My Car Needs an Engine. Should I Sell it, Fix it or Junk it?

by Joe Plemon on October 25, 2010

My 1999 Caddy

In my Change Your Mindset and Save a Fortune: 200,000 Miles is the New 100,000 Miles post, I bragged about my plans to save fortune by driving  my sweet 1999 Cadillac DeVille at least 200,000 miles. Well, we have trouble in paradise: my Caddy has an engine flaw…a head gasket leak that cannot be repaired; i.e. “I need to replace my engine.”

To my credit, I did factor in the possibility of a major repair in my 200,000 mile post. In fact, I used a $10,000 “worst case scenario”, assuming that both the engine and the transmission needed to be replaced. My premise was that one could still come out fine by spending the repair money and continuing to drive the car.

Now I am going to find out if I put my money where my mouth is.

Read along with me as I think this through. I will be asking for your thoughts at the end of this post.

Factors to consider:

  • I love the car.

I really do. It drives like a dream and makes me feel like a king every time I get behind the wheel.

  • It has 112,000 miles on it.

Yes, that is a lot, but not for an 11 year old car.

  • The replacement engine will cost … gulp … $5,700.

This is the cost of a Jasper rebuilt engine, including installation.   Northstar engines have a design flaw that makes head gasket problems quite common, but the Jasper rebuilt engine will have corrected the flaw. It will have a three year, unlimited mileage warrantee with it.

  • I can drive the car now.

It still runs great. But because it is slowly losing anti-freeze, I can’t trust it on any long trips without chancing it to overheat. It is therefore relegated to short trips.

  • No debt.

Whatever choice we make will not involve borrowing money.

My choices are:

  • Continue to drive it on short trips and spend no money on it.

I imagine the leak would gradually get worse, but I could probably milk it along for months or maybe years.

  • Do a “quick fix”.

There are many sealant type products available which claim to fix a leaking head gasket.  My understanding is that they might work for a while, but can’t be depended on as a long term solution.  Besides, they might not work and could clog the heater core or damage the engine.  At least the Caddy is drivable now.  Experimenting with a miracle cure could render it inoperable.

  • Sell it and become a one car family.

Obviously, it is worth very little – maybe $1,000.  Who would want an 11 year old car that needs an engine?  But there is merit in scaling back to one car.  It would take some sacrifices for both of us, but Janice and I could make it work.  Her car is older than mine, so the money I would be spending to repair the Cadillac could go toward an upgrade of our newer family car.

  • Junk it.

I was not able to pin down a junk value, but I am assuming it would not be much more than $1,000.

  • Fix it.

Follow my logic here: if, while shopping for a car, I found a near mint 1999 Cadillac DeVille De Elegance (premium model) for $5,700 with a rebuilt and warranteed engine, I would be inclined to buy it.  It is difficult to assign a Kelly Blue Book value to a car with a rebuilt engine, but this model with this mileage with original engine books at about $4,900 Private Party or $6,400 Retail.  A newly rebuilt engine would make it more valuable, but how much more?  Would it compare to the same model with 50,000 miles, which is about $6,900 Private Party or $8,300 Retail?   Not sure.  Interestingly, the same car at 200,000 miles books at $3,400…certainly more than I can get for it now.

Simple math is this: if I spend $5,700, drive it for about 90,000 miles and sell it for $3,400, I would be getting 90,000 miles for $2,300…about 3 cents a mile.

On the other hand, if  I could sell it now for $1,000 and add that same $5,700, I would be able to purchase a $6,700 used car.  With no engine warrantee.  And with no assurance that there are not other hidden problems, which brings on another factor: I know this Cadillac.  I have babied it for years and am confident there are no hidden “surprises” waiting to be discovered.

We would still be needing to upgrade Janice’s car, but if the Caddy is fixed and reliable, that upgrade would not need to happen immediately.

And remember: I love the car.

What will we do?

We are not sure yet, but Jan and I agree that we will be on the same page before we decide.  Right now we are leaning toward upgrading Janice’s car, milking the Caddy along at least till spring, and then deciding whether to replace the engine at that time.

