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Fatherly advice, please

Recovering from illness, returning to work; need a car.

A Friend(?) ! ‘gifted’ me with a 1993 Honda Odyssey w/199K miles and $1K.

Dealership says: it has low engine noise plus some tapping, exhaust leak. Needs timing belt, spark plugs, valve cover gasket tube seals, drive belts, air filter cover (screw stripped, and cover cannot be removed).

Transmission hesitates, ABS always on and lugs engine, clicking on right side of car (axel or boot?), front brakes 40% remaining; rear brakes 60% remaining.

Exterior, interior and tires in very good condition.

Repair or ???

Credit score high; debt to income ratio poor due to medical, so I can’t get a new car . . . doesn’t seem like there’s a good answer.

Thank you!

It’s one thing if you’re able to do most of the repairs yourself. But if you’re paying someone else to do these repairs, especially the dealer, it can get quite expensive.

I would suggest that you find an independent mechanic to take a look at your vehicle. Then it can be determined what has to be fixed and what can wait. I run into this all the time. I just had a single mom with two small children come in with a mini van where the front brakes were shot. And that van didn’t leave my shop without new front brakes. I cut her a deal.


What does low engine noise mean? What does “Gifted me with a Odyssey and $1K” mean?

ABS always on - does this mean the light is always on, or that the pedal is always vibrating?

“clicking on right side of car” is entirely too vague to diagnose. It could be a CV joint (boot) or it could be a loose exhaust hangar, depending on WHERE on the right side it’s coming from.

Brakes are fine for now as far as % remaining. Leave that alone.

Tapping from where?

The timing belt will be expensive. When’s the last time it was done, and how many miles ago? The rest - why does it need these things? Did the dealership say?

the air filter cover screw is easy and hardly worth mentioning…

Transmission hesitates how? When?

How many miles do you need to drive a day? Good answer is it runs, now how to spend the 1k, If it indeed has a timing belt, #1, along with fuel pump if suggested, Trans service including filter change, Replace plugs air and gas filter, and find the right mechanic you could get everything done for the Grand, In fact go to 3 shops, recommended of course and ask for an estimate, then say I have 1k, can you do it for that? Valve cover gasket last on the list.
Edit Thanking @fordman For correcting water pump for fuel pump, guess I still had the 50 International harvester on my brain. Senior moment, Bright side I get to meet new people every day!

I think @barkydog meant water pump if suggested instead of fuel pump. Many vehicles that use timing belts, the timing belt also drives the water pump so if this is an interference type engine and the water pump bearing wore out and allowed slack in the timing belt it could jump time or if the bearing in the water pump seized it could be catastrophic for the engine. If it’s due or past due for a timing belt, this or finding out what’s going on with the brakes should be the first order of business. If there’s lower engine noise as in possible rod knocking and the transmission isn’t shifting properly, I’d either get something else or only do the absolute minimum to keep it going as long as possible. I wouldn’t sink a fortune into something that has engine/transmission problems, because if either of those go it’s going to be a very expensive repair. If you’re mechanically inclined and have the tools you might be able to do the timing belt yourself with the help of a Chilton’s or Haynes repair manual. Just know if this is an interference engine there’s no second chance, if you don’t get it right the first time there’s probably going to be significant damage from pistons and valves colliding with one another.

"I just had a single mom with two small children come in with a mini van where the front brakes were shot. And that van didn't leave my shop without new front brakes. I cut her a deal."

You’re a good man, Tester.

I agree. Get it to an independent mechanic.
Dealers will tend to scare you into doing work you don’t need. They tend to be mercilessly greedy.

You don’t want to spend a fortune on a worn-out 20 year old vehicle…If you can make it roadworthy for less than $1500, it might work out but if it has serious engine or transmission issues I would decline the offer or accept it and sell it and use the proceeds for the down payment on a newer vehicle…And like everyone said, get a second opinion from an independent shop…

Honda did not make an Odyssey in 1993. Do you mean 2003?? What year Odyssey is this and how many miles on it?

I’ll assume it’s a 2003.

I’d drive the Odyssey until the transmission dies. These are good engines. Sometimes the EGR valve and EGR passages need some carbon cleaned out. Not a big deal. If you live near Mpls, MN I’ll help.

Does the friend who gifted you the Odyssey know the history of the vehicle, specifically when was the timing belt last changed. If its been within the last 7 years, then you can ignore the dealership on that. The tapping is probably due to valve lash and that should be checked.

