A few years ago, my wife and I sold one of our two vehicles (the newer one, with payments) and decided to share our other vehicle as I decided to start bus commuting and riding my bike to work. The remaining vehicle, a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am, or “Grandy” (whom I have never, until this moment, affectionately called her), had racked up 182,000 miles and started showing signs of fatigue lately.
1. She was burning a quart of oil every other week.
2. She occasionally would vibrate heavily at stops.
3. On a very cold day, her innards would occasionally smell like gas.
All of the signs were there. Grandy was tired. We didn’t know how much longer she had.
As Grandy was a shared car (no second car to back us up) and my wife has been driving a few hundred miles back and forth to nursing school every week, we started getting concerned.
The following thoughts began entering our minds:
“What if the car dies on the middle of the highway in the dead of winter?”
“If the car dies, how much would we have to pay for a rental until we find a new one?” (insurance doesn’t cover)
“There are no good incentives on new cars this time of year, do we roll the dice on the car not dying until there is?”
“If we can trade the vehicle in now, at least we could get something for it. If it dies, we probably will get nothing.”
Then, this past week, Grandy stalled on my wife while she was in stop-and-go traffic on the highway. She had never stalled before.
The shared long summer road trips up north, the time she hydroplaned and spun out in the highway median, the time I fell asleep at the wheel on the highway and Grandy nailed a reflector pole, the squirrel that darted in front of us one summer’s day… wait, most of these memories suck… oh well, Grandy and I had been through a lot together.
She was still serviceable and there could still be good days ahead, but it was time for us to move on. My wife and I jointly decided to take Grandy behind the woodshed (trade her in).
What happens next is another tale for another day… (stay tuned)
Dying Car Chat:
Have you suffered feelings of confusion and sadness over a dying car? Share your old car’s memorial in the comments. You have our support.
My very first car was a bright blue Volkswagen Jetta and I loved it more than words can say. I drove that car all around the world and back again, having issue after issue. My sun roof would randomly open (hello rain!). My spoiler fell off more than once. My gas pedal shook violently under my feet. The cost of regular tune-ups was too much to bear. But by god, I held onto that car until it’s dying breath.
I took it in for it’s 100,000 mile check-up and as the guys were rotating my tires, said that my axel had disentigrated on them. It was a ticking time bomb, and I had to get rid of it.
I cried over that stupid car.
And now I have a trusty-dusty Carolla that I plan on keeping until it’s dying breath, too!
Disintegrating axl? Yeah, it was probably time!
I usually don’t like to humanize any material possession….. but something about cars. Maybe it’s the headlights and grill that give it a ‘face’?
Totally understand your pain here. My wife and I have been a one car family since we were married in 2006, so we’re used to not having a ‘backup’ car option.
In October of 2010, I was driving Bonnie, our 2001 Pontiac Bonneville with about 185K miles when the headgasket blew. Towing was $200 and the quote to fix the headgasket was, at the bottom end, $2K, so we decided to get rid of the car. Sad day, but I listed Bonnie on Craigslist and ended up selling her to a guy with a 2000 Bonneville, so I’m pretty sure she’s in good hands. He filled the overflow tank with water and drove Bonnie home with no problems, a 2+ hour drive for him.
We purchased a 2008 Subaru Impreza, used, with 12K miles when we bought it. We drive cars until they die, so the Subaru is one of the best investments and will likely last 300K plus miles, so a good investment as cars go.
Bonnie….. how appropriate! I’m sure she’s in a better place now. The Impreza did make my short list of replacements. Good choice.
Cavie was a good girl. She never was much to look at and she spent her last two years in hospice, but she was a fighter. She was a ’99 model that, at the end, had seen 234,000 miles. Her engine still ran strong but with a much deteriated body, no options, and a crack transmission it was time to put her down.
I ended up scoring a great deal on a 2012 Ford Fiesta. I can only hope that this one can last all of 200,000 miles just like my Chevy did.
Fiesta is a fine choice my friend. When did you put Cavie down? This is news to me…
My first car was a 1979 Caprice Classic (this was in 1999), and that boat cost me 1 tire change (my brother bought a used car after this one got a flat). After 8 months, it stopped moving.
I then got a 1985 Nissan Maxima standard transmission. That car lasted 3 years, and literally blew up while I was on my way to my baccalaureate (it blew up on my way to church). There was a belt that was too small for the vehicle which my father knew about but decided to just let go. I used my graduation money to put a downpayment on another used car (1996). They just keep getting newer :).
