CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

To fix or not to fix

I’ve got a 2001 Honda CRV with 220k miles. I love this car. Very little rust, just a small patch on both rear wheel fenders and the interior is in good shape. I live 2 miles in on a gravel road so the dust and debris can be hard on a car and I must have all wheel drive, oh and I commute 90 miles rt each day.

So here’s the dilemma. I just took it in for a check up and a few minor issues. They did a complete check on it and came back with a $3000 estimate. This includes timing belt (I did change this at 100k but obviously its time for it again), water pump, some ball joints, brake adjustment, air conditioner maint., stabilizer end links, tune up, valve adjustment, new belts, cooling system flush & cabin air filter and new starter.

Is this overkill?? Is an 11 yr old car with 220k miles on it worth putting that much money into?

TIA

Does it start? If so, don’t replace the starter.

Personally, I would drive it until the timing belt breaks unless you are planning to drive this car beyond 300,000 miles. Water pump is part of the same job. Do not replace unless leaking, overheating, etc.

Tuneup (plugs and wires), valve adjustment, belts, cooling system flush–how long do you plan to keep the car?

Ball joints, brakes, stabilizer links, all are safety issues. Definitely should do these if they are truly needed.

But if I wait until the t-belt breaks, what damage can that potentially do?

Reason for the starter was it hangs up (don’t know how else to put it) when I start the car, like you’re holding the starter in the on position but just for a second. Has done that for a couple years now in winter and colder months but now its getting worse. I’m afraid to leave it until the car won’t start.

I plan to keep this car as long as I possibly can. I can’t afford a new car and honestly don’t want one.

Who did the checkup?

If it was a dealership, I’d definitely get a second opinion from an independent owner-operated garage. It’s very easy to find $3000 worth of work if one tries, but much of it may not relaly need to be done. It’s a virtual guarantee that if you take an old car into a dealership and ask them to do a checkup they’ll come up with at least $3000 worth of work…much of it not necessarily needed.You have stuff on the list, specifically the brake adjustment, the new cabin air filter, the air conditioner maintenance, the stab bar end links, the valve adjustment (is it noisy?), and the new starter that I wonder about.

If it was your trusted local mechanic, ask him what actually needs doing now and what doesn’t. It may be that he gave you a complete list of everything he could find (an okay response when you ask him to “ccheck it over”), but much of it may not be necessary right now.

If you plan to keep it longer, I’d definitely do the timing belt and the water pump. And, if a second opinion confirms the ball joints, I’d do those too.

Thanks for the responses guys, this is helping me a lot.

Its not a dealership, its a mechanic I’ve used on and off for several years. He’s good but he’s extremely thorough which can be good and bad. He tells me that everything needs to be done, did say that I could leave the starter and cooling system and filter but thats about it. I knew the ball joints were a problem, just didn’t realize how bad. He basically told me I shouldn’t drive it until thats fixed for sure.

The brake adjustment I do think needs to be done, they were getting grabby and I asked him to take a look at them. He said they were fine, just dirty and needed minor adjustment, only charging $30 for that.

The chunk of change is the t-belt & pump-$725 and the rear trailing arm bushings-$469, ball joint-$242, valve adjust-$207, stabilizer bar-$169.12 tune up-$222, rest is all under $100, throttle plate cleaner, brake adj, oil change, alignment, cooling system.

He sounds legit, although I wonder exactly what’s wrong with the stab bar links. If the compression is good, I’d follow his advice. Where else can you get a good used car that you love and know the history of for less than $3K?

It sounds like that gravel road is giving your undercarriage a beating. Even if you bought brand new car, it’d probably end up needing the types of thing son your list in a few years anyway.

My thoughts exactly. Again, thank you for helping me work thru this decision :)!

Yours is an ‘interference engine’, so if the timing belt breaks, the engine (and therefore the whole vehicle, in your case) is ready for the crusher.

Thats what I thought texases, thanks for confirming.

I looked at the breakdown of work and charges. The “tune up” rang my alarm bell; $222 for a “tune up”. Especially if he is charging for a throttle plate cleaning on top of the tune up. Ask about what exactly he will do in this tune up? Essentially it is new spark plugs and they aren’t hard to change on this car. Plugs cost about $20-30 and he will mark them up, but it still only 4 plugs and $200 for labor is way over the top. If he is changing the plugs and all 4 coils and boots that might account for $220 but the coils aren’t usually replaced unless the car is misfiring. Is the “check engine” light on?

The other item I’d question is the price of the valve adjustment. With the timing belt job the extra labor to adjust the valves is small. Seems like he is charging what he’d get if the motor wasn’t already being worked on.

You might consider getting a quote on the same work from a Honda dealer service dept. Sometimes they charge more for parts, but do big jobs faster meaning less labor charges. Can’t hurt to get another opinion and price on a job this pricey. I think you should be able to get all this done for something closer to $2,000 to 2,200.