OK. Now tell me what you think. What did I overlook?  I confess that it is difficult for me to be totally objective because I have an attachment to this Caddy, so I covet your thoughts. Would I be throwing good money after bad?  What do you think I should do?  What would you do?

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{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

joeplemon October 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

@Jan,
I like the way you think. You are the only one in my comment stream who actually footed the tab for a new engine. I am glad you are happy with the results, and I LOVE the name Moo-ella! I think we take better care of our stuff when we name it. You might enjoy my attempt at humor post “Stretch the Life of Your Lawn Mower by Giving Him a Name.”

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jan henderson October 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Thanks Joe…not sure that indicates my “stupidity” level or not…(only one to foot the bill) anyhow so far so good.. gas mileage on trips (about 24mpg), great pickup, easy tunes..cheap or free cassettes of oldies….i like your lawnmower article, just not doing so well in that dept, ..finally opted for an exercize machine…hey, i love the quietness and the safety..sometimes i mow barefooted just because.
.it’s a “reel” mower….kinda a conversation item too. jan

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jan henderson October 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm

just realized i had repeated information..sign of old age setting in

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joeplemon October 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Jan,
No, I was not inferring that buying the new engine for Moo-ella was an indicator of gray matter deficit. To the contrary, I admire you for driving a car you love and buying that engine to make it a sweet ride. I am actually jealous! One of these days, maybe I will do the same, but for now I just keep driving my Caddy on short trips.

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jan henderson October 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

It’s ok, I just wonder (most of my time) about doing the right thing.

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Gary October 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm

We also love the 99 Devilles, Problem, GM used plastic head gaskets in most of their under 5.0 engines, hence, anti-freeze leaking into electrical components etc. My perfect Chevy Venture had this same problem, cost $1200 plus to fix top-end, lasted one month and the bottom-end blew out,,broken crank. Sold my $6000 car for $1000, because what was left was pristine. GM Sucks.
Put in a 350 with rear wheel drive, or buy a Marquis, not as cute, but reliable.

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sam November 4, 2011 at 1:49 am

I have one as well and I just love it..First take a trip or call your nearest junk yard. At 11 years the Devilles are showing up some with engines and trans-axles in good shape..You should be able to pick the set complete for around $500- $600 and another $300-$400 to have it installed at a local garage ( not a dealership ) See if you can get the smaller of the two engines ( 403 I believe ) they have the solid engine block verses the larger engine that has the open block with piston sleeves..less chance of head problems.. you might want to consider asking the mechanic what it wold cost to go ahead and replace the head gaskets while the engine is out of the car..less expensive that way.. also check for leaks at the front left side of the engine ,Hard to see it could be the water pump..Just replaced mine myself about two hr job fairly easy job if yours has the smaller engine.. Your Caddy should be worth around $5700 – $6500 ..worth fixing..in my opinion..

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joeplemon December 9, 2011 at 11:03 am

Thanks Sam,
Even from a junk yard, I have not been able to track down a decent used Northstar engine for less than $1,000. Most are more like $1,500. Two different local mechanics (not the dealer) quoted me $1,400 to remove the existing engine and put a used one in. All of a sudden I have nearly $3,000 invested in an engine which could well have the same issues my current one does.

I would gladly pay $1,000 total for a used engine installed, but not $3,000.

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qwerty November 29, 2011 at 11:50 pm

SELL IT AS IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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John December 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

If it has a head gasket problem, I don’t quite understand why you need a new engine. I personally would have replaced the head gasket (costs 50-75$) so do the math, about $60 for the head gasket if you do it yourself of about $500 for a professional install versus buying a new engine and spending $5,700. But that’s just my opinion

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joeplemon December 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

John,
I agree that simply replacing the head gasket makes sense. However (remember that I am not mechanically inclined), I have spoken to five different mechanics, including a GM service manager, who all tell me that the head gasket in the Northstar engine cannot be successfully repaired. None would offer ANY warranty, and all said that the engine would need to be removed and replaced ($1,000 plus) to repair the head gasket. I could do that and immediately sell the car, but not with a clear conscience.

