Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Problem with the Car

I got my car back from the shop. It runs great so far, but I'm skeptical. Since I've had the car in the shop for the same problem 4 times, I want to wait a while before I deem the car truly fixed.

But, I'd say it's probably fixed. It runs better than it has for over a year. I've taken it to two different mechanics and neither of them (nor any of the other mechanics at those businesses) could figure out what was wrong with it.

The problem with the car was that it wouldn't start some times, and when it did start it would run rough in 1st gear and 3rd gear. The battery was been tested 3 times and found good. The alternator was checked twice and found good.

The starter had been checked. The voltage regulator had been checked. The fuel pump had been checked. They were all found to be good.

In my quest to fix this pain-in-the-butt car, I've had the gear shift cable replaced, the ignition cylinder replaced, the fuel filter replaced, the spark plugs and wires replaced, the ignition wires replaced (I think these are the same as spark plug wires but I have a separate charge for them), and the crossover pipe replaced (suspected vacuum leak).

This time I had the coil packs replaced and I think they were the problem all along. Before I took the car to the shop this time, I looked over all the receipts from previous repairs and noticed that on two invoices (from different shops) there was a mention that one of the coil packs was weak.

But, on both invoices, changing the coil pack was "not recommended at this time." I brought this to the mechanic's attention when I took the car to him, and suggested that he check the coil packs again.

Lo and behold, he said the coil pack was the problem. He also said that the battery (which had been tested 3 times and said to be good) had a dead cell and this accounted for the starting problem.

The mechanic gave me the choice with the coil pack. He said we could replace just the bad one or replace them all. Since one had gone bad, he said it was more likely that the other two were not in good shape and may go bad soon. He also had coil packs with either a 1 year warranty or a lifetime warranty.

After all the hassle I've had with this problem, I opted to replace all of the coil packs, and chose the lifetime warranty even though they were significantly more expensive. But, I did go buy a battery myself and bring it to him to put in. I saved $20 by doing that.

The repairs still totalled $420, but if this fixes the problem it's more than worth the price. A new (used) car would have put us in debt again, and I will avoid that if at all possible.

Why am I sharing all this mechanical stuff with you all? In case anyone has the same sort of problem, I would like to save them the hassles I went through. Always be sure to read the invoices. This might just save you the expense and aggravation that I went through.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Most Reliable Used Cars

I've put my car in the shop again. They weren't very happy to see me there since I told them, "If you can't fix it right this time - just tell me that and I will take the car back home."

Anyway, while I am waiting to hear from them I have been dreaming about buying another car. I did some research and thought you all might like to know which used cars are considered the Most Reliable.

Edmunds Best Bets
  • Economy Car: 1999-2004 Honda Civic
  • Midsize Car: 1999-2004 Toyota Camry
  • Large Car: 1999-2004 Ford Crown Victoria / Mercury Grand Marquis
  • Luxury Car: 2003-2004 Infiniti G35
  • Sporty Car: 1999-2004 Mazda Miata
  • Mini-SUV: 1999-2004 Honda CR-V
  • SUV: 2002-2004 Ford Explorer
  • Minivan: 1999-2004 Honda Odyssey
  • Small Pickup: 1999-2004 Toyota Tacoma
  • Large Pickup: 1999-2004 Ford F-150
Warranty Direct's Top 100
  1. Honda Accord
  2. Subaru Forester
  3. Mazda MX-5
  4. Mitsubishi Carisma
  5. Toyota Yaris
  6. Honda Civic
  7. Nissan Almera
  8. Honda CR-V
  9. Toyota RAV4
  10. Nissan Micra

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Buy Another Car or Fix the Old one AGAIN

Since my daughter is turning 14 this weekend, she is eager to put in applications around town. In our area, grocery stores begin hiring at age 14 and she has been counting down the months until she was old enough to apply.

The problem? My car is not running properly. I parked the car while I worked on paying off our credit card debt. Since my kid takes the bus to school and I work from home, the 2nd car wasn't a

But, she wants to work and I don't want to do anything that interferes with her desire to start making her own way in the world. Additionally, I want her to have a clear understanding of how much work is required to make the money needed to purchase
wants like cell phones, high-end clothing, and cars and insurance.

But the delimma of whether to sink more money into a car that I've had in the shop
3 times for the same problem is not an easy one to resolve. If it was a simple issue of so-and-so needs replaced, and it costs $xxx to replace it, I would happily put it in the shop and have it fixed.

With this car the issue isn't that simple. It's what I get for buying a Pontiac Grand Prix, I guess. I've had 3 different mechanics try to fix the car, and although they've all replaced something, that something was not the problem. So, I continue to have the same problem after shelling out hundreds of dollars.

After reading several articles online, I'm thinking I'm going to put old Duchess in the shop again. It still works out far cheaper to keep trying to fix this car than to go in debt to buy another one. Here are the best of the articles I read, tell me what you think.

Keep Your Old Clunker or Buy a New One MSN Money
Fix Old Car or Buy New One - Dave Ramsey's Advice

Monday, January 22, 2007

Teen Parties - be Cool and Save Money

My daughter's 14th birthday is this weekend, and we've put our heads together to come up with party ideas that won't break the bank (Mom's wallet).

Not only is this a good opportunity to teach your kid some money management skills, it's also a good way to save some money while still satisfying a teenager's appetite for all things

I've learned some interesting things about the way teenagers think in this process. Did you know that having a pizza delivered is cooler than picking one up, even if you could get more AND better pizza by getting it yourself?

It's true. It doesn't really matter what kind of pizza it is as long as it delivered. Delivery is

Deli snack trays are also
cool. But, you can make them yourself and save a chunk of cash. As long as it looks good and offers a variety of bite-sized food with toothpicks stuck into them - it's cool.

Teenagers are slightly concerned with nutrition. So, you can include celery on the snack tray if you fill it with peanut butter. Mostly they want cold cuts - rolled and stuck with a toothpick, cheese (stuck with a toothpick), cucumbers (stuck with a toothpick), carrots (that's going to be hard to stick with a toothpick), and dip or ranch dressing in the center of the tray. I'm thinking toothpicks must be

If yours is a slumber party, renting movies is a
cool way to have fun, and a must-have. The movies don't even have to be New Releases. Older teenage classics like The Notebook, Titanic, Grease, Bring it On, and I Know What You Did Last Summer are usually a hit.

Teenagers also like the animated Disney movies like
Cars, Ice Age, and Over the Hedge. Check into the 5-for-5 (5 older movies for $5) deals that most movie rental stores have.

Music is another
cool must-have at a teen party. If you don't have enough music or need some more recent, popular singles you can download them from for 88 cents a piece. Just click on Music once you get to the Walmart site.

Walmart also has some music downloads for only 48 cents each. Maybe you will get lucky and your teen will find something they like in that category.

Twister is making a comeback. It's one game that most teenagers will still play with their peers. It's cool and cheap too. It's only $14.99 at

It's not hard to create a cool party and still save some money. Just set a dollar limit for the party, give your teen a pencil and paper with the budget written at the top, and brainstorm until you fill the party with cool and frugal activities that satisfy you both.