Demoralized about Virginia inspection, not sure what to do


My 97 Explorer had its annual inspection. They claim it needs $2600 of work in order to pass, including a new exhaust system, new control arms, repaired tie rods, and two new tires. This after I dropped $2200 on a new tranny back in April. This is all quite depressing, since I don’t have $2600 at the moment, and didn’t plan to replace it for another two years if I could possibly avoid it. Yet how am I going to save for a new car if I have to spend $5000 a year keeping this POS running?

Would you put another $2600 into this vehicle? That is very nearly what the thing is worth…

I can drive the old reliable Honda for a while until I figure out what to do.


So the inspection station also does the repair work? We have that conflict of interest situation where I live too. $2600 sounds kinda steep for the items you mentioned. Any chance you can get a second opinion?


I definitely intend to get second and even third opinions (as well as an itemized estimate from these guys - that’s just what I remember from talking to him on the phone).

I thought $2200 for the new tranny to keep it going wasn’t a bad deal, but now I am wondering what other punishing problems are going to drop on my head. Not sure I would even fix these problems they have described if the State of Virginia didn’t make me, mind you…


Your exhaust system should be all-stainless. What EXACTLY is the problem? Have a front-end shop check the control arms and tie-rod ends. Have them SHOW YOU the defective parts.

If you need tires, you need tires.

How many miles on this vehicle?


I have to do a similar NH inspection every year. It took me several years to find an honest garage that didn’t make up bogus failures. I suggest to look for another garage, I suspect yours is ripping you off.


First get a second opinion on those items and the cost. Second if they are needed go for it. It would not be likely that you will need much if any additional repairs. Consider this. if you make it two additional years with the additional cost that would be a lot less each month than a car payment.


By all means get a second opinion from a reputable shop. If the repairs are necessary, you might want to run some numbers. $4800 over the next two years, providing no additional major repairs are needed, averages $200/month that you have spent to keep it. There’s no way to know if the car will need any more major work. Some folks might be more inclined to repair & keep a car like this if it was say, a Honda or Toyota. No matter what anyone tells you, it’s a personal decision. Of course finances play a part, as do safety and peace of mind. I’m curious, you mention a reliable Honda. Is the Explorer an extra vehicle? I wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars repairing a vehicle if I had another one to drive. Good luck whatever you decide :slight_smile:


97 Ford Explorer XLT, bought it used 8 years ago and it has been paid off for 4 years. Just under 140,000 miles.

Problems as stated in the written estimate:
“Exhaust Leak” $640
“L upper and lower control arm and ball joint” $950
“Both outer tie rods loose” $450
“R rear wheel stud and nut stripped” $150
“Front tires” $290

They also told me the shocks need replacing, though I don’t need to do that to pass the inspection, and that would run $300 per shock.

This would be so much less painful if I hadn’t replaced the tranny and the fuel pump recently. Each time I said “this is worth it if nothing else big happens soon.” D’oh, it did. I am really falling out of love with this car… but I hate car payments as much as the next man!

The alternative car is the 1993 Honda Civic that also has about 140,000 miles on it. The main reason to want an SUV vs the Civic is squiring the baby around.

Dropped it off for a second opinion, and I am definitely going to get other opinions as well as call people for their price on this work.


I think you’re being raked a bit and there’s a bit of conflict of interest when the shop doing the inspection is hitting you with a bill of this size.

Exhaust leak - go to a generic muffler shop. These guys are generally pros at welding or splicing a leak. It may be no more than 30 bucks to fix this.

Lower ball joints are available for 30-40 bucks apiece for the part plus labor which should be no more than a 100 give or take.
Upper ball joints are in the same neighborhood.

The outer tie rod is questionable. The INNERs are tie rods; the OUTERs are tie rod ends. These generally run about 30 bucks or so apiece + labor which is not obscene.

A 150 for a stripped wheel stud? I think not. Way too high.

Front tires at 290? Maybe, but that depends on the type of tire. I’m sure there are comparable tires around for much less than that.

I would say get at least a couple of more opinions on this as it seems to me that price you’re being quoted can be badly beaten.
The trans replacement sounds like a fair price and the fuel pump is nothing to be upset about. Pumps drop on cars all the time and since your vehicle is 10+ years old it’s time; especially if the fuel filter is not being changed on a regular basis.
JMHO and hope it helps.


Sounds like a lot. Shop around for the work or tackle some of it yourself. Should be able to get it done cheaper.


You’ve reached my mileage limit on other Fords. I don’t have a limit on the Explorer but I will make an exception in your case. It’s only just begun. By the Mechanics, not the Carpenters. The spending COULD be frightening.


That sounds extreme… Exhaust leaks can be repaired rather cheap unless we are talking about a manifold or converter. How about a salvage yard??? Whats wrong with the control arms?? Unless they are bent, you can replace bushings and ball joints much cheaper than the whole arm assy. Tie rods… Maybe you can find some decent ones in a salvage yard. Wheel stud and nut stripped, $150 is way too much… Front tires, buy them or even check a used tire shop for some good ones. There are a lot of people out there putting fancy rims on their cars which require new bigger tires. Used tire shops usually buy the old ones for a great price and sell them to the public… Check it out… In other words, dont go by one estimate, look at all your options and get other estimates.