Author Topic: Too much car maintenance?  (Read 7575 times)

TheGadfly

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Too much car maintenance?
« on: October 28, 2015, 09:15:00 AM »
I need some perspective on how much money I've spent on my car in the past year. Last year I purchased a well-maintained 2007 Honda Fit from a fellow on craigslist with 142k miles on it ($4500). It was well maintained by the dealership and he had all of the paperwork to prove it. He also threw in a set of snow tires).

But more and more I'm thinking that this guy sold the car to me at just the right time because, in the past year, I've had to get the following done to keep the car in proper working order:

- 143k - New set of steel rims* - $219.76
- 145k - New battery and wipers - $154.10
- 147k - Alignment and 2 new rims - $192.75
- 149k - Oil change, brake and trans fluid flush - $214.10
- 150k - new sparks, coil packs and oxygen sensor, valve adjustment - $818.55**
- 152k - sway bar link replacement (both sides) - $214.94
- 155k - New brake pads, rotors and drums. Alignment and camber bolt replacement - $683.60

So that's $2497.80 in the past 12 months. This, of course doesn't include insurance, gas or other small things like pumping up the tires and replacing the air filters.

So my question: Is this a reasonable amount of money to spend on a car with this many miles? Granted, some of these repairs were not 100% necessary (like the rims and link replacement) but I want to be proactive to avoid bigger bills down the road [pun intended]. That said, feel free to let me know if this post belongs in the Wall of Shame forum.

*two rims were bent when I bought the car and I purchased a set of 4 so I could easily (and cheaply) put the snow tires on when the time came. I bought another 2 rims a little later to replace the two bent ones, as you can see.

** This was after a catastrophic engine failure on the highway, which ultimately ruined my catalytic converter. Thank goodness Michigan doesn't have emissions testing.

2Cent

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2015, 09:40:09 AM »
Well maintained doesn't mean much if it was only partial maintenance or if the last servicing was long ago. You should always let a mechanic have a look before buying an old car. Things in a car will be ready to break at 150k miles depending on how it was driven more than on how it was maintained(150k of city driving = end of life for most cars). Probably the previous owner got a warning from his garage that repairs where coming up. Things like brakes are just wear which is pretty predictable like tires. The battery might have been giving trouble for a while. It usually starts giving hints it is getting bad long time before it needs to be replaced.

Alternatively, did you get a second opinion before spending 2400 on repairs? Maybe the mechanic is being a bit overly eager to replace things, which could be cleaned or would still be good for a while.

TheGadfly

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2015, 10:08:55 AM »
Alternatively, did you get a second opinion before spending 2400 on repairs? Maybe the mechanic is being a bit overly eager to replace things, which could be cleaned or would still be good for a while.

Many of these repairs I requested myself, they weren't suggested (I'm not a mechanic but also know my way around a car). Admittedly, the mechanic I go to has a relatively high labor rate and only likes to use higher-end aftermarket parts. I might be dumb for handing over so much money but I know I'm getting quality maintenance.

You make some good points about pre-purchase considerations. I had the car inspected before I purchased it so I knew I would need to replace the rims and the links, for example. The seller claimed that the car had mostly highway miles but I doubted this because it belonged to his daughter, who received it as a gift when she was 16. I think it's safe to assume that she drove the crap out of it for the 7 years she owned it. Considering this against the car's stellar maintenance record, I took a risk.

mturn

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2015, 12:53:45 PM »
I bought a used car with 130,000 on it last summer - a subaru impreza - and kept a spreadsheet tallying all the costs. It ended up being the worst financial decision I've made so far. I should have just sold it right away once I started to realize what a money suck it was. It was a 1999 and I ended up paying almost $8,000 on purchasing and repairing in just one year. I'm ashamed to even admit it. I was only able to get $1300 for it, but I'm glad it's just gone. Now, my next car decision I feel was the best decision I've made so far so I hope it balances things out. It's a 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. It cost $10,500 (but I like to just say $11,000 because of registration & taxes). Anyway, it came with a manufacturer's warranty - 100,000 miles or 10 years - whatever comes first. I commute an hour for work meetings about 1-2 times a week, so it was important to get a "commuter" car. It goes great in city driving (about 50mpg) and highway I can get 60mpg - though we're discovering that the fuel mileage indicator is off. But, still, great overall. We bought it used with just 6000 miles on it.
We've only had it 4 months, so who knows, maybe I will regret this new car, but compared to what I went through with the car with 130,000 miles. Also, the cost to insure is surprisingly low - less than $300 a year.

humbleMouse

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2015, 01:33:59 PM »

Sounds like you got screwed.  Should always investigate things like brakes before buying a used car.  Also should have brought it to a mechanic first.

