Why does car repair always crush my spirit?

So my car has some sort of leak in the intake manifold. Radiator fluid tends to just run out of it. That’s bad I think, so I took it to a fix-it shop that is AAA approved and they tell me it’s gonna cost…
Wait for it…

Now, that’s more than the Blue Book on my '95 Thunderbird. So I have a choice. I am on a limited income from two part time jobs that bring in about $17,000 a year combined. I can either get a loan for $1500 and pay for this repair and wait for the next thing to go wrong, or I can try to find a new car and scrap this one.

Neither one is good…
I just feel crushed by this. Big black pit kinda crushed.

Any words of encouragement?

Fords from that year had a problem with cylinder heads and the like. There was a big recall. Maybe you could still get some compensation from Ford. Or you could try for a different car. My sister had a problem with a 96 Windstar with the same engine which had a similar problem. She now has a Dodge, but only after repairing it. You’re in a tough spot. Run the numbers on a new car or take a shot fixing the Tbird, which is an otherwise nice car I’m sure. Kind of a gamble looks like.

Good luck.

Yeah, it is a nice car.

It’s a huge decision, and not one that I know how to make. I am trying to go to graduate school next year, and that’s going to cost money. I therefore can’t get a “real job” that would pay more because no one wants to hire people for a few months and I don’t know where I’ll be next fall. So I have no assured income. I don’t have a car payment on this Tbird, and I don’t imagine that it’ll keep running for the next 6 years anyway. I just don’t know if the $1500 is a loan toward the trade in value of this car. <sigh> I hate spending money that I don’t have!

Not much help on the car front, but we’re planning a M:tG night next weekend for Saturday night and you’re welcome to come :slight_smile: We’ll feed you and we’ll have non-alcoholic drinks and desserts. We’ll probably start ~7 or 8 and play till no one wants to play anymore. Plus, one of our guests is a good friend of mine who got his JD from SMU, so you may have something in common.


On Saturday the 25th? Saddly, as it turns out if I have a car I will be going to houston to see some family and if I don’t then I can’t get to Irving :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, you still have some options. I would pursue this course of action in this order:
-First is to check on recall notices as DTT recommended.
-Next, get a second opinion on the repair. Sometimes (and I know this is shocking) some mechanics are not entirely ethical.
-Then, if the cost is still more thn you can bear, investigate doing the repair yourself. Smart individuals can get through just about any car repair using common sense, the Internet, the employees at the auto parts stores, a few friends and some borrowed tools. Your $1500 problem may turn into a $200+ a weekend problem.
-Juggle the numbers if you yourself can’t fix it and it’s going to cost a lot of money. Keep in mind that you can find quite a few cars that would be just peachy for a graduate student in the $1500-$2000 range. A favorite of mine are the early 1990s Toyota Tercel. Not good in crash tests, but very reliable.

Good luck!

Well, we couldn’t help with Houston, but a ride across town Saturday and a return Saturday evening(if we finish early enough) or Sunday(you’d be welcome to crash at our place, spare bedroom is probably taken, but there are a couple of comfy couches) may be doable. Sorry we can’t do more to help, but you’re welcome to join us for an evening of escapism if your other commitments allow. We’ll help in any way we can.

Oh, as to car advice. You’d be suprised at what kind of repairs you can do yourself. Get a copy of the Chilton’s manual for your car. Whenever you get an estimate, ask for a detailed description of what they plan to do. Compare the tasks they say they will do with the Chilton’s manual. Even if you can’t do the repair yourself, don’t just trust them to be fair with you(even an AAA shop). Knowing what is involved in the repair will help you out a lot. If the manual estimates two hours of labor for a task and they say they’ll charge you six, thank them for their time and look somewhere else. Chilton’s manuals are often considered the authoritative work on the subject and used by mechanics themselves. They’re a really good resource, even if you never fling grease yourself.

Get a second opinion. For less than 1,200 you could probably buy a rebuilt engine and have it installed. Heck, you could buy a NEW engine and have it installed for something close to that figure. A repair on an existing engine should not be that high, or if it is, then the shop could recommend replacing the engine. A friend of mine at work was a mechanic in his former life and I bounced an intake manifold repair off of him. He said 1200-1500 seemed pretty high for a manifold repair. I’d look into a couple of other shops at least. You might also want to consider looking at smaller shops, recommendations from friends and such. I used to go straight to a dealership for everything that went wrong with my first car, but I later learned that, as the car decreased in value, that this simply wasn’t worth it. Go to a smaller shop, get the work done for less money and just keep the car on the road for the time you need it.

