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Should I run away from this Altima?

Hi, I am looking to purchase a 99 Nissan Altima. The vehicle has 96k on it and is fairly well maintained. As we (my Dad and I) went to test drive it, we took it to a mechanic who told us it needs new calipers, pads, and the rotors should be resurfaced. Also that there is a leak in the power steering line and that oil has leaked into the spark plugs (I’m no expert here…) So we talk the guy down 500 bucks. Then we decide to drive it today and just double check the leak. We wanted to know where it was coming from, so we took it back to the mechanic who put a dye in it and told us to drive for 20 minutes. We take it on the freeway and all is well until it overheats. When we got the owner out to give us a hand, he brought coolant with him. The coolant tank was full. But the radiator was not. So I guess it isnt flowing from the tank to the radiator. Also while we were driving it, (I live in Utah and it’s freezing right now) we tried the heater and couldnt get any heat. All the air blowing out was cold. So what do I do? What could be wrong with this car and should I stay away? Thanks!

I would not buy that car with YOUR money! You never stated a price but there are way to many issues to make it a cost effective purchase.
As far as the heat it could be air in the cooling system that needs burping but since it’s a 99 theres a real good chance the heater core is clogged. Back flushing helps but it will clog again since its clogged with rust from the block.

If I were you I would walk away from that beater and not even go back to that seller again.

The guy originally wanted 4k for it. When we found out about the brakes, our mechanic quoted us 400, so we talked the guy down to 3500. The only reason I am even considering it is because he said he is a certified ASE (or something to that effect) and promised to look at the car tomorrow and let me know what is going on. I really just need a reliable commuter car that I can get a few years out of. What else could be wrong with it? He did mention the thermostat was just replaced as they moved here from California and there is an altitude difference between Utah and California.

Walk away.
You will anyway, if you buy it and once it leaves you stranded.

Yeah, walk away. You stated you wanted reliable transportation. From the get go, this car is not. And with the problems it has it is priced at least $1,000 too high.

What about just a 99 Altima in general working order. Would that be worth it?

How much money did they leave in the glovebox?

Seriously, what’s the mileage and how was it maintained?

I would suspect that the head gasket has failed. Cylinder pressure is entering the cooling system, pushing the coolant out of the radiator and leaving air in the cooling system. That is why the heater doesn’t work, the seller can’t keep coolant in it.

Yep, run, don’t walk, away. Engine problems are never cheap.

A car that doesn’t survive the test drive, is not worth wasting time on. Agree with others, run, run.

You should be able to buy something it better shape but maybe more miles for less money. This goes to show that mileage is not all the story. A car that has not seen good maintenance and has been abused, could be a wreck even at 50K miles.

What else has been neglected. When buying a used car from an owner, take as much time checking out the owner as the car. As other say, this car is on your “no no” list; you just do not know what else is wrong with it.

Run. Fast. This engine has signs of serious internal problems. The only way the coolant in the engine can coontract when cooling without pulling coolant back from the reservoir is if it has another passage through which to pull in air.

In your case, I strongly suspect that your engine is drawing oil in through a breech in the headgasket, vaporizing it, and then when what’s left of the coolant contracts later it’s drawing air back through the breech raher than pulling coolant in from the reservoir.

Besides, if you get a quote to change that steering rack you’ll find that $500 was not enough of an adjustement even if everything else were good.

I assume the phrase “fairly well maintained” is one used by the person selling the car. Even with a private seller do not buy into what you’re told. Fairly well maintained means that one would not be selling a car that needs a plethora of repairs; especially brakes.

At least with car dealers, many used cars they sell may have or develop problems they’re not aware of or can predict as they have no idea what the history of the car is before they took it in trade or purchased it at auction.
With private sellers, many of them are well aware of what their car needs and at some point the amount of cash for those needs makes them decide to sell the car; oftentimes playing dumb along the way.

The fact that your inspecting mechanic found front brake problems, a valve cover leak, and a steering rack or presssure line leak is an indication that the ASE certified mechanic/owner has not been maintaining this vehicle well. The fact that he/she changed the thermostat and had coolant available to refill the radiatot indicates that there is a cooling system problem. Either there is coolant leak that is large enough to draw air on cool down or combustion/compression gas is getting into the cooling system. The fact that the heater core has a air blockage is another indication that the cooling system has been experiencing air entry and poor maintenence (i.e. lack of burping).

The fact that the ASE certified mechanic/owner is not jumping all over himself to get these problems solved is another indicator of his/her qualifications. Having the knowledge to do the job right does not necessarily equate with having the inclination to do a quality job.

Stay away from this car if you are not able to live with an unreliable car.

Yeah first thing I think about with an empty radiator is head gasket. Doesn’t sound like it was well maintained and changing the thermostat because of an altitude issue means the guy is either clueless or jerking you around.

@ Docnick,
Sorry I actually agree. I pushed the wrong button…
And about the car: you should have gave the keys back to the owner on the side of the road on the failed test drive…

If I had the time and resources to fix it myself I’d buy this 14 y.o. junker for $750, no more.

Well it is a clean Cali car. If u can work on the motor ur self than it might be ok. He wanted 4k and u offered 500? That’s cruel.