When do I give up on Lucy?


I had my 1994 Toyota Camry (Lucy) towed to an unfamiliar mechanic last night in a snow storm in Portsmouth, NH. It appears that the spring on the back right tire collapsed onto my wheel. The wheel will still turn, but there’s a scraping sound and burning rubber smoke that billows out. No good.

The deal is that after not owning a car for 4 1/2 years, my friend gave me her old car last June. I put $300 into a new window motor and it was good to go until November when I needed to replace all four tires. I think that was another 3 or 4 hundred dollars.

Then in December, in order to pass inspection, I replaced the entire exhaust system. I had students at the Technology High School I work at fix it. I only had to pay for parts. A week after throwing down another $300 for that, someone hit my car while it was parked on the street. It was a hit and run and I felt completely defeated since I have no collision insurance. I couldn’t open my driver’s door and the impact left a gap at the top about two inches wide. I was on my way to a second job and had no time to deal with it. I crawled in through the back and drove on the highway with snow flying into my face. It was disheartening, to say the least.

It was Christmas Eve and I brought my car into my mechanic for the inspection appointment that I’d made the week before. I broke into tears, knowing that it wouldn’t pass and that I had no money to fix the car or invest in a new one. The car would be no longer legal to drive come January 1st. I told them to call me after they estimated the damage and we would go from there.

I got myself together and decided that day to find the person who hit my car. After some sleuthing, I actually tracked down the culprit and got him to deal with the insurance company and I said that I would drop the hit and run charges.

I was on the phone with the insurance company when I got the call from the mechanic. They had fixed my door enough so that it opens and closes most of the way and only charged me for the inspection and an oil change. Pretty fantastic. I couldn’t believe it. The door doesn’t seal, so still needs to be replaced. I got an $1,100 check from the insurance company, but haven’t yet fixed the door.

On Monday I took the car in because the check engine light came on. It was the oxygen sensor. It was another $330. I had them look at the brakes which have been squeaking, and they said that they are only worn about 40%. I told them that this coming Friday I’m planning a 1,000 mile trip to visit friends during my February vacation. They said that everything looked good to go, regardless of the fact that the car has almost 239,000 miles on it.

How much will fixing the rear suspension cost and is it worth putting more money into the car? I will still need to fix the door as well so that it seals. It’s hard to have a conversation with people in the car, especially when they’re in the back seat, because of the hissing noise. Not to mention the water that drips onto my arm and lap as I drive in inclement weather.

What should I do? I could go car-less again, but living in a small city, with very limited public transportation makes owning a car such a wonderful luxury. It’s allowed me to get so much done so much faster. It’s definitely changed my lifestyle. I used to ride my bike 14 miles a day to and from work. I’ll work it out if need be, but it would be nice to be able to keep driving.


From what I can find you can get a replacement door for as little as $100.00. You can also get a used rear spring there also. Then you and a mechanically inclined friend can just swap out the door and spring

Go here and put your info in on your car to get local prices:



The items that you mentioned are either maintenance items, rather than repairs (e.g.–a normal part of upkeep of a car), or the result of accident damage, or just the result of the car being old. Considering the age and the odometer mileage of the car, nothing that you mentioned is really unusual–even for a Toyota.

I suggest that you have the broken spring (and the right rear tire replaced) and you should be good to go for the time being. That being said, anything can break on a car of that age and that many miles, but
unless you are really prepared to ride a bike for 14 miles in a New Hampshire winter, I don’t think that you have any options. Unless you have the money to replace the car, I think that you should just keep this one and repair it as necessary.


Thank you so much for your feedback. I’ll fix the car. I wasn’t ready to give up on Lucy, but felt like I needed to hear that confirmed.


Thank you! I’ve decided to fix the car but take the train down to DC. I’ll try to stretch the thousand miles out and keep it local.


The spring won’t hurt that much to get it replaced. Unless the entire assembly went through the body of the car. Maybe two quick struts will do the job. They come with the springs attached and are easier to install. One on each side, because if one spring gives out, will the other spring give out too? The rear springs are the lightweights and aren’t as tough as the front ones. Don’t fix the door like new because cars with that many miles on them should cost $400 or less. The Technical School is a good place to work. I did front end alignment but exhaust wasn’t anywhere near my favorite project.


They said that it will cost $190, with used parts. That’s do-able. I’m not exactly sure what all needs to be replaced. The woman was busy and I didn’t get all the details. I guess I’ll get the low-down when I go to pick up the car. Thanks for your input.


The things you’ve brought up and the costs are not unrealistic for a 14 year old car. Stuff happens. A car is a wonderful luxury, but perhaps you aren’t really financially ready for one yet. Perhaps you really need to think this one out. It being a 14 year old car, more things will inevitably happen.

Sincere best.