The ABS needs to be checked for sure. As for the transmission hesitation, all Honda’s have a second or two hesitation between the time you put the selector in the gear position and when the transmission actually engages. You don’t want to hit the gas during this pause. If the hesitation is during normal driving, such as between upshifts as you are accelerating, that is another problem.

As far as fixing it goes. A lot depends on your prospects. If you can work things out so that you can paydown the medical in the near future, you might want to just drive and take your chances that it will last until you can do better. If you haven’t already, you may want to work with the medical company to see what they can due to help lower your costs. There may be programs out there that they can help you with that you are not aware of.

"Dealership says..."

My advice is to abandon the dealership.

Instead, you should find a locally owned small repair business, maybe even a one or two person operation where you can speak directly to the owner or lead mechanic. Put some effort into contacting friends, co-workers, neighbors, anyone you know who is into cars, for recommendations. Check the link at the top of this page for “mechanics files” to see if there are any businesses in your area listed with more recommendations.

The long list of problems you describe can appear daunting, or they may be trivial. Some may be safely postponed, but it depends on what the true problems turn out to be. If this car is really a 2003, not a 1993 as Goldwing suggests, then it may be a lot more worthwhile than your post suggests.

If you get the problems diagnosed by another mechanic and don’t know for sure how to judge what they told you, post back here with clear and complete details for advice on whether or not to proceed.

Do not abandon the dealership. They are resource and you should always get an estimate for needed repairs from them. But in addition, you should find one or two locally owned independent repair shops for second opinions and estimates as well. That’s just good business practice and getting repairs on your vehicle is a business transaction.

For timing belts, Honda dealers often beat the independents on cost, and they usually have more experience with them. But first determine if you really need one by contacting the former owner for the maintenance history.

If it’s driveable and isn’t leaking anything, you could just drive it until it dies. I doubt the ABS is “lugging the engine” The warning light for ABS just means the system isn’t working right, not that it’s on all the time. If the ABS light is on, you have ‘normal’ brakes, just no longer with antilock function.

If you plan on trying to keep the van, getting the timing belt and water pump done is a good idea. Might as well do the drive belts too. Other than that, I’d probably spend the bare minimum and drive it into the ground while saving for another vehicle.

IMHO keep driving it as-is. It may not last long(1 may 2 years) but in this condition with tapping noise the vehicle has little value and failing automatic.

Save your money for a down payment on another vehicle.

Go to cheapo muffler shop and get the exhaust leak addressed if it at all. Exhaust, tires and brakes are what can end up killing you. Seems like 2 of 3 are covered.

How are you going to use the car? If it is to commute locally to work, make sure that the exhaust system, tires, brakes and suspension are safe or can be made safe at a low cost. Higher viscosity oil for the engine may take up the slack in the engine bearings and buy a little time. There may be some “medicine” in the form of an additive that might stretch the transmission a few more miles (I’m an old geezer and am stretching out my expected life by taking Geritol). Follow up with some easy driving and the car may get you back on your feet.

You people are amazingly kind to take the time to offer some very wise suggestions! Thank you SO much!

I’m a female and can do some work (check fluid levels, change an air filter, and am EXCELLENT at detailing!), but am not strong enough or competent enough to do the major repairs this van needs; they are WAY beyond my ability.

And, Goldwing, you are CORRECT and SHARP; I asked the owner and found the Odyssey is a 1995, not 1993.

As far as the ABS goes: when I drove it, about 20 seconds after I started driving, the ABS light came on and at the same time, I could FEEL it in the floorboard—it sounded and felt like a light grinding, which did not go away. I misstated when I said it lugged the engine; I should have said the brakes. At least, that is what it FELT like.

And, for those who asked, the owner said the timing belt replacement is long overdue.

I will be using this car for both short and long commutes in heavy traffic in the Seattle area.

You all gave me excellent and common sense advice, which I will follow. My Papa used to say: In order to make a well-informed decision, you must be well informed. You have given me a great head start.

With gratitude.

I’ll “second” Tester’s post. Chances are good that all of the work suggested by the dealership will not be necessary just to keep it running, and right now you just need it to run, not be brought back to excellent condition.

Sincere best.

As for the ABS, if the pump is actually running all the time, which it sounds like it might be… I am going to suggest you pull the fuse for it. You will still have working brakes, just not with anti-lock capabilities which you dont have no anyway… Timing belt if long overdue is a good idea if you want to keep the van for a while… IF it goes you can have a very expensive repair looking you in the eyes… Other than that drive on, drive on… Just keep an eye on those fluid levels.