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Sell or Fix?

My kids '95 Pathfinder stopped running on highway… turns out it has a broken water pump. One mechanic says fix it for $800 and sell for about $3K, another says don’t put in a penny… the engine is no longer good and junk it. Don’t know what to do. Help!

If he kept driving while it was overheating until the engine seized or shutdown, then you are better off to junk it.

My brother-in-law just ruined an engine because of a $20 radiator hose. He knew the hose ruptured. He knew the coolant was all gone. He knew the engine was overheating. We’ve warned him before that you can’t continue to drive when the engine is overheating. Now, instead of a few hundred dollars for a tow, hose, and labor, he is looking at a few thousand.

So what did the second mechanic discover that the first mechanic did not?
Can you provide detail?

We don’t know, and you may not know either, how long your son/daughter drove the vehicle with insufficient coolant. If they drove it dry until it seized up, then it is junk and mechanic #1 is advising you to do something unethical. Ask him if he would buy it as is for $2K.

If your kid stopped when he noticed coolant all over the place and dashboard lighting up like a Christmas tree, then the engine may be worth putting a new water pump in and driving for a while longer. $800 is only 2 months worth of car payments.

If the body, frame, suspension, transmission, etc. are all in good condition, you might investigate the price of replacing the engine with a junkyard engine from a compatible year Pathfinder, rather than going full on with a rebuilt. Another way to stretch a few more months of use out of the car that will probably cost less than a new car.

Thanks for replies. She had been driving it in the past and noticed smoke… then she parked it for 2 months. I went to visit her at college and called CSAAA because it didn’t start, and so he checked the battery and said it was good, but needed a jump. When it turned over, he said it would need water coolant, and to drive it for 25 minutes on the highway, which we did…

After about 10 minutes when she said hey Ma, the oil gauge has hit the top… we started to pull off the highway, and then the smoke… and then it died. (I don’t know if the mechanic who says fix it for $800 is taking advantage of two gals or not as he said there’s no damage to the engine.

(Did I mention it was 108 degrees? And we did learn, that if we took our hair down, more people stopped to ask us for help.) Thanks for any help anyone can offer. $800 is a lot for me with two kids in college.

Based on your story, there is likely to be a lot more wrong with the car than just the water pump. Mechanic #1 is offering to do the bare minimum to get it running, then have you sell it without disclosing the history and hope the damage is mild enough that you can get a sucker to buy it with undisclosed damage.

Mechanic 1 is where car it towed in San Luis Obispo. Mechanic 2 has not seen car, but having heard the story says it should be junked because the car stopped running while it was being driven, which he feels is the determining factor. Mechanic 1 says the engine is okay and there are no cracks in blocks or something…and if he fixes water pump I could sell it for blue book price. The car, btw, is salvaged.

I think the concern here is that mechanic #1 did not say, “$800 for the water pump and it will be good as new,” he said, “fix it and then unload it.” This suggests that he is not confident in his statement that the car is ok except for the water pump. Why else would he suggest you unload it? On the other hand, he has the car and mechanic #2 does not.

Here’s my question for mechanic #1. What happens if you pay for the water pump only, and it turns out the car won’t start because other internal parts are overheated and seized, or that it starts but runs so terribly that there is no hope of selling it. Will he buy the car from you, or refund the price of the water pump?

Here’s my question for you, Ginnie. If you bought the water pump and the car was driveable, would you be willing to sell it as is, without disclosing that you badly overheated the engine, or would you disclose that fact. Because if you disclose it, you won’t get anywhere near blue book value. You might pay $800 just to sell it for $750. (Go to or and look up the value for “rough trade-in”.) You will get more money if you don’t disclose it, but it might bother your conscience.

I have to agree. Assuming the “oil gage” that “hit the top” was actually the temp gage, the engine’s been seriously overheated and that’s never a good thing.

Thanks so much for your input. Actually, we were going to sell the car before this episode so I asked him should I put money in to fixing it or not. He said yes, put in the $800 because I could get $3000. The car, btw, is already a “salvage” because a driver ran in to the side of it and it would cost insurance more than that to fix the side of the car. But it didn’t affect the way that it ran. And then this… seems as though Hank the Tank is jinxed. Maybe just best to junk it… but…