Mechanics, Therapists, Jesus, Buddha, SpongeBob: help me not buy a new car

I strongly suspect I have spun a main bearing in my 2012 WRX. It might be something more minor, but the symptoms point to it. I won’t have anything but a seat of the pants diagnosis until after Monday. Even if it does come back as I suspect, it’s not Subaru’s fault. Few cars can put up with several hundred thousand miles of how I use them. I got 300K out of an Escort GT in 10 years before I sold it. It is the champion, and I will always bow to the durability of the Mazda 1.8 BP four.

If it was up to only me, I’d have the engine rebuilt and a clutch job done. I might have the transmission rebuilt as well, since we’re already taking the car apart. If the prices work out, I’d be having this done at a very reputable performance/race builder, but would keep any modifications with an eye toward enhancing the car’s reliability instead of performance. I’d be confident that I’d probably get at least another 100K out of the car under this scenario even under the stress I put a car. I’d also have a total bill that would be much less than buying a new car, even if I unwisely decided to finance it on credit.

However, my wife is of the position that when a car starts to have major problems, you get rid of it and buy a new car. I understand this position. First, there is no waiting, there are new cars on the lot to be bought right now, and you don’t have the hassle of rentals or other ways of arranging transport while it is repaired. The pain is deferred over the years of the loan. On top of that, cars do tend to wear out in progressive stages. Each part wearing out tends to indicate that there are other parts who have reached the end of their reasonable lifespan, and failing parts have the tendency to have other parts over-work themselves and die in turn.

But, even if she does have a point, I love this car. It’s faster than a car needs to be; and it’s a hatchback, so it can carry half of my band’s equipment by itself, and it’s interior doesn’t include a touchscreen. It doesn’t generally make financial sense to buy a new car until parts and service for your car become scarce and expensive, and I don’t want one anyway. Does anyone have any help for me in convincing my better half to let me rebuild my non-classic darling?

I don’t fall under any of the advisers listed in your title, but I’d just point out that the conventional wisdom about scrapping a car once it starts to need major repairs is on the basis that other expensive stuff will also go wrong around the same time. This is less applicable in your case since the car is only 4 years old. So I would tend to agree with your analysis that replacing all that stuff will leave you good to go for another few years without major expense (other than brake jobs, tyres, etc). On the other hand, I’d be surprised if you could get the work you describe for less than 5-10k, which is a whole lot to drop on a car repair. Still - far cheaper than getting a new one. I’m on your side here.

Plus, you can do a few other mods while she’s under the knife. For, you know, safety’s sake and such.

If considering buying a new car, and that car has cell phone and/or bluetooth related software, ask them WHAT provision they make so that software can continue to be updated 10, 15, or 20 years from now (so it will work with new cell phones of that era).

Pretty much car manufacturers no longer provide parts or software upgrades after x number of years. This will make the cars they are manufacturing today USELESS in the future!

Your resale value will therefore be zilch!

Note: Not a problem on older cars where you can replace just the radio and then have modern functionality. But new cars have everything connected and integrated. Can’t remove the factory radio as some basic car functions will no longer work!

You talk about putting stress on your car. Have you ever thought of not routinely pushing it to it’s limit? Your car is only 4 years old and already needs major repairs, and you don’t blame the manufacturer. I drive my cars so they naturally last 10 years without a major repair. If you end up buying a new car (happy wife, happy life) perhaps you should rethink your driving strategy.

If she’s not swayed by the “less money” angle, I think she won’t be swayed at all…

Scab, I’m not going to fruitlessly lecture you on your driving - I’m pretty sure you’ve weighed the pros and cons of wearing out drivetrains prematurely - but I’ll happily shake my fist at you as you pass me on the sidewalk.

Back when I was running a repair shop and listening to Click and Clack, I remember hearing them claim that keeping a used car on the road is bound to be less expensive than buying a new one - I’m not so sure that’s always true (what’s the cost of replacing a rusted out frame, f’rinstance?), but yeah, for a 4 year old Subaru in Texas, your odds of coming out ahead are very good.

BTW, when I saw a customer in your position, I’d present them with an estimate for any combination of these 4 options that they’d be interested in:

A- Junkyard motor from a reputable scrapyard (cost=low, risk=medium)

B- Shaken Law low-mileage motor from Japan (cost=medium, risk=low - I had good luck with these)

C- In-house rebuild (cost=medium to high, depending; risk=low)

D- Rebuilt engine from one of the large remanufacturing houses (cost=high, risk=low, excellent warranty). These guys may also sell you a performance-modded motor, as if you weren’t dangerous enough already.

