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Go Green By Driving It 'Til The Wheels Fall Off

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  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    Thanks for the link with pics! What a sight to see. I must have missed it because it was sold for such a short time and in such small numbers.

    I wonder how we are all defining "til the wheels fall off"...I have had cars whose powertrains were still going strong 15-20 years after they were new, and over 250K miles. Of course, other stuff was beginning to need replacement that wouldn't be considered a maintenance item, like springs and bushings, oil seals that were beginning to leak onto the pavement, stuff like that. To me, this begs two questions:

    1. if it is leaking oil and fluids everywhere and perhaps belching smoke into the air, even though it still runs reliably, is it really still the green machine, or should the replacement for it have come earlier? And if so, how do you know when is the right moment to replace an old vehicle, relative to environmental concerns?

    2. Presuming it is doing none of that, but instead leaking/burning nothing, getting gas mileage as good as when it was new, and passing every smog check with flying colors (which would still only ensure that it was compliant by decades-old standards, of course), how much is too much to pay for repairs to keep it on the road? I mean, we all know the wheels never REALLY fall off (although I am open to hearing amusing anecdotes of old cars off which the wheels really DID fall!).

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    How funny you should say that! I have a co-worker whose second car is exactly as you describe: it is a 14-year-old Pontiac 6000 (I believe that's the model name?) whose A/C and power windows quit years ago. She never bothered to fix either, because by the time that happened it was already a short-trip second car, and she lives in San Francisco, where it's cool most of the time. Then one day recently she got stuck driving the car on a day that turned out to be the surprise start of a mini heat wave, and she said she just about cooked driving that car the 30 minutes between the office and home! :-P

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    A similar thing happened with my '85 Silverado. My Granddad bought the thing new and damn him, he bought it with power windows!

    My driver's side window finally failed completely this past spring. The a/c has never worked as long as I've had the truck (since around Sept 2002), but between opening the vent window, rolling down the passenger side window, and opening the sliding rear window, I can usually tolerate the heat. I'm usually never in the thing for more than 10-20 minutes at a time, so it really doesn't bother me. As soon as I get the ambition though, I'm going to fix the power window. Now that cold weather is setting in though (I noticed frost the first time this morning), I can put that little project off for awhile.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    and looked up some old cars, and my co-worker's Pontiac is just a Grand Prix 2-door. I have seen her car and it matches some pics I pulled up.

    andre: how much would you have to spend to repair the Intrepid, seriously, before you would probably just replace it instead?

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    1. if it is leaking oil and fluids everywhere and perhaps belching smoke into the air, even though it still runs reliably, is it really still the green machine, or should the replacement for it have come earlier? And if so, how do you know when is the right moment to replace an old vehicle, relative to environmental concerns?


    I was concerned about the belching smoke thing the last time I took my '85 Silverado in for the emissions test. It smokes pretty nicely when it first starts up in the morning, and also under hard acceleration. But it passed its last emissions test with flying colors. So, I'm guessing that the stuff you can't see is worse than the stuff you can!

    As for emissions standards, in Maryland at least, they actually tighten them a bit every year. I noticed this in 2002 when I had to take my '79 New Yorker in for its test. I had a 1979 Newport for a couple years, and I had to get it tested in 1997. The standards in 2002 were stricter than they had been in 1997. I got historic tags for it in 2004 though, which exempted it from testing, so I dunno if they got more stringent since then or not.

    I had my truck tested in Jan 2005 and Dec 2006. I'll have to dig up the sheets and see if they tightened up the standards any. The Intrepid went on the treadmill back in 2002, but in 2004 and 2006 they just did the quickie OBD-II scan. I do remember the truck passed by a pretty wide margin, despite that grayish smoke it tends to blow.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    "So, I'm guessing that the stuff you can't see is worse than the stuff you can!"

    Welllll, we know what is in the stuff you CAN see: it's either coolant (let's hope not) or more likely burning oil or unburned gas. No matter which of them it is, we know it's not GOOD for the environment, right? But neither are the ones we can't see, and so it's good to know that you are still passing the smog check easily.

    That's what I meant by my question: how do we tell when it's doing more harm than good to the environment to keep an old vehicle?

