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Is it worth putting $2,000 into a 9-year-old car?

Posted by John Paul  March 14, 2012 03:43 PM

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Q. I have a 2003 Chevrolet Impala with 112,000 miles on it. The dealer advises it will soon need a steering rack with an estimated cost over $2,000 for this. It’s also possible that the power steering pump is shot. The car is in otherwise excellent condition, has been maintained “by the book” and never abused. It runs extremely well. Do you feel this type of repair is worth it for an older car? I am leaning toward repairing, just because the car is paid for and I enjoy having no car payments. I have friends with the same model who have easily driven 200K miles. What do you think?

A. It is always cheaper to fix an old car than buy a new one. Since your car has been well maintained to me repairing the problems, even expensive problems make sense. Although I would get a second opinion on the repairs. The cost for replacing the steering gear sounds expensive. In addition the intermediate steering shaft has been prone to problems as well.

Q. What do you think of the latest Subaru Legacy? I’m looking for a new car, with all wheel drive and great dependability. I haven’t seen many on the road and I don’t know if that means something or not?

A. I have just recently driven both the latest Impreza and Legacy and came away very impressed. The ride is smooth and comfortable and the interior is now competitive with other cars in their class. The engine performance is certainly more than adequate and the engine is smooth and quiet.

Q. My 2003 Murano calls for CVT NS-2 transmission fluid (this number is written on the dip stick). Is there an aftermarket fluid I can substitute for this expensive fluid?

A. Nissan is very specific about the fluid use in their CVT transmissions. Using anything other than the factory fluid may damage the transmission.

Q. I have a 2009 Mercedes S550 with 19inch AMG style wheels and tires. Would it be possible to put 18"wheels on this vehicle so I would get a better ride? I don’t like the harsh ride from 19"wheels and tires and was hoping this may help.

A. The standard wheel and tire size for a standard suspension S550 is 255/45/18. You can use this size to replace your car’s optional 255/40 19 inch sport wheel and tire package without making any other changes. This new tire has one half inch more sidewall which may improve the ride slightly.

Q. I have a 2005 Toyota Camry with 65,000 miles on it. Six months ago I started noticing a slight rumble when driving between 20-45 miles per hour. No noise, just a rumble. Sometimes it was while cruising, in which case I would accelerate and it would stop. Other times it was while accelerating, in which case I would let go of the gas pedal and it would go away. It isn't constant and seems to come and go with little rhyme or reason. I've changed the tires and had them balanced. I've also taken it to a mechanic, with no luck in finding out what was wrong. They suggested it wasn't a big deal and that I wait to fix things until it gets worse rather than spend money in search of what is wrong. It’s been a while now, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse but is very annoying. Any ideas?

A. A Toyota dealer or a shop with a noise and vibration tester may be able to pinpoint the problem. These tools monitor and measure the vibration and help a technician determine where the vibration/rumble originates.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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