1 repair question, 1 purchase question

I actually have 2 questions, here they are:

1. I currently drive a 1991 Buick Regal and about a week ago a small flume of foul smelling smoke started rising out of the steering column. It did this once before, several months ago, and both times only did it on the one drive home (15-30 minutes) and didn’t do it again after I turned the car off and back on. I’m assuming it’s something like the wiring with the turn signal…could that be correct or is it something more dramatic?

2) With the Buick getting pretty old and the repair costs gradually rising, I’m starting to think about a “new” used car. I drive it to work (5 miles) and other errands everyday and it would need to able to hold 2 adults and a car seat (and another in the next 3-5 years). We can spend no more than $7500. Any suggestions?

Sorry for the long post.

Ok, first of all-smoke of any type in a car is bad news. Cars can and do catch on fire and it’s not something to be taken lightly. My first instinct would be to of course take the column apart and start an inspection, but given the age of this car it may be best to move onto something newer. You mention car seats which means children, which means safety is important. I don’t consider a 1991 Buick Regals safe enough. So for now, carry a small fire extinguisher in the car (no it’s not a crazy idea) and have an independent mechanic inspect the column. It’s not hard.

$7500 can buy you a decent car-don’t worry, but keep in mind you should be trying to negotiate a $8,500 car down to $7,500. Every $1,000 will count big here in what you can get. $10,000 would be ideal, but we can work with $7500. You need reliable and durable so I’m going to say go Japanese, and more specifically look at a 2000 or later Toyota Avalon, a 2000 or later Toyota Camry, and if you don’t mind American a 2004 and later Ford Taurus.

Hope this helps-good luck.

I think you have an intermittent electrical short in the wiring in or near the steering column. If no fuses are blown, it’s a circuit on the battery side of the fuse block and that could lead to a fire. Have it checked out.

No matter what you get, be sure to pay a mechanic to give the car a used car inspection. $100 can mean the difference between something that’s less safe than the Regal or a gem of a deal. Also, put aside a grand or two for any future repairs the new car may have. I’d look at a newer Hyundai Elantra or Sonata. Depreciation on used Hyundais is steep, so a like new one can be had for cheap.

The smoke from the steering column is from a defective multifunction switch. I can’t tell you how many of these switches I’ve replaced in GM vehicles for this problem.


Yu should be able to get a 2003 Regal LS from a dealer for less than $7500. You might even find a 2004 Regal LS from a private party for that price. I have a 1998 Regal LS. It’s the same generation as the 2003/2004 models. Nice car; it changed in 1998 ('97+1/2)from the previous generation.