Also, if you had to replace all that on the brakes - that means you literally drove the car until you destroyed everything in your braking system.  If you pay attention to this as it happens, you should only be replacing pads. 

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2015, 02:32:32 PM »
Man, it's been a while since I paid a mechanic to work on my car.  The rims were expected, so I'd exclude them from the list, since the amount you paid for the car would have taken that into account.

The nice thing is that you won't have to do these repairs again for a long time.

Did you make a bad decision?  I dunno.  You gotta look at each thing separately.  I'd put them into 3 categories: 1) regular, frequent maintenance, 2) regular, but less frequent maintenance, where the seller chose to sell instead of do the work, and 3) one-time/accidental/fluke stuff.  If you're trying to figure out if you made a mistake, then #2 is the category you want to look at

It sounds like the seller sold the car rather than do a bunch of looming maintenance.  The good news is that much of that stuff is infrequent/accidental/one-time stuff.  You'll hopefully never need to replace any more rims, the brake flush will last for a long time, the spark plugs and coils are good for at least 60-100k miles, and sway bar links last a long time.  Rotors and drums last a very long time.  Many tire/suspension places offer a "lifetime alignment" where you pay extra once, and you can take the car in for free alignments as long as you own the car. 

I think you have a good opportunity to learn exactly how much money you can save by doing your own maintenance. :D  Starting from the easiest to the hardest...
Wipers are super cheap and easy to replace, and if you buy a battery at Autozone, they'll install it for you for free, if memory serves.
$214 for an oil change, trans flush, and brake flush?  That should be no more than $40 of materials and a couple hours of work if you DIY.  The second time you do it, it'll take half the time.   
Spark plugs and coils should only run you $200 total, and are right on top of the engine, easy to get to.
Sway bar links?  They're like $5 each at rockauto.com.  Jack up the car, take off the tires, then two nuts on each side of the sway bar, and you're done.
Brake pads, rotors and drums.  Only slightly more work than replacing the sway bar links.

A couple years back, my mechanic told me I needed new brake cylinders in the back and new pads and rotors in the front. The quote was $850.  I had never done brake cylinders before, and had only done brake pads once.  I bought the parts for $155 and did all the work myself that evening in about 3 hours.

Exflyboy

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2015, 02:43:14 PM »
+1

In the 35 years I've owned cars personally I have never taken a car to a mechanic other than for tire alignments (Firestone $160 lifetime.. they check and adjust all for wheels every 6000 miles for free).

That includes engine rebuilds, bodywork, repainting.

Ok that sounds little boastful, but I learned because I wanted to save my money and car repairs can be a major outlay.

Really is not that hard, all of the issues you described are well within the scope of the home mechanic.

ketchup

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2015, 02:46:33 PM »
Honestly, it seems like you're fine going forward.  Certain things do like to wear out on a car around that age, like your brakes and suspension.  Batteries and wipers need to be replaced on every car.  The only real bad luck you've had was whatever resulted in trashing your ignition and cat with the $818 price tag.

As someone else said, if you keep an eye on your brakes, you can avoid such an expensive job next time around, and just replace the pads.

Stupid stuff will always happen.  Earlier this year, one of our cars hit a deer at 60mph and then two months later had something on the road blow a mysterious three-inch hole in the gas tank, incapacitating it 250 miles from home.  We can't prevent such stupid stuff, but what we can control is buying a reasonable vehicle in the first place and doing your homework (and maintenance).  A 2007 Fit with that kind of mileage is a very reasonable vehicle, and should pencil out in the long term with proper maintenance (which you're definitely doing), even with a spendy year like this.

