2002 Mazda Protege repairs per Mechanix Files recommend in Florida

My son is still driving his high mileage 2002 Mazda Protege. When he moved to Florida and summer came, the bad a/c became critical.

And, he detected a radiator leak.

So, he looked up on Cartalk mechanix files, and chose the most recommended place. I think this is in the Ft. Pierce area.

In the process of going to the mechanic, it started getting rather hot. When he told me that, I got a teeny-weeny bit nervous.

The mechanic was very friendly and professional. He told him under the circumstances, he recommended first installing a new radiator and pressure checking the system, before putting money into the a/c. Since I was nervous about the heads, that sure made sense to me.

The mechanic also found a bad thermostat, but pressure check was okay. Whew!!! A bit over $400 so far.

So, he said it should be okay to go ahead and repair the a/c. Which should run around $900.

Another victory for Cartalk Mechanix Files!

He just called me back. The mechanic told him he checked and the a/c compressor was not available within 50 miles, and so he might have to order one shipped in for some extra money.

But, he said he looked the car over and concluded maybe it should not be fixed. He said suspension and other problems would run as high as $3500, more than the car is worth. The motor and transmission are in perfect condition.

My son said maybe he should look for a Crown Vic around $5000.

This all is made more complex by extended unemployment for him and his wife. She got a short term job in a school last semester, and turned the worst class in the school to the best in less than 6 weeks. The principal expected her to get a permanent job, but the people who make decisions but never teach eliminated 4 slots. So, no job no matter how good a teacher she is.

She found a job in Webster, Florida. And, has to sign on July 28. Perfect community exactly suited to their personalities, with only one major flaw. NO RENTALS. Only houses for sale. They found one old mobile home, a very small one, appliances bad and rusted, and too small even to lay down. One room big enough for a twin mattress. Covered with spiders. $450 a month. And, the owners demand a 12 month lease. Unbelievable.

The realtors all said no one wants to rent, and recommended they drive around looking for rental signs. All afternoon and that is all they found.

The principal said, well, yes, teachers were having to drive a distance to work. It looks to me like if a community wants teachers they might want to have places to live for those teachers, when they can’t come up with a down payment for a house, especially when without warning they can lose a job no matter how well they perform.

The local motels won’t even discount weekly rentals, so nearly $500 a week for a motel.

Anyway, he thinks it might involve at least 500 mile a week commuting. That would be like 25,000 miles a year on a car that is already long in the teeth.

My wife and I talked and I called him back. He and his wife are thinking the cheapest way to have a functional car is the $3500.

My wife and I had agreed we would break this Catch-22 by shipping them money for a new car, minimal to commute with. Corolla a/t a/c, or whatever.

I realize that common advice on this board is to buy a good, used car. Um, yes. I have no doubt that professional mechanics can do things like that. But every time we have looked for used cars, there is virtually nothing at any reasonable price except pure junk no better than what he has now with the $3500 of repairs added. Or Craigslist scams

I am going to ask him for the list of repairs needed for the $3500 and ask your help in prioritizing it. I do not believe all repairs are critical and can be done by priority.

But, at this point in time, it looks like a new car is the best idea. If one could really find good used cars at a substantial discount, that would be the way to go, but we are not seeing that.

I’ll go a little off topic . . .

“And, the owners demand a 12 month lease. Unbelievable.”

I have a house that I rent out. I also require a 12 month lease. That is typical for my area. After the year is up, they are on a month to month basis

I’m generally a pretty nice guy, but business is business

Perhaps it’s different in other parts of the US . . . but in Los Angeles, it’s not uncommon to be required to commit to a one year lease, at least initially

Yes, I am well aware that the 12 month lease is standard. But, it is also standard that the house shall be livable by other than dogs. This one was not. It sounds to me like in a county with a vigorous housing office, it would be difficult to obtain an occupancy permit.

Appliances all rusted. Spiders all over the walls. No room except one even big enough to lie down in any direction. The ‘bedroom’ only big enough for a twin mattress.

I am going to say again, unbelievable.

Four years ago, they lived in their car for months. so he is not a snoot at all.

And, it was on an acre so if it had been habitable, he would have been happy to live there.

I look forward to seeing the suggested repairs list.

This is always a tough situation. If you consult enough sources that say a Protege of that year and mileage is worth only $3000 (hypothetically), then they should be able to buy an equally good car for less than it will take to repair this one. So find out if it’s true. Guides are imperfect, but they do some research. What are people offering in your area for $3500? What are old Proteges selling for. Some use eBay to check actual sale prices. I’ve never done it, but it sounds like a great idea. If they can find decently reliable transportation for under the repair cost, consider it. Only after they have a mechanic give it an inspection, of course. But if they fix the Mazda they’ll know exactly what has been done to it. I’m always suspicious of a little work turning into a lot. My guess is that the suspension wear is typical of a car of this age and mileage and may not all need to be fixed immediately. If they have an hinest mechanic he should be able to tell them what he can defer. Hope this works out for the best.

