The holidays may be over, but the winter weather is…
Have you ever let weeks, months, or even years pass by without changing the oil in your vehicle when you knew it needed it? Well, today I have a story of a fellow who typically took great care of his vehicle, but the demands of life and work forced him to push aside his regular maintenance schedule.
A few weeks ago, I received a frantic email from a friend – one for whom I’d helped select a car for his mother back in December 2010. John had every reason to be frantic: the engine his 2005 Ford Escape hybrid had seized. Turns out the oil level got too low. A lack of oil is typically the culprit of a locked-up engine – an event that puts the heart of any car beyond repair.
John explained to me that returning from a visit across the Bay (the Chesapeake that is), the engine “pinged mercilessly” and it “cut out [when going] over 2,000 RPMs all the way back.” Miraculously, he still managed to get the car home and running again the next day to take it to his local dealership. That’s where the really bad news began to kick in. The car was in disrepair. And if he wanted to fix it – which meant a new engine – it was going to cost him money and time.
After about six weeks of headaches and heart breaks, John came to me for advice. He had spent roughly $1,000 in rental car fees during that time, and a rebuilt hybrid engine for his Escape was going to cost upwards of $6,300. He wanted to know his options moving forward. Should he continue to wait with no guarantee of when he could get a new engine? Could he find a local to fix it? Or perhaps buying a used car would be the best solution. What would he do with his current vehicle?
Here’s what I told my pal John, and what YOU should do, if you have the same dilemma:
- If your engine seizes, then that’s pretty much it. There’s nothing you can do about it except replace it.
- If the cost of a replacement engine is close to, equal to, or more than the value of your car, then forego the replacement option. It’s not worth it because you won’t be able to get that money back out of it when going to resell.
- Whatever you do, DON’T spend a fortune for a new engine! (The $6,300 estimate given to John was higher than the typical cost of a rebuilt engine because the Escape was a hybrid. Because these vehicles are fairly recent, and not as widely popular, it’s tough for engine remanufacturers to get their hands on them.)
- Put that $7,300 (rental car fees and engine costs) toward a newer used car with low miles that is in excellent condition. There are plenty of options out there in this price range.
- Either work with a dealer to trade-in your current vehicle (at a much discounted rate because it doesn’t drive) or donate the vehicle to charity (this is the option that John chose).
- Oh, and pay attention to the maintenance schedule set forth by your vehicle’s manufacturer. It will save you pain and money.