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Cash for Clunkers - Good or Bad Idea?



  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,458
    The timing chain tensioner on the 3800 series 1 V6 in my Pontiac Bonneville finally wore out after 140,000 or so miles. I had to replace the tensioner and the chain plus while I had a third of the passenger side of the engine off I changed all the sensors on that side, oil pump, water pump and after I broke a bolt off in the timing chain cover so I bought a new cover too.

    Most cars with timing chains don't have scheduled replacement services. You just replace the chain and tensioner when they wear out.

    Engines with timing belts are much cheaper to build then engines with timing chains. They weigh less and an interference style engine is much more compact especially if it is a four cylinder.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    (I got the ad.)

    An interesting trend I'm seeing over on Edmunds Answers is that some would be clunker people aren't going to qualify because they have a gap in their insurance coverage during the last year.

    One case just involved a move and misdirected mail while another was a true clunker that wasn't worth insuring since, although the car sort of ran and was still registered, it had been parked for a few months. Then when the clunker law was passed, whoops, that's a problem.

    It is sort of a nice "gotcha" for those intentionally driving bare just to save a buck, who would otherwise now want to trade in their clunker.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,523
    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.

    I don't think there is a set schedule for timing chain replacement. As long as you change your oil fairly regularly and don't let it run low, they should theoretically last forever. Especially in a pushrod engine where there's not a very long distance between the camshaft and crankshaft.

    Back in 2001, when I didn't know whether my Intrepid had a chain or belt, I emailed DC, and got the following response...

    "Thank you for your e-mail regarding your 2000 Dodge Intrepid.

    The 2.7L V6 engine has a timing chain. DaimlerChrysler recommends that you have the chain inspected at approximately 105,000 miles to determine if it needs to be changed or adjusted.

    I hope you find this information helpful.

    Thank you again for writing."

    Now, I have no idea how you inspect the chain. Don't you have to tear into the engine to do that? And at that point, if you're in there that far, might as well just do it, anyway? Or maybe there's a way to measure how much slop there is between the camshaft and crankshaft? My mechanic at the time said that as long as I kept up on oil changes and didn't let it run low, it should be fine. He might not have expected me to keep the car this long, though!
  • BMW540BMW540 Posts: 33
    Can you lease a car for 3 years when you turn in your car for cash for clunkers or only 5?
    Thanks BMW
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    A lease has to be at least five years in order to qualify.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I don't know of a way to inspect the chain without taking the cover off and, yeah, if you go to all that work, you might as well just replace it.

    If a tensioner go's bad, you'll know it and if a timing chain REALLY get's worn and stretched you may hear it rubbing on the inside of the cover.

    As far as "adjusting" it, I have no idea how a person could adjust a worn timing chain?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    How long will the money last?

    "The Cash for Clunkers website has gotten at least 1.3 million hits since it was launched only weeks ago. The government's hotline got 10,000 calls this past week.The Cash for Clunkers page got 16,000 hits in its first three hours."

    Savvy Shopper: Cash for Clunkers Questions (Edmunds Daily)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    you'd have to be a little loopy to lease a car for 5 years. That's a rather bad thing to encourage people to do. I object !!!! :surprise:
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    I'm with you, Shifty. When I was in the business, I only remember doing one five-year lease. The guy was so far upside down in a car he couldn't stand, the only way we could get him out was to roll the negative equity into a five-year lease on a new '96 Accord coupe. Hope he liked it--there would've been pretty much no way out of that lease!
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    All good questions...

    from the selling side..

    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?

    Paperwork is key. No paperwork, no deal. From our pov, we aren't taking any chances that vehicles are not what the prospective buyer represents them to be. If the customer's paperwork isn't in order then he/she just has to go back and get it in order.

    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?

    The rules are pretty clear and direct. At least as we see it now. The NHTSA has specified what they need. We will get that documentation at the time of exchange. If they change the rules and tell us that other docs are needed then we'll just have to go back to the buyer. But right now there are no such uncertainties. The only one that might be in effect is if there is a loan outstanding on the clunker and the lender holds the title. The lenders often are not that quick to pass along the titles after the liens are paid off.

    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?

    As noted before the program was originally foreseen to last one year and inject $4 Billion. If the program is a raging success and it begins to run out of money in say 60 days then I'm certain that it will be extended another 90 days and another $1 Billion until the $4 Billion is reached.

    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?

    Local issue. We have handouts for the buyers and preprinted forms and laminated desktoppers for the public. Every salesperson and every manager is aware of it, some are more aware than others.

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

    It is going live on Friday.

    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.

    We are the largest store of any brand / any make in a 150 mi radius.. We're ready to roll on Friday.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    With a few isolated models all Toyota vehicles now use chains. None ever need to be replaced or serviced. There is nothing in any Toyota service regimen that requires maintenance or replacement of any timing chain. New and better technology since the 70s and 80s.
  • I have the perfect C4C but most likely will not be able to trade in under the program it in a 1989 Bronco full size with fuel rating mileage of 13 combined. I have owned it since 1995 but in December I transferred plates to my 1995 Accord and two months later my wife 2003 Accord blew up so I transferred plates to the Bronco from her Accord and had to transfer title on the Bronco to my wife. If anyone has heard any different I could use the help. When I called the C4C line they said the two months unregistered made me ineligible.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738

    Engines with timing belts are much cheaper to build then engines with timing chains. They weigh less and an interference style engine is much more compact especially if it is a four cylinder.

    Yet Toyota managed to do both by just putting cut-outs in the tops of the cylinders so even if the worst happens, nothing makes contact. Small, interference, and chain or belt makes no difference if it breaks.

