change, etc.)$1200

Struts all around $700 Emissions work (EGR valve, vacuum switch, Must fix for registration & plates)$700

Engine oil seals (3 seals, lower end) $1200 Total$3800. So much for Toyota quality.

Cash purchase used car replacement, with no guarantees $5000 Certified Pre-owned car payments for 4 years @$350 a month = $16,800 I'd fix it if nothing else major is wrong. Replace water pump, too as long as they're in there. Only if 200k miles scares you would I replace it. #### Luv2launch ##### Well-Known Member My 2 cents worth, I would have the timing chain replaced and have any other work done on the guts that can be done while all thats pulled apart,putting in a rebuilt engine is touch and go you could get a good one you could get a bad one.My current car is a 1993 honda accord that I would do the same repairs too right now if that came up, its been a good car and since I bought it nothing really major has gone wrong, the valve cover gasket was changed the left drive shaft now the right ones going so thats next and just did struts and springs on the front end, i expect to get as much milage as I can out of it, it's nothing to get up to 300k off an accord of this year.My old car which was my first was a 1981 toyota celica that had well over 250k on it when I got rid of it, at that point becuase of a mistake I made(checked oil and didn't put the oil cap on tight enough and it fell off) all it really needed was a ring job when it went but not to the point of it getting ready to break down.If I woulda had a place to store it I would done that job myself I loved that car to death. #### sunward ##### At Mad Rocket Basement TRF Supporter The car is 16 years old. They do not last forever. I wouldn't consider repairing or replacing. As it is still driving, you have time to find a good used car as long as you are not picky on what you find. If you are picky, then you may have to spend a little more. #### Peartree ##### Cyborg Rocketeer Staff member Administrator Global Mod If you like the car and there's nothing much else wrong with it, a repair sounds like a good investment that should last for several more years. A new, used engine is always a gamble as there could be more stuff wrong with it and you'll end up repairing that stuff. My general rule has been that any repair that costs less than the blue book value is worth doing but if this is generally a trouble-free car and you don't have the cash to buy a better one, fixing what you have sounds like a solid option. #### eugenefl ##### Well-Known Member TRF Supporter Haha...this is great. Conflicting opinions! I love it. I've been conflicted for so long now about this whole deal. I'll have to tally up the responses and see what I end up with. What I have found is that in this economy finding good used cars is difficult. Everyone is hanging on to what they have. It used to be people would cycle through cars for the vanity of it every 3-5 years flooding the used car market with quality vehicles. #### troj ##### Wielder Of the Skillet Of Harsh Discipline, Potent C) Buy another high mileage used beater cash for$1500-$2000. I think this approach is the riskiest. If you fix yours, it's a relatively known quantity -- you have a reasonably decent idea of the condition of everything else, and in the price range you quoted, you're really gonna get a beater. As an example, my son's friend spent$1500 on a car. Less than a year later, the transmission had to be replaced, and with his dad's connections, that "only" cost him $1200. The engine croaked soon after. D) Suck it up. Get something newer with lower mileage that will require financing and sell my car and get whatever I can for it. The budget would dictate a lower mileage vehicle (<60k miles), no older than 5 years, and a maximum of 3 years financed. ~$8k-$11,000K Tax/Tag/Title. That's the approach I'd probably go with, if it were something I was going to drive to/from work every day, and needed to work. -Kevin #### bobkrech ##### Well-Known Member Two options. 1.) If the car was using oil and needed to have the valves replace or the rings replaced, then you need to replace the head gasket, otherwise why would you do it? If the rest of the car is ok, simply replace the timing chain/tensioner,and any sprockets if necessary. (Oil changes are in the noise.$19 or so.)

If the car needs a motor, junk it.

2.) Why buy a used car if you can get a new car for the same price.

