Fixing Used Cars

Q.   We have a 92` Ford Tempo that has been diagnosed as needing a new motor. The thing is dying fast. The problem is we still owe 1,700 on the car and it`s probably only worth 1,000 even if there was nothing wrong with it. The motor, we were told would cost over 2,000 to replace. So we can`t sell it, drive it or even donate it, (since we still owe on it). Do any of you kind people have any ideas on how to get at least some money out of this car or to fix it for less than 500.00? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks Joyce

• About your car you should check the local junk yards to see if they have a rebuilt motor for your make and model you get this for close to 200.00 I would next suggest that you find a back yard mechanic to put it in for you or buy the manual and do it yourself. My husband has replaced a couple motors over the years and has not found it to be to difficult. Hope this helps.  Tonette

•I’d suggest going to a junk yard. A local mechanic should be able to install it for you, or try the local technical school. Some technical schools also rebuild motors at cost. My car was totaled, axel broken, side crushed and they had to cut the top off to get my daughter out. The motor was perfect! It sits in a junk yard in another state. Here in SC, we have a lot of accidents with young teenagers having new cars and wrecking them. I’m sure the motors are perfect in many of those vehicles in junk yards.  Betty

• If you have a community college in your area, check to see if they have an auto mechanic department.  the students will be working on your car, but there are very skilled mechanics there that teach the class and make sure they do well.  this is also a good way to get rid of a car with very little value.  you may even get to write it off as a deduction. -Lauren

• Check your local Vo-tech or even high school – they may have an auto mechanics class that could rebuild the engine for you for parts.  Sally

• This is in response to the person with the ’92 Ford Tempo, looking for less expensive motor option. My old car needed a new engine when it blew a head gasket. I could not afford to replace the engine until I found a reputable company that sold used car parts (engines, carburetors, transmissions, etc.). I bought a used engine for $500 and then called around to have a mechanic put it in for me. In our area this cost another $500. $1000 is a lot of money but it was less than half the quotes I received for a new engine and labor! Try calling around and see what you can find. Good Luck!  Nicola

• Consider yourself lucky if you can get a new motor for your vehicle for only $2,000! There is simply no way to avoid paying for repairs on any vehicle made after 1990. Vehicles these days are being made in such a way that repairs are deliberately expensive. "They" don’t want you to repair your vehicle — car manufacturers want you to buy a new vehicle! If you want to avoid making car payments on a new vehicle, then you have to start making repairs on the car you now have. Cars don’t last forever and they are not an investment. You need to set up a savings account that will be designated for yearly car repairs only. Count on putting about $2000 a year into that account. Some years you may only need to spend $500 a year on repairs, some years you may need a full $2000. It’s cheaper to get your car repaired at $2,000 a year than to have to pay $5000 a year on car payments (in addition to the normal maintenance and car repairs you will still be faced with on a new vehicle). In the long run, you’re better off repairing your old car, even if it is the sum of $2000 a year. If you are the original owner of your car and have all the repair records, at least you know what work has been done on the vehicle, what possibly needs to be done in the future, and the best part — your car is paid in full! If you are truly a frugal person, this is your way to go. Don’t even consider getting a used motor for your vehicle. It’s not worth it. Take your car to a reliable mechanic, and get a new motor put in and make sure there’s a warranty on it  (something you won’t get with a used motor).  Karla

• One way to get cheaper work done on a car is to let the local high school or tech school shop class work on it.  They often will do it for just the cost of the parts – or less if they have a sponsor.  The only problem is that it might take them all semester.  Lorainne

