Author Topic: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?  (Read 5807 times)

Scottma

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Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« on: November 26, 2012, 01:20:50 PM »
I currently drive a 99 Oldsmobile Intrigue with approximately 270,000 miles on it. My wife bought this car and put around 100,000 miles on it, and both her and the previous owner put mostly highway mileage on it. It's currently my daily commuter (not very mustachian, I know...I'm working on the biking situation soon. But for now I work very close to home and just recently had my first child, who I really enjoy going home to see over lunch...)

In any case, I really want to be able to drive through this winter and then look at biking to work in the spring. So last Wednesday the car died on my on the way home, and I knew it was either the alternator, starter, or the battery. So I pulled the battery and took it to AutoZone, they tested it as being bad, and I bought a new one and installed it. I thought this had fixed it until on my commute this morning, I noticed the battery light on the dash. So, it must be the alternator.

I just called my mechanic who I trust, and he said to replace the alternator would cost between $315-$590. On top of this, the car needs new winter tires, which should run around $450-$500. On the year, that makes the repairs for this car total around $1,700 at the high end. A quick check of Kelley Blue Book shows the car to be worth about that - $1,700.

I guess after typing this out it sure looks like I just need to bite the bullet, sell the car, and start biking to work. Any thoughts from Mustachians?

bo_knows

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2012, 01:36:37 PM »
I mean, what's "living very close to work" mean? A couple miles?

Seems like if your wife has a vehicle (meaning your family has one for trips), that the amount of money you might spend trying to fix the Oldsmobile up would buy a hell of an awesome bike and commuting accessories.

Scottma

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2012, 03:54:08 PM »
It's a two-mile trip. Which shows just how wussypants I'm being. You're definitely right about the bike, I really need to get on that...

gooki

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2012, 04:52:10 PM »
Sell it for scrap metal, get a bike. Invest the difference.

Karl

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2012, 07:43:03 PM »
With only two miles to work, you can start walking it tomorrow morning even without a bicycle to ride!

Jamesqf

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2012, 08:12:52 PM »
I just called my mechanic who I trust, and he said to replace the alternator would cost between $315-$590.

If the car started with a new, charged battery, the problem was not the starter, so that's out. 

First thing, check that the battery terminals are tight.  Check that the alternator belt is not loose and slipping by putting a finger on its longest stretch between pulleys and trying to deflect it.  (Do this with the engine off, of course!)  It should move maybe 1/2 inch.

If that's all good, you can test the alternator with a simple multimeter.  (If you don't have one, it might cost $15 at auto parts store or Home Depot, WalMart, etc.  They're handy to have around for lots of things.)  Set it on the 20 Volt range.  With the car running, check the voltage between the battery terminals.  It should be at least 14 volts if the alternator is working, otherwise it will be about 12 volts.  (You may need to rev the engine a bit if it's not 14 volts at idle.)

Now if that fails, and you're still seeing about 12V at the battery, it likely is the alternator.  A rebuilt one should run about $75, and is usually pretty easy to install.

Scottma

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2012, 07:30:12 AM »
@Karl - It's true, I definitely could walk. Two factors there though...I at least want to bike so I can get home at lunch, and the city I live in has not made any sort of investment in sidewalk infrastructure, so if there's any weather, it would not be a fun walk...

@Jamesqf - I have broken out the multimeter and found the battery to be running at between 11 and 12 volts, so I guess it must be the alternator. I did some googling on how to replace it for my specific car, and got scared off by having to deal with the serpentine belt. Should I be as intimidated by the belt as I am? I would be a complete newbie to car repair (beyond basic maintenance, of course...)

rtrnow

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2012, 07:59:15 AM »
I have broken out the multimeter and found the battery to be running at between 11 and 12 volts, so I guess it must be the alternator. I did some googling on how to replace it for my specific car, and got scared off by having to deal with the serpentine belt. Should I be as intimidated by the belt as I am? I would be a complete newbie to car repair (beyond basic maintenance, of course...)

Don't be scared about the belt. Watch a couple of youtube videos and you should be fine. An alternator was my first DIY car repair. In most cases you won't even need to remove the belt, just release the tension. Good luck.

thurston howell iv

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2012, 08:27:03 AM »
Your mechanic is not doing you any favors.

Fix your own car!  It's not that difficult. SHOP around!!!! Just looked on ebay for you... You can find a used working alt for $35 with free shipping... Probably $70-80 for a new one... Usually requires the loosening of the belt via the belt tensioner. A bolt or two for the most part and you're done. Most of the manuals and how-to's are online... Save some money and learn a new skill... If you do this yourself you will be well under $100 and probably less than 1 hour in time. (If you need more help shot me a pm).

