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Time for Last Rites?

We have a 2003 Ford Windstar Minivan at about 180000 miles. The fuel pump just went up and we previously had been told to get the tie rod and wheel bearings (?) fixed. So looking at maybe $800 to $1500 of repairs to this Old Girl?

Some of its existing character flaws:

  • Busted plastic pieces around the seats and the bucket in front is broken
  • Left rear door makes a horrible loud sound when it auto locks (when you start up and the car locks itself)
  • Was rear-ended a few years ago but the tow package on it saved us – frame was straightened out
  • Has had two recalls since we bought it – seems like they are gluing the thing together.


New battery last month ($85?)
Tires are good maybe for one more year
Brakes OK
Windshield just replaced after stone break ($159)

We really don’t want more car payments and can only buy another used vehicle, but I fear putting more into this car. Husband wants to drive it into the ground and thinks maybe another 20,000 in it. I wonder if the transmission will holdout and/or what else might go soon.

Any advice would be appreciated.

I say it will be money well spent if you can get 1 more year out of it.

Nothing sounds “terminal” just stuff that wears out with miles and time. At this point forget looks, if it runs and is safe you can get some more time and miles out of it.

Just get the fuel pump fixed and keep on trucking !

The old girl’s best years may be ahead of her Moldygirl. The gender of a vehicle is more critical than the make and model and the girls reach their prime when they have suffered a few dings and pot holes. Once over the years of primping and posing they seem to pull through when needed with no complaints and all they demand is a little attention from time to time. Don’t sell her short. Maybe your husband recognizes and appreciates real class and likes to hold on to it.

I have an older car with a bunch of broken interior pieces, but those don’t really matter. The engine, transmission, steering, suspension, brakes, and electrical system are important, since problems with them could leave you stranded or get people killed. The tie rod, wheel bearing, and fuel pump fall into that “essential” category, and are normal repairs on a vehicle of this age. What you describe is just little things that you deal with on older vehicles, in exchange for not having car payments.

I do have a concern about the front seat. I’m not certain what you’re saying is wrong with it, but a problem with a seat could be a safety issue. If you’re saying it doesn’t slide, that probably isn’t a big deal, but if there’s some kind of structural problem, it could be dangerous. You should ask explicitly if that seat is safe.

Overall, this vehicle could have a good long time left in it. I wouldn’t send her away just yet.

The stuff that needs fixing are the fuel pump, tie rod and bearings; all safety issues, also all wear and tear items, so I won’t toss a car for that. The door noise is the power door actuator, our Caravan makes the same noise and other than adding a bit character to the car it hasn’t had any downsides. If the car is capable of serving the purpose you need it for, fix the stuff and keep driving. I won’t spend money on cosmetic stuff, that is the beauty of having an old car.

In the meantime, start putting aside $500 a month in a special account for your next car, but don’t start shopping yet.

Unless you are withholding additional information, I see no reason to get rid of it just yet. I have a 1995 Windstar with 180k miles on it that shows no signs of giving up, and I love that car. I have put some money into it over the years (ball joints, wheel bearings, brakes, tires, normal wear items), but overall I would say buying that van was probably the best $500 I ever spent.

Besides, can you get a better vehicle than you have right now, that has no need for repairs, for the amount you need to spend to fix your current vehicle?

Two recalls? That’s nothing to worry about.

Shop around - outer tie rods on this vehicle should really run about $100 at an independent mechanic. Wheel bearings are probably around $350 (Ford, bless them, made wheel bearing replacement easy on most of their vehicles, by making them bolt-in parts). The fuel pump will be the expensive repair here, but even there you’re looking at $450 or so at an independent mechanic.

If you’re an average DIY shadetree, all but the fuel pump are easy jobs. Even the fuel pump isn’t horrible, but it is messy.