I agree, Mark M. I don’t think they need all that fixed. Not right away,anyway. I do think the guy is honest, I just think he realizes that with all those repairs, it will still be a low value, high mileage car.

We have those discussions on this board all the time.

And, we do have people give the list and a lot of it can wait until it gets worse.

The problem with getting another used car is in real life most of us non-mechanics simply don’t find good used cars, any age, any price. It’s like him looking for a dwelling to rent.

He did see a 2007 Crown Vic, private party, 60,000 miles, cream puff, they wanted I forget, I think he said $7000 on display in a mall. It sold just before he got there. And, so it goes. We just don’t find good used cars except at outrageous prices. Not in the lower range.

I must wonder if a lot here who do find them have lots of time, and simply run across a good deal by accident among friends, fellow workers, and neighbors?

As Mark says if they fix it they know what they have. The real disaster is if they fix it and it gets totalled, they get almost nothing back. Still, in that case, we will send the money for a new or nearly new one. You simply cannot let your kids live in their car. We aren’t high income, but we are very low expense here in Mexico with a house paid for.

I would do the minimum necessary to make the Mazda roadworthy.

As for housing, there may be some creative interim options for, say, 6 months until they can find something more suitable. One possibility is to buy a small RV and rent a parking space on someone’s land near the school to ease the commute.

I find cars by riding around on alternate roads and good neighborhoods and looking for cars for sale that were good cars when new, and that there are still lots of on the road. I had great luck with old cougars for my better half, late 80 s-mid 90s, but they are nearing the end of their low maintenance lifetime now. the local buy and sell magazines are a good source also.

florida is warm and has tons of cheap campgrounds. maybe buying them a ford transit van and staying in a campground for a couple months would give them a chance to save some money and give them time to find a good residence and get back on their feet?

if I was childless it would work for me

I’ll go a little off-topic, because @jesmed1 reminded me of something . . .

On NPR, a few years ago, they interviewed a guy who graduated from college with absolutely no debt

He bought a cheapo Econoline van and parked it on the college grounds, in some forlorn parking lot. He lived in that van while he was attending college

Since he didn’t pay room and board, his expenses were very low, compared to some other students

FL real estate is at rock bottom, I would look at buying a condo and renting it to them for the mortgage , insurance and association fees, Hurricaine insurance is a significant cost. Like this! http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/Fort-Pierce-FL/pmf,pf_pt/condo_type/47806585_zpid/38581_rid/days_sort/27.503551,-80.213242,27.356065,-80.469017_rect/11_zm/ I might even be interested in buying it and renting it to them.

I see that jesmed had similar thoughts… campgrounds often have showers and bathrooms and a nice atmosphere.

Barkydog, the problem is teacher’s jobs are subject to elimination without notice. so buying a property based on the belief they are going to be there next year does not compute.

In fact, she got a interim job last semester, and performed so well the principal took it for granted she would be renewed. The office folks cut 4 slots. The principal actually cried when she told her she had been cut.

This is in a rural area, Webster, and not at all like the metro areas. If you could find a rental, it may well be a mobile home on an acre or more. Thanks for the offer, though.

Thanks to all for suggestions. At this time we are looking at all possibilities.

Latest, the mechanic told him they don’t make the compressor for that 2002 Protege any more. He also told him there is a rebuilder in New York, but the reliability is not up to the standard that he can warranty his work.

So, I think maybe he needs to find a lesser mechanic who can perhaps find a used compressor somewhere at a lower price without warranty.

If they can find parts for Model-T’s it stretches the imagination there is no way to find a functional compressor for a 2002 Mazda. I have been wrong before and expect to be wrong again, but that is my thought.

They finally found a $250/week motel 20 miles from work. so she is signing the contract and will work there. That gives them time to perhaps find a rental place.

Fine, so you get a remanned ac compressor, versus a brand new unit

Not a big deal

Four seasons probably has a remanned compressor for that application

Yes, he will be looking for a different mechanic. As I stated above, the first mechanic did say there was a rebuilder in another state, but reliability of that rebuilder was not good enough. He will be looking at other options.

I have read a lot about Rock Auto Parts, but know nothing about them, and what range of parts they have. I think on Sienna Chat, not sure.

Latest, the mechanic told him they don't make the compressor for that 2002 Protege any more.

Maybe they don’t, but no reason to limit the possibilities to one rebuilder in NY. O’Reileys, AutoZone, Rockauto, and many others carry the unit.

junkyards have oem parts.