Time for it to go?

I’m faced with a repair dilemma on my ’97 Honda Accord. Besides oil changes, major repairs over the last few years have included the cooling system being replaced twice and more recently the ignition system. Now the muffler has loudly made its wishes known to me. There’s also repairs looming to the struts, A/C and some smaller repairs. Other than that, it’s passed the 177K mark. Should I spend an unknown amount on these repairs or cut my losses and get a new Accord or even a Mini Cooper Clubman? It’s served me well since ’97 but I think it’s time for an upgrade, are major repairs like this worth the cost for a car of this age?

It all depends on what your ultimate goal is going to be… You are probably looking at about $1000-$1500 in repairs, assumeing the AC problem is minor. Also assumeing you are having a shop do these repairs and that you do not do them you self. BUT you have no car payment and depending on your state cheap yearly taxes, and Im guessing no colistion on your insurance. Figure new car, payment will run you in the $300 a month range… Your repairs are paid for in 3-5 months (less if you include insurance, etc)… So financially it is almost always better to keep what you have. With proper maintenance and yes some repairs, you should be able to get another 100K out of your Honda.

With that said, do you WANT something new? Are you OK with taking on a $300+ car payment? these are all questions only you can answer.

I have three questions.

For the OP–When was the timing belt last replaced? If it was not replaced within the past 7 years or so, the car itself is likely to make this decision for you. In other words, so much internal engine damage will take place–at an unpredictable time, and in an unpredicatable place–that you will have no choice but to buy another car. On the other hand, if the timing belt and all other required maintenance is up to date, you only need to buy another car if you feel the need for one on a personal level.

Have you changed the trans fluid every 3 yrs/30k miles? (assuming that it is an automatic trans)
If not, when the trans fails in the very near future, once again the car will make the decision for you, as a rebuilt trans would cost more than the car’s book value. On the other hand, if the trans has been maintained as I described, it should have several more years of life left in it.

For GSragtop–Why do you assume that everyone finances a car?
Certainly someone who is financially responsible should have been able to save up enough money in 15 years to be able to pay cash for a new car.

My car buying/usage plan is as follows: Pay cash, maintain the car meticulously, drive it for ~10 years while saving/investing my money, and then buy the next new car for good old American cash. Surely I can’t be the only person who does this.

smokie, If you are ready for a new car, you certainly are entitled. Your '97 has served you well. Major repairs? New struts are costly but at 177K miles you can expect to replace them. Same with the muffler, I don’t see these as major repairs; you are just replacing stuff you’d expect to wear out in the years and miles on your car.

Cooling system replaced twice? I have no clue what that means? You don’t replace a cooling system, so what part(s) were replaced? The AC, could be a major problem with compressor or a dinky problem with a bad switch. Do you have an estimate for the AC repair(s) needed?

You are coming due for your 3rd timing belt job on this motor at about $600, and if you haven’t replaced a timing belt don’t spend any money on the car without doing a timing belt job. No use putting new struts and muffler on the car and then have a blown engine to deal with a couple of months later.

If you think it" is time to upgrade this car " you are not going to be satisfied with it after the repairs. Almost any car can be kept going for a long time if it doesn’t have terminal rust, it is your state of mind that is the determining factor.

To Uncle Turbo-What I meant with “cooling system” is largely the radiator and thermostat, there was maybe 2-3 years in between these repairs. In terms of the A/C it’s probably minor, it doesn’t produce much heat in the winter and is probably nothing more than a loose cable or switch needing to be replaced but only the dealer can do that repair from what I’ve been told.

To VDC Driver-I’m lucky in that I have no car payment (I was able to pay cash when I bought the Honda new in '97 and will do the same if I go the new car route).

So its a heater problem, not an a/c problem? Given the radiator replacements, it might be a plugged heater core, which isn’t cheap because of the work needed to get it out.

At 15 years you’re entitled to let it go. It’s not likely to be the lowest-cost option, but buying a new car seldom is.

VDC- Because I work at a car dealership, and have been in this biz for 15+ years. MOST (at least 80+%) customers finance, even those who can pay cash, usually leave with a 0% or 0.9% loan because its so cheap to do so and not spend there money… Most hope they can make more money then it costs them to borrow ours.

We have a 97 Accord coming up on 180k miles, so we are somewhat in the same boat. But we are keeping ours for awhile. I will be putting a new timing belt in in a couple of weeks. I just replaced the radiator, thermostat, hoses and heater control valve and I expect to have no more trouble with them for awhile.


Now for the heat and AC issues. If the cooling system has not lost any charge, and I suspect it hasn’t, there are two issues that are overlooked by service techs in this area. First, there is no filter for outside air and the opening under the cowl is quite large so it sucks in a lot of dirt and debris which clogs up the evaporator coil.


Unfortunately, due to a bad design by Honda, the evaporator has to be removed to clean it, unless you want to cut up the case like I did and tape and glue it back together.


The other issue is the temperature control cable. It goes from the control panel in the dash to the blend door in the ducts. Then another cable goes from the blend door to the control valve under the hood. This cable gets out of adjustment at the control panel.


It is also possible for the clip at the blend door that holds the cable in place can break. BTW, clip not available, the blend door must be replaced at very high $$$, unless you jury rig it like I did.