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10-Year old car. Original parts. Replace them all?

I have a 1998 Dodge Stratus. I recently paid a lot to have the fuel pump replaced.

My car has 175,000 miles on it and apparently, mostly if not all orignal parts. (I was given the car and the maintenance record is limited.)

The serpentine and timing belts have not been replaced and neither has the water pump.

I’m going to need new tires soon.

Is it worth it to spend all the money it would cost to replace all of those parts?

(A year ago I asked about the serpentine belt, didn’t replace it.)

I wonder if I should take the money I would be spending on repairs to fund a newer car. I don’t have a lot of money.

If I were you:

  • first I’d find a mechanic I could trust.

  • then I would take the car to them. I would explain this, and ask them to give all of the major systems a once over for signs of being at or near need of replacement/maintenance - include a check of the engine (compression and such).

  • Ask for an estimate for all items.

  • Compare the estimate to the Kelly Blue Book value for the car (

  • And I would do it really soon.

Thanks for the reply. According to Kelley Blue Book, my car would be worth (trade-in):
Excellent Condition: $1075
Good: 825
Fair: 500

I’d say my car falls into the “fair” category.

I would also ask the mechanic for the overall condition of the drivetrain. To me, it is not so much the ‘Blue Book’ value of a car, but the value to me. If the car is in decent mechanical shape, and I know the maintenance history, is continued maintenance costs worth a paid for, fairly reliable transportation, versus thousands for a used replacement with unknown maintenance history, or tens of thousands for new.

BTW, the parts mentioned are typical maintenance items that should have been replaced long ago. A used car will have the exact same issues. This is a cost you’ll be spending on ANY car you decide to own.

Miss DJ, Answer Just One Question, Please …

You state, “(A year ago I asked about the serpentine belt, didn’t replace it.).” You obviously were advised to replace the serpentine belt, but chose not to. Why should anyone bother to give advice that you don’t heed?

When did you get this car exactly? Just because there’s limited maintenance records doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t had any maintenenance-- the sad fact is that most people don’t keep records of what they do to their car.

I find it very hard to believe you’re still on your original timing belt, although if you don’t know when it’s been replaced that is definitely something I would do if this is an interference engine that will cause engine damage if the belt breaks. Really by 175k you should probably be just about due for your third one! I would do the water pump only if it’s one that’s run by the timing belt. The serpentine belt is worth doing if it looks cracked, but it won’t really break anything if it breaks (so long as you stop driving).

Value is a common misconception here, because the value of a running car to you is much greater than 500 dollars. If you must spend 1500 for another car that runs and is reliable, and you sell yours for 500, you must spend 1000 dollars for the new car. However, if you can fix your own for 5 or 600, then you have a car that is essentially worth 900 or 1000 dollars, because you do not have to go out and spend 1500 on another one.

Admitted amateur gave you exactly the right advice, take it somewhere trusted, have them give a once-over and see what all it needs. If it’s going to be many thousands, either trade it in or hang a for sale sign on it and try to recoup a couple of hundred bucks. A running car is at least worth a few hundred.

If the timing belt has not been replaced and needs to be, water pump and serpentine does not add much cost except a bit for slightly more labor and the cost of parts.

Everything you list is not repairs! Its all maintenance including tires. Tires are quite inexpensive with store brands or ones like Kumho (price shop here).

Given your statement, I don’t have a lot of money I don’t see how replacing is the best option. Fix and save for a newer used vehicle. Buying anything under $5000-$6000 IMHO is setting yourself up for an expensive headache.

Here is the link:

My serpentine belt had a few cracks in it. The question was about what other things I should replace at the same time, if indeed I needed to replace the serpentine belt.

After doing some research, I found that the spacing of the cracks on the belt indicated it could hang on for a bit longer. I also reviewed the records and it seemed that the belts may have been replaced at 105k miles. I’ll admit I’m not car savvy at all, but I do try to research and ask for advice when needed. Thanks.

My parents gave me the car about 2.5 yrs ago. My mom bought it used a few years before that. My dad tends to handle repairs himself so the records were a little iffy and neither of my parents could remember exactly if the belts had been replaced, but my dad thought it probably had been or it hadn’t been necessary.

Thanks. Should I expect to pay for the inspection?

That 105k figure is a common TIMING BELT (sorry for the caps) interval, don’t confuse timing belt and serpentine belt.

If there is no slippage, you don’t need to replace the serpentine belt just now. You’ll know it’s slipping if it squeals. You might want to replace the timing belt. See how much a water pump costs if it’s done at the same time or if it’s done at another time. If the savings is good, do them both. Otherwise, wait for the water pump to fail. Stick a penny in the treads of your tires at the baldest spot. When you can see all of Abe’s head, replace the tires. Not just any place - do it where the tread is least. Don’t mess with tires. They can save your life.

I would be tempted to tell you to do the maintenance and keep the vehicle if the engine and transmission are solid.
Buying a new car means you’re flushing a ton of money down the hole in interest and buying another used car means you’re buying a pig in a poke.

Everything you mention is normal wear and tear stuff that must be done on every car.
That engine is an interference type, which means if the timing belt breaks, or if a belt tensioner gives up, or if the water pump decides to disentegrate then cylinder head valve damage (at the least) will occur.

As to the serpentine belt, a number of small cracks is acceptable for the timing being; MOST of the time. If the belt is glazed or has substantially larger cracks in it then it should have been replaced long ago.
I’m of the opinion that heading the little problems off before they become big problems is the best policy.

I wonder if I should take the money I would be spending on repairs to fund a newer car. I don’t have a lot of money.

Buying a different car almost always is more expensive than fixing and maintaining your current car. The only exception would be if the cost of the newer car, which is in better condition, is less than the cost of the repairs, and even then you might be better off with your current car with the maintenance and repairs done as they will be done and on another car, you don’t know if similar problems are waiting for you there unless you are buying new.

I got a quote of $615 to replace the water pump, serpentine and timing belt. That’s parts and $95/hr labor.

I would just like the add that having a belt break really sucks.

As someone who’s had this happen, I can honestly say that it is worth the $60-75 a shop might charge you to replace the serp. belt if you’re not sure it’s been replaced in the last 40K miles or so.

A failed $60 belt could easily ruin the car if the engine is allowed to overheat due to the water pump not spinning. It can also cause an accident if you suddenly lose power steering during a maneuver and aren’t prepared.