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Hooniverse Fleet Update: The Saabaru at 210,000 Miles

Robby DeGraff March 14, 2018 Hooniverse Garage 25 Comments

You know that point in vehicle ownership, where your aging car might not be worth a whole lot, things are starting to break and you should probably spend the dollars elsewhere, say on…a new car? Well I’ve reached that with my 2005 Saab 9-2x. But truthfully I love my Saabaru too much.

It’s a wonderful car. Even with 210,000 miles, it’s still fun to drive, reliable, never ever gets stuck in the snow or mud, can haul literally almost everything I own in its cavernous wagon cargo area, and most important to me- it’s different.

With all Subarus in time, the 2.5-liter’s head gasket starts to go “bye-bye.” I was hesistant to accept this reality but after a few overheating scares in gridlocked traffic, a slowly growing smell of oil at a stoplight, and the local quick-lube mechanic warning me “There’s oil seeping from the heads,” it was time to decide on the next course of action.

Sure, I’ve always pledged that I drive cars until they die and that I’d never give up on my aging black wagon, but I did have more affairs with other new cars, than Donald Trump does with porn stars. Note the tense usage on that last joke. I came close to buying a last generation Saab 9-5, called a dealership in regards to a Mazda Miata I dreamed about daily driving, and found myself each night window shopping on Craigslist. But some voice inside my stubborn self was yelling at me to not abandoned  on my beloved “Adventure-Mobile.” If I like it, why get rid of it?

After a few calls to various mechanics and shops around town, including my own trusted garage down the street, I had repair quotes with discouraging numbers. One shop quoted me upwards of $2,000 (with a confident “It’ll probably be more,”). A friend of a friend quoted me $1,500. Great. Maybe I could do it myself, I thought, but a quick realization that it’s the middle of winter, I don’t have a garage or a lift and the 9-2x, is my daily driver, turned me away from that option. Nor did I want to pull my Chevy Camaro or vintage Honda CB650 out of storage. Frustrated, I reached out to my buddy Chadd, a skilled tech at a big GM dealership who owns a sleek, sleeper of a beast modified newer Ford Taurus SHO. He’s also a master of all-things Subarus and could probably rip apart a boxer engine blindfolded and put back together, blindfolded. After picking up the parts (timing belt, water pump, head gasket set, oil and coolant) for a little over $300, he did the labor part of the job for a cool $500 cash. After a weekend in his hands, my 9-2x had a full head-gasket replacement, new timing belt and water pump done for $800.

A week later, I replaced the ignition coil pack, spark plugs and wires for about $80 on my own, during a break in the treacherously cold Wisconsin weather. The alternator was also whirring like a supercharger, louder and louder each time I drove the 9-2x so that was recently replaced to at a cost of $90 and less than an hour of DIY labor on a Sunday morning. The car now runs like it drove off the Saab dealership lot, brand new some thirteen years ago.

A friend of mine joked that my 9-2x was dying, which I eagerly countered with a proud “It was, yes, but I just gave it CPR and it’s alive and kicking now.”No car is perfect, especially after 200,000 miles which is a milestone mark for any automobile. My check-list of things to replace or fix on my car has continued to grow. The rear trunk lid is stuck shut thanks to a seized handle (Subaru, I shake my fist in anger at you for this design), I have a fog light that is burnt out, a tiny bit of surface rust is starting to creep on to the rear wheel wells, and the idler pulley for the AC compressor exploded into two pieces. Oh, and I can’t forget how my suspension has been completely demolished by the roads in Milwaukee county which are dangerously worse than the roads I rode around on in Vietnam years ago. I kid you not.

Yes, all combined, I probably should have spent that nearly $1,000 towards a newer car (which with knowing how picky I am, could take a journey to find). Yes what I did probably wasn’t the smartest economical decision I’ve made, I won’t argue that. But this car is the best car I’ve ever owned and I don’t want to get rid of it.

I’m a strong believer that older cars have more character and you should take of the things that matter to you. This station wagon does.

Carry on, Saabaru, carry on.

  • May I please put in a request for no political commentary of a non-automotive nature? It seldom ends well.

    • caltemus

      Hear hear

      • Lokki

        You guys beat me to it. Just don’t go there. Don’t.

    • Dabidoh_Sambone

      I only grudgingly agree with you because the inevitable time-worn cliches then get trotted out about the other side. Also I don’t want to know that any of the Hooniverse contributors lean towards fascism; I prefer to think we’re all apolitical good people with auto fetishes.

      Hey – did you get any of the stickers I posted you?

      • I received both packages. Thanks! Perhaps the only thing better than a Concours d’LeMons sticker is an unauthorized bootleg Concours d’LeMons sticker. I may need to sneak one into Hooptie-Con to see whether Alan Galbraith is paying attention.

