When it rains it pours…

I am the kind of guy who would rather own used cars than new cars. Both of my cars are completely paid off, and as far as I see it, I spend less on maintaining two used cars than what I would pay monthly for a new car. And one of my cars is 25 years old and done depreciating, so I’ll sell it for what I paid for it, as long as I maintain it. I am not burdened by $500 monthly payments and mandatory full insurance on my cars.

I also believe when you work on your own car you create a certain bond between man and machine, and you get to both know and love your car more. If the car is a piece of shit however that could lead to one hating the car more. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin after all… New cars with their warranties and modern complexities are less inviting to the home mechanic, as you would rather take the car in and get it done under warranty, since you’re paying for it anyway! As a DIY mechanic I like to get down and dirty in my cars, fix them, and get that satisfying feeling of knowing that the car was repaired right, and that I did it. You don’t get that feeling when you pick the car up from a dealership maintenance bay.

Owning two used cars has its disadvantages though. If anything goes wrong with my car it is me who has to fork over the money to fix it. Most times that is not a problem. I have tallied up the expenses of  maintaining a used car, and even with a full suspension rebuild to include shocks, springs, bushing, etc, I still come out ahead. Modern cars are highly reliable machines, and often once you fix something right it takes a while for other issues to come up.

Now it is one of those times when I have to fork over the money to keep my cars reliable and on the road. In the past two months I have had several small issues come up in both my cars, and I am slowly spending money to keep them on the road.

The Saab 9-5 for example, has had a Bosch ABS module failure. That is a very common failure in all Bosch ABS equipped cars, and a problem that plagues not only Saabs, but Audis, Mercedes, BMW and other brands. repair entails removing the ABS module from the car, shipping it to a rebuilder (I chose Cheap ABS due to low price and good reviews), and when the module comes back I have to reinstall it. In the meantime my ABS and traction control system are inoperative, my speedometer shows nothing, and my odometer too isn’t functioning. At least I have snow tires and the winter mode on the transmission to keep me safe while I drive in winter. The 9-5 has also developed a light ticking noise at idle that could be an indication of either a worn engine timing chain, low pressure on a hydraulic valve lifter, or wrong oil in the engine. The oil I use if Mobil 1 0w-40, which is the correct oil for this car, but I am being told Castrol 5e-30 (which is also A3B3 approved and correct for the car) produces less noise. I’ll try that on the next oil change.

Yet more yesterday: as I left the gym and approached my 9-5 I noticed the very end of the tailpipe pointing down to the ground as a limp you-know-what. On the last oil change I noticed a crack on the exhaust weld, as show of many years of use, and was going to take the car to my mechanic so he would weld it back up just for the winter. My plan was to replace the exhaust after the winter. Well, now my exhaust will need to be replaced anyway, as the whole thing has come off, so no repair right now, just replacement.

On my classic 900 there is a similar trend of small repairs being needed. The main one that I must tackle soon is a small oil leak by the oil pump. Again that is a common failure on this car, which entails removing the oil pump, replacing a gasket and a seal. After that it should be good for another 100,000 km. The C900 also needs new steering rack boots, both left and right, which are torn. The wheel bearings are also on their last legs, so I imagine by winter’s end they’ll be replaced.

So this is the season for giving, and it seems I’ll be giving my money to the auto parts stores, and giving my cars some wrench time. After all, they deserve it.


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