News About The Transmission… Not So Good

Well, I’m back from the automobile dealership – and the transmission in my van is dying.  Plus, the mechanic, says that there are about 15 other “things” wrong with the van – transmission unit, cooler lines, struts, sway bar links, instrument cluster, belt, tensioner, idler pulley, coolant fan module – and at the bottom of the estimate, it actually says “advise customer to trade“.

So, now I have a few major decisions to make.  Should I get the van fixed?  It’s a 2000 model with more than 135,000 miles.  Do I really want to put over $2000 into this van?  On the other hand, if I do repair it, I’m out “just” $2000 and I have a (hopefully) reliable ride.  Should I sell the van and buy something newer?  How do I sell a van that could die in the next five minutes?

I also own a 2001 Honda Accord and a 1994 Ford F150 – neither of which will be big enough to carry my entire family when the new baby is born in April.  For now, I am going to park the van and my wife will drive the Accord.  I’ll putter around in the old truck, unless I need to go out of town, in which case I’ll have to use the Accord.  I’m going to begin to look around for a decent used minivan – and see if it’s possible to get the current van fixed for less than the dealer wants.  Quite frankly, I need a few days just to think about “what to do”.  Any suggestions?

24 thoughts on “News About The Transmission… Not So Good

  1. -. Fix the van and use it while looking for more reliable replacement. i.e. volvo wagon ?
    -. Sell the F150, get a used mid 90’s toyota tacoma pickup. if you actually need a pickup. Otherwise, just sell it.

  2. Take the information you got to your mechanic you already mentioned and see what he says. I would also look around and get another opinion on the matter.

    I’m like you and know almost nothing about cars but have a father in law who is pretty decent with them. Ask friends and family for some help or of people who do some of this. You can buy the parts and give a little something for labor or perhaps trade your help for theirs.

  3. I had a big car expense this summer, $1000, on
    a car I don’t plan to keep (1999) more than
    another 6 mos. or so. I really didn’t want to
    put money into my car but this was our
    thought process.
    (1) Did we have the money saved to buy the
    nused car we want to buy next year. Answer-
    (2) If we bought a nused car now, how much
    would the monthly payment be? Answer – @$416
    a month.
    (3) How much to repair the current car? Answer
    – @ $1000.
    (4) Divide repair cost by monthly payment for
    nused car. Answer – @2 1/2.
    (5) Repair cost = 2 1/2 months of nused
    car payments, if repair allows me to get
    another 5 months out of the car then repair
    is worth undertaking.
    (6) We excluded other costs related to nused
    car purchase, tax, tags, higher insurance, etc.
    and determined that repair was worth it.

    The fact that you have a new baby on the way
    and safety and reliability should also be
    factored in.

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  5. I would get a second opinion regarding whether all the other repairs are imminent. If so, then I would replace the vehicle rather than repair the transmission.

    $2k is fine if that’s the only repair you will need in the next 12 months, but if not (and that’s what it sounds like the first mechanic was saying) than you have to start looking at the cost of at least some of those repairs, plus this, compared to either the cash hit or the monthly payments.

    Sam was right in pointing out that safety and reliability have to be part of your consideration as well. If all those things really might go wrong, do you want them to do it when you have the whole family, including a newborn, in there with you?

    I guess what I am saying is that unless another mechanic tells you this one is trying to scam you about all that other stuff, I’d start looking for a new vehicle.

  6. I would head out from the dealership, to a reputable (hopefully from a referral) mechanic in a private shop. Have him/her (don’t want to be sexist) look at the vehicle and then make my decision from there.

    For the referral, start with your neighbors, friends, and family. I also get good referrals from my church. Parishioners look out for one another.

    I’m betting you will save about 20% or more with getting away from the dealership. Some of the items you listed are not big repairs. You may be able to fix a couple items at a time and keep that van running. With it only being a 2000 (I think I’m right about this) I would try for 3 more years. I like the 10 year mark.

    Good luck, no matter what you chose.

  7. How about a used Honda or Toyota van? I mean, if you have to have a minivan. You could also maybe look for a used wagon of some sort. My advice would be to look for a used (certified, if possible) foreign car, as they tend to last a little longer than domestic cars. Good luck and sorry to hear about your troubles!

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  9. What is the van worth?

    If the repairs cost more than 50% of its value, then it is time to get rid of it.

    I heard Dave Ramsey tell that to someone else regarding when to keep or get rid of a car.

