Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Friend - The Money Pit

In 1999 I had a 1985 Chevrolet Celebrity that broke down on the way to my golf game. I was able to drive it into the MacPherson Chevrolet in Irvine (off the 5 Freeway at Lake Forest) and told them to fix the problem. It was my second car as we had newer car that we drove most of the time. Ann drove the newer car and the Chevrolet was my car to use for errands and golf.

I needed a ride home and Ann wasn't there. So I called my neighbor Ted and he came to get me. While I was waiting for him to show up, I visited the used car lot and spotted the car pictured above -- a 1992 Chevrolet Cavalier. They wanted $4,995 for it. When Ted got there, we took the car for a test drive and I fell in love! Got to have it! I pointed out my car to the salesman and said if he would give me $1,500 in trade for that I will buy this one for the balance.

He agreed. But -- I needed to get Ann's approval first. After I got home, Ann and I went to the dealer and test drove the car once more. She agreed with me that it would be a big improvement on what I was driving and we made the deal.

Yes, the car has had problems over the years -- haven't we all! But every time I spent some money on it, I appreciated the car more and wanted to keep it. I have bought this car a couple of times with repairs but still wanted to keep it. One day while I was getting gas at a local Shell station, a young girl drove up behind the car and got out to ask me where I got it. I told her and she said that it used to be her car and the dealer said they would have to get rid of the car as it would be too expensive to bring up to standard. Of course, they gave her very little in trade. Now she finds it out on the street! Car dealers!

In June 2007 I took my grandson to an Angel's ball game with the New York Yankees and you know it was sold out. Over 44,000 people there and the parking lot filled up. After an exciting game they had fireworks. I usually leave the game about the top of the 9th and get out of the lot before the others. This time we decided to stay for the fireworks. Big error! By the time we got to the car, the lot was jammed with cars trying to leave and it took 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot. Once on the 57 freeway we thought we had smooth sailing and then everything came to a halt. They (Cal Trans) decided to repave the 5 freeway leaving only two lanes open going south. We were literally on a parking lot for a very long time.

Guess what happened? The car overheated and actually pegged out - as hot as it can get! We couldn't get off and we couldn't go forward. I finally got him home about 12:45 a.m. and drove the car (hot) home. I had a feeling that I had fried the engine and took it to the Chevrolet dealer near me. After a day or two, they told me that the engine was ok but the heater core had to be replaced as that was where the coolent was going out. A labor intensive job since the dash had to be removed -- mucho dollars. I took the car on a trip to Newport Beach to a luncheon and on the way back home, it overheated once again. I drove right into the dealers service area and they had the car for a couple more days.

This time they replaced some things (at my cost) and then called me to tell me the engine was too bad and had to be replaced at the tune of $3,100. I told them I would think about it and get back to them with a decision. After about a week, I told them I am having it towed home and not fixed at this time. When I was waiting for them to bring the car out, they drove it to me! So we drove it up on the tow truck and got it home. I could drive it in and out of the garage so I could get to things behind it. But it couldn't be driven on the street as it would lose water.

I placed it on Non-Operation status with the DMV and dropped insurance to only Comprehensive. It sat for months with me going back and forth in my mind as to whether to have the car fixed or not. If not, I was going to give it to a charity or sell it for parts. I was told about a company that would give you $500 for any car working or not. That was going to be my choice if I was not going to fix it.

I internet searched for rebuild and used engines thinking the dealer's mechanics knew what they were talking about. Finally in September of this year I called the owner of A-Z Tech Automotive in Mission Viejo who I knew and discussed the situation with him. He said for me to tow it to his shop and he would look at it personally for free. He would let me know what the problem was and what it would cost to fix. It's my decision as to what we do. One more attempt to get it fixed and have a second car for errands and golf.

The owner called me the same day and said that the engine was fine - just had a blown head gasket. The fix is labor intensive and I agreed to have it fixed. He recommended a couple of other items when getting into the job. I trust him so said ok. The total cost was $1,265. A little less than I was quoted by the Chevrolet dealer! Not bad for a used car. Where could you go to get a used car in this shape for that price?

Something funny happened on the day I drove it home. In the mail was a letter from the Chevrolet dealer saying they missed me -- 14 months had passed!

I love having the car available. It will take miles off the newer car and allow me to drive it for a few more years. I don't have to rent a car when the good car is in the shop for repairs. I recently had to do that before I got the Chevrolet running.

Cars are a money pit -- but could we do without them?

1 comment:

Julie Hibbard said...

Good for you Dick! These days people are driving cars that have $1400 a month payments!
I love my 2001 Passat too. Paid for and very little up keep. HOpe to have it 20 years too!
Great post!