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Cash for Clunkers - Good or Bad Idea?



  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    Buying a car with an interference engine doesn't make a person an "idiot".

    True. But I'm certainly going to take into account the cost of scheduled maintenance when I pick a car to replace my Ram 1500/Civic combo sometime in the next few weeks.

    Honda now uses timing chains on its four cylinder engines--a real plus alongside the Hyundai Elantra, which uses a belt with a 60k replacement interval on an interference engine.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    I have to plead "duh",...what is an interference engine? :confuse:
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    That is a concern with buying the Elantra Touring. The 60k service per the Edmunds Maintenance Guide is ~$500, and the timing belt is a significant part of that service (and that's assuming the dealer doesn't try to rip you off on the bill). And if the belt breaks prematurely, then while it's going to be a warranty item up to 10/100, but you'll still lose a few days in the shop, not to mention the risk of having an accident trying to coast to the shoulder.

    Not quite a deal killer but a definite minus.

    Mickeyrom, an interference engine can suffer bent valves, damaged pistons or worse when a timing belt/chain breaks. A non-interference engine will simply lose power but usually doesn't damage any of the internal parts if the belt breaks. Still not a safe situation if you lose your engine on the freeway in rush hour, but lots of us ignore the recommended timing belt change interval knowing our engines are non-interference.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,534
    An interference engine is a design where the range of motion of the valves overlaps that of the pistons....just not at the same time so long as the timing belt/chain hasn't broken, slipped, or stretched.

    When the timing belt breaks, the valves pretty much stop right where they are...some totally closed, some totally open, and some somewhere in between. However, the pistons keep moving up and down. On a non-interference engine, the pistons can't reach any of the valves, but on the interference, they'll smash the valves that they can reach.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    I don't know about the Elantra,but the KIA 4 cylinder engine has a timing chain,while the 2.7 V6 has a timing belt/
    As an aside,I had a 1987 Chrysler Lebaron Coupe, and at 100,000 miles the timing belt broke.It damaged nothing at all, I had to simply replace the belt and drive it. It was good for at least 44,000 miles at which point I wrecked the car, and traded it.
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    The Hyundai/Kia 2.4 found in the Sonata and Optima has a chain--the 2.0 in the Elantra/Soul uses a belt.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Toyota and a few others kind of cheat as well. The 4 cylinder engine in the Tacoma, for instance, is technically interference but the tops of the cylinders have a notch cut out in them so that they don't actually make contact if the worst happens.

    A few hours in a CAD program by a Toyota engineer back in 1985 solved this problem.(technically Dodge did it first with their HEMI engines) Just no excuse after what - several decades - to see engines destroying themselves due to timing chain/belt issues. It's like buying a car with drum brakes in the rear. Just exactly HOW cheap do they have to be to do that sort of thing these days?
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    Thanks..why would they do that? Makes no sense to me.By any chance do you know if the 3.8 engine in my Chrysler has a chain or a belt?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    When Ford and Nissan did the joint venture to make the Villager/Quest, Ford insisted that Nissan tweak the motor to make it non-interference. Even now, if you go to Gates, they think it's an interference engine because it's the same one that's in the Pathfinder. But Nissan lowered the cam or something and made it non-interference for the vans.

    Back to clunkers, More Than 100,000 Car Shoppers Waiting to Buy (AutoObserver)

    "CARS backers estimate the program will add 250,000 vehicle sales in its three months it is in effect."
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    The usual reason cited for using a belt is lower noise levels. Advocates of a chain tend to cheer for the lower cost of maintenance.

    Most OHC fours used a chain till about 1980 (Fiat and Lotus used belts earlier). The '80s and '90s were the heyday of the timing belt, though Saturn bucked the trend by using a chain in its 1.9L engine. Toyota and Honda began moving back toward chains in the past decade.

    Pushrod engines (those without an overhead camshaft) almost never use a belt. This includes most traditional Detroit V6s and V8s, but I'm not sure of the origin of the Chrysler 3.8 design.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,534
    I found a schematic of the 3.3 on Allpar, and it's showing a timing chain. The 3.8 is just a bored or stroked out version of the 3.3, so I'd imagine it should have a chain too, unless there was some running change made somewhere along the line. The 3.3/3.8 are supposed to be good, durable engines, although they are pushrod, so they're going to be derided by some for being low-tech. I think they might have an iron block and aluminum heads, which can put stress on the head gaskets with age, as the difference rates of heating and cooling of the two metals takes their toll.

