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Am I getting ripped off?

I have a 1995 Civic EX that was purchased in Dec 2007 at 116K miles. It’s considered salvage since the cost to repair it was more than the value of the car. The rear quarter panel was replaced according to the body shop owner I purchased it from. It was damaged while parked.

Since it was used, I decided to have the timing belt and waterpump replaced. I chose an independent shop that only works on Japanese vehicles and uses OEM parts. As a bonus, they also give me 10% discounts and provide loaner cars. On my first visit in 1/08 the following was found:

1. Car has been in major accident with left rear damage. Left rear trailing arm dented and put hole in frame. Has frame damage.

2. B-pipe bent. Recommend replace.

3. Note: Entire A/C system aftermarket.

4. Oil pan gasket leaking. Recommend replace.

5. Front crank seal leaking bad. Needs now.

6. Timing belt tensioner making noise. Recommend now.

7. Valve cover gasket rubber stiff. Needs now.

8. Has prior front end damage also. Light does not line up.

9. Left front door drops when opened due to prior body damage.

10. Both front upper ball joint boots, both front lower ball joint boots and both outer tie rod end boots severely cracked and dryrotted. Recommend replace before splitting open and ruining components.

I had them do options 5-7 and ignored the b-pipe, oil pan gasket, and suspension items. I received a second and third opinion from Firestone and my friend that works as a mechanic. Firestone advised that something else could give the illusion that the oil was leaking and they couldn’t find anything upon inspection. The shop my friend works at told me the b-pipe bent and suspension was just cosmetics. I also know that my friend doesn?t keep his car in the best condition as far as routine maintenance goes. He only fixes something when it breaks since they spend a lot of time working on other people?s cars and don?t have time of their own.

Comment: The independent shop forgot to do a brake fluid flush and I also forgot to check my invoice for it, so maybe they’re not as thorough as I thought. My brakes were acting funny (would go down all the way to the floor) since I had the car before the brake fluid flush was done and worked fine since the flush.

I didn’t come back to that independent shop until 10/08 to get the spark plug wires, distributor cap, and a valve adjustment done. It was cheaper than Firestone where I normally get my oil changes and I wanted to use OEM parts. When I brought it in, they told me I was due for my 135k service and also oil was leaking from the oil pan gasket and/or drain plug. They didn?t know the condition of the plugs or threads and thought they might be stripped since I don?t have my oil changes done by them. I told them I would bring it back for the 135k inspection, so it wasn?t checked on the spot.

During the inspection, they found the drain plug washer was crushed, and re-used too many times. It didn?t torque right so they replaced it. I didn?t need to have the oil pan gasket replaced. However, the following was discovered on the 135k check:

1. Radiator leaking at lower seam. Upper seam has rust buildup. Recommend replace radiator with thermostat and auxiliary fan switch.

2. Right outer tie rod end boot torn. No grease in joint.

3. Lower radiator hose leaking at thermostat housing. Recommend replace with new clamps.

4. Powersteering fluid black and nasty. Should be flushed ASAP.

5. Both front strut has some wetness starting around collar.

6. Bolt missing from left rear e-brake cable.

7. Left rear e-brake cable routed wrong and rubbing into cable shroud.

8. Both rear brake lines missing retaining clips.

9. Left rear toe set point is maxed out. Recommend alignment.

They showed me the leak at the radiator and the incorrect routing of the e-brake. I had the rear trailing arm replaced by the body shop owner before I purchased the car. I found it interesting that they didn?t mention anything about the bent b-pipe or the ball joint boot but they only noticed the right tie rod end boot instead of both as it was previously found 10 months ago.

I had a 400 mi road trip scheduled so I had them replace the radiator items, rerouted ebrake cable, and perform the power steering flush. The right outer tie rod wasn?t done.

I came back in Dec 08 to have an oil change done and my rear brakes inspected since it was making noise. The following was found:

1. Rear brakes good. 4.5mm and cylinders good.

2. Recommend clean and adjust rear brakes, dirty.

3. Front brakes 4mm pads plus hardware dry, rotors glazed.

4. Left front bellow boot torn on rack, recommend replace.

I had them replace the right outer tie rod end boot since they said it would wear out the tires. It was during the replacement they discovered the bellow boot needed to be replaced. Also, an alignment needed to be done after these changes which they take to another shop. On a prior alignment with Firestone it was still off but after replacing the parts it was able to be aligned within tolerance.

Recently I went back for an oil change. The following was noted:

1. Pan gasket leaking excessive. Recommend replace.

2. Both front upper, both front lower, and both outer tie rod end boots cracked and dryrotted, all need replaced ASAP (right outer tie rod end boot under warranty)

3. Both outer C.V. boots cracked and dryrotted, recommend replace ASAP.

Items 2 and 3 weren?t noted in the 135k inspection but item 2 was discovered over a year ago. The owner told me it?s normal for a old like mine to have those parts wear out. The car is now over 145k miles. Over 29k miles was put on it since the ball joints and outer tie rod end boots ?needed? to be replaced. They expanded their business into American cars now instead of just working on Japanese cars. They?re also focused on preventive maintenance. I did notice everytime they told me they ?pressurized? tires they didn?t really check them. I maintain my psi at 44 which is the max sidewell instead of the 32 listed in the manual for increased MPG. I?m thinking of taking my car back to Firestone for a second opinion.

The car was purchased for $3200 and looking over past receipts for things like battery replacement, windshield replacement, headlights, and other parts, I?ve spent $3300 in 14 months. The next set of repairs would cost me about $800.