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sean March 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Just had to chime in. Thinking of buying a 1990 Jeep Cherokee that needs an engine. It’s the perfect one for me, one owner, great condition, hard to find locally, basic model, 4 cyl, 5 speed manual, 4×4 and super clean. Should I replace engine because I like that old boxy safari look or gamble on another that could have the same issue in a matter of months that I didn’t even like as much. This rig is what I would have ordered right off the lot. I guess deep down… I’d like to think that America is still building something worth a little sweat and tears. For me, I’m gonna do some horse trading for the truck and get her back on the road where she belongs. (good carma goes a long way)

Mostly just wanted so say that I appreciate your good conscience. It will all work out and money isn’t everything, pat her dashboard. : )

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Joe Plemon March 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

sean — haha. I DO pat my Caddy’s dashboard…regularly! Hoping all works out for you and the 1990 Cherokee you are thinking about buying. I think you answered your own question about buying it when you said “this rig is what I would have ordered right off the lot”.

Let me know what you decide to do.

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Joe Plemon March 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Jim,
I am not a mechanic, so I depend on what others tell me about the reliability of fixing a Northstar head gasket. One mechanic told me that he would give zero guarantee. Others offered little hope that the fix would hold. If one of your Caddys has a good engine, you had better keep that one and use the other for parts.

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Nick January 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I’m surprised that your head gasket trouble is un-fixable. Most of the time I hear of this issue happening and it only costing $1,500- $2,200 depending on where you go. The parts alone are roughly $700 and the rest is all in labor. I found a website who specializes in this and will do the job for $2,200 but it is in Canada and I’m not sure of your location.
http://www.northstarperformance.com/hg.php
hopefully it helps.

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Joe Plemon January 16, 2012 at 8:45 am

Nick,
Thanks for the tip. I checked into the shop in Canada and seriously considered having them do the work. It seems that they (unlike nearly every mechanic and machine shop I have talked to) have come up with a repair that they will stand behind. However, when I factored in the cost of removing my old engine and having it shipped to Canada, it was still going to cost me $2500 to $3000. So I went ahead and splurged for a new rebuilt Jasper engine — parts and labor came to $5200. Jasper has had a great reputation for many years, and their 3 year 100,000 mile warranty covers parts and labor. Did I do the right thing? Time will tell, but right now I am happy to have my Caddy back on the road again.

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Jun Yan January 17, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Get rid of the car.

It is not this fix that kills you, it is the next fix, and the next, and the next. In other words, this car is a money pit.

If it is a 1995 Accord, like the one I have, I would say go ahead and fix it. Considering it is a GM, I say get rid of it. Mind you, these are not my words, but exact words from a mechanic quoted in a bankrate.com article.

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Joe Plemon January 18, 2012 at 6:20 am

Jun Yan — You may be right. Time will tell. But I recently made the big decision: I put a new engine in my beloved Caddy. You can read about it in “Why I Put a New Engine in My Old Cadillac“.

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frank January 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I would have made sure everything else was in perfect shape before
installing a new engine. We’re facing the same issue with a 2003 Town &Country van that we really like. That’s how I ended up on your blog. $5200 sounds really high to me, but then again I’m no expert on Northstar engines. I’ll be checking back to see how your decision works out for you :)

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Joe Plemon January 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm

frank,
I have owned this car for about five years, have done all maintenance and fixed everything that has needed fixing. So it is in pretty much perfect shape. About the $5200 for the Northstar engine: yes, it is a pricey engine, and difficult to remove and replace. Most quotes I received were over $6000!

I hope all goes well with your Town and Country. I would recommend that you consider Jasper before making your final decision…their warranty covers both parts and labor. Most are for parts only.