Now, if the car is REALLY good otherwise and you REALLY like it, and don't really WANT to replace it, then I could see dropping the $1200 or so to fix it, but realize there are no guarantees that the tranmission won't croak or something else happen within a few months of you spending the money on it. I'm driving a 96 F-150 pickup, 302 automatic longbed regular cab, with 240,000 miles on it, and so far so good. I had the transmission rebuilt on it at 90,000 miles when it belonged to the farm (my grandmother) and while it's old, it's nice, it's comfortable, and IT'S PAID FOR. I DID drop about$400 on it when the aluminum timing cover got pinholed and started leaking coolant, but that's been two years ago and so far so good. My 'new' 02 Ford F-150 SuperCrew (4 door; wife's work truck) is about to hit 200,000 miles, and I just dropped $400 in parts/supplies to do ALL the fluids, plugs, hoses, belts, etc. on it. Best bang for the buck is to drive 'em til the wheels fall off, IMHO... everything else is making money for the dealers... JMHO! YMMV OL JR #### Handeman ##### Well-Known Member TRF Supporter I might as well get my :2: in while I'm at it. I had two car payments and just had to take on a third to replace another car. I avoided that as long as I could, but with four drivers, and the need for "dependable" transportation and a tow vehicle, I didn't have much choice. What I found out is that you can't go by the "blue book" right now. What it lists as trade in, is what you might get selling it on your own. Figure 50% of trade in as the actual value on anything you are trying to sell. You said you thought your car was worth$1200, it will probably bring in $600 to$800. That makes doing a $1200 repair on it that much worse. The flip side is that the new/used car market is also way down. You can get a great new or slightly used car for huge discounts. My dad just got a 2008 Impala with 20K miles for less then$10K. I had to replace the tow vehicle and got a 06 Durango with Adventure package and 5.7 Hemi, still under 3 yr / 36K mile warranty, for less then $15K. There are huge deals available right now if you want to move up to new or slightly used. I understand about hating a car payment, believe me I understand! I always promise myself that when I get it paid off, I'll keep making payments to myself so when it finally dies, I can pay cash. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm still hopeful. If you do have payments, I recommend setting them up like this. Have an automatic paycheck deduction go into a savings account. Have the loan payment taken out of the savings. Make sure the deduction is higher then the payment by$20 - $30 per month, that takes care of the 30K, 60K, etc. maintenance (the big bills). When the car is paid off, resist the urge to change the deduction or withdrawal the savings. If you can do that, by the time the car does need to be replaced again, you should have the cash available. #### terryg ##### Well-Known Member Consider police auctions of seized vehicles, you can get some good deals if you are patient. #### bobkrech ##### Well-Known Member There is no reason to remove the head when replacing the timing chain. https://www.nissanforums.com/ga16de...icial-timing-chain-replacement-procedure.html I get attached to vehicles more than I should. A good rule of thumb is to look at what it costs to fix a vehicle, and compare it to the value of the vehicle and the payments you will have to make on a new vehicle. If the costs of the repairs on a vehicle on the average are running 50% or more of the monthly costs of a new vehicle, then it's time to say good by. The Hyundai Accent I gave as an example previously is a modern day Sentra. Same HP, and curb weight. If you could get one with one of the two option packages listing in the low 13K$ for $9,200 and financed everything at 5%, your looking at a$214 monthly payment for 4 years.

Your Sentra is worth $1,200 and I think spending anything over$600 on repairs is probably not worth it considering the age and condition of the car because I'm guessing that in 6 months timeframe something else in the $500 to$600 range will need fixing.

Your better off trading in the Sentra for a few hundred dollars and in investing in 16 year newer technology. That 100,000 mile warranty is inviting.

Bob

##### Well-Known Member
I've just looked up your car.
Personally, I'd do the job myself on the 1.4 or 1.6 but not the 2.0 which I'm assuming you have as it's a chain and not a belt.
As I said, I did it myself on a 1.3 but my better half had the job done by the garage and it wasn't that expensive a job, about 3 hours labour as I remember.
Just get a quote for replacing the chain, nothing else.
Running it into the ground makes a lot of sense- its book value doesn't mean much for a car you know and presumably like.