    You cannot sell the van in its present condition unless you are selling it to someone who knows the problems and has some intention of fixing them.

    I am right behind you with car problems, both my wife and I drive cars with over 100k miles and winter is coming here in MN. My car is RWD and is awful here in the snow and ice. We are still working on baby step 2, so we do not have any money set aside for a vehicle yet. We are hoping and praying that both cars will last through the winter and we are able to get all of our debt paid soon, so we can get one vehicle replaced.

    Cars- a necessary evil!

  10. Sounds like a real pain.

    Of course, a new mini-van will mean new debt and if it’s used you may still run into problems with it – minor or major. New means huge car payments, though.

    I’m on the same page as a couple of the previous posters. If you get it fixed around $2,000 and can be reasonably assured (since life has no guarantees) that it will last at least another year then I would get it fixed and plan, plan, plan to get something new (or newer) in a year.

    My wife’s car just went through a major repair but I did the same math Sam did (See Post # 3)). So we bit the bullet and got it fixed. Now, we are squirreling money away like crazy to be able to buy the next car with cash or at least a very sizable down payment.

  11. It’s tough to pour 2k into a car that you don’t even love. I don’t know what the right decision is, but I agree that you should try elsewhere. Even though the dealer probably was honest, they are also the most expensive place in town.

    When were you planning on replacing it?

    how much would you even get for selling it?

    On an unrelated note, my new pet peeve is the term nused that is popping up all over. Why can’t we just say used? Who cares if it is newer used or older used….

  12. How many kid do you have? My sister was able to use a Honda Accord with 3 kids by putting slim profile car seats in the back. She did finally upgrade to a Honda Odessey after her husband got a higher paying job so obviously, a larger vehicle is more convenient.

  13. As a side note – I think it’s wonderfully fabulous that you can’t get the new family into one car. It’s a fantastic, beautiful problem to have & I know you’ll figure this problem out before your egg hatches in the tighter-then-expected nest. 🙂

  14. maybe if we all put in our 2 cents, you’ll have enough to pay for a new car 🙂

    2000 is still pretty young for a car. i agree that you should be able to get another 3 years, at least, out of this one. and, as we all know a newer used car does not mean that you won’t still be paying for car repairs. it’s just part of owning a car (no matter how old).

    i also agree about taking the hit list of repairs to someone other than the dealer. you should save a few hundred dollars that way.

    another way to look at it would be to consider what you’re paying per year (or month) for this van with estimated future repair as well. let’s say you spend $1800 right now fixing it elsewhere and estimate another $1500 in repairs over the next 3 years. so, that’s $3300 for 3 more years of this car or $1100 per year (about $100 a month). i don’t know exactly where i’m going with this, but i know how you like to break things down. well, maybe there’s some way to compare that cost with what you would spend on a newer vehicle (and include some estimated amount for future repair over the next 3 years as well).

    not so sure i helped….

  15. This is what you get when you don’t take care of your car and follow the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual.

  16. Get a 2nd opinion, then spend $2K to fix the van if it will add another 20,000 miles of usefulness. $2K now on a vehicle that’s paid for beats ongoing payments, with our without interst. And you can start saving now for the next vehicle and be able to pay cash for it.

    I once traded a paid-for car for a brand-spankin’ new truck because I didn’t want to pay for brake work on the paid-for car. Yeah, I was just outta college.

    Of the dumb things I’ve done, it’s right near the top.

    I guess what I’m saying is, fix the van.

  17. “15 other things wrong with the car”… NCN, $2,000 sounds about right for a new dealer transmission swap considering the labor on a FWD van, since they probably need to pull the engine.

    But there are other options. You could have the tranny rebuilt, for example, which (can be) much cheaper – but you will have to find a good non-dealer mechanic for that. Dealers can swap parts but I don’t think they can do much else.

    I agree with Changing is Living, your car is still young. You should only trade it if you really do want a new(er) car.