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Nicholas Jensen January 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

We bought our 1999 Cadillac DeVille with 80K miles on it, because the car was in such good condition. At about 156K miles, after our car shut down on the highway, we were told we had a blown head gasket & the engine needed to be replaced. We filled up the radiator & drove 150 miles to another Cadillac dealer, & the car ran just fine — used very little water. That should have been our first clue it was not a blown head gasket. The second dealer confirmed the first dealer’s diagnosis, so we had them replace the engine with a used one. Neither dealer could get a new engine. At about 170K miles the same 2 dealers again said we had a blown head gasket. The second dealer also said we had a slight leak in our radiator. We put in a new radiator & have never again had a problem with the engine. We now have 308K miles on the car & it runs great. P.S. We still love the car. We just don’t love the dealers.

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Joe Plemon January 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

Wow! I wouldn’t like those dealers either! We had our radiator pressure tested by about five different mechanics, none of whom could find a radiator leak…thus the head gasket diagnosis and the subsequent new (Jasper rebuilt) engine. I only have 115,000 right now (less than 1,000 on my new engine), so I will be thrilled if I can get 200,000 miles. Or more thrilled with 300,000 like you have done. I love that you still love the car…we must be kindred spirits.

You may want to check out my more recent post “Why I Put a New Engine in My Old Cadillac”.

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Lisa February 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

When I googled “should I have my engine rebuilt/replaced?” I got you. My car is not a classic Caddy, but a 2001 Honda Passport (read Isuzu Rodeo). It has 144,000 miles, had regular maintenance (up until about 2007 when the recession arrived on the OBX – then it was a bit sporadic, but not neglectful). Last spring, I had a pully mount freeze, broke the serpentine belt, had it fixed along with replacing the water pump and other stuff I don’t remember right now. Drove fine until right before Christmas, when it spewed it’s life’s blood coolant at a long stoplight. Limped one block to a service station. They weren’t able to get it to cool down and when they put in new coolant, it spilled out the overflow. Since getting it to my mechanic, they’ve replace the T-stat and hoses and looked for other leaks, ruling out a major head gasket leak. Drove the car 300 miles without incident. Started it the next day and it started to overheat again after 5 miles. Gave it water, antifreeze and a partial bottle of Stop Leak and limped back the 10 miles I had driven. Next morning, heading back on the 300 mile trip home, it started to overheat, gave it more antifreeze and made it home without incident. Next day – again – it started to bubble over. Since then I’ve had the radiator replaced – still have the coolant pushed out the overflow, which the mechanic says indicates a flow problem. They’ve used my car as a medical cadaver of sorts and I’m faced now with abandoning it or buying another car. I have no trust in a car that will cost $7,000, so looked at other, more expensive options. I thought I’d made the decision, but I’m now leaning more toward a new engine, since I’ve got so much other new stuff on the car. Thoughts?

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Joe Plemon February 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

First…I am NOT a mechanic! But, assuming you need an engine, here is a tip to help you decide.

1. Figure out what the car is worth as is.
2. Get several quotes on the new engine — installed. Note: Jasper rebuilt engines are top of the line and have a great warranty.
3. Add 1 and 2. Let’s assume they come to $4,500.
4. Ask yourself, “If I did not have this Passport and I saw it for sale (with a new engine) for $4,500, would I buy it?”

Your answer to that question is a good indicator of what you should do.

By the way, I ended up putting a Jasper engine in my Caddy and I am very happy about my decision. You can read about it by clicking “Why I Put a New Engine in My Old Cadillac

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sean March 11, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Hello again, Joe

Love to hear it, you the man!! Were not a throw away society after all. Cheers

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Angel February 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I really loved your aricle on your car i am actually having the same problem right now with my 2000 jetta with the short trips to minimize engine damage, selling it for a grand, or investing in a new engine, fixing the head for an arm and a leg and have the engine still fail on me i also am in a pickle trying to decide what to do.

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Joe Plemon February 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Angel,
Keeping in mind that I am NOT a mechanic, maybe the tips I gave to Lisa (immediately above your comment) will help with your decision.

1. Figure out what the car is worth as is.
2. Get several quotes on the new engine — installed. Note: Jasper rebuilt engines are top of the line and have a great warranty.
3. Add 1 and 2. Let’s assume they come to $4,500.
4. Ask yourself, “If I did not have this Jetta and I saw it for sale (with a new engine) for $4,500, would I buy it?”

