Should I let my car slowly die?

Hey y’all –
I’ve got a 96 Saturn SL2 with 165K on it, still getting between 30-34mpg. Sure, the car has looked better during its life. But it’s treated me really well these last 15 years. I just registered it in my new place of residence, so I’ve invested in it lasting at least another year or two. I don’t drive a lot – maybe once a week, city/highway driving. So there are a couple things that I know are wrong with the car, and I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth it for me to fix them, given the investment I just made last week into keeping this car in my possession and legally registered. I’ve broken my issues down into 3 categories.

  1. Aesthetic/Options: 3 of the 4 windows do not operate anymore. This is more annoying than anything else, however, I’m fairly certain the 4th (driver front) window is probably going to go kaput any day now. Should I get at least one of the windows fixed (annoyingly , they’re power windows, and I pulled off the inner door panel only to find that the window infrastructure is on the other side of the metal – by the outer door panel. A panel i’m not prepared to take off and ‘teach myself how to fix’)

  2. Mechanical/Functional: A) Much more importantly, after I drove home from the DMV, I realised that the clutch seems to be in much worse shape than I had originally thought. This is the second clutch I’ve had on this car, so it’s probably about time. I think it’s the clutch because going into 1st and 2nd gear, one of two scenarios occurs. 1) keep the clutch pedal halfway down until you’re driving at speed, or 2) release the clutch as you normally would, but be jarred by a very violent knocking. I presume this is the clutch, but I’m honestly not sure. I also noticed that this is not the case when I start the car cold in the morning, it drives just fine for about 2 blocks. But by the 3rd stop sign, it’s a mess. B) It burns oil, so I am having to add oil to it probably every 1500-2000 miles. There have been times it’s gotten embarrassingly low, but I’ve tried to be more on top of this in the last 3-4 years. I’ve been less anal about getting the oil changed on time, because I am adding oil at these weird intervals.

  3. Safety: A) I just misjudged a curb tonight, and they are high and marble. As such, i’ve not only shaved a little metal off my allow wheel rim (seems to be a cosmetic issue), I’ve also produced a nick in the sidewall. It’s like a little skintag of rubber hanging off the tire’s sidewall, perhaps the size of a quarter. and perhaps 1/4 inch thick. Is this very dangerous to continue driving on? Or should I just get it replaced? B) Furthermore, the brakes are still working fine, though they are definitely a little slower to come to a full stop than they were 5 years ago. Again, is this something I should prioritize/bother with at this point? Or should I just drive slower. . .

I don’t really want to buy a new car, I don’t need one here. But since I’ve committed to keeping this car until it dies, I am wondering whether it makes sense to invest in a new clutch and at least 1 more working window. I probably will not buy a new car once this one dies, I’m considering going completely car-less, so it’s not just a question of “how much are you spending repairing this car compared to how much you’d spend on a new car”. It’s more, how can I eke out as much as I can from this wonderful, American-beauty? And if I am going to get a new clutch, how much should I anticipate paying?

Thanks to everyone in advance for your opinions. I really appreciate the help!


You’ve committed to keeping this car “until it dies.”

Good for you.

Your Saturn is dead, or close enough. You’ve fulfilled your commitment.

Let the car go. Sell it, give it away, whatever you need to do, but don’t spend any more money on it.

Find another car and move on.

Shame, mcparadise. It’s not dead yet!

As long as the driver’s side window works, the others are a nuisance.

On the oil burning, did you ever change the PCV valve? A few bucks may just reduce that oil burning you’re suffering from. A high mileage oil with seal conditioners can also help tired oil seals if there are oil drops on the ground.

The clutch? May be a hanging slave cylinder. It sounds like the clutch itself is working OK. If the plastic slave cylinder is not working smooth, or the release fork is hanging up on something, this could be causing the jerking. Way cheaper to fix than replacing a clutch that is not slipping! Also, if there is any air in the system. It can be bled.

The tire and rim can be evaluated at a tire shop. The tire may be toast, but the rim may still be good. Sidewall damage I don’t play with. If the tire is not flat by morning, the rim may be OK.

You are slipping your clutch and it won’t last long as you try to avoid the jarring knock which may be a motor mount/torque strut. Get that checked and price the repair. The cheapest transportation is from a paid off klunker.