If you get the engine and trans all in one go, you get the Bass Player Discount, and and egg salad sandwich to munch on while the police detain you for speeding.

Ehh, It’s not like I flog it the whole time I’m driving it. But, I do participate in motorsports. If you do that, you can’t blame the manufacturer if it’s life is shorter than one that’s been babied. If I’m not careful, I can destroy the transmission for this particular car in one dragstrip launch. I’ve thought about getting a second car so I’m not abusing the daily driver, but that doesn’t seem like it’d be any cheaper, and just encourage me to take more chances when I’m at the track.

Yep, Randolph I’m already considering a stronger clutch, at the least. If the turbo or the cams are damaged, the aftermarket provides replacements that are more desirable than stock. I’m out of the stock classes at that point, but it’s not like I’m in contention for a championship in the stock classes.

Me_Billy, that’s part of what I was thinking when I commented that my current car does not have a touch screen. My previous car, a MINI, had its sound system integrated with the car’s body control and engine control modules. It’s possible to replace the radio in that car with one not designed specifically for it, but it’s more complex than a simple DIN radio swap. The new systems with touch screens for the backup cameras are largely like it. This car is still of the style with an old double-din stereo.

Enter the Flagon, I’d be very wary of buying a non-rebuilt Subaru turbo engine from a junkyard, there’s too much chance it’s already served a life like my current one has, even a JDM low-mileage engine. A non-turbo one? Sure, but not the ones that are bought pretty much to be thrashed a bit. So, I’ll either have the shop rebuild my existing block, or purchase a rebuilt one.

I actually might go for a trans rebuild at the same time if the numbers work out. But, I actually haven’t gotten a ticket in years (knocks on wood). So that egg salad sammich is probably going to go bad before I get a chance to eat it. :smiley:

But, it turns out, that I just needed to be patient while convincing her, and she agreed to allow me to rebuild it this morning. Thanks for the thoughts, folks.

I have bought exactly two cars new:
1972 Gremlin (don’t laugh - I loved the look)
1986 Acura Legend (yes, I did get a raise)

I drove the Acura for 15 years
I now drive a 1997 Nissan pickup (the last years of the small-body pickup). It has the 4 cyl engine and a stick shift - dirt cheap to repair or replace. It has 180K miles and will need a new timing chain soon.
I don’t want a car that can be unlocked by a phone (my sole phone is a land line*) or have a goddamned TV screen - I want real gauges and meters. I would like a low-gas warning, and this one does not have that option.

I will probably dump this truck before the timing belt thing.

I’m thinking 2005 Miata - last year before they did that hideous body “update” which made it lok like it belonged in a 1050’s animated cartoon.

For those with more refined tastes: the old Detroit iron (I saw a 1980’s GM station wagon yesterday - I had forgotten those things looked like hearses) would lose about half their value when issued a title. The current cars retain more value longer, but there is still a significant penalty for being the first to open the manual.
Buy last year’s model.

    • which should give you an idea of my interest in “cutting edge” technologies.

I’m sure you do NOT want advise from spongebob. That guy can destroy underwater carboats like nobody else.

I’m missing something here. This is your car for you to drive and race. She has her own separate car. Hers should satisfy her by her standards and yours should satisfy you by your standards.

If a rebuild/mild hop-up is what you want go for it. If she fusses, tell her how much money you’re saving versus a new or lightly used other car for you. And put that money to work getting *her *a better car. Or a better whatever-she-values if that’s not her car. Win-win.
Also speaking as a former motorhead, here’s a strong endorsement for not racing your daily driver. Waay too many ways for that to get logistically complicated. As you’ve just discovered.

Can you maybe get a total cheapo POS as your daily driver and re-engine the WRX as a pure weekend racer? Will you have the discipline to drive the POS to work instead of driving the fun one on the sidewalks like you have been all these years?

How many thousands of dollars is that new car going to lose as soon as you drive it off the lot? You could have fixed the car you had and not dropped x thousands of dollars on top of it.

Oh, and that part about you loving your car. That should count for something to her.

Well, I’m generally of the same position as you are. But, she would be on the hook to help me with the logistical challenges of maintaining an older daily driver. Also, the money is half hers, so she has to agree to the financial aspects of the decision. There have been other cars in the past that have been traded or sold because I wasn’t willing to go through the pain of arguing to keep them. When we hit the stage where we were wealthy enough to replace cars at will, replacing it was her vote, and I was usually emotionally done with the vehicle by then.

