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No time to breathe, let alone check Blue Book value
April 15, 2014 8:54 PM   Subscribe

According to my trusted mechanic, the transmission on my aged buggy is shot (I haven't had 3rd gear for a while, and now the car has begun to have trouble getting into 2nd and 4th) and the car is not worth the cost of fixing it. Fair enough--except that I literally don't have time to buy another (used) one right now. Things will calm down slightly in the second week of May, but not until then. And while I'm aware of other options (the bus, taxi/car services), I don't have the time and money to rely exclusively on those until my schedule eases up. Nor can I afford to rent a car until then. So I'm wondering if anyone can suggest a short-term option that I might be overlooking, up to and including a Magic Car Fairy. Alternatively, if anyone has experience driving a car with this kind of issue and can tell me how safe (or un-) it is, I'd appreciate that input.
posted by chicainthecity to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
 
Zip Car?
posted by clone boulevard at 9:28 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Are you able to use transit to get to/from work/school, and rent a car only when absolutely necessary, or do you need a car daily? Zipcar is fabulous if you don't need a car every day, but will cost you more than just straight up renting a car if you need to use a car daily. Also, Zipcar requires that you drop the car off where you picked it up, and charges you for the time it's out, so if you use it to drive to work, for example, you're paying by the hour for the Zipcar while you work.

More likely option: does anybody at your work/school live nearby and have a similar schedule where you could carpool with them for the month? How far are you going between your house and anywhere you have to be most days of the week?

Third option: depending on how far you have to go/how busy the streets are, is biking or walking an option?
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:39 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Automatic transmission or manual transmission?
If automatic, is is leaking fluid?
What year, what make is your car? How many miles?

"..car is not worth the cost of fixing it."

Sure, you can't sell the car for the cost of fixing it, but you can't buy any other car cheaper than that, either. There's a huge difference in between making a profit on a car sale and the utility value of the car.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:01 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Manual transmission, not leaking fluid as far as I can tell, 2000 Corolla, 165,000-ish miles.

Biking or walking aren't options due to the distances involved, but occasional carpooling might be. Thanks for the information about Zipcar; it's a great idea, but clearly not ideal for my situation right now.

Keep the ideas coming, and thanks!
posted by chicainthecity at 11:22 PM on April 15


That's the best answer (manual transmission).

What does your car do when you try to shift into a gear that you have "lost", or a gear that you are "losing"?

Does your car slip or jerk when you are accelerating strongly?

Call around, and take your car to a couple of transmission shops, and get some quotes (at least 2). Take notes. Check yelp to see what people say, and pay attention to how they treat you. Remember to tell them a couple of time that you are shopping around.

Mechanics often don't want to fix old cars, because they're dirty and old, and the rate of unexpected and unpleasant customer disappointment is much higher than with newer cars.

Your mechanic, even though you trust him, just might not want to do the job that a specialist does all the time.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:30 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


The cost of all the options you list would be less than getting a reconditioned transmission put in your car. If your car is otherwise sound, it will be more cost effective to either fit a used transmission from a breaker's yard or a reconditioned one and use the car for a further 6-12 months. If you can use it for any longer than that, then it's much more cost effective for you.

Your best short term option (minimal outlay now) is a breakers yard sourced used transmission and get him to just swap the trans. It is not a long job.
posted by Brockles at 5:36 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


Buy a used transmission from a junk yard wreck and get someone to install it, or DIY. It requires some work, but isn't terribly complicated.

To keep the cost as low as possible, you can even get one from a high mileage wreck - it just has to last as long as the rest of your car. 100k on a manual transmission is not even half-life, with some exceptions obviously.

A few hundred bucks and you're back in business.
posted by three blind mice at 6:33 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Transmission replacement can keep your car out of commission for as long as a couple of weeks, so even if you decided to replace it (I wouldn't) you'd still have the same problem.

Ask your mechanic if he has a loaner he could let you use while you're looking for another vehicle. Or ask him if he knows of one that he'd recommend that you buy.

When I was first driving, our 'trusted mechanic' had things he acquired through leins or trades or what have you. When my Buick 225 was in his shop, waiting to be patched back up with spit and bailing wire, I drove a 1967 Mustang, a Datsun 550 (which I later bought) and a Bonneville (which I also later bought.) It will be a hoopty, it will have grease all over it. But it will get you from point a to point b until you have time to devote to shopping for your next car.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:10 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


You might just ask the mechanic - can this car be limped along until there is time to replace it?
posted by wotsac at 8:43 AM on April 16


Transmission replacement can keep your car out of commission for as long as a couple of weeks

This is absolutely not the case. If your shop tells you this, find a new shop. A transmission replacement on a Corolla shouldn't take more than a day's work at most (not including time actually finding the replacement). Any competent shop with the right equipment that says they need the car for more than two or three days (assuming shop scheduling limitations) is pulling your chain.

