My pain is self-chosen
At least, so the prophet says
I could either burn
Or cut off my pride and buy some time
A head full of lies is the weight, tied to my waist
So let’s start with a little backstory. Here in Metro Detroit, if you have a “fun car” you also need a winter car. In my case, the fun car is a 95 Mustang GT that makes 452 horsepower to the tires, and, as you would imagine it’s pretty useless when the snow flies, more so when you are rolling with 315/35ZR17’s on the back.
My planned winter car was the one I had last year, a 2005 Ford Escape that was my wife’s from new until she replaced last fall with a new Edge. It’s been a good vehicle, V6, front drive and had 170,000 miles in it. Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men and all of that. On a day in late September when driving, there was a sudden banging noise coming from the right rear wheel well area. Once home I investigated and found this:
It turns on on 04-06 Ford Escapes it’s a known issue that the frame would rust in that spot. So the Escape gets sold for a grand, my wife is happy that we got any for it and I’m on a quest for a new winter car.
After seven years of reviewing cars, mostly the boring consumer sedans, crossovers, and SUV’s, the last thing that I want is a crossover or SUV. However, there is one MAJOR factor in the purchase decision, I have to be able to fit our dog into the car. Oh, by the way, our dog is a 150 pound English Mastiff. Now for my wife’s Edge, we have steps so that she can get in and out, but I didn’t want to have to carry those around. So what makes the most sense? Yep, you guessed it, the great makers answer to all transportation needs, a brown turbo diesel station wagon with a manual transmission. Well, that’s what every auto journo who can’t sprint fast enough to the bar for free drinks or the shrimp table at an OEM event would have you believe.
Given that it’s been decades in the U.S. since wagon’s have been an acceptable choice, looking for one on the used market the pickings are slim. If you want domestic, you are looking at Taurus/Sable wagons, early 90’s Roadmaster’s and a few other not so grand options. The Japanese haven’t really brought over much in the last decade, there is the occasional Mazda6 wagon that pops up and the Accord Wagons have 300,000 miles and I didn’t want a Subaru because of reasons.
That leaves the German’s. I ended up driving a BMW 530Xi that made me nervous, I got sniped on eBay for an E500 4Matic Wagon with the Destino package with low miles, then I found a 2007 E350 4Matic wagon locally that looked interesting.
I went and looked at it, and drove it. The body was immaculate, the interior was in equal condition and what looked to be fairly new Conti tires. It drove nicely, everything worked, however, there was a Check Engine light on and a message that said it was 180 some odd days passed service. I asked about both and was told the two were related. An oil change and service check would clear both out. Trust but verify as President Reagan used to say. Well, I didn’t have my OBD II reader with me. The person at the dealership I was at made me a pretty good offer, not too good to be true, but what I thought was a fair price, and I took it.
Now we will press pause on the story here because I can already hear you yelling at your screen, “never buy a German car out of warranty”, “you never buy a used German car without a PPI!” Oh but dear readers I’m a professional, I know better, “rules for thee, but not for me!”
I did the deal, got the car home and ran the OBD scan.
Well, that’s not exactly what I was expecting! I did some searching and found an independent shop that had very good reviews and took it there to see what they had to say. Let’s just say that wasn’t the phone call I was looking for when they called with the results. Here was the report:
Mark on cam does not align in window, Shows exhaust cam not in alignment upon inspection, needs thing chain. Also found intake manifold with vacuum leaks and internal flap not operating. Estimated cost to repair, parts $1807.65, labor $2,251.95 with hazmat fees and tax the total would be $4173.06, this, on top of the $635 I had already spent for them to tear it down to have a look. So, more than 50% of what I had just paid for the car to repair it. Not a good day at all!
I had them put everything back together as I’m going to be shopping for another place to see if they can do it for somewhat less. $760 for a timing chain kit and $1,022 for an intake manifold are significantly higher than what a quick Google search shows those same parts to be, also 20 hours of labor seemed high, but who know
Being in the back half of my 40’s I’m no special snowflake millennial. It was my own stupidity, I understand I should suffer the consequences of my actions. I should have known better and got a PPI, that would have prevented this mess. I was in a hurry as it was getting close to Thanksgiving, and in this area, it’s as likely to snow as it is to be 60ºF on a daily basis. Also, given the NACTOY and other “of the year” awards are being wrapped up press cars are not in abundance, or can be pulled at a moments notice, so that couldn’t be counted on. I went “fire-ready-aim” rather than “ready-aim-fire”.
So kids, the moral of the story is speed and arrogance are likely to cause you way more pain than you expect. This is a very good, though very expensive, reminder that these rules of thumb exist for a reason, spending $125-$200 on a PPI would have saved me thousands of dollars, plus much aggravation and grief. Now, I’ll have to make the best of it and hope I can amortize this over the next five plus years of ownership.
As an “oh by the way” my Mustang is now for sale.