#### n3tjm

##### Papa Elf
Water Pump (timing belt, tensioner, oil change, etc.) $1200$1200 ? Just had that done to my car earlier this year, only around $550 at my usual place. (dealer wanted$600 just for the belt, more if other things need replaced)

Struts all around $700 That's the quote I got for mine at NTB, but they always quote high. I am sure my usual place can do mine for around$400 - $500. #### bobkrech ##### Well-Known Member I've just looked up your car. Personally, I'd do the job myself on the 1.4 or 1.6 but not the 2.0 which I'm assuming you have as it's a chain and not a belt. As I said, I did it myself on a 1.3 but my better half had the job done by the garage and it wasn't that expensive a job, about 3 hours labour as I remember. Just get a quote for replacing the chain, nothing else. Running it into the ground makes a lot of sense- its book value doesn't mean much for a car you know and presumably like. I'd love to get a timing chain replaced with only 3 hours of labor. The timing belt on my '83 Sentra went south at 120,000. The garage had the belt replaced and attempted to restart the car in 50 minutes. Unfortunately the 1.5 liter motor was an interference motor and ultimately it was discovered that 5 valves were bent. It was totally my fault because I didn't have the belt changed earlier, however the cost to replace the belt was not cheap, even in 1991. The belt at the garage was$40 (I could have bought one at the auto store for $20, but the labor was a killer because the book rate was 4.5 hours at$65 an hour IIRC. Almost $300 just for labor on the belt. After all was said and done including the valve job, I was$1,100 lighter, and the car burned more oil since the valves sealed better but the rings were failing. I waited 9 months to recoup the investment and bought a new '92 Sentra for $7250 after trading in the '87. I seriously doubt the rate book for a timing chain change on a Sentra will be less than 6 hours. The on-line price for a timing chain kit is$154 https://www.partsgeek.com/gbproduct...content=YN&utm_campaign=PartsGeek+Google+Base with a quoted retail of $255. The chain alone is at least$30 online and $50 retail, and you need some gaskets as well to do the job so the kit is the way to go. Using the retail parts costs and an estimated labor rate @$85/hr, I'd estimate the timing chain replacement cost in a garage would be about $765. If the local labor rate is lower, you might get the job done for$600 but not much less. I think the local mechanic at $1,100 is a realistic price for the job and some preventative maintenance. (BTW at 200k, I'd also replace the water pump if it was original.) If the car has no rust, and has good compression and is in otherwise great shape, it might be worth fixing if you like the car. Otherwise I'd think long and hard about it. Unless you have a classic, you have to remember that a car is not an investment, it's a depreciating asset. You loose 10%-20% when you dive it out of the dealership, and after 3 years on average it's worth half of what you paid for it. (The best 3 year value retention is a Mini Clubman wagon at 62% and the worst today is a big truck or SUV at 33%.) Fix it, maintain it, but when it's costing you a lot to keep going, it's time to say good by and get another. Normally cars coming off a 3 year lease are the best deals because they have 80% of their lifetime left at a 50% of new cost, but with the economy being bad, new cars with a good warranty are frequently a better deal. Bob #### eugenefl ##### Well-Known Member TRF Supporter$1200 ? Just had that done to my car earlier this year, only around $550 at my usual place. (dealer wanted$600 just for the belt, more if other things need replaced)

That's the quote I got for mine at NTB, but they always quote high. I am sure my usual place can do mine for around $400 -$500.
My car has a chain, not a belt. Different animal.

#### eugenefl

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
As always, I thank everyone for their feedback. Bob, your comments are spot on and shed a lot of reality on this situation. I certainly appreciate the factual approach to advice too. BTW, I know about the updated FSM bulletin from Nissan at NissanForums (which I used to participate on a lot), but 2 of the mechanics I talked to pretty much discarded the labor hours involved. Around here, it's nothing but domestics. No one really works on imports other than the usual "outside-the-valve cover" kind of stuff.