Also, you certainly save some bucks doing some of the work yourself.  I did my brakes and rotors last year on a new-to-me car for a whopping ~$70 total in parts.

My vehicle maintenance/repairs costs for our current cars since purchase have been $1002.51 (biggest cost being four new tires last year) over 25,000 miles and 18 months on our 1999 Metro (currently 172k miles), and $951.75 (biggest cost being a new damn fuel tank plus labor after the above-mentioned incident) over 30,000 miles and 15 months on our 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon (currently 182k miles).  Pencils out to about 3.5 cents/mile across both cars.  If I'd paid a mechanic for all the work I've done (which was everything except the Metro's tires for $250 and the Buick's new-to-it fuel tank for $550), those numbers would at least double.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2015, 02:48:22 PM by ketchup »

keepitsimple

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2015, 03:00:46 PM »
No opinion just a commiseration.  My 2007 Honda Fit (which I bought used in 2010 and now has 170,000 miles) has had a rough year too:

July New (to me, 42,000miles) engine: $2253
August New pads and rotors: $297
September New catalytic converter and trunk latch replacement: $1452
October New fan belt (inspection and few other minors): $294

TBH, in the five years previously it's been just brakes, tires and oil changes, so I'll try not to complain too much.



Uturn

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2015, 03:01:18 PM »
Ever thought of learning to spin a wrench yourself?  Other than the alignment and tire mount/balance, I see nothing on that list that cannot be accomplished with a $200 set of Craftsman hand tools.  (skimping on tools is cheap, not frugal)  Kobalt is another good brand.  You want a 1/2" wrench to fit well to a 1/2" nut.

Find someone who knows a bit about fixing cars and see if they will help or teach.  Beer goes a long way at my place, and my garage is welcome to anyone wanting to learn.  I won't fix someone's car, but have spent days in the shop teaching. 

Exflyboy

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2015, 03:05:37 PM »
Actually I am rather impressed with Harbor Freight socket sets and wrenches just lately.. I thought they would stretch like crazy.. not at all.. I have done a lot of work with them.

They come anodized in different colours.. sure that chips off over time but the steel itself is great.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2015, 03:13:58 PM »
Ouch!  I change oil, wipers, brakes, filters and now tires myself.  Other fluids get inspected for reasonable clarity, checked for level, and topped off as needed.  Other than that, if it ain't broke, I don't fix it.  Most cars are depreciating assets and mine usually leave my possession for the scrap heap.  I do just enough to keep them running reliably and safely.  I budget around $300/yr for non-tire/oil/brake pad repairs once they get over 150k or so. Some years are better, some worse.   

BlueMR2

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2015, 04:18:58 PM »
Doesn't seem too crazy.  Car repairs seem to go in bursts for me.  I'll have a couple years of trouble free usage, just normal maintenance, then I'll have several ridiculous things happen in the span of a few months.  Same deal with the house, everything will keep checking out fine, then all of a sudden we find rot in the house siding, shed siding, and have the furnace fail at the same time.  :-)

Kroaler

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2015, 04:27:56 PM »
Just for fun here is a link that kinda covers the engineered usable life of a car and when to expect repairs to go up rapidly.

http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2010/08/bathtub-or-weibull-curve.html

For most cars,  the sweet spot for value is 25k-150k miles. 

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2015, 09:00:08 PM »
Just for fun here is a link that kinda covers the engineered usable life of a car and when to expect repairs to go up rapidly.

http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2010/08/bathtub-or-weibull-curve.html

For most cars,  the sweet spot for value is 25k-150k miles.
After that big bump around 150k miles, though, there's another bathtub, although it's not as deep or as long.  And if you've got a great car to begin with, that bathtub can be *really* long.  And if, on top of that, you do your own repair, the ends of that bathtub aren't so steep.

rtrnow

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2015, 11:10:04 AM »
Others had said it, but learn to do some of these things yourself. Using youtube and random forums, I have yet to let my Fit see a mechanic (2009 with 111000 miles). Most everything on that list could have been done for a small fraction of the cost. Plus the feeling of doing it yourself is great.

