I bought a ’95 Chrysler Town and Country from my brother last year for $1,500. He had recently bought new tires and struts and some other part, so I basically reimbursed him for the recent work he had done and got the car for free. Since I have owned it, I have spent about $1,300 for new rear brakes, a new battery, a new belt and something else. Now I am faced with spending a bundle to replace the failing transmission, and I cannot decide if it is worth it. The car has only 120,000 miles, and I drive it about 4,000 miles a year. I kind of hate to part with it, because the back is plastered with my Bernie bumper stickers, because it is great for hauling my frequently dirty dog and 50-pound bags of horse feed, and because it is the hippie van I never had in the ‘70s. My other car is a 2012 Beetle, and I am trying to keep it nice, so my dog is not welcome in it, and its hauling capacity is rather limited. My question: Is this old-timer worth repairing for the above reasons? Thanks. – Barb
It might be. Start by having your mechanic do an oil-pressure test on the engine. That'll tell you a lot. If the engine’s oil pressure is marginal, then you can just go ahead and put a “Do Not Resuscitate” order on the Town and Country’s health-care proxy.
For instance, if the oil pressure is supposed to be between 35-55 psi at idle, and the test shows it’s at 36, I’d say drive it until it drops, then remove the plates and the dog and leave the van by the side of the road.
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If it passes the oil-pressure test, then ask the mechanic to look over the rest of the car to determine what other key parts are about to – in terms your horse would understand – buy the farm. He can check the water pump, the tie rods, the front brakes, the rack and pinion, etc. Because on a car with 120,000 miles, any or all of that stuff could be ready to go.
If the car checks out reasonably well, then I’d say keep it, and put a rebuilt transmission in it. It'll probably cost you about $2,500. But what other car are you going to get that meets your needs for $2,500? With a rebuilt transmission, no less.
And at 4,000 miles a year, you might get another five years out of it. And then, if you want to preserve your Bernie stickers, you can hacksaw off the rear bumper and weld it onto your next vehicle.
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