As for the comment about not trusting my mechanic earlier, there's a few personal opinions for that. He's great at most any day-in-day-out work involving the typical stuff - belts, brakes, tune-ups, clutch replacement, etc. I took it to him about 40k miles ago for a leakdown and compression test. When I picked it up he said everything looked "good." When I asked for actual PSI numbers to check against the factory service manual he didn't have any for me. He just said the compression numbers were within a few degrees of each other in each cylinder. Well, if there's a head gasket issue, it's possible overall compression can be down equally. A good friend of mine referred me to him a few years back when I first moved up here and related similar experiences. Basically, anything requiring precision measurement or attention to detail it's best to go elsewhere and it's somewhat evident by the garage he works out of. It looks like it hasn't been cleaned since the first day it opened - which judging by some of the cars left behind by non-paying customers - happened about 20 years ago. (i.e. greasy old parts laying around, seats from cars, trash everywhere, etc.) But hey, I'm driving a cheap car and when I need a cheap repair done I usually go to him.

#### eugenefl

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
You said you thought your car was worth $1200, it will probably bring in$600 to $800. That makes doing a$1200 repair on it that much worse.
If I was to sell my car today I'd probably let it go for a song somewhere in the ballpark you mentioned just to have as payments on a financed replacement vehicle.

The flip side is that the new/used car market is also way down. You can get a great new or slightly used car for huge discounts. My dad just got a 2008 Impala with 20K miles for less then $10K. I had to replace the tow vehicle and got a 06 Durango with Adventure package and 5.7 Hemi, still under 3 yr / 36K mile warranty, for less then$15K. There are huge deals available right now if you want to move up to new or slightly used.
Try telling that to some of the dealers around here. I have "excellent" grade credit, up to $2k to put down, and they don't budge on offers I've made that are very reasonable. Example: 2003 Nissan Altima SE V6 3.5L w/ 62k miles. Asking price is 10,900 (right at Blue Book). The car has been on the lot 3+ months even after I made an offer of 10,200. I've called the dealer twice since that day and they still refuse to make a deal. Same experience at another local dealer. I've typically offered around$500 less than what is advertised versus the Blue Book value and they just don't care.

I understand about hating a car payment, believe me I understand! I always promise myself that when I get it paid off, I'll keep making payments to myself so when it finally dies, I can pay cash. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm still hopeful. If you do have payments, I recommend setting them up like this. Have an automatic paycheck deduction go into a savings account. Have the loan payment taken out of the savings. Make sure the deduction is higher then the payment by $20 -$30 per month, that takes care of the 30K, 60K, etc. maintenance (the big bills). When the car is paid off, resist the urge to change the deduction or withdrawal the savings. If you can do that, by the time the car does need to be replaced again, you should have the cash available.
I appreciate the advice on the finances strategy. I adopted the Dave Ramsey approach about a year ago (which financing a car defies his plan) and am struggling to follow his "program" simply because of this decision. His "emergency fund" calls for $1000. Well, to be honest, having only$1k in the bank doesn't make me feel very safe at all. More times than not, my issue isn't $1000 dollar emergencies - it's frequent job loss. Anyone that knows me from TRF1.0 knows of the many threads I started about joblessness and whatnot. I've lost count, but I'm somewhere around job #9 in 12 years. Low pay, hobbies, unemployment, being in school, etc, etc. have all put me in a manageable hole that won't take me long to get out of. He's a big proponent of driving beaters to get out of debt. The more I think about it, that's where I am now - driving a beater. If I were to get out and try and find a <$2000 car then I might as well dump money into a car I already own. BUT, THAT just doesn't make any sense either. I'm heavily conflicted on this whole deal.