$220. for a tune up sounds way out of line and also got my attention. There’s a chance all you need is new spark plugs which nearly anyone can do themselves and the parts (4 plugs and a tube of anti seize) can be bought at any auto parts store for under $20. Since I’m not a mechanic by trade and have never worked on a Honda I’m not sure what all is involved in adjusting the valves on a Honda, but I’ve done valve adjustments on other types of cars in under an hour so $207. for a valve adjustment sounded out of line to me. I’d suggest you look the list over and see what all items you can do yourself. If you’re mechanically minded and own tools you could spend $20-$30 on a Haynes or Chilton’s manual for your car and probably do most of the items yourself, then take it to a mechanic for the things you can’t do. A repair manual is usually one of the first things I buy after buying a new car and will give step by step instructions with picture illustrations on how to do almost anything that needs to be done to the car. About the only repairs I won’t tackle myself are things that require internal engine/transmission work or pulling engine/transmission out. I do my own timing belt/water pump changes and they’re not that big of a job (usually under 1/2 a day), especially with the assistance of a repair manual. By working on my own cars I’ve been able to keep an '88 Ford Escort with 518, 500 miles on it on the road while spending very little on it. If I’d been having to pay a mechanic to do all the work that’s been done to it, it would probably have been junked 10 years ago. If you decide to do the work yourself many parts are available from Auto Zone with lifetime warranty, so if they ever wear out again as long as you own the car they will replace it free, just take the old part in and exchange it for a new one.

I’m not at all a mechanic, but from a car-owner’s perspective, I wish I’d fixed the transmission on my 1990 Geo Prizm when it went a few years ago. The cost would have been much higher than the KBB value of the car, but I loved that hatchback, and I’ve ended up with two bum cars after it – which only emphasizes my regret in not fixing up the Geo. There just aren’t lots and lots filled with cars you will love out there. And knowing the history of your car is half the battle in maintaining it.

My main issue with fixing the Geo, ultimately, was its lack of safety features, but you shouldn’t have that trouble with a 2001 Honda. I’d say fix it (taking the excellent advice of the people on this forum and checking out the prices, etc) and don’t look back.

Try to look at it like this. You can keep the car you have with the necessary repairs for ??? $$ or you can sell your car and then see what you can afford to replace it. You may well do some of the repairs and sell the car. Of course, the person you buy a car from, likely just did the same thing. Fixed what was obvious and hoped you did not notice the problem.

Good Luck

You mention that your car has very little rust. Unfortunately, it is this rust that you don’t see that is worse than the rust that you do see. I would agree that doing the repairs might be worthwhile if the undercarriage checks out o.k. I think I would have a body shop technician check the car thoroughly for rust. If the rust isn’t a real problem, then consider fixing it for another couple of years of use.

I’ve got a 1999 CR-V with 228k on it now. Timing belt done twice and water pump once. Also had to replace the head (or could’ve gotten a valve job) because of a burnt valve.

So definitely do the valve adjustment and adjust on the “loose end of the specs”. Valve adjustment at 100k isn’t enough on this vehicle, so do it every 30-60k to avoid this problem (clearance closes up, valve doesn’t seat all the way, burns, lose compression, etc). If you google CR-V burnt valve, you’ll find more info on it. I bought a rebuit head on ebay from an Acura Integra (same head) and replaced it myself and it’s been good since.

I’ve also done the stabilizer links and it sounds like the generic ones I got already need it again (just a knocking noise from the front suspension when going over bumps). It will sound more “solid” after you do this.

On the starter – mine was doing the same thing – staying “engaged” for a second or two in cold weather only. Well when I replaced the head, I pulled the starter motor and cleaned it up, etc, and it’s been going, without hanging up, for about 50k since then, so that might be an option and save a little bit for you.

Timing belt – definitely do it because as mentioned, you’ll ruin the engine if you lose it. And if you’re planning to keep it a while, might as well do the water pump (I think the OEM Honda pump was $100 or so and no additional labor really).

All those things seem reasonable at this point in the life of the car. If my car, I wouldn’t replace the starter unless was already giving problems. Starters usually give you some symptoms before they fail completely. And I wouldn’t do the valve adjustment unless there were definite symptoms there was a problem with the valves, which is unlikely given what you say. The other things I’d do though. If you change the timing belt, definitely change the water pump at the same time. The valve adjustment is probably the big $$ event, so ask them how much w/out the valves? Then if you think it is still too much, shop around. Independent Honda shops are often a little cheaper than the dealer, and are usually as good.

All of the above being said, if it is important to have a super-reliable vehicle, look around and see what you can see in the same car but only 2-3 years old and less than 40K miles. You might find a good deal and be money ahead by swapping out the old for the new. I like older vehicles, so I’d keep the 2001. But it doesn’t bother me that much if my car doesn’t start every single day either. Best of luck.