Diganose this car: Fix or Scrap?

Ok so back in September of last year my car felt like it was about to break down and leave me stranded, so I just let it sit in the driveway and bought a new car. The car seemed almost like it wasn’t getting enough air through the intake or something it felt like the thing was gasping or something, it became extremely difficult to accelerate and even if I floored the pedal it still seemed to barely keep moving, also the engine began making a very loud sound like it was very labored.

I don’t know a lot about cars though from some things I read online I thought it may have something to do with a hose or the catalytic converter. The car had a history of the engine light coming on, and it was always the idle air control setting it off I believe. I had a leak in the coolant at one point but got it fixed.

Ok so the car has been sitting there 6 months or so, its a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon, it only had 130k miles on it, and its been paid off for years though I bought it used. The car did not actually break down on the road per se but it certainly seemed right on the verge.

So with the information I’ve given you, what would you do, I would need to get a new battery, have it towed to the dealer, and pay for them to tell me exactly whats wrong with it. If I scrap it, I know I’ll only get a few hundred bucks if I’m lucky, if it costs like a grand or less to make it run I have the money that I could get it fixed and maybe sell it for a little over 2k if there is nothing else wrong with it and make a little profit, but if I take the chance of getting it towed and looked at and it can’t be fixed then I’ve erased any profit I would have made if I simply had it scrapped the thing.

So what would you do in my situation?

Ask neighbors and friends for a recommendation for a mechanic. There’s no reason to go to a dealer for this as it’s not going to be under warranty. You may even find someone who has a code reader that can tell you what the car thinks is wrong with itself before you take it anywhere.

Why would you need to get a new battery? Instead you just get the battery charged.

I think you’re about right on your financials, a drivable car might go as high as $3500 but not if you reveal that there have been major repairs. Maybe $500 if it won’t start.

Do some research on good private mechanics and get their opinion. Dealership labor rates can be $90-120/hour and private shops may be half that. You might be able to put a whole ENGINE in for $1000. You don’t need a battery, just jump start it to get to a shop. That the engine has gone to making noticable loud sounds noises and your description of “gasping” suggests that you don’t have very good observational and maintenance habits and many it’s time for another car to use up.

Sounds like it could be one or more cylinders misfiring. Would the check engine light flash when the “gasping” issue happened? I ran into that issue with my Accent several years ago.

If it was me I’d at least try and work on it myself before having it towed somewhere. Charge the battery and get it started. Buy a $20 code reader and see what the codes are. Look those up on the internet or a Hyundai owners site (like hyundai-forums.com) and see what they mean and what other owners have done about it. It also probably wouldn’t hurt to look at the maintenance schedule and give it new oil/filter, air filter, and spark plugs if it’s due.

And as you noted, said profit is only a few hundred bucks. That’s not much to risk on the possibility it can be fixed and then sold for quite a bit more net gain.

I’d have it tested and evaluated.

Everyone needs a good, non-dealer mechanic (she says smugly, because she has one.) One possible source of identifying one is the Car Talk website - their listeners can recommend (or warn against) mechanics in their cities - as good a place to start as any if you don’t have any other sources.

But with that few miles, I’d expect it would be worth it to spend a few bucks to have it diagnosed and fixed. Or if you didn’t want to fix it, at least you could sell it with a diagnosis to someone who might be willing to deal with the repairs if you make a good enough deal. That’s the route I’d take.

I wonder if you don’t have a plugged catalytic converter or muffler. First step is always to read the codes.

Sell it as it is. Look up KBB value and use your judgment as to the condition and go from there. Lower you price a little bit every two weeks until it is gone. It isn’t worth it for you to make any repairs and think you will make a larger profit on the sale. If you keep it in your driveway too long you will need to have it towed to the junk yard and probably have to pay out of your pocket to get rid of it.

A big question is, aside from the powertrain, what condition is the car in? How is the paint? Has it ever been wrecked and repaired? How is the upholstery? Does everything work as it is supposed to (not just safety related, like seatbelts and things, but the A/C & heater, radio, windows, any other electronics). If the car is in good condition otherwise, and it could be made running for less than $1000, it would probably be worth it to fix it and sell it. In good condition, it should sell quickly and for a good price.

If, on the other hand, the paint is faded, seats are ripped, AC doesn’t work, right rear window doesn’t go down, etc…, then selling it as would probably be best. A car that is not in top condition can be hard to sell, even for a low price, and you run a higher risk of not even getting the money you put into repairs back.