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Engine Update


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#1 dshadle1

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 04:26 PM

It's been about a year since I posted anything to this forum (started a demanding new job last August) but I wanted to share that I still have my 2001 Prizm. Just crossed 96,000 miles not too long ago, no significant body damage, change oil every 1,500-2,000 miles (which averages to about every 3 months), and burn 1 qt. of oil every 200-250 miles. I buy a 5-qt. jug to change and then two more over the course of an OCI. No real science behind which oil I use--mostly Valvoline High Mileage--though I did experiment a few years ago.

Had a random misfire code pop repeatedly after letting the car sit for about a week around Christmas 2011 but after removing and re-inserting the spark plugs, thoroughly cleaning the MAF (cost $0), and running a tank or two of 91 octane, everything went back to normal.

Now a little reflection on the economics of owning this car:

My car has been burning oil for roughly 55k-60k miles now, and every summer I consider getting a new engine or paying someone to rebuild. Let's say it costs $2,000, which seems like a reasonable estimate if I shop around. As a conservatively large estimate, I drive 10,000 miles a year. If I burn a qt. every 200 miles (a conservatively low estimate), that's 50 quarts a year. Valvoline 5-qt. jugs are roughly $17-$19 at Wal-Mart. Not accounting for what it costs to change the oil, that means I'm spending $190/yr. extra to keep this oil burner running. All other things being equal, doesn't that mean I should expect a new/rebuilt engine to go another 10.5 years? There is a fat chance that I'll be in this car that long, so why would I do anything other than keep putting oil in it? Sure, maybe I should have replaced the engine five years ago (it was burning oil then, too) in order to take it easily to 2017 but I can't go back in time, can I?

Since purchasing the car used in late 2003, I have paid just under $2,900 to maintain it, which includes all the oil changes, tire replacements, alignments, brakes, etc. that I have done over the years--mostly myself but also at shops when I felt incapable of doing the job or could not afford the downtime in case I screwed it up. That cost does not include all the wiper blades and other low-cost items that I get at Wal-Mart along with other home supplies. I am still on the factory struts, which seem poor but are not completely shot--this will certainly be a relatively expensive fix when the time comes. Given that this car is so cheap to maintain, however, I am thinking it would be a mistake to get a new(er) car. I look at some of the posted mileages on these engines and I notice that mine is ultra low for a 2001 model year. Yet how many times do you hear people say, "It's better to buy a new(er) car instead of sinking money into an older car"? Maybe this is true in some instances, but you really have to consider several factors. Even if I spend $3,000 a year over the next five years to maintain the car (remember, I have spent only $2,900 over 8.5 years), most newer cars I would think about purchasing cost at least $15,000 anyway, and that doesn't include the maintenance! Maybe the car I could buy tomorrow for $15k-$20k will last me another 10 years, but I think I'll wait to find out.

Have a great summer, everyone, and enjoy your ride!

#2 Papa Bear

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 03:25 PM

I can't imagine a catalytic converter still being good with all the oil burning.

#3 dshadle1

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 05:48 PM

Yea, I got a new cat converter for free under the federal emissions warranty a few years ago. Haven't had any codes pop on the new one yet but my days could be numbered!

I can't imagine a catalytic converter still being good with all the oil burning.


Edited by dshadle1, 15 June 2012 - 05:49 PM.