Mechanically Inclined People?

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Postby Tubular Toby » July 23rd, 2011, 3:18 pm

Okay! So here is the story... The car is a 1996 Dodge Neon Highline

Problems with the car in the past include a bad battery wire and connection that was replaced. Also replaced the coil pack and spark plugs shortly before that. Has been running fine since then. The boyfriend and I decided to take it to Chicago, since it was much more reliable than his car. The boyfriend changed my oil and filter the day before we left. Prior to this, I also replaced broken bulbs in my dash and found that my battery light was on. I drove it for over a week like that with no problems, and my brother who owns a neon says that it was probably the sensor on my car, his car did the same thing. It was "nothing to worry about".

744 miles there and not a problem. Car ran great the entire way. We get there, park it for 5 nights, and get in it to leave. Still running great. Once we got outside of Chicago, we pulled over to eat and check the oil. The stick wasn't bone dry, but it was only half way to the minimum mark. Odd. My car always uses a little oil, so after 800+ miles, we figured it was fair to add some more oil. We got it above the minimum mark (I wanted to add more... but the boy argued with me) and continued on our way. Within about 150 miles of home, I was driving down the road at night when my car engine lost all power. The lights didn't dim, nothing happened but the engine slowed. I don't think it quit working entirely, because the brakes weren't hard to push at all. I pulled over immediately, the check engine soon light came on and my oil light came on. I turned the car off and noticed that it was running a little hot, but certainly wasn't over heated. After giving it about ten minutes, Allen checked the oil and said that was a little lower than half way to the minimum mark but still read on the stick. Well... my mom on the phone suggested checking to see if we had an oil leak. Allen said that it was slowly dripping near the oil pan, so I told him to check the plug since he had changed the oil, maybe it wasn't on all the way. He claimed that it was in properly but there was oil around it.

We tried starting the car several times and it turns over but won't start. The lights don't dim or anything, so I'm assuming it's not anything related to the battery (?). A lot of people have said that it sounds like a fuel pump problem, but I haven't been back to the car to see if I could hear it coming on when I turn the key on or not. I'm really hoping it's not a problem related to running low on oil. If it is, I'm not going to be a happy camper since I told Allen multiple times (we even had an "argument" over it) that the car needed more oil and that half way to the minimum mark was NOT "fine". The car also sounded very quiet to me when we tried starting it after it broke down. It didn't sound nearly as loud as it normally did when trying to start it.

I am really worried. We didn't hear any loud noises, no smoking, etc from the car. But if it is an irreparable problem related to low oil, it's going to take me awhile to get over it. The car isn't worth my relationship, but that won't stop me from being irritated...
-Kristen
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Postby Tubular Toby » July 23rd, 2011, 3:27 pm

Apparently Allen checked that night when he was on the phone with my dad to see if the car was getting a spark and it wasn't. :|

Anyway it could be related to faulty battery wiring? I have had intermittent problems with a battery connection, but it usually just causes the "click" and no turn over.
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Postby Pit♥bull » July 23rd, 2011, 3:58 pm

Tubular Toby wrote:if the car was getting a spark and it wasn't.
15 year old auto... Sounds like timing belt. The only way to be sure is put it on the computer and see why the check engine light was on.

:goodthoughts: coming at ya.
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Postby Tubular Toby » July 23rd, 2011, 4:00 pm

Thanks! I guess I should have mentioned that the timing belt, water pump, radiator, and several other things have been replaced on the car recently.

My dad is thinking coil pack or perhaps the car's computer... :(
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Postby Pit♥bull » July 23rd, 2011, 4:22 pm

They don't make em anymore where you can work on them yourself, takes a friggin computer to diagnose the problem. Could be any number of things. Good luck.
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Postby AllAmericanPUP » July 23rd, 2011, 5:19 pm

First place i would start is pulling the battery out and taking it to auto zone and having it tested.
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Postby AllAmericanPUP » July 23rd, 2011, 5:26 pm

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Postby pitsnok » July 25th, 2011, 1:13 am

You can take it to auto zone to have them see what code it was throwing to cause the check engine light to come on... and maybe you could rent their little plug in diagnostic things for when the car can't be taken to the store-- I'm not positive you can though. You can rent tools from them so I'd imagine surely you could rent the diagnostic thing too, but you never know. That would definitely be my first step.
It sounds like it couldn't be the battery or alternator issue because the lights and breaks still had power,
And I think if it had been a low-oil issue you would have had much larger problems than you did... clunking, overheating, smoking, etc.
I agree it does sound like a fuel-pump problem, and hopefully that's the case as they're fairly inexpensive to replace. Depending on the car they can sometimes be difficult to work on and shops will charge a lot, so hopefully you know someone who would be able to do the swap for you.

( I'm fairly car-savvy, but am no mechanic so I can't say my advice should be counted on for sure, haha. )
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Postby Tubular Toby » July 25th, 2011, 1:18 am

Thanks everyone! His grandma's (not?) husband looked at it with a friend and they both said fuel pump. They're going to change it for us and see if that works. My dad has a code reader, but unfortunately can't afford to drive to Tulsa to check it out. I'm sure the guy working on it has one too.