Personally I hear the word flush and run the other way. There's never a need to flush these various systems other than to pad the mechanics pocket.

On the plus side, you car will probably be good to go for a while at this point.

blueridge

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2015, 11:40:36 AM »
Just to add something to all the folks who suggested going the DIY route . . .

Besides being much less expensive and giving you a sense of independence, I find that doing the repairs myself is often more convenient.  For example, the other day I had a clutch master cylinder fail on my 20-year-old pickup truck right before I was supposed to go out of town for the weekend. 

The options were either A) wait until Monday-Tuesday at the earliest for local mechanic to take a look at it, or, B) watch lots of youtube videos, pick up parts at the local auto parts store right before they closed at 9 pm, and get it done before my trip.

It was a bit of a pain doing it late at night after work, but I was able to use my truck for the weekend.  Plus, when you take it to the shop you have to coordinate a ride to and from the shop, and be dependent on their schedule. 

Even some of the more intimidating tasks turn out not to be that bad if you have a good manual and videos . . . start with the basics like fluid changes, then work your way up to more advanced repairs. 

WranglerBowman

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2015, 01:12:12 PM »
Others had said it, but learn to do some of these things yourself. Using youtube and random forums, I have yet to let my Fit see a mechanic (2009 with 111000 miles). Most everything on that list could have been done for a small fraction of the cost. Plus the feeling of doing it yourself is great.

Personally I hear the word flush and run the other way. There's never a need to flush these various systems other than to pad the mechanics pocket.

On the plus side, you car will probably be good to go for a while at this point.

I would beg to differ with your analysis about flushes.  I've had many a vehicle, kept them for a while, and I've noticed that flushes can save you a lot of headache in the future..if you keep a vehicle around long enough to realize those gains.  I generally keep vehicles for a long time and can tell you that flushing the brake fluid will help you save from having to replace calipers as often, as well as keeping your master cylinder and brake lines corrosion free internally.  Transmission flushes are huge for me since automatic transmissions are very sensitve to dirt, metals and other particulates.  Coolant flushes are also really important to keep the vehicle life blood pasages clean, especially on diesels.  The more expensive the vehicle and components the more I would advocate flushes.  Transmissions are not fun to rebuild, replace, or purchase and a seized brake caliper will ruin pads, rotors, drums, fuel mileage and failed coolant pasages on on oil cooler can lead to catastrophic failure.

To get back to the OP it seems that most of the work performed is necessary maintainence and now that you've done all that you shouldn't have to redo any of it for a long time, besides regular maintenence.  120-160k miles is generally a big milestone for most vehicles where a lot things will need replacing all at once, after that it's around 240-280k where you get the next major round of repairs, and after that you're really at the end of the engineered life of most components, any time after that I would plan having emergency funds available for a catastrophic failure or a next vehicle.

TheGadfly

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2015, 07:10:15 AM »
Thanks! Great advice all around.

I would love to start doing my own repairs and I've learned quite a lot from youtube and forums.

Do you have a sense of what I would need to buy to perform the majority of my own maintenance? I mean, you I need to buy a jack and jack stands? Air tools?

Uturn

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2015, 07:32:42 AM »
not much that you couldn't fix with this, plus it's on sale right now.  Just add a good hydraulic floor jack and some stands.  No need for air tools unless you are trying to make a living with them.

http://www.craftsman.com/craftsman-230-piece-mechanics-tool-set/p-00950230000P?prdNo=2&blockNo=2&blockType=G2

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2015, 08:39:01 AM »
Thanks! Great advice all around.

I would love to start doing my own repairs and I've learned quite a lot from youtube and forums.

Do you have a sense of what I would need to buy to perform the majority of my own maintenance? I mean, you I need to buy a jack and jack stands? Air tools?
I've found that for most things, this will be sufficient:
Hydraulic jack & jack stands
Set of combination (box and open-ended) wrenches
Good 3/8" ratchet and socket set
Fluid collection pan/tank
Funnel
Rags

Some jobs require a bit more torque, at which point I'd add:
18" breaker bar with 1/2" end
Set of deep metric impact sockets (I got the $20 metric/sae set from walmart, campbell-hausfeld brand)

Fishindude

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2015, 09:05:39 AM »
That car has cost you $146 per month.
Big deal !      I'll bet you have plenty of friends paying out $400+ every month making stupid car payments plus a whole lot more insurance expense.
Even with those repairs, you have pretty economical transportation.



