Lately I’ve been starting to wonder at what point a car starts costing more in repairs and maintenance than it’s worth. A few months back I took it in to the shop because the steering seemed to be wandering. They recommended replacing all four tie rod ends at a cost of nearly $500. I think I sort of gagged and eventually just told them to replace the one that really needed it. I paid $2100 for my car; I just couldn’t justify spending nearly a quarter of the purchase price on something that didn’t seem strictly necessary. I mean, it still drove, right? And maybe the handling was getting a little bad, but it certainly didn’t feel $500 bad.
Today I tried recharging my AC. I had naively discharged a few months ago because the lines to the compressor were in the way of the starter motor, which I needed to replace. I had no idea that it’s actually a pretty serious crime to discharge refrigerant into the atmosphere, but what’s done is done.
But now that it’s getting warm again, I figured it was time to recharge the system. Except, of course, my car hates me. The AC has acted funny since I bought the car a year and a half ago, and it hasn’t given up on its antics yet. Even though there was absolutely no refrigerant in the system, my pressure gauge said that it was past fully charged and creeping into the dangerous zone.
Whatever’s really wrong with it, it’s apparently beyond my ability to fix, but I’m dreading taking it in to a shop or dealership. The repair is almost certainly going to be expensive, and I’d really rather not admit that I’m a law-breaking idiot who discharges ozone-destroying gases into the atmosphere.
So while I was trying to research the problem and decide what to do about it, I started tallying up the things that are wrong with my car. Most of them are fairly minor or trivial, but it certainly adds up:
- AC pressure problem
- Cruise control doesn’t work
- Front passenger door lock actuator is broken
- Power antenna is seized
- Door remote doesn’t work
- Throttle position sensor sticks
- Transmission sometimes won’t shift back up to overdrive
- Transmission shudders when accelerating at cruising speeds
- Shocks or struts or whatever are worn out
- Starter motor sometimes overheats and seizes
- Right rear brake caliper is seized and leaking
- Still probably need those three new tie rod ends
All of this is making me accutely aware of just how much of an amateur I am when it comes to these things—also just how expensive cars are and how little mine is actually worth. I’d love the idea of selling it and getting something new and less troublesome, but that sort of negates the it-costs-too-much-to-fix-it argument. Maybe it’s finally time to live out that childhood dream; I’ll just have to go on The Price Is Right and win a car.