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Help Me Decide: Donate, Scrap, or Repair

My timing belt failed on a '99 Passat with 130K miles. I now have zero compression and likely severe engine damage.

The repairs will likely cost $3-6K depending on new or junkyard parts, which is about the same as it’s blue book value when running. Just to get a diagnostic, I’m looking at $500 for tow and labor.

Scrapping it may bring in around $500 for weight and parts, but they will likely deduct for the tow.

And as for a donation, the auction sale price is questionable since it needs major work.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated.

How much time and effort do you want to put in to it? Volkswagens are worth a considerable amount if all they have is powertrain failure or body damage. If you were to put the effort in to parting it out on eBay, you could probably make some fair bank. In fact, I would try putting it on eBay as a parts car and see if someone wants it. You can get better than $500.

I don’t know how much it would cost, but I’d be looking into getting a used engine from a wrecked VW. An independent VW mechanic may have some good contacts on getting one where you can know some of its history (such as mileage and condition). Also, if you can find the engine yourself, the junkyard may be able to install it for much less than the mechanic. Either way, a running car will sell for a lot more than one with a dead engine.

I agree with possibly using a salvage yard engine or even finding one out of a wreck on eBay. A used engine should always get a new timing belt/tensioner assembly before installation though.
My inclination would be to fix it if a used engine could be procured reasonably enough.

Some salvage yards will even do the installation for a nominal fee.

OK has a good plan. Another plan is to list it 'For Sale For Parts" on craigslist. The body and interior might be worth more than you think. It’s best to sell the entire car, not separate parts.

The Automotive Underground is always looking for a new project. Price it at $1500 below “book” and see what happens…

I agree with the other posters. If it’s been a good car, get a used engine popped in there and get on with life. Otherwise donate it; selling parts cars is often a pain in the posterior.

Thanks for the comments everyone. I searched around for a replacement engine. Turns out it will be $2k plus installation costs, putting the total out at roughly $3k. The mtnce was getting frequent with this car and I think I’ll cut my losses and go for the donation. The new IRS laws are tougher, but at auction, I should be able to get $2k, which comes out to be $600 off my taxes. Plus I’ll be helping a good cause.

Sounds like a good winter project. What do you have to lose by trying to fix it yourself? What is the liklihood of engine damage beyond the belt? When my timing chain broke on my Riviera some years ago, the shop it got towed to said $1500 but engine most likely shot. I towed it home, put $120 in parts and a day and half, and still running fine with an additional 200K on it.

Buy a serious factory manual and study it. Warm place to work, a few new tools, and maybe help from a friend, and who knows?

If you donate it to an organization that uses the car themselves, you won’t have a receipt from an auction. You can deduct what you think the car is worth, just like before. Search around on the net and see if you can find one.

Two comments.
I don’t consider cylinder head valve damage to fall into the severe category; more a “moderate” one. Why can’t they simply remove the heads and send them out to the auto machine shop where the bent intakes will be replaced and a complete valve job performed. This should not hit 3 grand, much less 6 grand.

The other would be that if you have never replaced the timing belt on this engine then your next car should be equipped with a timing chain. Neglecting basic maintenance like timing belts is only going to create the same predicament yet again for you in the future. Give me a chain any day of the week.

Sounds like your timing belt broke; in that case, scrap the engine or try to find a good used engine. If that is not possible, srcap the car!!! Or give it to charity to get a good tax receipt. By the way, these cars also had very troublesome transmissions, a $3000 repair bill is not unususal.

What did the original poster end up deciding on?

I am in the same situation; the timing belt broke in my '99 Passat V6 with about 160,000 miles on it this past weekend. Aside from this, the car is in great shape. I’d hate to scrap my baby! Am I better off saying goodbye?