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Thread: George's Garage

  1. #1
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    George's Garage

    Fun facts about George’s Garage:

    - Elevation 5982 feet (1823 meters) above sea level
    - Insulated, painted, and drywalled by yours truly
    - Workbench designed, painted, and installed with my Dad
    - Houses boring cars chosen for utility, dependability, and longevity

    I used to be quite the VW Beetle mechanic in the 1980s, but I’ve realized that was out of necessity rather than “hey, I think I’ll go adjust the valves just for the sheer enjoyment of it”. And I remember being a bachelor with lots more time than money and rotating tires on my pickup truck with the stock scissors jack – just one jack, so I had to lift each corner of the vehicle at least twice. Man, that took forever. But these days I seldom do more than check fluid levels and tire pressure, and I seek out cars accordingly. Accordingly. Get it? Yeah, I know…

    I've decided it's time to get a newer car. I bought my current car (’99 Honda Accord 4-cylinder automatic) with 139,000 miles and an unknown maintenance history. Of course I got a CarFax report and had it checked by an independent shop prior to purchase, but I don't know when (or if!) the timing belt was changed before I bought the car. It now has 215,xxx miles and runs perfectly, but I've never had the timing belt and water pump changed and whatever else is done during that service. The car now needs a bunch of other maintenance as well, I'm sure. I don't think the transmission or radiator or brake fluids have ever been changed while I've owned the car, for example. It's easy not to think about that stuff with a Honda that runs so well all the time.

    The car is starting to show rust under the rear doors, has a cracked windshield, a dented hood where a pickup truck with a receiver hitch backed into it, and various scrapes and dings that come with long service. About a third of the interior dash lights don't work at night. The interior is in "good shape for its age" as the ads say, but no better than that. The rear defroster has never worked since I've owned it (seven years), and the driver's side exterior mirror is held in place with a carefully trimmed zip-tie thanks to a garage accident that I guess broke the "break-away" setup of the mirror, so the mirror now swings freely if not zip-tied in place. Oh, and it burns and/or leaks about two quarts of oil between changes. I have a piece of plywood on the garage floor to catch the oil. It doesn’t drip much, as it’s usually low on oil , but I don't need that in my life. The stock CD player skips and jumps. I've thought the speakers sucked since the day I sold my Camry and bought the Accord - it was like an instant sound quality downgrade. Plus, my kids say the car smells and that it's too small.

    It is nice to have a car that you can park anywhere without worry, or lean a bicycle against in the garage without worry about scratches from cantilever brakes or metal pedals. I hate putting the strap-on bike rack on the trunk, but I enjoy not worrying if I scratch the paint a little when I do. I'll miss that, but it will come around again on my next car sometime in the future.

    My wife agrees that buying another used Japanese Appliance-Mobile is the way to go before we get a whopping repair bill and then are faced with paying to fix an old car, or dumping it for peanuts as I did with my 220K-mile Camry V6 for $500 in four hours on craigslist. I rather put major maintenance money toward a newer (sigh...I guess) car. However, I'm always very interested in low-mileage older sedans like those owned by the elderly and I'd love to score a 25-year-old Whatever that looks and drives like new.

    I'm also going to do it right this time and get the windows tinted (legally) in whatever I buy. I've always enjoyed riding in cars with tinted windows but haven't had a car with tint since 1998. I'm going to get a receiver hitch so I can haul four bicycles on a hitch-mounted carrier., and I'm going to buy a set of snow tires and cheap wheels so I can change them out myself whenever I want - and train my kids in how to change a tire at the same time - instead of having to pay $20 twice a year to get them swapped out at the tire shop.

    If anyone wants to make suggestions - serious or hilarious - about replacement vehicles, please feel free. Right now I think my list looks something like this, barring some unknown old low-mileage beauty from an estate sale.

    - Honda Accord - my wife an I have owned three Accords so far

    - Honda CR-V - these look pretty useful and if I must have an automatic, I like that these have the lever where it belongs - on the column!

