Author Topic: When to do a car repair  (Read 3656 times)

gillstone

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 388
  • Age: 37
  • Location: The best state in the Union (MT)
When to do a car repair
« on: April 21, 2014, 10:27:35 AM »
I've got a 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix with 123k on it.  It gets driven about 1200 miles per year and will soon be much less now that I've started biking to work.  I took it in to get the oil changed and they noted that I have an oil leak.  They traced the leak to the intake manifold gasket.  They are estimating repair at $935.  Other than the gasket the car in in good form and shouldnít have any other issues so the risk of 900 here, 500 there and 500 somewhere else is fairly small.  We have the cash on hand, but itís been a rough month of unexpected expenses and Iím reluctant to plop down 1k right now if itís not critical.  So for all you mechanically-inclined mustachians I have a couple questions that will help me figure out when to do this.
1. Is the price anywhere near right? I have to have a mechanic do it as I have neither the tools, skills nor friends with tools and skills to do it.
2. Does the gasket leak all the time or only when the engine is running? Now that Iím biking to work itíll only be used for errands and if I have off-site meetings in town for work. My rough estimate is 600 miles will be put on in 9 months assuming I donít break my leg and canít bike.
3. I know if left alone it will get worse - will driving it more or less make it worse faster.  If I can kick this can down the road a couple months without changing my costs that would be really nice.   

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3947
  • Age: 28
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2014, 10:36:45 AM »
That $935 seems way out of line, unless there's something unique about that gasket on that particular car.  The actual parts look like they're around $80 at the most.  I've only ever removed an intake manifold on two cars, and it hasn't taken me more than a few hours to get there.
The intake manifold gasket is the last spot where the fuel/air mixture goes through to get into the engine.  The leak should be inconsequential when the car is not running.
The more you drive it, the worse it will get.  Running it in that condition will result in oil continuing to leak, which isn't a huge deal as long as you check the oil level often and carry extra to add if necessary. The car also might not run 100% right, but unless the leak gets really bad it shouldn't affect performance/efficiency too much.

So, get it fixed, but it doesn't have to be right away if the leak isn't that bad yet, especially as you drive it so little.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2014, 10:43:50 AM by ketchup »

luigi49

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 291
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2014, 10:43:40 AM »
very out of line.   You can hold off on the replacement too.  If its more than a quart that you are consuming every oil change, you should replace it.   With power tools it will take less than an hour to replace.   Its a 2 hour job.  You could probably watch it in youtube for diy?

skunkfunk

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1057
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Oklahoma City
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2014, 11:01:21 AM »
That's a pretty easy job to do in a weekend. Basic hand tools only. The most annoying part is scraping the surfaces clean. Don't use a blade on the aluminum unless you are confident you won't nick it. You can do it with about $50 in tools, probably, if it is anything like my 1991 chevy.

nobody123

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2014, 11:04:20 AM »
I registered on the forum just to let you know that this is par for the course.  I had a 2001 Chevy Malibu with a similar issue.  It turns out that the DexCool coolant used by GM in the late 90s - early 2000s (allegedly) ate through the intake manifold gaskets, so your oil and coolant would mix together and the engine would eventually blow up if not corrected rather quickly.  It cost me around $750 for the repair in 2003 or so, and I ended up getting $435 or so back as part of the settlement for the class action lawsuit related to DexCool.  At the time, I was told the $750 was because they had to take the engine apart to replace the gasket, flush the coolant and oil systems, and check for any damage caused by the two fluids mixing.

I would call up a GM dealer and give them your VIN to see if your car falls into any sort of warranty / TSB coverage for that part.  Given its age, they might say it has lasted to its design specs, but the worst thing that can happen is they say "no".

BlueMR2

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2008
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2014, 06:23:20 PM »
That $935 seems way out of line, unless there's something unique about that gasket on that particular car.

It's a very labor intensive operation.  10% is parts, 90% labor.  I've done a few jobs on a Grand Prix of that era, and I think they were designed specifically to make mechanics rich.  Horrible, horrible to do much of anything on them in the engine compartment (not as bad as say a Corvette, but makes my MR2 look super easy).

CarDude

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 611
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Beep Beep!
    • The CCD
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2014, 06:31:51 PM »
That $935 seems way out of line, unless there's something unique about that gasket on that particular car.

It's a very labor intensive operation.  10% is parts, 90% labor.  I've done a few jobs on a Grand Prix of that era, and I think they were designed specifically to make mechanics rich.  Horrible, horrible to do much of anything on them in the engine compartment (not as bad as say a Corvette, but makes my MR2 look super easy).

Hah, it sounds like you're talking about a VW or Volvo : D

To the OP, it sounds like this is a poorly-designed (i.e., abnormally labor-intensive) component. Regarding your questions...

1. Yes.

2. I'd wager it's primarily when the engine is running, based on where the intake manifold is located relative to the engine.

3. Yes; that's pretty much always the case with gasket leaks.

Regarding your greatest question, of whether you could wait it out for a few months or not, my answer is yes. Just check your oil levels frequently and top off as needed.

thurston howell iv

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 415
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2014, 07:17:45 AM »
Between $40-100 for parts (depending on which gaskets you get)
The engine is a PITA to work on but not impossible.
Check you tube. There's tons of tutorials on how to do it.

If you're not driving the car much you could work on it a little at a time. (ie: no rush)

Otherwise, you could just leave it and make sure you check your oil regularly.

No way this job should cost anywhere near $900!

gillstone

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 388
  • Age: 37
  • Location: The best state in the Union (MT)
Re: When to do a car repair
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2014, 01:00:13 PM »
I registered on the forum just to let you know that this is par for the course.  I had a 2001 Chevy Malibu with a similar issue.  It turns out that the DexCool coolant used by GM in the late 90s - early 2000s (allegedly) ate through the intake manifold gaskets, so your oil and coolant would mix together and the engine would eventually blow up if not corrected rather quickly.  It cost me around $750 for the repair in 2003 or so, and I ended up getting $435 or so back as part of the settlement for the class action lawsuit related to DexCool.  At the time, I was told the $750 was because they had to take the engine apart to replace the gasket, flush the coolant and oil systems, and check for any damage caused by the two fluids mixing.

I would call up a GM dealer and give them your VIN to see if your car falls into any sort of warranty / TSB coverage for that part.  Given its age, they might say it has lasted to its design specs, but the worst thing that can happen is they say "no".

Nobody123 - thank you for the heads up I will look up the class action and see what I can find.

Thank you to everyone else as well.  It doesn't surpise me to hear that the work for the Pontiac is way more than another car, I once had a Bonneville that required removng the entire engine just to replace the serpentine belt.

Thank you again, this is why I love this community.