I’ve considered that, but my commute is 80 miles a day, so the POS would have to be a pretty reliable POS. Rebuilding the engine in the WRX and buying a late model econobox for a daily driver would almost certainly cost less than buying something new that would be the equivalent of the WRX. But, I don’t think it’d be less money long-term than just owning and repairing the one car as it breaks. A new (not rebuilt) short block for this engine is a $1700-1800 part. Cleaning up the shavings from the rest of the engine, gaskets and installation shouldn’t cost more than 3x the parts. $7200 plus the price of the POS to drive a POS for the next 4-5 years/150K, or $7200 to drive the WRX? Even before you get into the extra taxes, insurance, maintenance of having a second car, that’s a hard calculus for me to figure.

Plus, I have to go to work no matter what the weather is. The first time I drove on sheet ice in this car was when I fully fell in love with AWD systems. I can attribute it to allowing me to avoid at least 2 wrecks with crazy people while driving on ice. My RWD vehcles and FWD vehicles were either “crazy time” or prone to not having enough traction to climb the driveway. So to have the same capability, I’d either have to up the cost of the econobox by finding an AWD one, or I’d be hopping in my hot rod when the weather got bad. The latter is not intrinsically crazy, but it seems like a weird plan.

Logistically, an extra vehicle would almost always make things more convenient. I was actually planning to buy a beater motorcycle as something I could easily maintain/rebuild myself in my shed*, and it would be able to double as a fall back vehicle. That’s on hold for the time being.

And yeah, it’d be hard to come up with the discipline to drive the POS when the WRX is sitting right there. It knows my name, and would call it constantly.

Well, I had worked the financial angle for a day, and wasn’t really getting anywhere. This morning, my wife opened the conversation by suggesting a Legacy wagon for a daily driver and getting a new-ish sports motorcycle for my motorsports itch**.

The thing that seemed to convince her to let me rebuild it was telling her that I don’t want any new car. No manufacturer makes anything that fits my needs and wants that would come in on a reasonable budget. If I were to simply replace the WRX with something that was available and running, I’d be looking at used 2012-2015 WRXs (they still make the WRX, but they don’t make a hatchback or wagon).

I should have known that making it clear that I’d be looking for the exact same car would be a winning argument. She’s an artist, and has a print she made on the wall of the room I’m currently sitting in, that I know is about a person’s emotional (and yes, somehow related to the sexual) feelings they have towards certain machines. Her father and grandfather worked for Holley. She understood.

The print in question, spoilered for boobies:

*I can’t get a car back there, I only have a car port accessible from the street, otherwise I would have already built a Locost Lotus 7 copy for motorsports.

**But good lord, a sports bike is probably the last thing I need. That thing would learn my name on the first day, and call it even when I wasn’t planning to go anywhere - much less to the track.

It’s bad, man, real bad. My bike is in the garage bellowing my name, it’s a beautiful sunny day and I have no plans. Except for that thing where I’m not allowed to ride for two or three weeks as I just had surgery.

No brainer, Dude! It’s a WRX!

Fix it!

I’m sorry you can’t ride your baby. What was the surgery for? Don’t worry, the weather will return.

But I’m definitely not going to get a sportbike soon. I still have yet to take the MSF course. Something like that is still years away from being a practical proposition for my skills.

I appreciate the argument down to my bones, but I was looking for arguments to convince the wife. :smiley:

I fear that years (almost decades) of backing up absurd assertions of mine with “We’re Baptists! So, you’re supposed to do what I say!”, coupled with zero church attendance, despite having passed more than one sect’s educational requirements for admittance, and statements about my belief in god that directly contradict any religious belief; has relegated any bright ideas I have that don’t immediately mesh with my wife’s instincts to require more nuanced arguments than bald assertions will provide.

But yeah, it’s a WRX. Subaru assembled it from the parts bin, and nothing on it is too dear. Until I bend the unibody up, I hope to continue rebuilding it.

I had a couple of hernias repaired. As my surgeon. Put it, it’s the human equivalent of patching a tire. Minor in the grand scheme of things, but still mighty uncomfortable at the moment. And the involved area is situated such that a near complete recovery is indicated before jumping back on the bike. Could be four weeks.

Anyway, go take that MSF class. Due to being unable to comfortably fold myself up into a ball anymore, I gave up on the sportbikes a few years back. But that doesn’t mean I gave up on sportiness. We’re truly in a golden age of high performance bikes of all sizes and type. Supermoto! Adventure bikes! Super nakeds!

Somewhat relevant to your OP, I had a Lotus Elise for five years, did lots of track days and other sporting events. Ultimately, I sold it when the list of things neeeding a refresh got unappetizingly long, even if I had only logged 25,000 miles. I can still justify that decision, but that doesn’t mean I also don’t regret it.