It's a big component, but a straight swap with a hoist, transmission jack and the right tools is straightforward.
posted by Brockles at 8:58 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Rent-A-Wreck? (Haven't used 'em myself, no idea on prices (although supposedly cheaper than a standard rental agency), they seem to prefer to send you a quote rather than put a price list on the web.)

Try looking for rentals through companies like Priceline, Orbitz, Expedia, etc. to see if you can land a deal for a car rental you can actually afford.

Seconding the suggestions above about getting quotes from transmission speciality shops, who might be more willing to do a rebuild or install a rebuilt or junk yard salvaged transmission.

Ask friends & co-workers if they know any backyard mechanics they could recommend - guys who do car repair kind of semi-professionally. They'll be willing to find and install a cheap but functional used transmission, and almost certainly cheaper than a real garage. Although since these guys are often quasi-legit at best, they often prefer to deal in cash under the table, and you don't have a lot of recourse if the repair has problems. They'll also often have (as per Ruthless Bunny above) beaters they can loan you while they work on your car.

I haven't had 3rd gear for a while, and now the car has begun to have trouble getting into 2nd and 4th [. . .] can tell me how safe (or un-) it is

Missing one gear on a manual transmission can often be fudged, missing three = "Nope." Seriously, I know this sucks hard and you feel desperate, but trying to squeeze a few more weeks out of a trans this bad is just asking for trouble. You really don't want to be suddenly stuck with nothing but first gear while you're on a highway on-ramp.


I don't have the time

Look, I feel you, I've been in a similar position - I spent a couple of years working two jobs in a city with really crappy public transportation while owning a semi-functional car that decided to have a fit about every three months. A 20-minute commute by car was a 90-minute trip by bus & rail.

And when my car would break down, well . . . . I took a deep breath and sucked in my gut and gave myself a pep talk ("This, too, shall pass, it's only temporary, you can and will survive this") and did what I had to do. Asked my bosses for some slack about arriving on time, asked them if I could leave a little early to get to my next job, sacrificed sleep so I'd have time to use whatever public transportation was available, ate whatever food I could grab on the go, crashed on friends' couches, asked friends & co-workers for rides or if they had a car I could borrow if I really really really needed a car. And sometimes it sucked really really really hard, and I was miserable, but it was temporary. Eventually my car would be fixed, and I knew eventually I wouldn't need to work two jobs.

You're in a really rough position, and it's an emergency; but that means now is the time to ask for help from other people (who may pleasantly surprise you with their willingness to help) and now is the time to think really really hard about where the line is between "impossible" and "very very difficult and unpleasant" and to think hard about how much unpleasantness you can handle for a short period of time. Most of us are tougher than we think we are, when we have to be.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:37 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Soundguy has a great idea. I always rent cars from Hotwire. Here's a list of cars you can get for about $22 per day. A bit over $500 for 3 weeks of car rental is pretty freaking great and is pretty affordable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:28 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, a long-term car rental (on the order of two weeks or more) is often not as expensive as you'd think it would be. Troll the deal sites (Priceline, Hotwire). If you have an affiliation with any company that might provide a rental car discount (your insurance company, for instance, maybe your bank -- I know USAA has this), try that as well.
posted by devinemissk at 12:26 PM on April 16


I recommend getting a used transmission out of a junkyard-and there will be one close by with something compatible, corrollas have been among the best selling cars in the US since...well since there have been corrollas. It should take any competent shop a day or less to change it, hell I could do it in a driveway in a long day if I had to, and I don't have fun things like a lift or coworkers to help on the tricky parts.

IF you can, get a new clutch put it in at the same time if all that is wrong with the car is the bad transmission. Most manuals will go a LONG way before wearing out so even a used one is going to have a lot of life left in it.
posted by bartonlong at 2:35 PM on April 16


That's the best answer (manual transmission).

What does your car do when you try to shift into a gear that you have "lost", or a gear that you are "losing"?

Does your car slip or jerk when you are accelerating strongly?

Call around, and take your car to a couple of transmission shops, and get some quotes (at least 2). Take notes. Check yelp to see what people say, and pay attention to how they treat you. Remember to tell them a couple of time that you are shopping around.

Mechanics often don't want to fix old cars, because they're dirty and old, and the rate of unexpected and unpleasant customer disappointment is much higher than with newer cars.

Your mechanic, even though you trust him, just might not want to do the job that a specialist does all the time.



100% agree. And a 2000 Corolla barely qualifies as an "old" car, and with only 165,000 miles, likely has a lot of usable life left. Dump the lazy mechanic, replace the transmission with a junkyard or rebuilt, have the clutch done while it's out if you can afford it, and you'll be good to go.
posted by stenseng at 3:45 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Update: I got a second opinion and think I've decided to go with a rebuilt transmission and new clutch as the most time- and cost-effective option right now. I wouldn't have gotten to this point without your input and suggestions, so thank you all!
posted by chicainthecity at 11:08 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


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