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2001 Olds Aurora-should I keep it?

This car has 105,000 miles and has a few problems. I put $1200 into it for repairs in 2008. It still has some work to be done. Check gas cap light is always on, (I’m told it’s an emissions thing and will need to be fixed b/4 next inspection.) Also bucks when I back out of garage and often goes 25 to 35 mpi when I dont’ even have my foot on the gas. I would like to keep it at least another year. Is this advisable due to the work it needs?

I would keep it if you feel it gives you what you need in a vehicle, especially if it’s paid for. Myself, I want the cheapest possible ride from point A to point B with good reliability. I attain this by maintaining the vehicle I drive until it has at least 200,000 miles. In my experience, one could have just as many problems with a new car as with a well maintained older car. Here in Austin, the sales tax alone on a new car would just about cover the $1200 you put in the Olds and then you’d still have a big payment plus higher insurance premiums.

Look in Consumer Reports and on MSN Auto for Aurora repair records. You’ll find a bad repair history for that model. Believe me, “maintaining” a reliable car beyond 100k miles is an expensive undertaking. That’s just for expected wear. Add in the unexpected stuff and the money you’re saving on sales tax, excise tax, insurance, and rapid depreciation may not cover the cost of owning an older car as unpredictable and as expensive to repair as an Aurora.

My 1997 Maxima, in contrast, has a very good repair history. I spent virtually nothing on repairs for the first 80k miles. I still have it at 155k miles. I’ll give you a good idea of what it costs to keep a RELIABLE car going beyond 100k miles using an expensive (excellent) mechanic:

At 85k - rear caliper and evap. system repair - $400. At 110k - both front axles - $600. At 115k - other rear caliper - $330. At 130k miles - rebuilt starter - $250. At 135k - rear shocks - $500. At 145k miles - alternator and front struts - $1400. At 148k - new exhaust (cat back) - $560 at Meineke. Upcoming at 155k - rebuilt manual tranny and new clutch - $1900 or less. I’ll be replacing a few front end bushings and possibly a ball joint in the spring. Some minor things adding up to $300 or so were also done along the way to keep it up.

My engine is in great shape and has an excellent reputation. My A/C, heating system, electrical system, body hardware, body, paint, interior, PS, brakes, are superior and should stand up for years. My original brake rotors should last the life of the car. I expect a caliper or two to be replaced in the next few years and possible problems with an oxygen sensor or two. Perhaps my knock sensor or my computer will fail. My cat converter? Who knows what else? All the expensive stuff will have been done by next spring to keep it in great shape for at least another 75k miles. I’ll be selling it before it hits 200k, however. That’s about when I’ll be moving from Boston to Florida.

That’s what it takes to keep a RELIABLE car going beyond 250k miles. My manual transmission probably would have lasted a lot longer had Nissan properly shimmed my input shaft bearings, but mine still lasted 50k longer than expected.

I would have never done this for an Aurora because of all the bad things I’ve been reading. Expect expensive engine, electrical (A/C, power windows, etc.), and brake problems in addition to suspension, alternator, and other problems. Your tranny may last. Then again, it may not. It sounds like you’re already having engine problems.

Reliable? The Japanese Car Myth Survives Intact

I have subscribed to Consumer Reports for decades. They’re great for rating vacuum cleaners, dish washer soap, etcetera. These things they actually thoroughly test in their labs. Car reliability ratings, on the other hand, I believe are achieved through surveys from John Q. Public. A slightly leaky rocker cover gasket carries the weight of a broken connecting rod in the engine reliability category. My CU “unreliable” “used cars to avoid” GM and Chrysler cars have needed less maintenance and repairs than this Maxima after far greater miles. I like CU, but in my opinion, their car reliability ratings are “used car ratings to avoid”. Not only that, but most of their recommended models have no dealer support anywhere near where I live. That won’t work.

Aurora Check Gas Cap

BarrBarr, That check gas cap light may actually mean that the car needs a new gas cap and/or “cleaning” of the filler pipe where the cap seals against it. Do you have an actual diagnostic trouble code? A code for “Evap system large leak” would probably light up the gas cap light and could be just what I’ve described.

$1200 for "catch up maintenance/repairs might not be too bad. $1200 per year from 01-08 would be. What was done for $1200? What is your mechanic’s diagnosis for “Also bucks when I back out of garage and often goes 25 to 35 mpi when I dont’ even have my foot on the gas.”? Do you have a competent, trustworthy, mechanic doing your work at reasonble rates? Is the car pretty nice and “clean”? Did you enjoy driving it when everything was functioning properly?

Send along more information if you’ve got it so we can offer better advice. I have a relative with an Aurora. He has well over 200,000 miles on it and still loves it.

Fordx4 has offered some good advice.

If you want inexpensive reliable transportation, keep what you have and make sure you keep the maintenance up on it. If you want a newer fancier car, then get what you want. It is a good time to buy a new car, prices are low. But don’t expect it will be cheaper to buy a new car than to take care of what you have.

Don’t compare cost based on the monthly payment. If you are financing a new car compare what you now owe to what you will owe after the purchase. Getting you to think if terms of $$ per month is a sales trick. They never want to talk about the total cost.

Repair advice:
Save oodles of money by going to a good independent mechanic. Your present mechanic may not be that. Ask around for a good mechanic, of friends and aquaint.
The problems that your car has now are so blatant that any competent mechanic could readily pinpoint the causes. Sometimes, the problem a mechanic has is one of ignorance. Ignorance can be cured (by learning). Pig-headedness and arrogance can’t.
Several systems come to mind which can cause your car problems: The throttle / throttle plate could be hanging slightly open. A large vacuum leak from intake manifold, hoses (including brake booster vacuum hose) could cause the 25 to 35 mph speeds when your foot isn’t on the gas. Where is your foot,then? If it’s on the brake, then the first thing for a mechanic to consider is a ruptured power brake booster diaphragm.
A stuck open IAC (Idle Air Control) Valve, stuck open EGR valve, stuck open evaporative control valve are other considerations.
There are instructions, and this advice page, that you can download (and print-out) for your mechanic’s erudition, to troubleshoot your car, at the following Web site:

Every member of my family who bought a Japanese car said they will never buy another vehicle from the Big 3. Nissan is not known as the most reliable car; that is Toyota or Honda.

Every Member Of My Family (Immediate And Extended) Proudly Drives Big 3 Iron.

These same people have no reason to switch to rice burners. Cars such as the ones we own require hardly any repairs, are fun and comfortable to drive and deliver economy, both in fuel savings and repair / maintenance savings. As I said and I’ll say it again, most any makes besides the Big 3 have no dealer support or parts availability anywhere near ( 100+ mile radius) where I live. That won’t work.

I have worked for Mazda and Volkswagen. I drove cars furnished by them. I have owned 2 Japanese vehicles, one a Honda.

Japanese cars are more reliable? More economical to own and drive? The Japanese Car Myth is alive and well.
P.S. I didn’t know that Nissan is not known to be the most reliable car. It’s only Honda and Toyota? Interesting.

America, What A Country!

I am thinking that a computer has gone bad on you, with the bucking and occasional high idle speed. True, your car isn’t a 1985 model but… I get tired of the GM defects in how the car runs. The other problem is no reaction to pressing the gas pedal. Those problems will not go away without some money leaving first.

Is the gas cap actually a check engine light? In that case this might be related to the bucking. Otherwise the high RPMs need to be looked into. A bad throttle position sensor? When was the last “tune-up”. Are you handy and willing to do some of the minor stuff yourself.