Looks like it might be okay after all! Fingers crossed!
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Postby pitsnok » July 25th, 2011, 3:41 am

Good luck, and YAY for wrench-turner friends who will help you out!
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Postby Tubular Toby » July 31st, 2011, 3:09 pm

Pit♥bull wrote:
Tubular Toby wrote:if the car was getting a spark and it wasn't.
15 year old auto... Sounds like timing belt. The only way to be sure is put it on the computer and see why the check engine light was on.

:goodthoughts: coming at ya.


Once again, PBT pulls through and you're right! Haha, you win! I was mistaken, the timing belt was NOT replaced. The car was taken to a mechanic and the problem is the timing belt and at least one damaged valve. Estimated cost to fix the car, $1500. Not sure exactly what all of that entails, but I'll be learning more this week.

I have been going back and forth between dropping $1500 on the car (I paid $1200 for it but the blue book is near $1600, I believe) since I know that everything else is doing well. It drove great on the way to Chicago, even with the AC on got 25-30 mpg, drives straight as an arrow, has new tires... Body is in great shape. Drop the money on it and keep it.

Or the guy that has it now is really good at selling cars/networking and could probably find someone willing to take it. Take the money I make off of it, the $1500 I would be investing, my boyfriend offered me an additional $500, and get a car (through down payment/small monthly payments on a loan) in the $3000-4000 range... But who knows with what kind of history.

Is it wiser to fix this car that I know or buy a more expensive car and hope there is nothing wrong with it?
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Postby Tubular Toby » July 31st, 2011, 3:19 pm

Hm, I think I am just going to fix this car. The AC works, it has new tires, new rear struts, radiator and all that jazz is new... It's a good car. Just should have had the timing belt changed.
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Postby Pit♥bull » July 31st, 2011, 4:13 pm

Tubular Toby wrote:Estimated cost to fix the car, $1500.
An estimate is just what it says, could be much more. See if you can pin this person down, at least to the maximum as once he gets started you are 'stuck'
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Postby iluvk9 » July 31st, 2011, 4:44 pm

I don't know if the formula applies to cars, but my appliance repairman said if the repair on the appliance costs more than half of what it is worth, don't fix it, get another one.
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Postby Pit♥bull » July 31st, 2011, 4:54 pm

You can find a lot of facts here http://faq.neons.org/faq/FAQ_ET.html

See 2.5.9 about timing belt.
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Postby hugapitbull » July 31st, 2011, 5:46 pm

iluvk9 wrote:I don't know if the formula applies to cars, but my appliance repairman said if the repair on the appliance costs more than half of what it is worth, don't fix it, get another one.


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Postby Tubular Toby » August 1st, 2011, 1:04 am

Thanks for the info everyone! I did learn today about the interference engine, sucks! We are calling tomorrow to find out the extent of the damage and the high end estimate.

I am leaning towards just getting this car fixed. Yes, it'll cost a lot, as much as it would cost for me to get another used car. But at the same time, for that amount of money, I KNOW what I am getting. I know the car pretty well, as opposed to dropping money on another used car that could have something go out at any point. I've also invested a bit of money into this one already. So theoretically, for $1500 (ish), I could have my car back. Or for $3000 (ish), I could have another car that is going to need higher mileage maintenance (BEFORE stuff breaks and causes a huge mess :( )

Not trying to argue, haha, I know I asked for opinions, but I'm having a hard time committing to spending more money to buy less predictability. It'd be different if I were fixing an appliance where I might as well just invest that money into a brand new appliance. But I am debating on fixing a car or getting another used car with no warranty. Thanks for the formula though, Joyce & Shanna, I'm sure that will come in handy in the future! Haha

At this point, it all depends on the extent of the damage and the high end estimate. We'll be getting more details tomorrow. :)

Thanks all!
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Postby pitsnok » August 1st, 2011, 6:08 am

Personally, I would opt for a new car. That's just because the car is 15 years old, and I really couldn't justify paying more for repairs than I paid for the car originally.
Not to mention, it IS a neon, (and yours seems to have done really well up until now), but I don't think they generally are mechanically sound/long lasting. I would be afraid of bigger things needing to be repaired in the future if I were you. my mom has always used the 'money pit' analogy with me always wanting classic cars, and unfortunately I worry that would be what you would be getting in to if you kept repairing this car.

I would look for something like a late 90's honda...civic or accord, a toyota sentra or a mazda protege (or something of similar make and model to those) if I were in your shoes. You can definitely find them within a very reasonable price range, and typically with those makes of cars you don't have quite as much to worry about once they start getting up there in age. My uncle had a '94 toyota camry that he drove (on the same motor mind you) up past 300k miles... then he wrecked it. Who knows how long it would have lasted! Similarly, my grandparents had a '99 and it had over 300k and they donated it to a rehab facility and got a toyota highlander just this past year.

...but that's just my two cents. =) good luck!
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Postby pitsnok » August 1st, 2011, 6:20 am

oops, i meant nissan sentra* or toyota corolla... i crossed my words!
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Postby Pit♥bull » August 1st, 2011, 9:15 am

pitsnok wrote:it IS a neon, (and yours seems to have done really well up until now), but I don't think they generally are mechanically sound/long lasting.
We've owned 2 Neons purchased new and had no issues. :|
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