Your answer to that question is a good indicator of what you should do.

By the way, I ended up putting a Jasper engine in my Caddy and I am very happy about my decision. You can read about it by clicking “Why I Put a New Engine in My Old Cadillac

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Joe Plemon April 5, 2012 at 10:46 am

Wrecking the car with the new engine is a scenario I hadn’t considered. Bummer. Would the Jasper warranty still apply to a new owner if you sold the car? If you wanted to re-use the engine, I am guessing there are lots of GM cars around that the 3.8 would fit in. However, the 3.8 is such a reliable engine that by the time the engine went bad, the body would probably be in bad shape too. In other words, finding a pristine GM body with a bad 3.8 engine might be a challenge. Let us know what you decide to do.

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Mark Hofmann April 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I am very happy with my decision to buy a Jasper engine for my 2002 Monte Carlo LS. It was replaced about a year ago when it had 147k on it. My Monte Carlo has 165k on it now and runs like it did right off the lot.

I also had the transmission rebuilt, so the car has gone through a good overhaul. I’m sure I spent more money on it than most people, but I still feel it was worth it. Total was $4800 for the Jasper motor – installed. Then another $2000 to rebuild the transmission. Still beats a new $30k vehicle.

I call my 2002 Monte Carlo my 2011 Monte Carlo now.. :)

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Joe Plemon April 6, 2012 at 8:17 am

Mark — You are a kindred spirit! You may (or may not) have figured that I went ahead and put the Jasper engine in my Caddy. You can read about it by clicking “Why I Put a New Engine in My Old Cadillac”. Maybe I should follow your lead and start calling my 1999 Cadillac my 2011 Cadillac!

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nick gomez May 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm

my northstar makes clickin sounds, is it a gasket oil leak or what i toke my caddy to mechanics an they told me i need a new engine, how did this happen – ???

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Mic May 10, 2012 at 11:59 am

We replaced the 110K engine in a 2000 GMC Jimmy with a Jasper Reconditioned engine and the transmission was also rebuilt by AAMCO. We are the original owners if the Jimmy, no kids, accidents, smoking or pets in the SUV and it was in primo overall condition. We are now a few months from the end of 100K OR 3 yr warranty with only another 13K miles added to the Jasper engine, primarily a winter vehicle in the Rocky Mtns. Is it worth more than standard blue book as we begin to sell it compared to all the others with 140K or more miles? We think so. You?

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Joe Plemon May 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

With the engine and transmission replacements, I would agree that it is worth more than the standard blue book value, but you will need to market it accordingly. Still, if you are not able to find a buyer who will pay what you think it is worth, you might be better off keeping it. After all, you know what you have.

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Mic May 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Right on Joe. In hindsight, “if we knew then what we know now…we wouldn’t have done it.” With a “super” truck or car, like our caddy, we would, but for “just” a OK SUV we’ve had too many problems with Jasper to get to this point. It was a bunch of freak things which probably would never happen again, so with the right vechicle it would’ve been fine. We are getting a good number of buyer calls so we’ll see where it goes. After it sells, I’ll pass on our Jasper history…..

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Joe Plemon May 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Sounds good. Hope your sale goes well and I will look forward to hearing more about your Jasper history. BTW…my Jasper history has been fabulous. I had a 1996 Chrysler Town and Country Van which I put a Jasper transmission in, which failed two more times. Now I realize that isn’t exactly fabulous, but Jasper paid 100% parts and labor to replace the tranny both times.

