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Which Car Repairs May Not Be Worth the Trouble

By Jack Bulko, AutoAid

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from AutoAid customers who have older vehicles is, “Is my care worth fixing?” And every time I’m asked, I have a different answer for my customer. It’s not because I don’t know what to say. Each and every car, or truck is different due to age, condition or the part that has to be replaced.

Typically, most older cars need $1000 a year in repairs and maintenance. I always suggest that people consider the following before making a decision on fixing an older car. You can start by assessing the current condition of your car’s:

  • Еngine
  • Тransmission
  • Cylinder head gaskets
  • Timing belt

These are all parts which are either expensive to replace in and of themselves or, as in the case of a timing belt, can damage other systems in the car. The mileage, the vehicles utility value to the owner, and the customer’s age all play a role in the decision to repair or replace a part. When you bring your vehicle into our mechanics shop located in downtown Van Nuys, our trusted mechanics will perform a Car & Truck Courtesy Check on your automobile, looking at 38 points on your automobile or truck.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Engine. If your engine has a knocking sound, overheats, is deprived of water and oil or has a stream of smoke coming out of the tailpipe, it may be time to bring your car in for a checkup. Our automotive technicians will first perform a Car & Truck Courtesy Check, a visual inspection on your vehicle that will look at 38 separate points. To find out why your car is overheating or smoking, a more time intensive exploratory inspection and diagnosis (at a cost) will be required. 

Reasons for replacement range from rod issues to damaged valves. If an engine replacement is required, the cost is typically between $1,000 and $4,000 but can go as high as $7000 depending on the automobile. With older cars, especially those with a lot of miles on them, it is probably not worth replacing the engine. AutoAid’s skilled technicians have worked on a variety of makes and models and can advise you on the best course of action to take, but in the end, the decision is yours.

Cylinder Head Gasket. Cylinder Head gaskets can run as high as $3000 depending on the vehicle and many times, depending on the vehicle mileage we may recommend a complete valve job, engine replacement or a wrecking yard that will pay top dollar for the vehicle as is.  Why so much? Because the head gasket acts as a seal between the engine block and the cylinder head, preventing leakage between the two parts. It separates the hot, high-pressure gases and engine coolant, which can range from cold to your engine’s operating temperature. These extremes may eventually cause a leak in the seal (gasket). What should you watch out for?  If you see a rapid heating indication on the dashboard before the engine has warmed up, please have it CHECKED out. Also look out for bubbles in the coolant overflow tank or the radiator, white milky oil, damaged spark plugs, white smoke coming out of the tailpipe or coolant leaking from below the exhaust manifold.

Timing Belt. Not all vehicles have timing belts. These rubber belts are typically found in cars and SUVs with smaller displacement engines. Larger engines use metal timing chains which have a longer life span. As part off the internal engine, the timing belt rotates the engine’s cam and crankshaft, ensuring that the cylinders fire at the right time. These belts can be expensive to replace as they often cause damage to other components if they break, including rods, pistons, valves, and even the crankshaft. Replacing a broken timing belt may cost up to $3000 and has hours of labor costs affiliated with it. How do you know if your timing belt is broken? Well, you might hear a ticking noise in your engine, which can indicate that the engine doesn’t have enough lubrication due to low oil pressure. Your engine can misfire, which can damage the engine. If the car’s engine has trouble turning over, your timing belt may be to blame. Another sign of a broken timing belt may be oil leaking from the front of the motor.

Transmission. Your car or truck’s transmission is one of the most expensive parts of the vehicles to replace. The cost begins around $3,200. If you have an older car or have had to replace the transmission often, it may be time to give up the ghost and purchase a new vehicle.

What Should Be Considered When Making this Call?

Here are some things to keep in mind, suggested by LifeHacker.com.

  • Is the repair or replacement quote less than a few months' car payments on a new vehicle? Knowing this may help you decide whether it is better to trade it in for a more updated vehicle.
  • Is the repair less than half the car’s market value? If it is you may want to consider making it if it’s going to extend the life of your vehicle.
  • Will the repair or replacement part add to the life of the automobile? This is especially important if you have an older car and believe the new part may help in extending the life of the vehicle. And always have any recall repairs performed on your vehicle to avoid significant problems in the future.
  • Check for recalls on your vehicle before repairing it. This may save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars if it’s a manufacturer’s error.

Your Repairs are Protected

AutoAid provides a nation-wide warranty any mechanical work that we perform for two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. New parts we install carry a three-year or 36,000 mile warranty. However, if for any reason your car breaks down in the local area, we offer a towing service for your convenience.

We understand that sometimes automotive repairs come to more than our customers expected to spend. That’s why we offer a way to pay the cost over a six-month period with our interest-free AutoPass card. The terms, conditions and a way to apply are on our website.

Consumers can also visit the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) which can be found on the Bureau of Auto Repair website, BAR.CA.GOV. CAP offers monetary incentives for those who want to retire their cars and for folks with special needs.

We take great pride in our work, which is probably why we’ve been awarded the AAA Approved Auto Repair and Customer Service Award for more than three decades. We regularly earn a 100% Customer satisfaction Evaluation Score from the American Automobile Association, which surveys its members.

Feel free to contact AutoAid with any of your vehicle repair or parts replacement concerns. You can either make an appointment online, give us a call at (818) 305-6632 or just stop by our shop, located in downtown Van Nuys.

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