I will take the class, I received the book for Christmas, and will schedule it when my car’s sorted out.

It being the golden age for performance is kind of my problem WRT motorcycle shopping right now. Several folks recommended a used SV650 as a first bike. You can get one reasonably cheap used, v-twins have smooth power delivery; so it sounded like it might work. I looked up the performance of the bike – and those folks are crazy, or aren’t thinking of who they’re recommending it to. If it can do a 12 second 1/4 mile, I’m almost certain to try to do a 12 second 1/4 mile eventually. Even if I attempt such things at the drag strip, with the wonderful ambulance sitting there at the end of the track, I really shouldn’t be learning on a bike that will do roll-on wheelies.

I can’t find too many modern used bikes that are in that sweet spot of gutless enough to keep me from being a complete tool while being capable of going down the freeway that aren’t the teeny engined, uncomfortable sport bikes. It looks like I’ll be looking for a Buell Blast (likely, very common to find cheap) or an older BMW F650GS single cylinder (less likely, but sometimes I see them for good prices).

I’d be interested in an older UJM motorcycle with an air-cooled single or twin, but finding one without a chopped frame that isn’t too pretty for a novice to drop or already a complete basket case is rare.

I’d considered one of those (drool, that body is the inverse of Subaru styling), but there’s no way it could be much more functional than a motorcycle for me. If I can’t fit a bass amp in it, it’s a toy. However it seems like one of those would be cheap to keep together. There were enough non-Toyota parts on it to make maintaining it unappealing?
Good to hear that your surgery was nothing major, but yeah, just about any infirmity seems to make riding a bike a sketchy proposition (go ahead, sneeze while accelerating on a liter sport bike!). Here’s to hoping ya heal fast!

I’m not a fan of the “junk it when the repair cost is more than the value of the car.”

For more old Mazda 323, I once ended up paying nearly it’s value in one year for two repairs.

Drove it for over 15 years after that without any other big ($) problems.

The main thing is knowing what is going on with all the major systems of the car. Are most of these okay? Are several of them on death’s door? That is what you base your decision to repair or junk on.

When it comes to economics and cars, the “drive it till the wheels come off” philosophy rules. It’s only when you step out of the realm of pure cost does anything else matter. And almost all of those are psychological. Don’t let your id rule your wallet.

Shit. I had a long reply and it got eaten. Lemme see if I can recreate the magic.

I had several points here, most of which I forget. I do recall that I said that I wouldn’t consider a bike without ABS now, and that these days, I’d hesitate to give up the three-axis traction management either. The old bikes are great to learn on in some ways, but if I turn all the nannies on and switch my bike to the ‘soft’ throttle map, even with 160hp and a 10.5s quarter mile time, it’s easier to ride than my first bike, a mid-70s CB500, ever was. Compared to modern technology, the old bike had bad braking, bad handling and bad suspension with a variety of mechanical woes to boot.

With your performance background, I’m not worried about you whiskey-throttling into a concrete wall, I think what you need is time to sharpen up the mental game. And I think that’s easier on a modern bike with flawless manners no matter what the power charts say. The only thing that’s harder about riding my current bike is knowing how to manage the weight, and even that’s not the big deal you might think. Those older bikes like my CB500, I think they were made of lead.

It was a cumulative thing, compounded with some slippery slope type thinking. At five years, the suspension needed refreshing. If you’re gonna tear it apart and spend the cash, why not go fully adjustable? Why not replace all the bushings and ball joints with higher performance items? Why not fix some of the weird factory oversights, like the rear control arm mount weakness that leads to sudden undesired 4 wheel steering? Let’s not even talk about the third steering rack already starting to go south…

So think about all the maintenance a car used in motorsports might need, and then think about all the incremental upgrades that you “might as well do” when you are in the thick of it. Adds up.

Also, the bodywork had taken a few blows over the years. That fiberglass was incredibly thin and expensive to repair. It wasn’t a critical fix, but it bothered me.

Last but definitely not least, some of the faster guys were finding damage caused by oil starvation in long left-handers. We already knew that fuel starvation could take the motor out in a single lap, but had our strategies to deal with that. The potential for big top end damage was the last straw.

I could have kept the car and put it away until enthusiasm returned, but I only had so much garage space and too many toys.

Thanks! I’m using the downtime to do an early round of maintenance and inspection on my Multi. It’s not strictly necessary, but it’ll keep me busy and then I won’t have to do it this summer.