BustedKnuckles, These all sound fantastic, but are they things that a mechanic will do for me instead of trying to upsell to a full new clutch? I don’t know what a slave cylinder is. . . alternatively, how would air get into the system?


Rod Knox –
How do i avoid slipping my clutch? I mean, is it better to let the knocking happen and just pop the clutch? I’ve been driving this car for 15 years – it’s a very easy manual to drive, so perhaps it’s my driving “style”?

A body shop can repair the window(s), check for a cost estimate.

If you aren’t changing the oil regularly then you can expect more oil burning. Adding a quart or two of oil between 5,000 mile oil change intervals isn’t bad at all. You should get back to regular oil changes.

Find a mechanic you trust to evaluate the clutch. AAA has mechanic references and there is a mechanic finder app on this web site.

I think your tire with the sidewall nick could be unsafe. If you can see cord beneath the nick it is not safe.

Case of oil is a standard trunk accessory in ALL Saturn owners I know. Fact of life. Check/top it every few fillups.

Clutch keep asking for quotes.

Window leave it be. The most important ones is drivers, the other three are optional.

It’s time to let this car go. Use the money you’ll save on repairs to rent a car when you need one.

@paekwon, get a mechanic to inspect your motor mounts

“I don’t know what a slave cylinder is”

it’s a part of the mechanism (similar to the brakes system) between the clutch pedal and the clutch itself.
There is also a clutch master cylinder.

Your window problems are probably just worn/broken window regulators that are only held in by a few bolts/nuts. The inside door panel probably has holes in it to access these bolts/nuts then the regulator can be removed though a larger hole in the door panel. I’d check this out to verify and if I am correct you can probably pick up used regulators at a junk yard for approximately $50. and can probably change them yourself.

The oil burning/leaking which ever the problem may be isn’t bad enough to worry about. One of my cars uses/leaks a quart of oil about every 1K miles. It’s been using at least a quart every 1500 miles for probably the last 100K+ miles. I just be sure the crankcase doesn’t get too low, usually adding oil when it get about 1/2 quart low. The car has 518K miles on it and I plan to keep driving it for several more years provided it doesn’t have an engine/transmission failure.

I’d have the tire evaluated by a tire shop, but a plug the size you explained sounds like it could be very dangerous, especially in the sidewall. The sidewall is the weakest part of the tire.

for the clutch, what range is a reasonable range. Like if a mechanic tells me it’s $5000 to replace the clutch, I presume that’s an absurd ask. If it’s on the order of $1000, that seems low? I like to know what to expect when I go in to get my first quote since I’ve had some pretty irritating experiences as a female.

A complete clutch job, all new parts, would be in the $1,000 range. If the clutch as damaged the flywheel it can cost a lot more depending on whether the flywheel can be resurfaced or needs to be replaced. If the clutch is engaging with a jolt you risk damage to the flywheel in delaying the repair.

The only problems I’ve been able to extrapolate from your post are
(1) the car doesn;t look new anymore
(2) the clutch may need replacing…or the knocking might be a motor mount
(3) it uses a quart of oil every 1500-2000 miles…perhaps exascerbated by the fact that you’ve been negligent in checking it…but you’re doing better now
(4) the brakes may be due for replacement…after 5 years
(5) you’ve skimmed a wheel and nicked a sidewall…perhaps 1/4" deep.

The car isn’t shot.
(1) so? If the looks concern you, try a good wash & wax job.
(2) normal wear. Minor, not major. Have it checked and repaired.
(3) just monitor the oil level and top off when needed. It’ll run forever like this.
(4) get the brakes checked. And get a brake job if needed. This is normal wear.
(5) Ignore the wheel unless the rim was bent. If the sidewall nick really is 1/4", or anywhere near that, replacethe tire. A deep sidewall nick is a blowout looking for the right bump to complete the job. This IS a safety issue.

Oh, yeah, the windows. Get a Haynes manual at the local parts store, order some new regulators on line, and spend a Saturday putting in the new regulators. It isn’t rocket science. It’s a good DIY project.

And go back to sticjing to a proper oil change schedule. Adding oil every 2000 miles is not the same as changing it every 5,000. Both need to be done.