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Tracy May 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I am having similiar problems with my 1999 Chevy Venture. It started leaking coolant in about January. Took it to my boyfriend’s mechanic (who owns his own shop so he’s a little cheaper than most shops/dealerships, but he is still a certified mechanic), and he put some stop leak into it for me (I could not afford to fix it then as I was waiting for income tax info so I could file and get my return first) anyway, that stopped the leak (which at the time was minor). Now is has just sprung a huge leak. My boyfriend filled up the overflow with coolant (which was completely empty when he checked it) and the next morning, there was a huge puddle of coolant all over my garage floor.
I’m a stay at home mom so I don’t drive the vehicle very much. I have owned it for about 3 1/2 years and have not even put 10,000 miles on it in the 3 years I’ve had it. So just fyi I guess that I don’t drive it hard, or drive it very far. I drive daily to get my kids to school (4 blocks from my house) and to the store, dr’s appt’s, etc. So now I am not sure what I want to do with it. I’m not sure how much it will cost to repair the gaskets, as I was told by my mechanic and my boyfriend’s that GM used the plastic ones, but just wondering if it is worth fixing. It has 153,000 (plus) miles on it and has several other problems both minor and a little more major (from drivers’s side window not wanting to go up at times which I think is an electrical probelm to needing new rear shocks and both my abs and brake lights are on so not sure what those are, was told could be either just sensors or needs new wheel barings. Sorry I’m being so long winded, but just having a hard time deciding what to do. I don’t have enough money to fix it now (I was kind of hoping the stop leak would have worked for at least one year when I could save up some money for another car) and don’t have any money to buy another car either, so I am kind of stuck. I need to find a job (I do work part time from home now but do not make enough to even pay my rent let alone other bills and I am looking for work) so now I’m stuck again, can’t work or even look for a job without a car, don’t want to buy a junker for a couple hundred bucks and be stuck again in a couple months, etc. Was just hoping someone could give me some advice. I have no one to borrow from and without a decent income (not to mention so/so credit) I can’t borrow from a bank, don’t make enough to even go with a buy here pay here place to buy one either. Boyfriend can’t really help (nor do I want to ask him to).
Any advice would be appreciated! Also was wondering if any one knows what years GM used those plastic gaskets as I am not wanting to buy another GM and have the same problem. My mechanic thought (he wasn’t sure) they stopped using them in about 2005, but I can’t afford anything that new and if I go to an older vehicle how old do I have to go? I did find a 1991 Oldsmoble 98 at a lot for about $2600 with about 150-175K miles (I saw it yesterday and can’t remember exactly the miles on it). Would that one still have the plastic gaskets? Some one please help! I’m desperate. Thanks…

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Paul May 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hey Joe, glad to know your decision was right for you. A few years ago I made the same choice, fortunately the engine repair only cost about $1500. Though my car was 14 years-old and had about 187k miles, excepting the engine, it was otherwise mechanically sound. Had I not been the original owner, and previously replaced most mechanical parts and rebuilt the transmission, I likely would have sold it in as-is, poorly operating condition.

I’d like to address the earlier comments regarding post-engine replacement valuation. While I’m unable to comment on resale value, I suggest notifying your auto insurer of any major repair because it may effect their valuation. A few months after the engine repair my car was stolen. After providing evidence of the recent engine repair the insurance valuation increased approximately 40% over the initial amount. If you’re wondering why I had theft coverage on a 14 year-old car–after a nearly succesful attempted theft from my driveway a year earlier, I surmised they’d surely return to try again. When I called my insurer to inquire about comprehensive coverage, they informed me I could obtain theft coverage apart from comprehensive at a much lower cost. After discovering how inexpensive theft coverage was, I added it to my policy as a hedge against financial loss and to provide a down payment on a replacement vehicle.

Incidentally, my replacement vehicle is my first used car purchase. It was five years-old with just 11,500 miles, and I negotiated a purchase price of approximately 40% of its new msrp! And, yes, I love driving it!

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Jamie July 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Wow..my engine jus went out in my 93 STS..I luv tha car to death and now im faced with a hard decision..it has 238000 miles on it and has been maintained very well..

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Joe Plemon July 4, 2012 at 2:40 am

Jamie — I think you should get several estimates on a new engine, then ask yourself this question, “If I didn’t own this car, and I could buy it for the cost of the engine, would I do so?” If your answer is Yes, then buy the engine. This question makes sense because your 93 STS without an engine is not worth much as it is. I hope this helps.

