"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."


Bad news. My truck is going to die.

Well, that's melodramatic. I learned today that the clatter I have at certain acceleration points is not a timing issue, but rather a piston bearing on its way out. Now, the truck can run on three (even two) cylinders, and there's no reason to think the bearing will go out any time soon. But it's an unknown. Could be tomorrow. Could be six months.

That means it's probably ok to take to town, but no running the 101 to San Fran. The risk/cost of blowing the engine out in the middle of nowhere is too high to run.

So what's next? Well, next week I'll roll south in a one-way rental. After that I might try and use a new connection to get some air travel in coming back up in June. But I'd been planning on driving this summer, piling up wedding trip and family visit, etc. That's no one-day stop-gap rental.

I see a few options:

  • Replace the engine, giving me a relatively bullet-proof Moamar II, but costing a pretty penny.
  • Sell the pickup for a couple hundred and get another used car. Pretty much a wash with the above unless there's a sweet deal to be had.
  • Live without a long-distance-capable automobile: keep the pickup clattering along in the HC, use other methods (carpool, bus, plane, rental) to make longer trips.
  • Buy a new car.

In the back of my mind I've been sort of planning towards the last and final option, but was thinking sometime in '09/'10, not right now. I don't feel excited about taking on a big new debt right now, and I have a feeling that when it comes to automotive technology the longer I can wait the better my options are.

I'm thinking of some combination between the first and third option. I don't see the value in a lateral used-car move, unless some awesome used-car opportunity comes along that's still cost-competitive vs replacing my engine. There's no need for me to have to replace the engine this second though, and I don't even yet have a real estimate on the actual cost.

Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

UPDATE: My trusted mechanic says new rebuilt engine installed will run ~2.5 to 2.8k, which is more than I paid originally for the rig. Not sure if this really changes the calculus all that much, but I might shop around based on that price a bit.


I don't know if you're looking for car or truck or suv. I can only speak to car as we had to replace our worn out Ford Taurus back in December. After running a bunch of numbers and a test drive, we settled on a 2008 Toyota Prius which is a really sweet nerd gadget. I never get over being fascinated by all the gizmos [there's a backup camera which is really really helpful for parallel parking.] I'm not sure what, if any, tax breaks California gives you for a hybrid car but in Oregon we got a fairly large deduction for the purchase. The gas mileage is great, 50 or so miles to the gallon going up and down I5 between Eugene and Portland. They're surprisingly roomy, but not the best for hauling say, a bike around [it can be done, and we did it with three people in the car even]. We've gotten far more in it than we ever would have thought was possible.

The whole new car thing will be all about something efficient. I don't really have any justification for anything bigger than a Prius. But I don't know if I'm ready to go new. Thanks for the input though!

Maybe you could get a cheap, used Honda Civic or something similarly gas efficient. It should last a few years (if you get one that's been kept up nicely) and might get you to the point where you're ready to invest in a new, technologically advanced car down the road, and you wouldn't have to take on too much debt now, theoretically. But even a non-hybird Civic gets something over 30 miles per gallon, so that's nice.

Rented Mule + Carrot/Stick. Entertainment, moral hazard, and transportation.

I love my Scion XB. It's practical, cheap, and gets decent mileage. All that without the extra cost ($ and environment) of the hybrid drive-trains.

Here's my mileage for a few weeks right after we got it.

You should check out this brief article from Wired on hybrids vs. used cars:


This is a big factor for me also. After sleeping on it I think I'm almost certain to just get the new engine. Minimal waste, still moderately efficient, establishes real re-sale value, and lets me hold off on any big purchases for another year or two, at which point I should be able to rock some kind of awesome TDI from volkswaggon on biodiesel. :)

Just be careful which one you buy - the GTI and Rabbit are pretty reliable, but the Jetta not so much (according to consumer reports data).

Also, waste vegetable oil rocks, but using new vegetable oil is only questionably better due to the effect on food prices and converting nature into farmland.

There's a local outfit here that has the disposal market for veggie oil locked up. Also, I can experiment w/my own by growing/pressing algae!

I've been out of the car game for a minute now, but when I used to work on these things for fun, I enjoyed it. New engines can work, or be disasters, and it really is a function of wear and tear on the new engine previously, where it came from and how it was treated + skill of mechanic, and attention to detail. If you get someone who knows what every seal and gasket and connection does, and pays attention torque, and proper installation, as opposed to a 'slap it in there' chop shop, you can get a whole new life out of the car. That said I would say engine replacements are a 1 in 3 positive thing.

You aren't indicating that replacing the bearing or giving the current engine an overhaul is an option. Usually you can get someone to strip it down, pull the cylinders and replace bearings, valve heads, hone the cylinder walls and keep the same block. Unless you have a weak spot in the engine wall, not sure why that isn't an option. Don't know todays prices but you can probably get a shadetree guy to take a weekend and do that for $3-500?

I look on the engine overhaul as a better option personally. There is a character an engine develops as it wears into working with a transmission and chassis in a way that a different engine, that wore in somewhere else, never quite fits; I don't care how precise the machining is. If engine A gave 120,000 miles on rocky dirt roads and engine B was a city driver, they are now different engines, even if they started 'the same'.

Anyway, just my $.02

There is really only one Authority in this matter: http://www.cartalk.com/

a propensity to completely agree with that. mechanics and biology are very similar in that survival of the fittest is quite a valid concept. in that, i mean that an engine that is compatible with the rest of its parts is synonymous with dna that can keep a creature alive.
some last longer than others for a reason. you can bore out the pistons in the head and get new pistons for a pretty dececnt price as compared to buying a new car. but i have a feeling that if you are considering the move, then you are also considering the end of the era with ol moamar. or maybe i'm just drunk and commenting on every blog i read tonight....

Sell your pickup and buy a motorcycle. Very cheap, very fun.

I agree with Sam in everything that he has said. First try to find a shop who will fix the problem and not try to sell you a whole new engine. (the old engine is best) This same thing happened to me with a '69 chevy pickup. ("Brightly") I had no money to take it to a shop. I spent 2 weeks under the belly of the beast with a manual I got from the library in cold wet Eugene and I replaced all the berings on the whole drive shaft myself. If I remember right I didn't even pull the cylinders but just tapped out the old berings and tapped in a whole set of new ones. It was totally not fun and I am certainly not recommending trying that but when I turned it over for the first time and it actually purred, that was the sweetest of sounds. I put many thousands of miles on it after that until I finally sold it to someone who continued to drive it.
The parts are not all that expensive. The labor though, eek!
good luck.

two words bro- new truck, it'll change your life

I had a VW bug once that I really loved but it died during an awful winter in Wisconsin. To add insult to injury I was fined something like $100 for having it on the street during a snow emergency. I literally had no way to move it, even the tow trucks couldn't get to it. I went to court to contest the ticket and the judge just increased the fine. Basically, he wanted to hang me but that had been declared illegal. A year or two later he lost an election by 2 votes. Another reason I got hooked on politics.

Good luck. You might have to decide if you are an urban person who can live without a car, or something else who cannot live without a car. I decided 23 years ago, not without some regret. It is a basic life choice but if you can live affordably with a car, good for you. At least, in middle age now, I have benefited some by the exercise I get from living carless. My middle is fat, but my legs are really quite sound.