Kroaler

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2015, 09:08:10 AM »
Wow that 230 Piece set is 99$.  That bad boy has one of almost everything reasonable.   


Also Just wanted to chime in and say that I think fluid changes are UNDER rated.   Maybe for the mechanic they are a high profit thing.  But if you DIY, your car really needs a good set of fluid changes around 80-100k miles and every 40-50k after that if you want to break 200k miles with a very healthy ride.  If I only had money for 1 (besides oil)  I would use it on transmission flush. The other things can be done yourself with almost 100% new fluid being added, but you can't do a 100% transmission fluid swap without the machine.  (30% each time you drain and fill)     I did the calculations this summer for my ranger, and it was CHEAPER to have the shop do it, then to drain and fill 4 times to get 70% fluid swap when the shop can do near 100% without wasting any fluid.

Transmission fluid flush is your transmission maintenance, don't forget it! 

rtrnow

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #23 on: November 06, 2015, 03:39:54 PM »
Others had said it, but learn to do some of these things yourself. Using youtube and random forums, I have yet to let my Fit see a mechanic (2009 with 111000 miles). Most everything on that list could have been done for a small fraction of the cost. Plus the feeling of doing it yourself is great.

Personally I hear the word flush and run the other way. There's never a need to flush these various systems other than to pad the mechanics pocket.

On the plus side, you car will probably be good to go for a while at this point.

I would beg to differ with your analysis about flushes.  I've had many a vehicle, kept them for a while, and I've noticed that flushes can save you a lot of headache in the future..if you keep a vehicle around long enough to realize those gains.  I generally keep vehicles for a long time and can tell you that flushing the brake fluid will help you save from having to replace calipers as often, as well as keeping your master cylinder and brake lines corrosion free internally.  Transmission flushes are huge for me since automatic transmissions are very sensitve to dirt, metals and other particulates.  Coolant flushes are also really important to keep the vehicle life blood pasages clean, especially on diesels.  The more expensive the vehicle and components the more I would advocate flushes.  Transmissions are not fun to rebuild, replace, or purchase and a seized brake caliper will ruin pads, rotors, drums, fuel mileage and failed coolant pasages on on oil cooler can lead to catastrophic failure.


I'm specifically referencing the pressurized flushing systems. They often (so I've read and been told by mechanic friend) put much more pressure through lines than during normal operation. Thus causing problems that you never would have had. So I do bleed my brakes and change fluid for example, but I'm not connecting one of those pressurized systems.

v8rx7guy

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #24 on: November 06, 2015, 03:49:55 PM »
"Valve adjustment"... Cough Cough BS Cough

What kind of car do you drive that requires valve adjustments?

Bearded Man

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2015, 07:22:18 AM »
I'll be facing this soon with ny 113k mile Civic.

Once I had a mechanic tell me I should replace my fuel filter. Pointed to the sign, $80...

Friend told me it's a $7 part and can be easily replaced in 2 minutes with a screw driver. He was right, I even used a swiss army knife to do it.

Not all maintenance items are so easy unfortunately.




BlueMR2

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #26 on: November 07, 2015, 07:44:20 AM »
What kind of car do you drive that requires valve adjustments?

My Toyota has valve adjustments listed in the service guide.  My Toyota mechanic though, says not to worry about it.  That's one thing that they haven't had a real problem with in practice.  Just a very minute loss in power if they need re-shimming (the most he's ever seen gained on the dyno after re-shimming was 2 hp).

rtrnow

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Re: Too much car maintenance?
« Reply #27 on: November 07, 2015, 08:04:22 AM »
"Valve adjustment"... Cough Cough BS Cough

What kind of car do you drive that requires valve adjustments?

Honda Fit. Many on fit forums have found theirs to be out of adjustment at under 50k miles. The maintenance schedule recommends it be done at 105K. I did mine at 100K bc it also made changing the plugs easy. I had 3 out of 16 that were out of spec.