    I had an '88 LeBaron turbo coupe. The servicing interval for the timing belt was every 60K miles as I recall, but we were bad and waited until 90k. :blush: And soon after that I gave it to my ex-wife in the divorce. The 2.2 was designed by the same guy who did the old Slant Six, and I believe the big block and smallblock wedge head V-8's as well, so it was designed to be durable (by 1980's standards at least) and easy to work on.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,534
    It's like buying a car with drum brakes in the rear. Just exactly HOW cheap do they have to be to do that sort of thing these days?

    The Toyota Prius has drum brakes in back! :surprise: Personally, I think disc brakes in the rear are over-rated. Maybe in some high-performance car that you want to push to the limit on a regular basis, but I'd imagine most of the masses wouldn't know what kind of brakes they have in back.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    Gee Andre,that sounds most painful.By any chance do you know if there is a recommended change for the timing chains? Now this conversation has got me Town and Country has 155,000 miles on it.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    How does a novice know if a car has an interference engine.Surely not just because it has a timing belt.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    This conversation got me to thinking about how self-contradictory the classic car buffs can be at times---they protest that C4C destroys "collectible cars" and yet they ignore the fact that if these "classics" were indeed worth more than $4500, the marketplace would have already protected them.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    There is a site on Facebook where they are very anti C4C on the basis of collectibles.I think anyone who has a "classic" is not about to give it up for $4500 so it's a silly argument.Besides,nobody is required to trade in their car.It's just an option.I do admit though it has made me do much more thought about trading in my 12 year old van,which I had not considered before.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,534
    How does a novice know if a car has an interference engine.Surely not just because it has a timing belt.

    There may be a better way to do this, or a more concise list on the internet somewhere, but there is a timing belt brochure pdf that can be downloaded at:

    In the brochure, they put an asterisk next to the engines that are interference.

    However, this only works for cars that have a timing belt, since it's a timing belt brochure! If the car has a timing chain, I don't know if there's a way to tell.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    I think disc brakes in the rear are over-rated

    Me too and I liked that about the Prius. Everytime a salesperson brags about rear discs, I tell them that my minivan rear drums are still OEM at 133k and in theory I could change them (it's been 30 years since I did a drum brake replacement). On my Outback, the pads would be easy to change back there, but for the ebrake. It sounds like a real hassle to fool with because of the internal drum rear hand brake stuff.

    Anybody buying Friday?

    (Take Gates with a grain of salt - they sell belts and I think they are wrong about my van).
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Wasn't the 1985 cut-off date a compromise for classic car collector's? My neighbor that restores mostly GM cars, bought a 1959 Cadillac two door hardtop for $1800. It has been sitting in a field since 1983. He changed all the fluids and it started and the transmission still worked. Sold it for $4000 and was happy to make a profit. It needed a lot of work before it would be presentable. He has too many projects.

    So I don't think this bill will affect the classic car market at all. If there is such a thing as a classic car since 1985 at least the body parts will be available to the trade.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Exactly---even if you had say a 1986 Corvette that needed restoration, the voucher of $4500 is the best price you'll get for it--a lot better than the open marketplace would get you for an '86 roach of that sort.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,534
    Yeah, the cutoff is 1985. I have a feeling that the main reason they picked that number, however, is EPA data. The set of EPA data that they use to determine whether a car qualifies as a "clunker" only goes back to 1985. In 1984, they only have the old, raw laboratory data. And for 1979-83, they only list the city rating...not highway or combined, although I'm sure that data might be stored away somewhere.

    And while there isn't much in the way of "classics" from 1985-2001, I still can't see very many worthwhile cars getting crushed. For example, let's suppose that some kid has a well-preserved 1986 Monte Carlo with a 305, that he's put a lot of time, money, and devotion into. I really couldn't him suddenly getting dollar signs in his eyes, and condemning it to the crusher just to get $4500 off of a new Hyundai! For one thing, if the kid put that much effort into the Monte, it's pretty evident that the Monte is what he wants, not some new economy car. And if the car's really nice, he could probably find someone willing to pay $4500 or more for it, anyway. And even if he couldn't, the car is probably worth more than $4500 to him.