Oh GE! I wish you would have posted the details earlier. I see about $500 in work here that would have made her run like new.
Alas, it probably was it’s time. The replacement parts for the W Body platform are not long for this world.
If you’re going to say fuel filter, we just had that replaced. A trustworthy mechanic told us the gas smell fix would have been $800 parts/labor. What would have been the fix for the burning oil? You’ve got my curiosity up!
Paul, Just thought I’d point this out, but I don’t believe the Grand Am is of the GM W-Body Platform. That would be the Grand Prix. See the link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_W_platform
My first car was a 1980 Audi 4000 that was 10 years old at the time that we bought for $1300. The car lasted less than a decade but we did take it for a road trip to LA once (a 12 hr drive). It eventually stopped working and rested on our street parking when some Mexican folks made us an offer of somewhere north of $100 to take it away for us.
I had a love/hate relationship w/ that car. One of the most unreliable cars ever.
I am currently driving a dying car. My 2002 Buick Regal is suffering with about 180K miles but I have no choice but to drive her till she’s dead as a doornail. I took her in last week for an oil change, to find out why the antifreeze was leaking and to check out the power steering fluid level. Turns out the radiator was cracked ($500) and the rack and pinion needed to be replaced ($765). I already knew the catalytic converter was on its last leg ($700-800). I chose to only have the radiator replaced and will monitor the power steering fluid weekly. This is all on top of two broken windows, a failing electrical system and multiple broken parts inside the car. I don’t think I will be buying another GM and am trying to save up to buy something used when she finally gives up. I feel like it could be at any point, just hoping I’ll have time to save up this cash!!
I’m a petrolhead as termed in Blighty (Great Britain), and as such actually used cars to my financial benefit throughout my life thus far having not sold one for less than I’ve paid….yet.
During my PhD I used to buy old classics that people just wanted to get rid of for pittance because they didn’t run or were rusting away. I’d fix them up, and sell them on. It paid for my rent and a warm beer or two. It also gave me confidence that mechanical bits can be repaired (including learning to weld).
I’ve carried that mentality with me now but have progressed from classics (still have a ’62 Landrover though) to newer cars like Saabs. One thing I’ve kept in mind though is always the ability to carry out basic repair and service myself. Even on a new car like a Saab, it is possible. I’ve saved myself, literally 1000’s each year doing this and for me personally, it allows me to justify owning a more expensive, luxury brand car. Incidentally, in doing an analysis of cost to buy, cost to own, pleasure to drive, Saab has won hands down for the past 5 years, even with the crippling of the brand. One of the things that has kept me with Saab is the online forums and guidance on the web on how to fix them when they do break. That, for me, is one of the biggest money saving tips out there.
For example, my electric front windows played up, they would not go up, stopping about mid way and then going down again. I figured it was the sensor for obstacle detection. Took it to a Saab specialist, their response was to replace the sensors and take a look at the load on the motors in case they needed replacing (which is basically them preparing me for the worst and potentially excising it). Before handing the car over I looked online, found it was a relatively common issue and the solution was to disconnect the wiring harness from the door and reset the sensors. Problem gone, $800 bill avoided.
Embrace learning, ignorance or any kind is no excuse.
First car after college was a ’72 Malibu. It got 10 miles to the gal, was rusted out – you couldn’t keep anything in the trunk & the floorboards eventually rotted away (replaced the floor by bolting old metal cabinet doors to what remained of the floor). I received it as a graduation gift from my older brother (he bought it used for $500 several years earlier).
I was promoted to sales at my job after a year & my Dad told me I couldn’t meet with clients in that car, I needed a new one. Worst advice I ever received from my Dad – started my relationship with debt.
Anyway, I passed the ’72 Malibu to my younger bro, he drove it a few more years, hit a curb & dropped the transmission out of it. Sold the car for $500 – the guy wanted the engine (352 I think). It had 335,000 miles on it. My favorite car ever.
Khaki was my 94 Saturn SL1. I had her from 2002 until last January. Her odometer went out in 2004, but with somewhere near 130K miles I’d put on her and 113K from before I got her, she’d almost made it to the moon. There were countless road trips and stops to let her cool after overheating, which I eventually fixed completely. I put that car through hell.