    And if we decide the good still outweighs the harm, how much would we spend to keep the beater rolling?

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    how much would you have to spend to repair the Intrepid, seriously, before you would probably just replace it instead?

    Honestly, I dunno. I have thought about that, but never really came up with an answer. Now if its little 2.7 engine were to blow, I'd drop it like a hot rock. Maybe I'd park it at the mall, then whack it with one of my other cars that could take the hit, claim hit and run, and get it totaled out! :surprise: Nah, seriously, I could never bring myself to do something like that.

    If the tranny went out on it, that might be the tipping point. Last time I checked, out of morbid curiousity, the mechanic told me a replacement tranny would be aound $2200. Now if I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that $2200 would get me years of service out of the car, I'd do it. But with my luck, I'd blow that money on a tranny and THEN the engine would go. Or the car would get hit.

    I did put about $1050 into the car back in April, but that was for alot of work. New front brake pads (Mopar parts), new hoses, coolant flush, right front bearing hub, transmission cooling lines, and some other stuff I'm probably forgettting. I've been using a rough rule of thmub where if I get a month out of that car for every $300 I sink into it, I'm doing okay.

    One thing that makes it such a hard call is how well the Intrepid has held up. I remember my first car, my Mom's 1980 Malibu that she gave me when I got my license in Jan 1987. When that car was 8 years old, its paint was faded, the dash was cracked, the shift indicator was eternally stuck somewhere slightly to the left of park, the headliner was falling down, carpeting pulling loose from the door sill area, etc. And by 1988, a 1980 Malibu was looking pretty ancient. In contrast though, the Intrepid is still nice and shiny, and the only real flaws with the interior are where my dumb-#$# roommate put some cigarette burns when he's borrowed it! :mad: And with all those retro/angular/chiseled trends going on these days, IMO, an Intrepid doesn't look so dated. Not that I'd really care about dated, considering my unhealthy attraction to 70's cars. :P
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,201
    I'd spend the money to fix the tranny, when and if it needed it, but wouldn't overhaul or replace the engine, which probably has years of life left. It wouldn't bother me to spend something more than the retail value of the car for repairs, for an original owner car I know and trust, and like, but I'd draw the line if the engine went. I think the odds are good that your 2.7 will go >200,000, and maybe >250,000.

    Would I overhaul the tranny if the car had 250,000 miles? Probably not, but anything <200,000, just to pick a number, I'd probably go for it, assuming I still liked the car.

    One thing that would be a "must have" for me is A/C. It's not that I couldn't live without it, but that I wouldn't want to. Of course, you won't need A/C for the next several months, which buys some time.

    My 2 cents.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    Well, by the time I got my Dad's old 1981 T-Bird from my brother as part of the deal when I sold him my 1985 Chrysler Fifth Avenue, the driver's power window didn't work. My brother was using a suction cup on the glass to raise and lower the window. If the window fell into the channel, there was just enough of the edge sticking up to pull it back up. That car went through my Dad, my sister, (who once got mad at her boyfriend and put her fist through the plastic center of the steering wheel...ouch!), and my brother. All are my polar opposite when it comes to car care. The car was a real mess by the time I got it. My co-workers were telling me they heard a rumor that I came into work in this old junker, but they said they didn't believe it.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    ...I'll keep it until something major fails. Something like a blown transmission would be the coup de grace. My problem is I'll keep fixing all the little things because even a burned-out interior bulb drives me nuts. All it really needs is a decent paint job. I'm constantly tempted to get it done.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    My brother was using a suction cup on the glass to raise and lower the window. If the window fell into the channel, there was just enough of the edge sticking up to pull it back up.

    Hmmm, that's a good idea, Lemko, I'll have to remember that suction cup thing! :P When my truck's window was starting to get weak, it would go down with little strain, but would need help getting back up. I had to make sure not to put it all the way down, so I'd have something to grab ahold of to help pull it back up.

