Where to throw the towel in

Hello! I have a 2002 Subaru Forester. It has 194,000 miles on it and was running smoothly until 50 miles from Durham headed there from Western NY the engine blew.

I owe $1,400 on the vehicle and a new engine will be between $2,000-$2,500.

However, I know that Subaru often has a long lifespan so potentially if I replace the engine it could last quite a while longer.

Anyone have any advice on whether I should go for the fix or throw in the towel and scrap it and start over?

I ask anyone with more knowledge of cars than I.

Exactly what does “the engine blew” mean? Did it happen from neglect?

What’s the condition of the rest of the vehicle?
Has the maintenance been kept up to date?
Do you monitor the fluids?
Any body rot?

The condition of the vehicle is good- no body rot, never been in an accident.

I have had it a year- during that period it has been regularly maintained- oil changes every 4,000-5,000 miles and so on.

However when the mechanic looked at the engine he said that it is gone and it looks like due to poor upkeep and neglect- he said probably someone not changing the oil regularly enough.

I have been monitoring fluids since I have had it- I even checked them right before the trip down south.

I’d be inclined to go for the engine. But at $2K installed you’re talking about a boneyard motor. You may want to ask him about a rebuilt motor instead. The price will be a few grand higher, but the risk will be a lot lower. Where else you gonna get a car in known condition for that price?

OK- thank you so much for the advice! It’s good to know about a rebuilt motor as well- that was not something I was thinking about.

If a engine from the scrap yard is used to replace the one you have the care it had will be a mystery. Rebuilt will cost more and give a much better chance of long service.

Additionally, the one from the scrap yard will probably have an old, dried-out timing belt.
So, after the OP’s engine blew (very possibly from a snapped timing belt), she may just wind up buying her way into the same problem with a scrap yard engine.

So, I would also suggest getting a rebuilt engine–as long as the car’s transmission has been serviced properly (fluid changed at least 6 times over its life span). If the transmission has suffered from the same type of neglect that the engine has likely suffered, then a $3k transmission job is in the OP’s very near future.

While I favor a rebuilt engine over a “mystery” engine from the scrap yard, I would question the wisdom of putting a rebuilt engine into a car with a transmission that is about to fail.

A rebuilt engine through Auto Zone and O’Reilley’s costs me $3300.00…plus a nominal mark up…plus labor.
The biggest benefit of a rebuilt is the 3 year warranty on the engine.
IF…If you’re intending to keep the car…and
IF the rest of the car is good enough…
that 5000 dollars could get you a good car again.

Compare THAT to buying another car for ? $…and the warranty ( or not ) that car might have.

If you’re merely patching it up to sell it soon…the used would be the way to go ( a functional car is worth so much more than a dead one )

oh wow!

thank you all- this is all really great advice- seriously. I have found a place that does Japanese makes around the corner. I think I will take it in and have the whole discussion about how much a rebuilt will cost and what they can do for a payment plan. Worse comes to worse I might do a trade-in but it seems it might be worth it with a rebuilt if I can afford it!

Thanks so much !

Sally–If the transmission has not been serviced as I mentioned earlier, then that will be the next big-ticket item to go. Please consider whether you want to invest in a rebuilt engine if your transmission is a ticking time bomb.

However when the mechanic looked at the engine he said that it is gone and it looks like due to poor upkeep and neglect- he said probably someone not changing the oil regularly enough.

Another question if the engine was neglected do you think that the rest of the car may have also been neglected and be in need of expensive repairs. If you’ve driven the car enough in the time you’ve owned it to feel pretty confident in it, you could fix it and hope for the best. If you’re in question about the condition, you could buy another used car that is at least running at this point with the $2000-2500 estimated repair cost.

How much money do you have to purchase a different vehicle if you continue payments or pay off the $1400?

That will drive the answer of whether repairing or jumping ship is the better option.

I’m kinda with VDC and Fordman. If the engine was neglected, chances are high that the rest of the car was also neglected and they may be quite a bit more work to bring everything up to snuff again. An 02 with major work needed may not be the best candidate. Owing money on it yet is a factor but its sunk money anyway and sinking more money into it may be just the start of a trend. I would at least first look around and try and get into something not quite so old.

Neglected engine and I can almost guarantee that the transmission is neglected even worse.

Anyone know someone who services their tranny more often than the engine.

I doubt that even with a bone yard engine, you would ever get your value out of this if you had it fixed and traded it in.

I would take the $1400 loss that you still owe and look for a replacement car.


It will be tough to find a replacement vehicle for $2500, so as long as the rest of the car seems in good shape, I’d replace the engine. I’d probably go for a rebuilt engine rather than a junkyard engine, but it’s possible a junkyard engine could be found that would be just as good as a rebuilt.

Thanks VDC and Ford- I am going to see if maybe I can get some trade-in value. Since the body is good it might be worth something in trade-in value. This has all been really helpful!

I’m surprised no one asked for mileage, and maintenance history (except for assuming various things) and more details on why the engine was actually done.

Yah, it’d be nice to know what exectly is wrong with the ‘‘done’’ engine.

Years ago my 80 Bronco ‘‘blew’’ its engine.
Driving along on the way home from Albuquerque, mile 130 of 140 mile trip, loss of power, shaking, knocking, banging, overheating - temp gauge pegged, steam clouds from under the hood, billows of smoke out the tail pipe, kackle kackle coast to a stop, walk two miles and call for a ride .
Told my tech to take it all apart anyway just to see in there.
one $10.00 used piston head…a few gaskets…oil change and new coolant…
purred like a kitten.

So, a ''blown ‘’ engine can just be a relative term and investing in a complete tear down, only to decide it needs a whole engine , can add greatly to the overall bill and attempting to just repair it can equal or exceed the rebuilt price.

The biggest problem isn’t necessarily with the engine itself. Sure, it might be easy to fix - but that’s not likely, and if it really is completely done, then a rebuild is probably the only real solution.

The biggest problem, as I see it, is the assumption the rest of the vehicle was abused. It’s entirely possible one item (like the timing belt) was missed and went. We currently have no idea of the maintenance history, whether or not the tires have been cared for as is required for this vehicle, the transmission was serviced or not. What we do have is a lot of assumptions, with nothing to back any of it up one way or the other.

That’s all. It’d be a shame to have someone dump a perfectly good car because a previous owner decided to put off one maintenance item - maybe he was out of work for a couple months and couldn’t afford the service. The OP should arm herself with some facts, and spend some time poring over receipts and documentation to see what actually has or has not been done.

Piston head???