Hi, I need advice and intelligent options. I have a 1993 Mitsubishi 3000 GT (V6 3.0L 2972cc 181CID FI GAS N B). Since I first got her back in 2003, she has only broken down twice. The first time was in May of 2007. It was the transmission and that was five years ago. I had the entire tranny rebuilt at a place called Daffy Daves in Key West. While she was there, he also replaced the water pump, crank kit, TIMING BELT, oil pump, crankshaft, balancer, oil filter, battery, and rear wheel bearings. Over the next five years, following these repairs Mitsy ran perfectly. Mileage at that time was at 157,338. That ran me about $2,300.
In December of that same year, the exhaust flex connector deteriorated and my car started to sound like it had a jet engine. She had also begun to show signs of other wear and tear. While I had it in the shop, I also had the A/C fixed (retrofit/out of Freon), bypassed a leaky heater core, and mounted/balanced 4 new tires. Mileage was at 165,941. Again, another great experience $697.03 later.
It was not until June 2010 that Mitsy had to go back to the shop again. She was making some odd noises, and I had begun to notice that cars were flashing their bright lights at me. It turns out my headlights needed adjustment. While there I also had them do a rotation and alignment, a lube, oil, and filter service, replace a l/r wheel hub assembly that was grinding, replace the outer tie rod ends, replace the serpentine belt, replace the valve cover gasket, and replace an axle seal. Mileage was 172,453 and my pocket was $1,306.97 lighter.
About a week later, while doing a routine check of the oil level during a fuel stop I noticed I was REALLY low on oil. The mechanic said he could not see any leak and would need to do a dye test to be certain to which I concurred. The dye test showed a slight leak at the oil pan gasket. To repair this they needed to remove the exhaust system. I also needed to have my engine torque struts replaced, so I had them take care of that at the same time. The mileage was at 174,633 and when all was said and done cost was $724.33.
Within the week I made it a point to check the oil following their latest repairs. To my dismay, I was once again leaking a significant amount of oil at the same rate it had been leaking previously. I took it back the following week and the mechanic indicated it might be the REAR MAIN SEAL, but that to get to that area of the car he would have to remove the entire exhaust system AGAIN to determine if this was the case. In the interim, he replaced the PCV Valve to avoid excessive back-pressure. At that time, I just was not feeling too good about their diagnostic skills. I felt like I was being milked. I parked Mitsy and went in search of a reputable mechanic. At that time, the mileage was 175,591, and that only cost me $54.68.
At the end of August, I took Mitsy for a second opinion to a dealership. Niles Chevrolet had worked on my wifes new Aveo and she seemed very pleased with their work. Following about 20 minutes of diagnostics, they determined that the leak was coming from the REAR MAIN SEAL. They did not need to do any DYE TEST in order to see the source of the leak, which they said, was as clear as day. In fact, after showing them the maintenance records from M&M automotive, they were shocked to see that they had just replaced the oil pan gasket in mid-July. They noted, You would have to be blind to miss a rear main seal leak especially a leak this bad when changing out the oil pan gasket. They said these areas were only inches apart, and that the mechanic should've caught that not only during the DYE TEST but whenever he was poking his head around the areas of the oil pan and rear main. I'd heard enough. Mileage was 177,285. I had Niles do the rear main seal fix, as well as fix a reservoir fluid indicator that had begun acting up. That was $1,136.86 later.
A little over two weeks later Mitsy died completely. She made the weirdest sounds I have EVER heard before and just stopped running. She would not start back up and from the sound of it when I tried to crank her back upI knew better than to keep trying to start her. I had her towed back to Niles, and waited for the news. A day later, it came You have got an interference engine system. Your timing belt has failed and you may have some serious engine damage. Right now, you are looking at about $700 to replace the timing belt but before we proceed we need to check the valves and cylinder heads. The next day they told me, You may want to consider NOT completing these repairs the cost is going to be in the thousands because most of your valves are bent and there could be other associated repairs needed, as well.
I am going to have her towed, to YET ANOTHER MECHANIC and get a second opinion about the damage to the valves, etc. It would just make me feel better to get a second opinion from someone who did not work at a car dealership. I have already spent quite a bit on Mitsy. Most of the major components have been replaced or repaired. She was running perfectly until that damned belt snapped. I love her and in another 7 years she is going to be a classic. I am not sure if I should repair Mitsy or if I should find another used car. I am definitely not going to buy a new car.
Here are the options I see at this point:
1. The safe bet: I buy a new vehicle. I am NOT going to buy someone elses potential problem. I have been looking, and I can easily see spending at least $25K-$35K for a mediocre sports car or SUV. Of course, I would also have to eat a $400+ MONTHLY payment for the next 4-5 years. But then, I could ride with confidence knowing the bumper to bumper warranty would cover any major issues. That is VERY important to me. With two jobs that both require a fair amount of travel reliability is crucial. Of course, it is also going to cost me around $4,800 in car payments each year to get that warm, fuzzy feeling. This would be a last resort.
2. A logical bet: Salvage Mitsy and buy another used vehicle. The problem with that, is that I will not know a thing about that cars history. I may be going from the frying pan to the fire!
3. The risky bet: Fix Mitsy, again which will likely cost around $3,000. Take on a nice, easy $150+ payment for the next three years. BUT also be prepared to freak out anytime I hear the slightest noise and with every repair wonder, Now what?! I know MItsy is not getting any younger but then again the older she gets the more valuable she will become. And then of course, there is the argument that what I would spend on NEW car payments over the next 4 years($19,000)could easily cover any major repairs for Mitsy that remain (I mean really, what's left?)and have enough left over to get her a paint job, all NEW interior, and a better sound system. I could probably do this for HALF of the cost of what I will pay for a new car.
What would your decision be if you were in my shoes? New or used or keep Mitsy? What are your thoughts in general? For the time being, I am riding my motorcycle but at some point I need overhead cover. This is Florida and I can only duck the rain so often. In addition, I have to make a decision about what I am going to do with Mitsy and her insurance coverage. I could really use advice.
Thanks for any wisdom you can offer,
Kate at the crossroads