    In the case of your Park Ave, Lemko, I think the transmissions for those are actually pretty cheap, at least by today's standards. For some reason the figure $1200 is sticking in my mind. So that's not *too* bad. It's when trannies start getting up into the $2-3+K range that I start getting scared.
  • kcflyerkcflyer Posts: 78
    That truck was soooo much fun. Unfortunately it only had two seats so it had to go when the family started growing. I had people calling from all across the country to buy it. Sold, sight unseen in 24 hours. 4 x 4 , ragtop, what a combo!
  • bristol2bristol2 Posts: 736
    You guys sound way more patient than I am.

    When repairs are >$200 per month, it's time for that car to go for me. I figure that anything over that amount is just going to lose too much money for me over time. I have only once driven domestic and maybe with cheaper repairs that would be more bearable (the domestic I had was so unreliable that I couldn't trust it to get me to work- now that would be 'expensive').

    It sounds like most of you guys have more than one car to depend on. I guess that if you don't have all your eggs in one basket you can take more gambles with one not starting.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    I'm going to cut the Accent loose next year after I get the fortwo, then pick up a nice R32 Skyline in 2014, and I'll be set for life. :shades:
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    When repairs are >$200 per month, it's time for that car to go for me. I figure that anything over that amount is just going to lose too much money for me over time.

    That got me thinking, and curious as to how much my Intrepid has cost me since I paid it off. So for kicks, I looked up my records. Looks like I made the last payment in late November, 2004, when the car had around 99,200 miles on it. It's now a bit over 35 months later, and the car has around 137,100 miles on it.

    Looks like it's cost me about $2430 since then, plus gas and insurance. Once I factor out registration renewals, emissions tests, oil/filter changes, I figure it's at around $2050. Some of the highlights in there are: new rear brakes, new battery, fix oil pan leak/new drain plug (my fault, I stripped it), "new" wheel/tire/hubcap from junkyard (one wheel got stolen in a parking garage), another new tire (hopped a curb), then two more new tires (finally rounding out the set), a transmission service, and a fairly major repair this past April, which included new front brakes, turning the rotors, new transmissions lines, front bearing hub, new coolant/hoses.

    So, I figure that since the car's been paid off, it's cost me about $69 per month. Or ~$59, when I factor out oil changes, emissions tests, registration renewals, etc...stuff any car would need, new or old.

    I have a feeling that if I ever did get to the point that the car was averaging $200 per month in repairs, I would dump it. Especially if it started doing stuff like breaking down regularly, leaving me stranded, etc.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    When I met my girlfriend, she had a 1991 Mercury Tracer with a paint job so bad it made my '88 Park Ave look like a Pebble Beach Concours classic. It broke down twice behind my house and had to be towed. She was spending several hundred at least every other month for some kind of repair or another. That's when I finally convinced her she should get a new car and she bought the Impala.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    and it looks like my Intrepid got a stay of execution. It has about $500 worth of suspension/steering work. As for the a/c, everything's working, but it's just low on Freon. So I guess that's just a matter of whatever is leaking. He hasn't tracked that down yet.

    Anyway, I guess if I had let that bearing/hub go for too long, I might just have driven that car until the wheels fell off! :surprise:
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,162
    I want to keep my Park Ave just to see how long it will go. I guess your Intrepid takes the R-134a. They actually found some R-12 for my Park Ave when I had it done. I'm not so picky about the Park Ave's authenticity that they had to go through that much trouble, but maybe they thought I am.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    It's probably less hassle to find some R-12 (it is available for commercial users) than to convert that old tank to R-134a.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    What all is involved in converting an older R-12 system to R134a? I've talked to mechanics who have said it's not worth it or "it's very, very expensive" (translation: I don't want to mess with that). However, my stepdad said he converted my '85 Silverado to R134a, when he and my Mom had it. He said it wasn't that had. However, I remain convinced to this day that this is the reason my a/c doesn't work! :sick:
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    It depends on who's doing it. A dealer or mechanic will usually replace all the hoses, O-rings, etc. to cover their liability. If that stuff is all in very good condition, you can usually leave it and just replace the gas fittings. A Silverado has most of its AC parts out in the open where they're relatively easy to reach, while Lemko's Park Avenue has most of that stuff buried.

    http://www.shoptrac.com/r12retro.htm
    http://www.teamchicago.com/imperial/imp-ac.htm
  • Yup I ran into the same problem with my 1989 Pontiac. I looked into doing the R134a retrofit on it the summer after I got out of college but even with me doing all the work it was a PITA and I didn't bother.