• Part of being frugal is not just getting rid of things when they break. This might be your golden opportunity to learn to fix a car. My first car-fixing experience was when I was in college and my car  blew it’s water pump, then it’s head gasket. I had no money and needed the car to continue doing my paper routes. I had never really worked on a car before since my father was always paranoid I would screw things up on the family car if I dabbled. However, I had no choice but to fix my car. So I went to the auto parts store and bought the Hanes manual and set to work. It took me a while (about a month of working evenings and weekends) and it ended up costing about 200$ when all was completed. It was hard, but not impossible. I just went to the parts counter at my auto supply store and at the dealer and asked lot’s of questions. Those guys want to sell parts, so they are willing to answer questions (don’t bother asking a mechanic, he or she will just suggest you bring it in). I  learned a great deal and received a huge confidence boost. Later, I helped a friend fix her engine (which also had blown a head gasket) and did the job in 2 weekends. Don’t be intimidated, just do it on your own terms at your own speed. My friend insisted that she wear rubber gloves (surgical type latex gloves) so as not to get so dirty. A "real" mechanic would probably not do that, but who cares. She got her car fixed and saved a bundle doing it….and she didn’t spend an hour every evening scrubbing her hands. If fixing it is just not for you then consider giving a great opportunity to a local high school student or taking it to the local junior college. The kid could use the experience and the college needs broken vehicles to fix so as to teach the students. Just don’t expect it to be done in a day by either method.  Erik

• It seems to me that the person first needs to find out what kind of engine is in his/her Tempo (V-4, V-6, etc., amount of horsepower, and gear ratios; check original owner’s manuel, if available; if not, ask someone who knows), then look for the engine (in the same model car, or perhaps another Ford product) at auto salvage lots (if any exist in their area).  The next cheapest thing to do would be to find out the same information about the current (worn out) engine in the Tempo, and shop for a rebuilt engine, which is a previously used engine which has been rebuilt, and is usable for another car.  Rebuilt engines can be found in the Yellow Pages, and so can Auto Salvage lots, if any exist in the owner’s area.  (Rebuilt parts for the car may also be purchased, if there’s any hope at all for the orginal engine in the car; rebuilt parts offer a significant savings on all repair jobs, but there is still the labor to contend with, and the person should be careful to have a good, trustworthy mechanic look at the car.  A good mechanic (as described) can often fix a car for alot less money than one who does not know his stuff.  Ask around, and find out who a "good" mechanic is; word-of-mouth is sometimes the only way to really learn this, and it sometimes can be done in your own workplace by taking a "poll" among your co-workers.  If they’ve had "bad" experiences with mechanics (they’ve probably had SOME experience), they’ll usually be more than happy to tell you their special "mechanic’s story"; listen up; there’s alot to be learned, if only from "bad" experiences, which have cost them alot of money.  Those will tell you who to avoid when shopping for a mechanic; their reputation among the public is of great importance!  I hope that this will help my fellow reader.  Please withhold my name (women aren’t supposed to know these things, anyway!)  This is a "been there, done that" story!  Thank you.  Mary Ann

10 thoughts on “Fixing Used Cars

  1. Juanita says:

    I have a Mercury Marq. 03 What kind of school should I go to in order to have my air fixed. When i push the push the air button it bows hot air. I believe it’s the relay switch, the control box, or something else out of my reach at a repair shop. If i purchased a book on how to get step by step, instructions would it be something difficult for me to do I’m an older woman and don’t have a clue. Especially if I have to dismantle the Dash. Can someone maybe tell me of a school in Glendale Az

  2. Danielle Foster says:

    I’m looking for a good place that will fix my pathfinder, at low cost or a place that will fix it free if I give them a donation towards the school

  3. Andrew says:

    Replacing head gaskets is NOT something that should be performed by a first timer. The heads may need to be milled for the gasket to seal properly or the coolant leaking could cause another problem. Just remember that everything you do that you have no experience with is a gamble and could become costly.

  4. Romeka Reaves says:

    I have a 2000 dodge neon that need some work done I need a oil pan and a alignment done and a new battery dont have a lot of money I just had a baby so all my money is tied up looking for help so my kids can feel safe while I drive thank you

  5. christina butler says:

    HI to anyone reading. I need a new motor on an 04 Nissan max 3.5 Can’t afford it right now. Any school suggestions for phila, jersey area?

  6. EAH says:

    I need an engine for a 2006 VW GTI. Mine burned up as there was a problem in the cooling system…I would like to keep the car as I put a LOT of money into tires and repairs.

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