In the spirit of procrastination...
When I was in grad school, I drove a '87 Honda Accord, with the pop-up lights, burning oil, rusty rear end, and a prototypical "luxury" cockpit that pretty much all the fleets of all the makers have since adopted. I am not a car lover, but I did really like that car. I fixed a few vehicles in those years out of painful necessity, but most of those efforts were jury-rigging a couple of front ends thanks to my awful driving skills and occasional bad luck. The only one I really wanted to repair was the Accord. Biggest job I ever attempted.
It was just about ten years ago that I had the top of the engine spread out all over the landlord's driveway. One of the spark plugs had blown out--the threads just gave way and the the thing popped right off--and I had to take the head off and tap a new hole and rethread it with one of those heli-coil dealies. Fun stuff. you could really see the black gunk on top of the cylinders, and I suspected that the oil leak was from the rods above, which was I could address, having it all apart like that, but I was already out of money and in over my head in terms of capability. The car had negligible value, and the repair got me a good extra year out of the vehicle. I felt really good about that repair. The car never stopped performing for me, but it did eventually fail emissons. If it had been the burning oil or the rust, I might have tried to get even more driving out of it.
I feel that this is how cars should be handled. Serially buying new cars is absurd, and something well worth procrastinating. Every mile that you can get free and clear of any lien, well, that's money in the bank as far as I'm concerned. Cars should be driven until they're kaput--until the cost of maintaining them surpasses the cost of replacing them. But when do you make the call?
I learned this morning that my Subaru ('02 Legacy) is suffering an oil leak, from the head gasket and possibly elsewhere. I don't think I'm at a point in my life where I'll try and pull off a major and necessary repair myself (I don't even have a garage), but these guys are quoting me on the order of $2500 for all the gasket (guess)work they think it requires (might as well replace the timing belt too, etc.). What's worse, since I've already been procrastinating so long on getting the exhaust replaced (gradually getting noiser and stinkier), the vehicle is looking at three thousand dollars in repairs.
I'm pretty upset. This is the second car in a row that required major surgery at the 100000 mile mark, and I was hoping to get more than that out of a Subaru, get to that point of pure, delicious, economic gravy. The car is allegedly worth $5k retail, so I'm not quite underwater yet, but I'm nagged with the question of how best to maintain this thing. Do I pay for the head gasket (and other) repair, and will that get me to the fiscally pleasing ridiculously high mileage I'd prefer, or is it time start riding it into the ground? If I do the exhaust, and then just pour oil into it until it just siezes, will that get me another year or two? Anybody have experience with these cars?
There are a couple of complications, too. Unfortunately, we have to get the exhaust fixed before it can even be tested for emissions in three months, and it's not a given that it will pass. The second issue is that we kind of hate the car--the seats are incredibly uncomfortable, the doors are flimsy, and the wind whistles through the windows in a most annoying and constant way. I'd still rather get another couple years out of it.
So, a decision on how long we should try to gimp this thing along has to be made by January. We're saving up for whichever choice, which is a huge impediment to our general plans. Which to choose? Well, that's going to be put off a little longer.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
In the spirit of procrastination...