    I was planning to buy a new car by next summer so I just suffered with marginal AC for one more summer.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    A Silverado has most of its AC parts out in the open where they're relatively easy to reach, while Lemko's Park Avenue has most of that stuff buried.

    So if I wanted to retrofit something like my '67 Catalina or '76 LeMans, I'm guessing it wouldn't be too major of an undertaking, either? Most of the a/c components are pretty exposed, especially in the Catalina. Seems like Chrysler would tend to bury more of the HVAC stuff in the dash.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Yeah, but on those old monsters you're better off just installing a new, more efficient AC system for them rather than trying to refurbish the old stone-knives-and-bear-claws stuff they have now.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,348
    Andre - just realized that your Intrepid and my Accord were bought about a month apart. Very close to the same mileage as well.

    We just keep it rolling. Someone backed into it in a parking lot so I have to replace a tail lens. It scratched up the bumper but at this point it's not worth fixing that. Mechanically it runs pretty much as it always has. I need to figure out where two interior bulbs are (odometer and clock). That's about it.

    Since my wife is the primary driver on that now (I got stuck with the van because she travels during the day and puts loads more miles on than I do) I won't do anything with it until she wants to. That could be a long time. Her dad was a car salesman and went through loads of cars. Her mom always drilled it into her head - "don't fall in love with a car. It'll be gone." That works for me.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    Keep the R-12, it runs colder! (Of course, it is also MUCH worse for the atmosphere if it leaks).

    In California I have heard we have special laws that outlaw the use of R-12 even from existing supply. However, the flip side of that is the whole price for conversion to R134a is down to about $600-800 depending on the model and how buried things are, as a whole cottage industry has sprung up around it.

    It's either convert or get used to the warmth, no exceptions...

    This is a good example for this thread, as A/C systems in old cars tend to leak all those good CFCs into the ozone. Should one still be driving around in it once it is doing that, or should one have replaced it before that? Of course, you could just pay to have the system professionally drained once it got to a certain point, but since you wouldn't know it was leaking until it was all done, I don't know how you would anticipate it in time to do any good.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,201
    The best time to convert from R-12 (freon) to R-134a is if the compressor goes on the old vehicle, and you'd have to replace the compressor in any event to have A/C.
  • jeromebjeromeb Posts: 31
    To the opening poster,
    I do plan to keep my car until critical components fail ...
    Then I plan to replace them. I'm still making payments because at the end of 2003 I didn't want to make another repair on a paid-off car. What hurts, teaches. I've learned.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    Yeah, but on those old monsters you're better off just installing a new, more efficient AC system for them rather than trying to refurbish the old stone-knives-and-bear-claws stuff they have now.

    Would the a/c setup in my '67 & '76 Pontiacs really be all that different from what's in my Silverado, though? Or would it be best to just put an all-new System in the Silverado, as well?

    Oh, final mechanic's bill for the Intrepid came to around $590. Front end is nice and tight again. A/C turned out to just be low on Freon. But he couldn't find where it was leaking from. I know a/c systems are supposed to be totally closed, but is it possible that, with time, they just leak a little, while still being perfectly functional? It had been at the point where it would blow nice and cold up to maybe the high 80's, but once you got into the 90's, you were almost better off just rolling down the windows.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971
    This is a good example for this thread, as A/C systems in old cars tend to leak all those good CFCs into the ozone. Should one still be driving around in it once it is doing that, or should one have replaced it before that? Of course, you could just pay to have the system professionally drained once it got to a certain point, but since you wouldn't know it was leaking until it was all done, I don't know how you would anticipate it in time to do any good.

    Nah, you would know that there was a problem with the a/c well before all the freon was evacuated. As an example, in my previous post about my Intrepid, it was a little low on freon, to the point that the a/c worked fine in temps up to the high 80's, but once you got into the 90's, it was almost useless. Even in home systems, it can be like this. The heat pump at my old condo wasn't working so well anymore, and it turns out it was just low on freon. Not totally out, but just low.
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