I can tell you this: I have never regretted for one second replacing my engine. I seem to love my Caddy even more, and am motivated to take extra good care of it so I can drive it for years to come.

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Jamie July 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Ok.thanks Joe..I will put that into consideration..I’ve owned for 4 years and had no other problems with it..

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Elle July 7, 2012 at 12:48 am

Hi Joe.
I found your blog after asking Google if I should replace my engine or not. A year ago I bought a 2002 Jeep Liberty Limited for $10k with 72k mi on it, still owe $5k. I haven’t had any problems with it until two weeks ago when I was driving home and it started vibrating violently with difficulty accelerating. Long story short, I can either replace the heads for $3500 or the whole engine for $6500 (it’s LKQ reman. engine not Jasper b/c of a better warranty than Jasper’s), OR I can get another car. I’ve asked the opinions of many and most say replace the car. Everything else in the car checks out except for the engine. If I do fix the engine, it will not add to my debt because I save for a rainy day such as this. I do love this car but I can not make this decision based on my love for the car but rather what is the more financially responsible decision. That being said, I think I should replace the engine with a warranty for the rest of the car (as suggested by mechanic) because it’ll cost me less to replace the engine w/ a warranty than to fix the engine to make the car trade worthy plus the remaining cost of whatever i trade for, increasing my debt (not to mention that I could buy another car and have the same issue of a huge issue arising whereas with this car I know what is going on for the most part).
I saw in past posts you said ask the question if one would buy the car with a brand new engine plus it’s as is worth. It’s probably worth $2000 now plus $6500 for the engine, would I buy it for $8500 w a new engine? Probably, but most opinions think I should cut my losses and get another car with the $6500, please help!

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Joe Plemon July 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Elle — It seems you have already thought this through, so I don’t think I have any great pearls of wisdom for you. You stated that you love the car, but your decision should be based on what is financially responsible. But I believe loving the car is a big factor because you will baby it, keep it longer and therefore milk the value out of it. Your friends who tell you to cut your losses probably don’t love your Liberty like you do. I had people telling me the same thing about my Caddy, but I am glad I went ahead and replaced that engine…I love it even more now.

It still boils down to this question, “If you didn’t own that Liberty, and you had the opportunity to buy it (with a new engine in it) for $8500, would you do so?”

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Mark Hofmann July 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I was in the same boat with my 2002 Monte Carlo. At the time, had 148k on it and everything was in great shape – minus the fact that I was leaking antifreeze between the lower intake and heads. The aluminum head had corroded somehow in that area – probably a casting defect.

At any rate, to fix that plus the slow oil leak around the oil pan, I was looking at $2500. The new engine was $4700, installed with 3-year warranty. I love my car and didn’t want to part with it – and thought “What new car with warranty can I buy for $4700″? Not to mention, I know the entire history of the car from day one. I decided to go with the Jasper engine and even had my transmission rebuilt – which included a 2 year warranty for another $2000. Total of $6700 to have the majority of my car restored to new. It also helps that I do most of my car repairs myself.

It has been a year since my new engine and I now have 169k on my 2002 Monte Carlo and it drives like the day I bought it. I’m totally happy with my decision and would do it again.

I would like to get a new Dodge Challenger one day to have as another daily driver so in the event I do need to work on my Monte, I wouldn’t be rushed. The good thing is that since most of my Monte is new, I have some breathing room for that.

The only thing my Monte could use right now is a new fuel pump, which I am going to replace myself (it has an access panel, thankfully). Only because my fuel gauge/float is not working 100%. It jumps all over the place unless I’m on a flat surface or the tank is full. Not a big deal, really. I’ll get to that eventually.

The other bonus is some people have classic cars that they love. In my case, I have an older car that I love and still get to drive everyday – just like it is new.