I’m not going to respond in detail on this post simply because it is blinding me due to length and it would be very difficult to give a coherent answer on all of these points.

Your friend thinks bent suspension is “cosmetic”. Hardly.

You’re setting your tire pressure at 44 PSI and this is dead wrong. They should be at 32.

All of those things you mention are normal wear and tear items and combined with the fact you own a salvage title vehicle that is 14 years old, odds are it needs all of those things. And probably more if the entire truth be known.

Yow! And I thought some of MY posts were too long.:slight_smile:

Looks like there’s no need for me to attempt an answer after OKs’ post.

Sounds like an old car given a quick read. Quit putting any money into it and when it breaks down fix it or move on.

Sorry to say you seriously overpaid for it. Remember you pay half or less for a salvage title and always pay a mechanic for pre purchase checkup.

Do not inflate your tires to the max as they will wear much quicker/oddly.

I had your car (95 Coupe EX also) and paid 3 times for it slightly used with 15k miles.

Yes you ripped yourself off. A car with a salvage title was really damaged and you were warned that the repairs should have cost more than the car was worth. It doesn’t cost the body shop much to “spare time” the job and cut corners. They can’t rip you off if you are willing to assume all the risk. Be careful next time. It could save thousands.

First congratulations on what might be the most detailed post we have ever had. Most of the time we suffer from lack of information. (People like to tell us their car “does not run well. What needs to be done to fix it without spending any money?”) Better too much than too little information.

I maintain my psi at 44 which is the max sidewell instead of the 32 listed in the manual

Sorry but that is the maximum safe pressure that the tyres can handle.  It is NOT a RECOMMENDED pressure.   The tyre manufacture has no idea what kind of car the tyres will be used on so they can not recommend a pressure, but they can tell you that the tyre is not safe if inflated over a given pressure.  That max pressure only is important if it is less  that the pressure recommended by the auto manufacture, which means those tyres would not be safe on that car. 

have a 1995 Civic EX that was purchased in Dec 2007 at 116K miles. It’s considered salvage since the cost to repair it was more than the value of the car.

 A salvage title car is almost always a bad deal.  Sorry to tell you this now, but it is likely best to cut your looses now, sell the car for whatever you can get for it and don't look back.

You Can’t Make A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow’s Ear.

I agree with Joseph. The bad news: You have gotten some very expensive miles out of this car so far. The good news: More importantly, you have received a valuable (however, costly) lesson about having a car inspected prior to purchase.

I have to know. Tell us the truth, now. Did the independent shop mechanic you went to (for items 5 - 7) ever suggest (even just a little) to you that you shouldn’t be dumping money into this car, but you decided to go ahead with some work, anyhow?

Contrary to what most people believe, the max sidewell is safe. The hypermiling community at cleanmpg have been running it at the max sidewell for quite some time. I’ve been running it at that tire pressure for over 11 months (over 29k mi) and I’ve been told my tires still look new. I’m able to coast farther and for a longer period of time. My cornering is also better. There’s an article about police officers that use a higher tire pressure

It’s debatable whether I spent to much on the car. The price he gave me was below KBB’s fair price which is the lowest one listed. If you check it now it’s going to be more since the car depreciated further. This is my second car, the first one I had was “totaled.” So, I needed a car and after checking craigslist this was the better deal (Civics in the San Francisco bay area are not cheap). There was another civic of the same year and model with more miles listed for $4,500 with the roof rusted. Other cars I looked at were out of my range in either distance or price and I already took to much time off of work. It might seem like an impulse purchase now but the car is reliable. I’m more concerned about whether I can trust my mechanic since it seems like I’m getting repairs quoted every time I go in.

The mechanic at the independent shop didn’t tell me that I shouldn’t spend more money on the car. This was the first time I had used them and I didn’t mention anything about the car being damaged in a prior accident. I wanted to see how much they could find on their own. They noticed all 3 drive belts were new so those weren’t replaced. However, during the timing belt/water pump replacement they noticed items 5-7 and the cost for that was $130.36 before the discount. I went along with the recommendation since they told me it was needed now and the car was already there. My regular mechanic is Firestone but I don’t think they do a thorough job.

When I look for mechanics I try to find reviews of them online but since I work in a suburb that’s 50 miles away from a major city I don’t find as many. I can find more reputable mechanics but I feel guilty about taking time off work to travel 20 miles to someone I know I can trust. Maybe I’m just being paranoid but it feels like I’m always getting quoted for a repair everytime I come in for an oil change.

Additional information.

I have a summary of almost all my costs for maintenance/repair in an online spreadsheet format:

You clearly overpaid for a car that is turning into a money pit and is probably unsafe unless you throw a bunch more money into the pit. The suspension problems could turn fatal on you. I think dumping the car may be the best option.

i would have to agree with pitt.

That’s the option I’m weighing out but seeing how I already invested in it, it would cost me more to finance for a “new” used car compared to just maintaining the current one. The tie rod end boots and cv boots would run me $562.50. For the price of my car plus the repair cost, I’ll be hard pressed to find something better.

Earlier I stated the ball joint boots needed to be replaced on my last inspection two days ago but it was just the tie rod end boots and cv boots. The ball joint boots were mentioned in the first visit back in Jan 2008.

I would buy a car like that only if I were a mechanic with too much time on my hands, or if I was Jay Leno bored and on “bennies”. [edit] and buy for no more than $500