        Did you not get my earlier reply?

        • Dabidoh_Sambone

          Complete radio silence since 11/22/17. Started to suspect you’d plunged off a cliff, then noted your comment today. She’d just gotten the Cricut, saw the mint condition Lemons sticker & said “I can do that”.

        • Dabidoh_Sambone

          While we can’t make it to Hooptie-Con, we are going to the Concours d’Lemons at The Mitty. You should go, it’s *only* a short drive from Calif…
          https://www.eventbrite.com/e/concours-dlemons-at-the-mitty-2018-tickets-39561121379

    • I_Borgward

      Indeed. As one would going into a tavern, it’s wise to leave politics and religion at the door.

      • I’d be willing to risk an exception in order to discuss the US 25-year import rule, the chicken tax, the question of bringing the FMVSS into agreement with the (formerly-named) UNECE standards, or other political questions of a specifically automotive nature, but that’s about it. I could, however, foresee even one of those topics spiraling out of control.

        • I_Borgward

          That spriraling swirl has fouled many a conversation at other auto sites (ahem) and had me finishing my beer.

    • Zentropy

      I too avoid politics situations like this, but Donald Trump’s history with porn stars (and women in general) isn’t political commentary. The comment targets social and ethical issues, which aren’t exactly relevant to a car article, but nonetheless aren’t politics.

      • Batshitbox

        Yup. Celebrities put themselves in the spotlight so that we, the audience, can ridicule them mercilessly. If they happen to go and get themselves elected that’s no business of ours.

  • Sjalabais

    Sounds like a good investment to me. I am pretty much in the same spot right now. My Honda Stream isn’t perfect, but it does everything I want it to very well. In two weeks time I can try to get it through tech inspection. If that hurdle is passed, I will be starting to fix a couple of the things that have broken recently. If not – and that might be due to rust – I have no clue how to proceed. Surfing on our Craigslist equivalent for months hasn’t brought me any further on what I really would want to replace it with.

    The fact that the Saabaru even existed in some sort of parallel universe is something I easily forget…

  • MattC

    I’m at that point with my daily. It has a dented rear bumper and passenger side door.(compliments of my soon to be licensed daughter backing up into my wife’s car). The suspension( struts and shocks) need to be replaced. But the thing is stupid reliable and paid off. I want and yearn for a new car, but practicality prevails.

  • “You know that point in vehicle ownership, where your aging car might not be worth a whole lot, things are starting to break and you should probably spend the dollars elsewhere, say on…a new car?”

    That’s usually where I start.

  • JayP

    My Vic is coming up to 120k miles, half of which I have done myself commuting.
    And this commute eats cars. The front end is chewed up and a fender had a nice 2′ long dent.
    During the last saturation of rain, the car had a damp driver’s foot well. The air springs on the back are starting to sag. Little things.

    I get on CL or Autotrader and start looking for cars. But I can’t seriously get into a car that isn’t going to last.

  • DoctorNine

    You did the right thing. Just keep in mind that you can keep almost anything alive if you really want to do it. But there have to be emotional reasons for you to go the distance.

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/g121/million-mile-club-the-worlds-longest-lived-cars/

  • Tank

    I’m going through the same thing with my Civic. I just passed 300k miles and at 19 years old its getting long in the tooth. There’s not a whole lot of problems with it as of yet, but it goes through about a quart of oil every 2 weeks or so, the trunk is leaking again, I also have a burnt out fog light, the roads are chewing up the suspension, a few lights in the instrument panel have burnt out and its just generally wearing out. I’ve been doing my research for about a year now on a replacement seeing as I’ve had this car that I bought for $200 9 years ago. I’m oddly enough looking for a used subaru impreza wagon with a manual. I just really hate to give up the old girl.

  • Zentropy

    I bought a BMW E30 as a commuter with 110k miles on the clock, and ended up putting another 130k miles on it before finally trading it for new living room carpet (we were moving). During my ownership, the most significant maintenance was a new O2 sensor, massaging a front fender after a minor deer collision, and a rattle-can respray of the hood due to clear coat breakdown. I LOVED that car, and regret not reinvesting in it, but I was getting heavy pressure from the wife to sell it.

    • Zentropy

      Edit: I did do a couple of timing belt changes during that period.

  • rovingardener

    I got rid of a 2008 Subaru Forester with 135000 miles on it because I heard groaning in the diffs and a few other things. I figured out that it would cost as much to fix as the car was worth so, time for something else.

    Mazda 6 time. I don’t normally buy new because depreciation but, for a change I can afford to do so. I am looking forward to this adventure. Also, I’m driving cross country.

  • Mr. Ollivander

    I always look at $0.10 a mile when I reach around 130k. If I am happy driving the vehicle and te cost per mile is possible, I go for it. It seems like you are still happy and 10k is a pretty short return.