    - Honda Element - at the top of my list to test drive and learn more about. They look like the ultimate non-truck utility vehicle, but I don’t know much more about them than they have a vinyl floor, which is an immediate turn-on. (I’ll skip my usual rant about carpet in vehicles)

    - Toyota Avalon (yes, I realize I have a CR-V and an Avalon on the same list - go figure)

    - Toyota Camry - I owned a V6 and LOVED it. It was much more comfortable than Accords for me.

    - Toyota RAV4 - I hear the V6 versions kick ass. My concern with the RAV4 is the same as the CR-V: can a 6’2” man actually fit inside? I’ll have to find out.

    - Others: American cars, maybe? I'm a life-long skeptic after watching others replace their American cars two or three times sooner than Japanese car owners have to, but I'd consider one, maybe. Minivan? Sure, but they're expensive and usually look beat to hell by the time they're in my price range. Station wagon? Yes, certainly, but I just don't see many these days, other than the "chopped-off" variety like the Subaru Impreza wagon. Pickups and Jeeps and sporty cars are fun but not what I need right now.

    I’m also thinking about going back to a manual transmission. I haven’t had once since 1998. Has anyone else done without for many years and then gone back to shifting gears in your daily driver? What did you think? Was it “Ahhh, it’s fun to drive again” or “Damn, this sucks! What was I thinking?”

    I must say the transmission in the Accord is remarkably like a manual. Going downhill in the mountains it has good engine braking, whereas my older Camry just kicked into freewheel like a big American highway cruiser and dropped like a stone while the brakes did all the work. The Accord is really great about slowing down for corners by letting off the gas while going downhill, by comparison. I notice that around town on flatter ground when I have snow tires on, too. I don't know if that's a Honda vs. Toyota thing with automatic transmissions, or if automatics simply got that much better between 1994 (my Camry) and 1999 (the Accord).
    Last edited by George; April 20th, 2015 at 09:12 AM.

  2. #2
    mAdminstrator Random's Avatar
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    I thought it was a legal requirement for CO residents to own a Subaru wagon?
    Whoomah!

  3. #3
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Shhh. We've made it ten years without one.

    I'd consider one, but after discovering snow tires so late in life, I don't think I need to pay a premium for AWD.

    I may have told this story before, but one night this winter I was driving my family home in a snowstorm in the Honda Pilot with AWD and regular tires. We tiptoed our way home safely enough, but I felt a little concerned at times. Minutes after we got home, I had to run out alone to get a gallon of milk or something, and having the choice between AWD or FWD and snow tires, I hopped in the Accord and took the long way to the store and back, through unplowed neighborhood streets and came home with an ear-to-ear grin in a car that looked like it has run the Iditarod.

    I had heard people say they'd rather have FWD & snow tires than AWD & all-season tires and I can now say I agree from experience.
    Last edited by George; April 20th, 2015 at 09:27 AM.

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    There was a lot going on in the '90s - new tech, new expectations, and new government mandates. What happened in the early '90s was leftover from the '80s, and what happened in the late '90s was all in preparation for the early '00s. I'd definitely expect to find a pretty big gap in the '94 and '99 - but also remember Toyota's mainstream lineup and Honda's mainstream lineup were opposite ends of design spectrum. Although "Camcord" is a saying, a Camry really was an appliance and the Accord had a lot of heart. Stuff has changed over the last ten years and everything has moved more towards the middle - I doubt those gaps really exist these days. And I think you'll find all the transmissions do fancy stuff.

    The only person I know who went from manual to automatic to manual was my dad. He had nothing but manuals until '87, when he traded his '83 Saab 900T on an '87 Accord LXi. He had nothing but automatics until 1999 or so when the Accord got totaled and I loaned him initially my '89 SHO and then my '88 9000T for around two years. He enjoyed shifting his own gears again, but it wasn't all that long before he went back to an automatic. I think age was catching up to him, and there were some, um, external forces driving him back to an automatic in 2002. Everyone else I know who switched (which is just about everyone I know!) did it because they have a wife who can't drive a manual or think it's too much of a handful in traffic. I am most disappointed in my Mustang-owning friend - I was sure he'd get that Ecoboost like his TurboCoupe and XR4Ti, but he got an automatic. No fun.