There was a recall(recall number 97M91) on the '96-'97 model year Thunderbirds with 4.6L engines because of a manifold that would crack. The recall was limited to cars which were manufactured at a certain plants in specific timeframes and a lot of people have had problems with getting it honored. They seem to have filed a class action lawsuit about it. Anyway, I found this page at the Ford site where you can enter your VIN and find outstanding recalls for your vehicle. You said yours is a '95. It may not fall into this recall/lawsuit, but most of the people in the thread I linked to above(with the picture of the cracked manifold) quoted $500-800 repair costs. Definitely calls for some more investigation.


:confused: Not among anyone I know. Chilton’s and Haynes manuals are considered definitely second-tier. If you really need to work on your car, factory shop manuals are the way to go. I agree that for a problem like this, where only one thing will need to be done, Chilton’s are probably fine, but if you do a lot of work on your car, invest in the factoy manuals.

That said, I just bought a 2003 Import Professional Tech guide from Chilton’s, but more for the general knowledge on a wide variety of cars, as opposed to just one. Professional mechanics don’t buy all the factory shop manuals because doing so would be prohibitively expensive. But they also know what they are doing from years of expereicne. If you only have one car, go for the factory stuff.

I know it’s depressing and it’s also scary when you don’t have a way to put your hands on $1200-1500 right now. But look at it this way–payments on a new car would add up to that within a few months. And would keep on hitting your wallet. If you like the car, and it’s not otherwise acting like a lemon, then in the long run it’s probably a much better deal to pay for this relatively big repair and hang on it.

I think the guys on Car Talk have invited listeners to recommend their favorite, most trusted repair shops. Maybe you’d want to check their list out for a second estimate? Their web presence is somewhere on cars.com.

Have a mechanic do a coolant pressure check in front of you. You’ll see whether the radiator’s plumbing system is being evacuated by your intake manifold’s vacuum. It is a simple five minute test and will confirm the existence and severity of the problem.

You didn’t mention if your car is spewing huge clouds of white smoke (steam) from its exhaust or any other classic symptoms of a cracked head or water journal to intake leak. If you can, please provide more details.

Thanks folks. I’m gonna go an talk to the bank about the loan idea. It should be doable. <sigh>

It’s not just a repair that is the price, it’s a replacement. The fitting is epoxy’ed in there and they could take it out, but they don’t know for sure if they can put threads in it to accept a new one or not because the casing is a bit thinner than he’d like. the mechanic said that if I ok’d getting a new one he’d give the refit a try just to save money, but couldn’t garantee anything. Kinda wish I was a gambler at this point…I’ve never been good with dice.

Steven, I’ll take you up on your offer if things don’t go well. Thanks.

The Chilton’s guide I had for my '88 Ford Aerostar was a fantastic book and I remember seeing shelf upon shelf of Chilton manuals(the hardcover ones, not specific to one vehicle series) at the local dealership and other shops(although now that I think about it, those may have been repair time estimate guides). That having been said, Chilton’s publishes several lines of automotive guides and I’m not positive I linked to the analog of the one I used to have as I meant to. The one I had was geared towards a more mechanically-inclined user. Someone who knew how to use a transmission jack and the like and had access to such. It also had labor time estimates for each task. Perhaps I had one of the professional grade manuals and my respect for Chilton was inflated as a response to seeing some of their more detailed work. The book I linked to above is the total car guide for the T-Bird and may be a lower-level care guide concerning less mechanic-type info. Shadetree mechanic stuff. I found my Chilton’s manual very useful and comprehensively detailed even for extensive repairs. I don’t think it was the basic Chiltons you could buy at the local auto parts shop.

I just did a search for the Chilton’s manual I had and I can’t find it. I see the total car care guide for the Aerostar from 86-90(which was the timeframe this book covered as well), but it looks different than what I had. I guess that makes sense now becuase I remember the guy I got the car from saying he special ordered it and it was expensive.

Sorry for the hijack :slight_smile:

Good luck Mike! Drop me a line and let me know how things work out please.


How does Radiator fluid run out of the intake manifold?

I have used Radiator sealers you put in the radiator water on old cars when that was the only practical option.

BTW, if it really is a replacement, rather than a repair, the junkyard is your friend. If you want to do the repair yourself, you could get out of this for all of $50. At the very least, talk to your mechanic about using a junkyard part. You may have to obtain the part yourself, but many mechanics will work with you about that type of stuff.