Time to let go?

A few years ago, I was given the car that my grandfather used to drive as my first car. It’s a 95’ Olds Cutlass Ciera, and it has been wonderful. However, it has come to a point where the repairs it needs cost more than it is probably worth. The brakes are ready to go (partly my fault- did not have enough maintenance), the radiator needs to be flushed, the driver’s door sounds like a gunshot when you open it, one window doesn’t work, the key doesn’t work in either door lock, the trunk has no lock, and the list goes on. I don’t think it will make it through the brutal northeast winter, even if I do have everything [vital] fixed. I haven’t the first clue where to look for another car, and I don’t have all that much money. I’m very reluctant to let go of this one, but I may have to. Any suggestions?

I’d suggest that you have a reputable independent shop do an evaluation of the car and give you a written report. From the sound of it, you may be able to get this one fixed up a lot cheaper than you can replace it. If the engine and tranny are in good shape, the items you’ve mentioned are not major repairs.

Say more about the radiator. Is the car overheating? Has it?

What do you mean by “the brakes are ready to go…”?

IMHO, those are the two important things & not major (unless the car has overheated). So I’ll go along with mountainbike & say to have someone check it out.

The only thing vital in your post is the brakes. The locks, door noise, and window you can postpone or ignore. The radiator flush is desirable, but you might be able to get by with a simple drain-and-refill. Haven’t you a friend or neighbor who does simple auto repair himself?

It is somewhat of a gamble whether your Olds will last as long as you want it to, but it is also a gamble to purchase a low-priced used car.

Don’t give up just yet. Visit a recommended repair shop (not a dealership) and discuss this situation with the boss. Tell him you are interested in safety and reliability but not necessarily convenience.

The radiator, as far as I know, has never been replaced. It has been emitting nasty clumpy orange rust into the coolant. It hasn’t been overheating, but on a cold day, I keep an eye on the temperature gauge and jack up the heat if I see it going towards the hot end. Strangely, it never happens on a hot day. A year ago, I had the coolant flushed, took a 160 mile drive, and the coolant was once again squash soup.

The brakes… Shamefully, the pads have worn down to almost nothing. Metal on metal. This is mostly my fault, because for a year, I have not had the money to change the brake pads (and felt guilty going to my mechanic because I already owed them for a major repair). The last change was probably between two and three years ago. The noise kills my nerves every time I screech to a grinding halt.

There’s 2 places that have been suggested to me. One of them is the local high school, which has an auto repair thing set up (I had never heard of such a thing until I moved here), and is supposedly cheap. The other is a mechanic who has been rumored to occasionally help the financially desperate for the price of parts.

I have been actively ignoring the non-vital things. The window is a bit annoying, though.

btw- thank you for the advice so far. I had been edging towards getting a different car, but I’m starting to see that I may have been a bit brash.

The longer you delay, the higher cost on the brake job. From your description, it sounds like you will need rotors anyway. Check out the high school program first. Many times no labor is charged and you pay only for parts. In other cases. you pay a fee plus parts. In both cases, the work is well supervised. There may be a waiting list and that may not work for you.

The brakes are really urgent, seriously. If you are metal on metal, you don’t have the stopping power you should in an emergency. The radiator is worrisome, but not urgent. Just be sure to check the level frequently, and if it does let go, you have to pull over and shut the engine off immediately to prevent truly irreparable damage. The rest you can fix if it bugs you or leave it alone.

I know this is easy to suggest but hard to do, but you really have to get those brakes fixed, you could be in an accident without warning. If there’s any way to do this soon, please do. This is one case where using the cheap line of parts from Autozone would be OK, if the alternative is doing nothing.

If you haven’t paid for the last repair and don’t have money for brakes, there is absolutely no point in talking about another car. You do need brakes and by putting it off, you now probably need rotors as well as the brake pads. You may just need to take the bus for a while until you can get the brakes fixed. You’re just going to have to live with the rest of it or find a friend that can help with the work.

leaving it at the mechanic’s today for the brakes and bare minimum to pass inspection. If I’m to look for another car, I need to buy myself a little time, even though it is costly.

Good luck. Once you get it back, post a list of needed repairs, we can help you decide which are the must-do vs. nice-to-do items. You may be surprised at how much longer it’ll last, considering the cost of replacement.