    It sounds like you're looking to spend $5k-$8k - does that seem right?

    I hate to say it, but have you considered a lease? There are some VERY favorable deals right now and it might not be an entirely bad idea to not invest in something as hybrids and AFVs get sorted out a little better. My coworker is leasing a Focus SE for $69/mo ($2k or $3k up front). It's not a bad way to spend three years until the Model S or whatever floats your boat comes out.

  5. #5
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    You're dead on with my price range. I'm thinking $7500, but I don't want to spend much more than that. I won't make car payments, and that includes leasing. I also don't want to worry about driving a car that I don't own, obessing about it getting damaged, watching every mile, and so forth. I appreciate the suggestion and example of a lease, but that's not for me.

    Right now I'm cruising Avalons on CL and wondering if they made any with cloth seats. I loathe leather seats and ought to know, as my wife's last two cars (Hondas) had/have leather and it's awful. Too hot in the summer, and too cold in the winter. Why anyone consider leather an upgrade over cloth upholstery is beyond me.

    I'm looking at Mazda 6s, also. I had forgotten about those. I believe they made a few as wagons, too.

  6. #6
    mAdminstrator Random's Avatar
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    Mazda6 Wagon gets you instant internet car forum cred.
    Whoomah!

  7. #7
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    This is interesting - V6, manual, and 4WD? Too many miles on this one for my taste (and especially since Kia quality is unknown to me and this is a used car dealer - like, RUN, Scoob!), but searching by price on CL is showing me a bunch of vehicles like this one that I've just never given a second glance.

    2006 Kia Sorento LX 4dr SUV 4WD (3.5L V6 5A) JUST IN RUNS GREAT SAVE@@ - $4999

    Nice plain Jane appearance. I like a nearly invisible car for all the Grand Theft Auto type missions I do in real life. Can't be too memorable when you're a high-rollin' playa like me!



    Funny that I want a receiver hitch to haul bikes but have long believed you never buy a vehicle with a trailer hitch on it, especially one that looks well-used, or in this case, is wired for trailer lights and has a trailer tongue dent in the bumper.



    And you know you're a boring old fart when you see a huge cargo area and think, "Yeah, that's for me!". I wonder if I could get two BMX bikes in there...



    Hmmm, I'll have to look more closely at small SUVs.

  8. #8
    mAdminstrator Random's Avatar
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    RAV4 and the CRV are pretty much the easy button in that category.

    That said, you already have a Pilot, so do you need to double up?
    Whoomah!

  9. #9
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    Mazda6 Wagon gets you instant internet car forum cred.
    As we all know, that's The Most Important Thing. Any reason for that? Sports car in sheep's clothing, I'm guessing? Will search for more edutainment on this vehicle!

    Interestingly, searches for "Mazda 6 wagon" or "Mazda6 wagon" on my local CL found no wagons, but removing wagon from the search found just one, and it's an automatic with one of those freaky shift gates that would annoy the hell out of me every day, I'm sure.

    2004 Mazda 6 s w/ 83175 miles - $6990



    Interior design looks great, minus the shift pattern. I just want to pull the lever straight back and go, man. No maze-like sobriety tests for me!


  10. #10
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    I know the first-gen Avalon had cloth seats - my friend has a grandma-owned beige-on-beige with cloth seats. He is on the list of "I'll die with a manual transmission!" who gave up and went automatic. Asshole. It seems like something that would have disappeared on later, nicer versions.

    I would run the hell away from that Kia. through 2007 or 2008 were the deceptive years for Kia/Hyundai, when their vehicle quality, safety and styling went way up but were still light years behind everyone else. The reason why I have my Santa Fe (same as the Sorento) is because this happened:



    After looking at a few more of them up close in junkyards trying to grab a few parts, they all end up in sad shape. Not. Safe.

    $7500 on tap is a solid ~2005 car and maybe something as new as 2007 or 2008 if you don't mind some abnormal wear. Slide newer for domestic, slide older for Asian or European. Slide away from Korean in these years.
    Last edited by thesameguy; April 20th, 2015 at 10:16 AM.

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