- Mark

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Elle July 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Hi Joe,
Just wanted to thank you for responding to my question and to update you. I did replace the engine in addition to the radiator and battery for a total of $6300. It’s a large sum but you were right, my love for the car and how relieved I am to have it back makes the cost seem worth it now. I do have another question though, hopefully you’ve had some experience with this as well. When picking up the car, my mechanic suggested I get a protection plan for the car since it is 10 years old to cover myself if another large costing issue occurs. I’ve never known anyone to buy these and always heard most were a scam or very difficult to work with. I didn’t feel the need to look into this until the mechanic made me paranoid that something else will break of old age, even though I (or rather my boyfriend) keep up with maintaining the car. Have you purchased this type of protection for you DeVille? Or would you recommend getting one?

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Joe Plemon July 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Elle,
In general, I don’t recommend extended warranties on anything because of the high profit margins for the companies who sell them. I would rather keep a good emergency fund and “self insure”. This being said, I have had good success with a protection plan through ASC. Because this company sells only through qualified dealers, they can be certain that they aren’t covering a vehicle on its death bed. My mechanic bills ASC directly, so I don’t have to go through the hassle of paying him upfront and then trying to collect from my protection plan company.

This being said, I don’t have a protection plan for my DeVille because I bought it from an individual and therefore did not qualify for a plan like ASC offers. My concern about buying a protection plan directly from the warranty company is that they have to cover themselves for cars which are in sad condition, resulting in high fees and, as your friends said, are scams or are hard to work with. Bottom line: when buying from a dealer, I would strongly consider a warranty like ASC. In all other cases, I would self insure with my emergency fund.

I hope this helps.

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Lily July 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Joe,
I’m so glad I found your site.. my 2004 Dodge Durango died over the weekend and the mechanic is saying we need a new engine. An after market engine cost $2500 or we could spend $4000 to buy one from Dodge directly. The dealer is giving a 3 year, 30,000 mile warranty, the after market place is only giving us a 90 day warranty.

I paid $8k for the car 3 years ago. Kelly’s blue book and Edmunds value it between $7-11k TODAY with my mileage.. which is 160K

Clearly if I change the engine I should plan to change the transmission too.. the water pump, the spark plugs etc etc..

Is it that I should be willing to spend UP TO what I paid for it, in repairs or up to its book value?

Also if I order the engine from the dealer should i have them install it too or have my my mechanic do it? does having an outsider do the work void the engine warranty?

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Damion January 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

Joe,

I think you helped me make my decision..we have an 07 Camry that needs an engine replaced because it was running on no oil (numbskull move, i know) and blew a piston. I’m looking at about $5700 to replace it..it has about 80K on it. Also we are about to finish paying it off this year and would not like to incur any additional debt. We are going to have to figure out how to be a one car family until we can get the money to repair the car…But it should be better for us in the long run. Thanks!

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Joe Plemon January 8, 2013 at 9:08 am

Damion — I am glad this article helped. It has been nearly a year since I put the Jasper engine in my Caddy, and I have absolutely zero regrets!

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AL HEICHBERGER March 4, 2013 at 10:44 am

Hi Joe:

Been some time since we talked. Did your replacement motor go bad?

Best
Al Heichberger

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AL HEICHBERGER March 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Joe:

If that is your cadalic, you had a good warranty on the motor. Have them replace the motor at their costs.

Al Heichberger

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Larry April 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I have the same problem with a 1998 sonoma. The engine went at 167,000 plus. A new engine from Jasper’s including installation is just under $5,000. The price includes everything. Clutch, flywheel, the works. I love the truck . Right or wrong. Thanks.

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Joe Plemon April 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Larry,
One consideration is whether a $5,000 engine would increase the value of the Sonoma by $5,000. I assume it is worth junk without the engine. But if you have babied your Sonoma, you love it and you will continue to care for it, you should go ahead and spend the money.

One more thing. Assuming the Sonoma is worth $1,000 without the engine, ask yourself this question, “If I didn’t own that Sonoma, and I saw it for sale (with the new Jasper engine) for $6,000, would I buy it?”

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Taiwo June 6, 2013 at 10:00 am

Get yourself a new engine. An old trusted car with a new engine is better than a used car that you do not know what hidden problems there are. Anyway, we are going through the same situation and what I am sharing here is our decision.

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