As for the tires, unless you live in a HIGH SNOW and drive a lot, I don't see the point. I have all season on my car and you can get your required tire size at wal-mart or several online retailers for about $320. or maybe less....

Matt K

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2012, 08:37:40 AM »
+1 for walking to save gas and fee lbad ass (put on some music and 2 miles isn't bad, but you don't get to go home for lunch)

+1 for replacing the alternator yourself to feel bad ass. It isn't hard, I'm mechanically useless and I managed it with the help of a friend.

grantmeaname

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2012, 12:44:12 PM »
Also: you live in the Midwest. You don't need snow tires, you need to not tailgate people.

Scottma

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2012, 01:39:47 PM »
Thanks for the help everyone. I'm going to give replacing the alternator a go this weekend. Also, wrt the tires, I misspoke in my original post - it's not that I need winter tires, it's that the all season tires I have on the car are running out of tread. But, if I primarily bike all winter and avoid using the car, perhaps I don't even need to get them replaced...

So I'm in a bit of a dilemma with regards to buying a bike. I am looking at spending approximately $400 on a new bike that's a flat bar hybrid with disc brakes (so I can put chains on in winter), not including lights, helmet, and other necessary accessories. I guess I'm just having a hard time dropping that much money on a bike when I have no idea what I'm doing. The bikes I'm looking at are here:

http://www.airbornebicycles.com/products/112-skyhawk.aspx
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/elite_trail_x4.htm

Any thoughts?

BPA

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2012, 01:44:58 PM »
I was going to resoundingly agree with Karl about walking since I work two miles from home and walk it in the winter, but we have good sidewalks. 

I bought my bike from kijiji which is like Craigslist and I love it.  It was only $125.  I've replaced one tire since I got it last spring and haven't needed to do anything else.

Matt K

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2012, 06:29:43 AM »
I am looking at spending approximately $400 on a new bike that's a flat bar hybrid with disc brakes (so I can put chains on in winter

I'm a fan of flat bar hybrids. I'm even a fan of disc brakes (they are only worth it if you ride in the wet & cruddy a lot, which it sounds like you will). Around here we get a lot of snow, and I see a lot of people biking year round (down to mind numbing temperatures). I've never seen anyone bother with tire chains on a bike.

If you are riding on dry roads, your normal road tires are fine. If you are riding on ice, get (or make yourself) studded tires. If you are just riding in snow, get either Cyclo-cross or mountain bike tires (pretty much anything with a reasonably smooth center line and big knobs on the sides). I commuted one winter on a beater mountain bike with $15 mtb tires and they worked perfectly. They rolled smoothly on pavement, dug into snow, and even had more grip on ice than I was expecting.

Scottma

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2012, 09:47:59 AM »
@Matt K

I will likely be riding on ice occasionally. I'm sure we don't get as much snow in the US Midwest as you would in Canada, but some winters can be brutal. You mention making studded tires - any good references on how to do that? I planned to use tire chains simply because they seem very simple to DIY but could be swayed to studded tires.

Posthumane

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2012, 11:57:00 AM »
The simplest way to make studded tires is take something like 1/2" sharp tipped screws and screw them through the centres of the thick tread blocks, from inside the tire out. Since bicycle tires have tubes, the tire carcass itself isn't air tight so you don't have to worry about leaks. Just make sure that you file off any burrs on the screw heads when you are done, which you may create if your screwdriver slips out. You can also add a strip of rubber from an old tube over the screws to protect your tube.

Matt K

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2012, 12:07:22 PM »
When scouring the web for DIY ice tires, I found a lot of really scary screw-jobs. Literally people screwing self-taping screws through the knobs of their tires, then lining the inside of the tire with innner tubes and duct tape to protect the air-filled inner tube. This is what my local bike shop recommends if you don't want to spent $120 on a pair of tires.

The trick is to use wood screws that stick out 1-2mm (premade studded tires use 2mm carbide studs). Too long and the tires will drag, wear faster, and really f'ing hurt if you ever catch yourself on one. Remember to line the inside of the tire with a cut-up inner tube and/or duct tape.

I can't point you to a good specific instructable, because my work computer has limited page rendering (woohoo lobotomized version of IE7).

Last point, my local bike shop recommends throwing on a movie while doing this, it's easy but time consuming.

jdchmiel

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Re: Mustachian Method for Determining When to Get Rid of Car?
« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2012, 05:57:57 PM »
replace the alternator so you have a running car. Sell running car for 1500 instead of 400 scrap metal value.