    I still maintain that engines that grenade when the belt or chain breaks are a known defective design.
  • 94gs94gs Posts: 59
    We are the largest store of any brand / any make in a 150 mi radius.. We're ready to roll on Friday.

    Do you think the following will work on your dealership?

    1. A letter from my insurance company saying I have continuous coverage for at least one year.

    2. Current registration card and a copy of last year's registration card (I am lucky to keep last year's; otherwise, I need to pay $15 and fill out a form to request DMV to provide a copy of my registration history).

    3. Title of the car (no lien)

    4. A print out of the MPG raging of my car from

    I am not sure the dealer will accept item #4...

    How will the dealers verify the MPG rating of a trade-in?
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    1 Yes
    2 Yes
    3 Yes
    4 Yes, that's also the site that we're using for verification of whether a prospective clunker qualifies or not.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    " I'm certain that it will be extended another 90 days"

    Oh, really? They can change the rules at anytime. I wouldn't be so sure of anything.
  • maryh3maryh3 Posts: 263
    Is that article saying that they will match the government's incentive? So if I get a Jeep Compass and trade in my 18 mpg T&C --- I'll get not only $4500 from the government, but Chrysler will add $4500 to it?
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    Yeah, but you'd be stuck with a Jeep Compass.
  • maryh3maryh3 Posts: 263
    You can hate me all you want, and tell me my experience is not what it is, but I've had good luck with Chrysler's.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,523
    You can hate me all you want, and tell me my experience is not what it is, but I've had good luck with Chrysler's.

    I think Stephen meant that as a joke...although from what I've heard, the Compass isn't too highly regarded. However, I do know someone who has one, and loves it.

    And with Chrysler doubling the voucher, I have to admit, it's starting to get tempting. I like the new Ram pickup. Only problem is, they don't make a Ram that's economical enough, compared to my '85 Silverado, for me to qualify for the $4500. My truck is 13 mpg combined, while the best the Ram ekes out is 16. Doesn't matter if it's the V-6 or the Hemi, it's still 16. I'd also be afraid of a truck that big with just a 3.7 liter engine!

    Still, I'd qualify for the $3500 rebate, which would come out to $7K if Chrysler doubles it. Awfully tempting, but still, I don't know if it's enough to get me back into car payments and increased insurance and such. And still, for something that would be a backup vehicle for the most part.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    Sure they can. All the auto industry has to do is get their congress people lined up and do it. In the face of raging demand from the buying public, if that's what does actually occur, then an extention for another 90 days is easy to justify since it responds to the 'voice of the people'.

    Remember the auto industry wanted a 12 month, $4 Billion, 1 million unit program. It was shaved down to 90 days, $1 Billion and 250,000 units in order to satisfy a certain group of skeptics.

    If the sound of the public pounding on the doors of dealerships demanding to drop off their guzzlers is loud enough then it will be an easy step for Congress to satisfy that demand. Extend the program. They wrote the law they can change it if the public wants it changed.
  • maryh3maryh3 Posts: 263
    Thanks - sometimes a deal is extremely good. I rented a Patriot 2 years ago, and no, it was not the best handling vehicle nor the most refined or comfortable... but $9000 + off the price? I'm tempted to test drive a manual transmission Compass they have here.

    Not sure about the safety though.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 25,942
    I was just curious to see if any of my cars qualified, so I took a look on the gov website. According to the site, my '92 Mazda pickup (what I would WANT to use for the program) gets 20 mpg combined, while my wife's '87 BMW 325 gets 18. I find that very odd since I would have a very difficult time getting such low mileage in the BMW. We get 24 in mixed driving without even trying. So, the reality of the situation is that I could turn in a car getting 24mpg for one getting 22mpg and benefit from the incentive.

    So this has pushed me from the camp of "I don't care" to "this is a bad idea."

    '18 BMW 330xi; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '18 BMW X2. 47-car history and counting!

  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,910
    Maybe I overlooked it earlier, but this isn't one of those deals where everything is based on full MSRP, right? I am sure those numbers are a bit inflated, and one might be able to do just as well on their own.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 25,942
    but $9000 + off the price?

    My guess is the Chrysler money is in lieu of any other rebates/incentives (as fintail commented). So it is probably exactly $9k off the sticker. However, its not really "off" the price because you are, after all, giving them your T&C to send to the crusher.

    '18 BMW 330xi; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '18 BMW X2. 47-car history and counting!

  • maryh3maryh3 Posts: 263
    My T&C doesn't have much value due to high mileage and trashed interior and even some minor body damage that was never repaired. I'm the poster child for this program.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,523
    Even if it's off MSRP, I'd imagine that $9000 off of a Jeep Compass would be pretty substantial. I doubt those have much margin in them anyway. What do they start off at, maybe $18-20K?

    Something like a Dodge Ram, which is what I'd be in the market for, would have a lot more margin built in, so $9000 (or $7000 in my case) off probably isn't that big of a deal.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    On a bit of a different note, you can get a 2009 Hyundai Accent base MT for $9,046 TMV ($10,690 MSRP).

    It gets 29 combined so a minivan swap for it yields the bigger $4,500 voucher.

    Ignoring tax and title, you could get into a brand new car for under $5,000.

    The car may not be your cup of tea, but half off is killer.

    I'm beginning to understand why the local dealer has 10 or so presold cars on their back lot.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    Of coiurse they can. They can do anything.

    You used the word certain and nothing is for certain.

    Just keep printing more money as our national debt remains on a corkscrew to hell.

    They could make this a permanent program if they wanted to.
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