    Some items on your list…

    transmission unit: what exactly is wrong with it? how is it behaving? can you tell something is wrong, or did they just tell you its dying? simple things, like being low on fluid, can make it skip shifts, etc.

    cooler lines: the tranny cooler lines? these will probably be replaced with the new tranny anyway. Heck they will probably be included with the new unit. If you just need new coolant hoses (which need to be replaced regularly – if it hasn’t been done on a 134k car, do it!) that’s a great way to get started doing your own repairs and the guys at a parts store will be happy to help you figure it out. You literally just need a pair of pliers and 10 minutes, and it will save you a ton of money.

    struts: go to a suspension place and have them do it. if for no other reason than the dealer part is 2-3 times more expensive than the same aftermarket part.

    sway bar links: does the vehicle feel different on turns? do you have any clunking? the bushings could be bad, not untypical on a 135k car.

    instrument cluster: do any gauges on your car not work? this one has me scratching my head as it would be pretty obvious if your instrument cluster wasn’t working.

    belt: this needs to be replaced according to regular service, so check the last time you did it – you definitely want to get this done, but I don’t know if I would want to pay dealer labor for such a simple job…a lot of those oil change guys will replace this.

    tensioner, idler pulley: what did they say was wrong exactly? they might just need some grease (the tensioner is also a pulley and it basically keeps your drive belt right). do they just want to adjust the tensioner? that has to be done with a belt replacement anyway!

    coolant fan module: is the coolant fan not working? I think you would notice because you would be overheating at traffic lights. I recently replaced my module…because my fan wasn’t running! turn on your vehicle and watch to see if your fan kicks in after it warms up. if it does, and you’re not overheating, I don’t see why they want to replace this.

    “advise customer to trade“: Of course it does…you trade it for a few pennies, they fix everything for next to nothing and sell it for a huge profit, plus sell you a car from their floor!

    Here’s a couple of stories: My mother’s door hinge was popping. When I visited her I noticed the pin holding the door strap to the hinge had slipped out. I popped it back in and all was well. Several months later it happened again (when I was not in town) – what she NEEDED was either 2 small caps on both sides of the pin to hold it in place, or to replace it with a small nut&bolt – about 50 cents and 5 minutes of labor either way. So she went to the dealer, a reputable one, and what did they say? She needed a whole new door and hinge. All parts and labor, welding, plus repaint would have cost $5k. She traded it in for a new car instead.

    About 4 months ago my fan went out (unrelated to my failed module) and thanks to a recall, I could get a new one for free – but I had to let the dealer do the work. My car is in excellent condition (115k miles, 2000) and you guessed it – they had about a dozen “necessary” repairs. Of course I personally inspected each thing they mentioned and they were full of it.

    For all we know you may not have maintained it and the thing is falling apart 😀 …but just based on my experience, there probably isn’t half of the things wrong with it that the dealer is telling you. More info is needed to give you any good suggestions.

  18. Trust me in this: Cars are NEVER the same after that type of major repair. You will not get your money’s worth out of it.

    Get a slightly used car/van (obviously) that is reliable for your family. No reason to take a big risk when it comes to family in your death van (only kidding).

    Great stuff, glad you posed a question so we all could “evaluate” what we would do in the situation.

    I have been a faithful follower of yours for some time now. If you get some time check out (it is a personal finance advice site updated daily).

    Good luck with the car situation. God Bless!

  19. Hmmm, only two grand (much less when you get away from the dealer)? Get it fixed, and you’ll likely get at least 3 more years out of it! And I’d run, not walk from a dealer that recommends the customer trades in their vehicle when they bring it in for repairs.

    I mean come on! If it is in such bad shape why would they want it? Think about it!

    Fix the van and keep it.

  20. If you do fix the transmission, find a reputable transmission place. Wouldn’t want an inexperienced person doing transmission work. I rebuilt one in my blazer and got a 1 year warranty on it and they offered assistance in multiple cities if there was problems.
    Everything else seemed pretty minor.
    This would be the priority list if fixed:
    Get the transmission fixed, I would be tempted to rebuild the thing if you need to do any work to it.
    Cooler fan module.
    Everything else sounded like it was dry-rotted or wore out.
    Not sure what the cooler lines are?
    Sway bar links….may just need grease if any hasn’t been added for a while. If you take your car to get the oil change ask them to grease the chassis once/year.
    But if you neglected these links for years, it MAY need replacing, but wouldn’t think so.
    Struts may just be wore out…they can last until you decide to get rid of the car. It would just give you a better ride.
    Belt may be dry-rotted…it will have cracks in it and fairly simple to replace.
    Seriously doubt the idler pulley and the tensioner needs replacing.
    Instrument Cluster? What about it? Couple bulbs out or something else? Sceptacle about this one. Heard of a couple of folks that had their whole electrical problems fixed when they replaced the instrument cluster. May look online and see if this is a re-occurring problem on this vehicle.
    Hope this helps.

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