Breaking the Bank – Part II

I own a car.  Nothing fancy or even remotely new.  But, it's for getting me from A to B and back to A again, so as long as it keeps doing that, it's fine.

I do not happen to be a girl that knows nothing about cars.  I've been changing my own oil/oil filter/air filter/tires/even did a brake job once for over 10 years.  I am thankful that I have this knowledge.  It is awesome growing up with all boys in some manners.

Also, not a ditz.  I know that cars need maintenance and such.  That maintenance, though, doesn't always correspond with my budget.

The ROCO-mobile, to people not knowing her name, would be identified as a '94 Honda Accord EX.  Hooray moonroof!  She runs like the wind.  Sure she needed an ignition switch not that long ago, but she's 14!  Well, madame 14 year old is over in the shop today.  I thought she simply needed one gasket replaced.  Oh how wrong I was.

The people at the shop are super nice.  I know they aren't ripping me off or talking to me like I'm an idiot simply because I'm female.  They actually offered to drop me off at home after I dropped off the ROCO-mobile yesterday.

Well, my good buddies called me this morning to let me know the status.  Ouch.  Needed are:

  • Replacement of the oil pan gasket – $140
  • Resealing of the V-Tech – $95
  • Replacement of the valve cover – $95
  • Rear brake pads (totally shot) – $140
  • New muffler (current one has a hole, which I figured because ROCO-mobile's been pretty noisy lately) – $220
  • Rack and pinion boots – $150 ($75 per side)
  • And the kicker: timing belt replacement – $480

Grand total, OMG I seriously only just now added it up: $1320

Do I have that sort of spare cash sitting around?  Well, technically, yes, but that's in the vacation fund.  So, I asked my good buddies to prioritize the repairs.  They asked me how much I could afford to spend today and would get as much in with that amount as they could.  Fair enough.  This was at 8:30 this morning, by the way.

I just got a call that the ROCO-mobile is ready to ROCO. (Noon!  They are quick!) I took care of the first four items on the list (and included an oil change) and I get to go pick her up after I take a couple busses to get home.  Good buddies suggested that I save up for the timing belt at my earliest convenience.  Said the muffler wasn't a priority (since there isn't much of a rust problem here, I get that one.  I've had 2 mufflers FALL OFF in PA because of rust.)  Rack and pinion is important but not more than the other things.

And so, my pocket is a lot lighter now.  Or, I should say that my credit card bill is a lot heavier now.  Ugh.  No little fun things for a while.  Boo.  But, I've got wheels.

Now, my main decision is coming to light.  Do I: a) set a limit at how much more I will spend on the car before giving up on it and buying another or b) just scrap it and move forward.  My brother says that the ROCO-mobile really should go for at least another 50K miles if not more.  Oh, what to do, what to do…

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3 Comments

  • Ouch!Owning an older Honda myself ('97 CRV) I can tell you that the timing belt on a Honda is NOT something you want to have break. The configuration of Honda engines is such that if that belt breaks, you're looking at a minimum of bent valves, and possibly as much as a totaled engine. If they say it needs replacing and you trust 'em, get it done as soon as you can. Definitely higher priority over the muffler and boots still on your to-repair list.And if you ARE going to keep the car for another 50k miles, when they replace the timing belt, you'll probably want to get the water pump replaced at the same time. It has about the same lifespan as a timing belt and both usually require them to pull the engine to replace – so if you do them together you get a big savings on the labor since they'll already have the engine out for the belt replacement. Should probably just be extra for the part (or maybe a little adder for labor), which'll run somewhere between $40-$100.There is a tradeoff point where you're starting to pay more in repairs than you would for payments in a "new" car, but I have no idea where you're at and whether you've hit that point yet. I'll see if I can find the articles I read on that subject online a couple months back and point you their way – might help you think through whether it's time to get ROCO-mobile Jr….

  • I know it's bad. 🙁 I'm hoping that she can last a bit longer though. I have no idea when the timing belt was changed, and as it was purchased used three years ago, I probably won't find out.
    They were really nice over there and gave me a reminder list that had the prices. They include the water pump in the price with parts and labor for the replacement.
    This year, this is all of the money that I've had to put into her. Actually, in the three years I've had her, it's only been this, CV boots and the master cylinder. Oh, and tires but that doesn't count. She'll be practically new inside soon. I can't complain though. When I got her, there was NO out-of-pocket cost for me, so realistically, in three years, I've "paid" around 2 or 3 grand for the ROCO-mobile, so I'm still in the clear.
    Thanks for any info you can send my way though! 🙂

  • Definitely sounds like you've made out then – I couldn't find the article I was thinking of but I did find another one that reasons out repairs and keeping used vs. buying "new" via this equation:1) Take the price of repairs2) Divide that by the expected monthly car payment for your newer car3) If you expect you can keep your car running for at least that many more months, the repair will pay for itself in that time and is worth doing over buying a newer vehicle (and any months after that you're back to driving for "free")Of course, it's more complicated than this when you factor in safety, personal feelings, etc, but it's a good rule-of-thumb estimate. Sounds like you're in a good position to keep your car and save some money that would otherwise be going towards car payments. As unglamorous as that sounds, it's probably better than worrying how you're going to pay for both the car payment AND groceries for a given month! 🙂

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