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To Fix or Not to Fix

I have an '04 Nissan Maxima SE, fully loaded with everything a recent college grad would love to have in a car but doesn’t normally get. I was lucky enough to get the car from it’s only other owner, my mom, 3 years ago. However, it has not been all smooth sailing. Just before I took the car it was backed into when parked on the street. It was just body damage so I never had it fixed. Almost exactly two years ago I found out the transmission went bad. I spent $3500 to get the valve body replaced. I actually got a faulty part the first time and had to take it back to be re-replaced a week after the work was done. Around that time I updated the breaks and replaced an 02 sensor (another 1000 worth of work). 1 year ago I bought 4 brand new tires ($600). In January, I was in an accident and had a significant ammout of body damage. After dealing with insurance for months and 5 weeks in the shop I finally had almost all of the body damage repaired as well as fixing an oil leak. The car was back in my possession and running very well at the end of April. In mid June while driving down the highway the car suddenly died. I eventually found out that my oil pump failed and blew my engine. Now, to replace it with a used engine, for parts and labor, I would have to pay $4000.
Do I suck it up and fix it, (as I mentioned previously, being a recent grad this is money that I don’t technically have), or do I say enough is enough and try to trade it in/ auction it off and look for another relatively inexpensive used car that will probably be older than this one and not have all of the extras? If I do get rid of it, is there any chance I will get more than a few hundred dollars for it? Help!
Sincerely, Bad Luck With Cars

I should also mention that the gas guage does not work (I rely on the one built into the navigation system) and the CD player is non-functional. And neither of these are easily or very likely fixable.

Bach once complained that, with the local taxes due and the cost of the shipping, he couldn’t really afford to accept the gift of free wine that someone offered. Keep in mind as well that it is a very human habit to want to keep investing in something that you’ve already spent a lot of time and money on, even when it’s a losing proposition. It’s important, though, to realize when it is best to cut and run. From your description it sounds as if you’d be better off with a different car, even if it lacks a few bells and whistles. This one seems to have been a problem right from the start.

I’d throw in the towel on this one. I’d feel uncomfortable relying on it, for one thing.

Was the engine full of oil? Did you change the oil and filter regularly? Did you pay close attention to your temperature and oil pressure gauges? It’s pretty rare for an oil pump to just go out on its own. How many miles on this car?

With your luck, you may want to stick with bicycles or public transportation. If you need a car, you should teach yourself about auto maintenance and repair so you don’t have to keep throwing so much money at car repairs.

Is the car in good shape overall? Or is it turning into a beater that you are embarrassed to be seen in? If it’s in good shape, you may be better off replacing the engine, then drive it until you can afford a better vehicle. You’ll get a far better trade in credit if it runs. A used car in the $4k range is probably going to need maintenance and repairs almost immediately. When shopping for a used car, it can be somewhat difficult to find one that has been taken care of by the previous owner. Sometimes it’s better to stick with the devil you know. Is the $4k quote for a certified rebuilt, or a junk yard/salvage engine?


Thank you for all of your input. The car was very well taken care of. Regular oil changes and more than regular checkups as you could probably infer from how often it was in the shop.My mechanic informed me that there was no way anyone could have know the oil pump would die. It has 127K miles. Overall it would be a great car…if only it ran. I would love to learn about automotive repairs and fix the car myself, but being a full time professional student I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

First, on a wing and a prayer I would call Nissan and see if they will give you ANY help towards the repair. They will most likley say no, but a car with 127k that has been well taken care of SHOULD NOT have its oil pump fail… With that said, $4000 will not buy you much today, so I am tempted to say keep it. However the car has not been great to you, so I could also just as easily say let it go. Its a hard one…

Not meaning to be too critical here, but the car sounds like it’s been thrashed to me and it’s time to say good-bye to it.

I have a 12 year old car with almost 180k that’s in good shape and I do all the maintenance on it. If it needed a $4,000 repair tomorrow, i’d go ahead and do it strictly because, I am also a fairly recent college grad and simply not in a good financial position to purchase a newer vehicle. I’d rather roll the dice against my old car that I at least know the maintenance history of and how it was driven, vs. someone else’s. I’m not saying that this is the best course of action for the O.P. just food for thought. It’s a tough call.


Normally, I wouldn’t recommend putting this kind of money in a 9 year old car However, you won’t get much for $4000 unless you are very lucky. At this point in your life, you don’t want to take on a lot of debt for a newer car. Since your brakes, tires and transmission are seemingly o.k., maybe in your financial situation you should go ahead and fix it. You can live without the cd player and you can reset the trip odometer to keep track of the miles driven since you refilled the tank.
I faced this situation once when the manual transmission developed a problem on my 1965 Rambler when I was a graduate student. There were no Ramblers in the salvage yards with the correct transmission. The tempatation was to purchase a newer car, but when I looked at the cost, I had the manual transmission rebuilt. The Rambler not only got me through the rest of my graduate work, but I drove it for a couple more years after I had a secure job. Now had I had the job when the transmission went sour, I would have bought a better car.
My son is a teacher and money is tight. He has a rather expensive refrigerator. Just after the warranty was up, the compressor failed. Normally, one would just buy a new refrigerator. However, after looking at all the options (new refrigerator, used refrigerator, etc.), he elected to have the compressor replaced for $475. On the other hand, he had his washing machine fail. After discussions with service technicians, he found it didn’t cost much more to buy a machine at a “scratch and dent sale”, so he opted for this route. The point is that one’s financial situation dictates the best course of action.

Yeah, unless you’re able to do this work yourself, maybe stop beating a dead horse. It gets impractical fast, having someone else do the work. You have to be practical.

If you do decide to go that route, you won’t get much for it but here’s a thought:
If you can hold a wrench and have space, maybe strip useable parts off and throw them on ebay or craigslist. I bet you can make some money on things like the seats, ecm, radio, interior, etc. Maybe advertise people can buy the transmission for cheap if they are willing to remove it.
Then have the shell dragged from your yard by a scrap dealer.