I’ve had a run of bad luck with my two little cars this year. The Ford Focus has seen my mechanic three times. In February, the power-steering pump failed. In March, a check-engine light led to replacing the thermostat and its housing. And then in April, the alternator died – in 65 mph Interstate traffic at 9:30 at night. I limped along at 25 mph on the shoulder and managed to get off the highway before the car shut down entirely. On top of that, my high-mileage Toyota Matrix needed a new axle half shaft and brakes all around. I’ve now invested $2,400 into keeping my two cars going this year. A lot of that cost is labor, as both cars cram the engine and all accessories into tiny spaces, necessitating removing lots of stuff to get at the dead part. Replacing the Focus’s alternator involved lifting the engine partway out of the car!
Repairs are part of the territory when you buy cars that are 6 to 8 years old and then drive ‘em into the ground, like I do. But my opinion about a car changes dramatically when it leaves me stranded. The car has breached a basic trust, and I think seriously about replacing it.
I came really close to putting a For Sale sign in the Focus’s window. But given all the other things competing for my dollars this year and my severe car-payment allergy, I’ve decided to stick with my two old cars. For now. If they don’t act up any more.
How much nonsense do you put up with from your car before you give up and replace it?
I also posted a version of this at Curbside Classic, a site about old cars and their stories. Check it out!