#### brianc

If I were to get out and try and find a <$2000 car then I might as well dump money into a car I already own. No. Put it into a beater that your NASCAR buds can work on. Maybe trade/offer for one of those sitting on your mechanics unpaid lot... If nobody wants to/can work on the one you own, it's not a value. #### spacecadet ##### Well-Known Member From what I can see the difference between chain and belt isn't too significant replacement-wise. If you think you can handle the job, do it yourself. The only special tool you need is probably a metal rod to stop the crankshaft rotating while you get the bolts off, and a torgue driver for reassembly. Access might be tricky though. But for 1000 dollars I'd have a go. #### eugenefl ##### Well-Known Member TRF Supporter No. Put it into a beater that your NASCAR buds can work on. Maybe trade/offer for one of those sitting on your mechanics unpaid lot... If nobody wants to/can work on the one you own, it's not a value. They certainly have experience, but it's kind of like my occupation. We work so much - 6 days a week sometimes - that the last thing we want to do on our days off is touch anything related to our job. I learned the value of an hour once I started this job because any small amount of time off we get is extremely valuable. #### Peartree ##### Cyborg Rocketeer Staff member Administrator Global Mod Reliability curves for most products tend to be bathtub shaped. There are lots of failures/repairs at the beginning of the product's history and then it drops into a long period of few repairs until, eventually, repairs start to accumulate with increasing frequency (and cost). Since your car is already at a place (cost of repair vs. bluebook value) when many of us would seriously consider ditching it, you have to decide where your gut tells you that you are in that bathtub shaped curve. Are you still at the bottom of the curve with few repais and few major failures, or are you seeing a significant rise in the number and frequency of your repairs? Do you feel like you can risk gambling that this repair won't be followed by one, two or several more in the next few months? If you're comfortable that this is what's wrong and that more won't soon follow, then go ahead and fix it. Otherwise... #### rrobe99999 ##### Well-Known Member Good advice given in this thread, and I'm sure you've gotten better advice on the car forums. Regardless, a car problem cannot be diagnosed on a forum. I know good mechanics are hard to find. Have you considered that you may be able to fix the car W/O replacing timing chain? Replacing the tensioner is cheap and easy. Does it have the SR20 motor? I think there is a newer tensioner with more teeth that works better. Or just lift the valve cover and remove the top chain gaurds. I think there is a TSB on this. #### spacecadet ##### Well-Known Member Yes, some of my random googles do mention the tensioners rather than the chain. #### eugenefl ##### Well-Known Member TRF Supporter Ok, so I've gotten a 2nd quote in for a timing chain replacement -$1400. It's looking more and more like I will be purchasing a used vehicle really soon.

The only other option is replacing the engine with a low mileage or rebuilt engine. That also sounds like a fun gamble. There is just no easy way out of this it seems.

#### Handeman

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Unless you fix and keep the car, this is probably too late for this car, but I've put Slick50 in every car I've owned since 1982. All were American cars, all were 100K+ miles and most were 150K+ miles when I got rid of them, except the '80 Indy Pace Car Turbo TransAm. That had 86K miles and bad electrical problems, but the oil cooled bearings in the turbo were still spinning up just fine. I never had an internal, oiled engine part fail in any of the cars. Not even a bad valve or stuck lifter.

The first time I used it in 1982, the instructions said to change oil and filter, add three quarts oil, start engine, pour in the Slick50, pour in the last quart of oil and drive for 30 minutes. I followed the instructions and the 350ci in my Chevelle was idling at 900 RPM in park. As I poured the Slick50 in, the idle speed went up to 1,700 RPM from the reduced fiction. On the highway with the cruise control on, the mileage went from 19.6 to 22.1 MPG. It stayed at that 22.1 MPG for the next 50,000 miles.

I have found that new cars with the computer controls show only a slight mileage improvement, if any. Where I see the friction reduction of the Slick50 is on the temp gauge. When driving to work, instead of being near operating temp when I get on the highway, now I have to drive and additional 3-4 miles at highway speed before it gets up to operating temp.

I know people will say the stuff doesn't work, but my experience says it does. It won't help the tranny, axles, or other parts, but it will keep the engine running great. I had a lot of problems with the cars over the years, but I never had engine issues.

Last edited: