When Good Vehicles Go Bad/Iffy?

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January 12, 2015 by phicks2012

old car“The Beast” has been a wonderful vehicle. In 1999 when I faced the prospect of trading in my Chevrolet Astrovan, and also a total LEMON of a supposedly “cherry” pickup truck a friend had recommended, I did my homework and picked a Ford Expedition because it was big enough and had the torc to tow even my stock trailer, and because it was one of those trucks that were known to run practically forEVER. It was hard finding one at the time that wasn’t a wildly over-priced Eddie Bauer edition 4WD, but I finally managed it, and I’ve had the old girl now for nearly 15 years (213,000 miles) with hardly any problems.

I’ve had to replace tires and brakes and batteries, of course. I’ve also replaced the alternator, the fuel pump, and the ball joints, and had to repair the windshield, but other than that The Beast is still an original — with all of her dents and dings, still a good old girl!!

But the other day she started running a little rough, and hiccupping going uphill. I thought I’d gotten some bad gas, and dosed her with STP Gas Treatment, which did seem to help but that didn’t entirely cure the affliction. So I had her plugged into a diagnostic gizmo at Advance Auto Parts, and was told she needed a tune up. That didn’t sound like such a big deal until I started asking around for prices, and discovered that people wanted to charge me between $400 and $600 just for that. For a tune-up? DAMN!

Jason figured he could do it, until he checked out the service manual and discovered that changing out the wires on my particular model could be tricky, so I kept shopping. I also thought that just maybe I’d be better off going to an actual Ford dealership for the work — though not to my local one, mind you. I’ve discovered over the years that they tend to charge about 2-3 times as much as even other Ford places, but I’d had good luck with another dealership, so I drove the old girl in and let them check her out. The estimate was $2300 ($1500 for the bare minimum)– and I’d been whining about $400-600!! Jeez!!! God only KNOWS what the LOCAL place would have quoted me!!

So I called another mechanic I’d gone to in the past ($600 for a tune-up), and a third I’d also gone to ($150-200 for a tune-up). Funny how prices vary, isn’t it? As you can imagine, all things being equal I preferred to go with the lower quote, so I took The Beast in to them at 9am on a Thursday and settled down in the waiting room with a variety puzzle book (I hate word searches, but I love the more complicated puzzles) to wait. An hour later they told me they needed to hang onto The Beast for another “hour or so” to figure out what the repair priorities needed to be, and they gave me a ride home. I figured they’d come back for me by mid-afternoon, and checked back every 3 hours. Not!

The next day (Friday) I was still waiting, albeit still annoying them with phone calls every 3-4 hours to see how things were going, and finally at about 3pm they gave me the diagnosis. The main promblems were that The Beast needed a tune up, and while the “EGR Valve” had been showing up as clogged it turned out just to be the tube leading to it that needed cleaning out. $518 was the quote, and they thought they could finish the work by the end of the day.

Now I won’t say that $518 wasn’t going to be painful, but I could pay part of that out of checking and avoid having to run up a credit card too much. Also, it was considerably less than the $1500-$2300 quoted elsewhere, so I sucked it up and told them to go ahead — wondering, of course, if they were REALLY going to have my car ready by the end of the business day when they were scheduled to close at 6pm. They promised to call me, one way or another, but 6pm came and went with no call, and my plans to make a much-needed grocery run that night after reclaiming the old girl just fell right by the wayside.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It was worth the wait to save nearly $1000 — assuming that The Beast was actually cured of her malaise — but it was quite a wait!

Well, she’s running well now, so apparently it was a good deal, but I still have to deal with repairing what I’m told is “probably” the blend door regulating the heating and a/c (neither of which currently work), and I’m worried that there might be a problem with my transmission staring to slip a bit in reverse. The first issue has been (sort of if not really) dealt with (temporarily) with the purchase of a plug-into-the-cigarette-lighter car heater. It doesn’t actually heat the truck, but if you place it on the dash right against the window it helps a bit to defog or defrost, and the second problem is being dealt with by parking consistently where I don’t have to back up until I can afford to get the problem “looked into”.

I did, however, stumble upon a local come-to-your-house mechanic who claims he can replace the blend door motor for $100-150 and says that this would address the heating and a/c issue, and I may very well give him a shot. If it does solve the problem, I’ll pass the word and maybe let him take a peek at my transmission. We’ll see. Wish me luck!! If he screws me over, well I know where his Facebook Page lives. 😉

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January 2015


I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

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