Need Unbiased advice

First off thanks for your guys recomendations on the tires durring my last post… As always great advice, which is why I am asking this… WHAT WOULD YOU DO question…

So I have a 1998 Buick Lesabre that just turned 150,000 miles yesterday. I drive it about 25,000 miles a year right now due to a job change about a year ago. She runs great, and I have had no major issues. However with age comes maintenance issues which is what I’m running into. This is what I KNOW the car needs

  • 4 Tires and a front end alignment (would not be shocked if it needed some front end parts as well). It does pass the bounce test, and when I jack it up and pull the top and bottom of the tire and both sides I don’t get any movement… However it’s all original with 150k… so it’s probably time…

  • The trans for as long as I have owned it has a weak Pressure Control Valve on the trans. This causes the trans to shutter if I hit the gas to hard from a dead stop, or with the car at too much of an incline off idle (in other words when the pressure is low). The part is only $50 or so, but the trans needs to be dropped to get it to it, so I have let it be for the past 40,000 miles and learned to drive the car where it does not happen often (maybe one or twice a week).

  • The biggest issue it currently has is that the rear main is leaking, and at this point its getting bad (seems to be a qt every 6-800 miles). I do a lot of work from my car, and the smell of oil burning from the exhaust while at idle is starting to get to me. Plus I am worried about it blowing out completely on me one day.

So I figure im looking at about $500 for tires and alignment, called around and Im looking at $600 for the rear main, plus maybe another $80 if I want him to replace the pressure solenoid on the trans while its out.

That’s about $1100 worth of KNOWN repairs, which I fully expect to grow to $1500 if I decided to do everything.

So my question is do I fix it or deal with it… The oil leak in particular, because $600 buys A LOT of oil… However it would be nice to have a car that did not mark its territory all the time. My main question is with the trans, if it was 100% and I thought I could get another 50k+ out of it I would be all in, but I am not sure I can… Still $1500 is much less than a new replacement car, and the devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t. On the other hand the car is only worth $2000-2500 TOPS… Does putting work that equals more than 50% of its value make sense?? However she always starts and since I am just going to beat any car I buy to death due to my job, do I just run this car till it dies. .WHICH could be another 100K ?? I had the oil pan down about 1.5 years ago and its spotless, and I change the ATF at least once a year (pan drop and clean, not flush), front brakes have about 20k on them, already purchased a new radiator to replace the one thats in there as it started leaking on me about a month ago as well, AC blows cold, everything works…

I think you guys see my issues… What are your thoughts??

I ran my Riviera to 530K but would have been money ahead to dump it at about 350K instead, Tires and the rear main would be my concern. I don’t like a leaky engine. I would wait with the trans until overhaul time but then I don’t think I’d spend the $2500 on an overhaul. 25K a year are good miles and doesn’t take long to rack up 100K on a new car, so I’d prefer putting the heavy miles on an old car as long as you can depend on it. Being stalled though at -10 is not fun.

You can’t get a comparable car for $1500. If the repairs hold for at least a year, you’re money ahead.

My vote would be to fix the car and I’m not fond of a burning oil smell either.
A few suggestions on this repair might be:
Replace the torque converter seal while the transmission it out or risk it leaking 2 weeks after reinstallation of the transmission.

Inspect the crankshaft journal that the rear main seal rides on for any oil seal wear groove. If there is a noticeable groove in the journal it would be a good idea to put a Speedi-Sleeve on it.
Speedi-Sleeves are a bit expensive (30ish) but could prevent leakage around the new seal.

Shops have different policies and while the shop is certainly within their rights to charge a small amount extra for the converter seal and sleeve, in my opinion they should just throw this in as part of the job and charge parts only.

A few years ago, my brother spent several hundred dollars in parts to keep his old beater running.

I provided the free labor

He didn’t really like the car, but every month he drove it, he was able to save money for the next, newer car. And he did recently buy a 3 year old used car in good condition.

The car is now 25 years old, and not one of GM’s best efforts in the 1st place. The question for me is about the body and rust in particular. Most cars from upper NY state, or Michigan, would be gone by now due to salt treated winter roads. IF the body is still very good - then I’d consider the repair.

If you spend this $1500 do you expect to drive this car well beyond 200K miles and up to 30 years old? That just seems like a stretch to me. You might be best putting the $1500 toward another car and running this one into the ground and put some more money aside for a car upgrade.

@UncleTurbo–I think you are off by 10 years, but your advice still makes sense.

Oops - working on a small screen, thought it was a 1988.

If you buy a different used car, you’ll probably need tires pretty soon, and an alignment too. These are routine maintenance and someone like you getting ready to sell a used car puts these things off. Ditto timing belts, dripping seals, etc. I’d say @Uncle_Turbo makes a good point about rust. You can’t fix rust. So, unless you are considering buying new or maybe a 3 year old off lease car, you could be facing similar maintenance on anything. 150,000 miles is quite a bit, but at 25,000 a year a lot of it must be highway driving, which really doesn’t wear out a car that much.

Have you checked to be sure the crankcase ventilation system is working? A plugged up system increases pressure in the crankcase and forces oil out somewhere. Maybe the seal is OK, but the vent system is bad.

When I analyze these things, I separate the maintenance items from the repair items. Tires are a maintenance item and the cost to replace them should not figure into your decision. It’s quite likely that if you were to replace this car with one that is a few or even several years newer, it would also need new tires soon. Tire replacement every few years is just the cost of owning any vehicle.

So you’re left with an oil leak, which falls under “repair” (which occurs at random intervals). $600 seems like a low cost for what I would have expected to be an involved task. If you think you know this car well enough that there aren’t other significant problems it sounds like it’s worth repairing. Not sure what you would replace this car with, but $600-$800 of actual unplanned for repair costs is only 2-4 payments on your next car!

You are leaking a lot of oil though, and almost all of it eventually makes its way into our streams/rivers/lakes/etc. So please get that fixed.

If you can’t afford a newer car, you should fix it. If you can afford $8500, you could get a 2008 Cobalt LT. We have a 2009 LT and a 2010 LS and are very happy with them. My daughters are anyway, and they drive them daily. Good gas mileage, too.

I would fix the car and just keep driving it. Until a really major item comes up, then you walk away. In the meantime you will have saved money by not having payments.

The average American spends $1200 a year on maintenance, repairs and tires. And you drive more miles per year than the average US driver. Whatever car you may buy, you have to get used to budgeting that $1200 per year.