    Now, if it was a ratted out Monte Carlo, that would be a different story. I had a 1986, which is why the above example popped into my mind. It had 192,000 miles on it when I got t-boned. The dash was cracked, the paint was horribly faded, there was a worn spot in the carpet, the power antenna was broken, but in the up position at least, and the stand-up knight hood ornament had broken off, and was in the trunk. I could see someone with a car like that going for a deal like this, if they were in the market for a new car. I wouldn't have, just because I'd be thinking about the bigger cost picture...monthly payments, insurance, and so forth. Plus the fact that if I wanted the full $4500, I'd have to get a car that got something like 27-28 mpg combined, and that market is mostly small cars.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    It is hardly a "design flaw". It is simply the way the engine is made.

    For crying out loud, just replace the belt every 100,000 mjiles or whatever the book says and you'll never have a problem!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Interference engines are designed for a lower deck height to get them into those svoopy-doopy cars we all like these days. Belts are quieter than chains, and don't require an oil bath casting, so also cheaper to make.

    It's all about engineering compromises. A FWD, belt-driven car is cheaper and easier to make than a RWD, chain-driven car, pound for pound.

    Which is why MOST cars today are.....??? (and also why you can buy a perfectly wonderful little car for $16000 in 2009).
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    A 60k service with the timing belt on an Elantra sedan runs around $650 per the Edmunds Maintenance Guide but Backy and others over in the Elantra boards indicate that many dealers charge upwards of $800 for the 60k service.

    So my TCO just took a big pop. It's my old printer example. I have a 17 year old Laserjet III that gets the job done and the toner lasts forever. I've turned down offers of free inkjets because the ink dries up in 3 months and that's a $20 bill to get it going again.

    I wouldn't be driving a clunker if I didn't know how to make it run a long time without burning a hole in my wallet every six months.
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    (and also why you can buy a perfectly wonderful little car for $16000 in 2009).

    Which brings me back around to the process of the deal.

    I'm looking seriously at maybe half a dozen different possibilities to replace my clunker (and my old Civic as well). Where in the past I would've just gone to my local Honda dealer and called for "the usual," there are more good choices than there were the last time I was in the market. This, in turn, means that I may find myself choosing not just on the basis of the car itself but the dealer as well.

    There are several open issues, and in the absence of clear guidance from NHTSA I'm wondering if different dealers will approach each one differently:

    1. Paperwork snafus. Will dealers have adequate info to perform due diligence on the C4C vehicles? Will they apply a uniform standard of documentation? Will insurance companies be prepared to issue a standard "statement of continuous coverage" if I can't find an outdated insurance card because I cleaned out the glove compartment? Will DMV offices around the country be providing a "statement of continuous registration"? Or will lots of folks be unable to take advantage of the program because they lost last year's registration card?

    2. If a dealership does its due diligence and then receives notice of a problem from NHTSA, will that come back to bite the dealer--or the customer?

    3. What happens when the $1B runs out? Will dealers who have voucher claims pending be left out in the cold? And if so, will they go after the customers for more money after the fact?

    4. The latest info from says dealers can begin to register on the 23rd, and processing of vouchers will begin on the 27th. Are dealers vetted at all in this process--do they have to designate someone as their C4C point person, and have that person demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the regulations?

    5. Perhaps most pressingly of all, can all of these matters be resolved by the time the program "goes live."

    My usual response to a situation like this would be to wait a few weeks for the bugs to be worked out of the system, but of course there's the possibility of the program ending early because the money runs out.

    I'd be particularly interested in hearing from anyone out there who works for a participating dealership on these matters. I think the stickiness of some of these rules will make it even more important than usual to buy from a trusted dealership.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    So why can they use a timing chain in a 2006.5 KIA Optima 2.4 engine?I assume that practice has continued in later models,or am I wrong? How about the Hyundai V6 engines? Don't they have chains too? I know that the 2.7 in the KIAs require the 60K belt replacement.
    Seems to me that the interference design is faulty.Why make any engine less reliable on purpose,unless they just want to sell the service.
  • 94gs94gs Posts: 59
    Yeah, the cutoff is 1985. I have a feeling that the main reason they picked that number, however, is EPA data.

    I had the same conclusion when I visited the data starts at year 1985.

    If true, this indicates that the MPG ratings used to determine eligibility will be based on the numbers and not by VIN.

    BTW, On Friday July 24th, dealers will not be able to input sales for NHTSA processing until Monday July 27th.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    Timing chains and tensioners wear out too.

    I wonder why 60K? Honda says 105,000 miles or 7 years whichever comes first.
  • mickeyrommickeyrom Posts: 936
    I'm sure they do,which is why I asked,or attempted to ask,if there is a schedule for replacing timing chains.If there is mine might be due after 155,000 miles.
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    This is not an advertising forum. Try
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