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Multiple "minor" car troubles, is this a sign of more trouble to come?

shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Posts: 6,112 Senior Member
I currently drive a 2004 Nissan Frontier. Pretty basic truck. 4 cylinder, 5-speed transmission, 2WD, just a tad shy of 135K (I expect to drive it to 137K or 138K by the end of this year courtesy Uncle Sam). I put about 13-15K/year on it. Gets pretty bad MPG right now with my BFG AT tires on it, but I think if I switched out the tires I'd get it back to the 26MPG I used to get.

However, I am starting to run into a bunch of minor problems creeping in one after the other: At 133K I had to rebuild the transmission. I've also had to do the regular maintenance such as replacing spark plugs and wiring, new battery connections, new distributor cap and alternator, etc. Now the truck is in the shop again for what I believe will be a new starter.

My question, not being very knowledgeable about vehicles, is as follows: Is this just routine work for owning a high-mileage vehicle, and what I can expect to deal with from now on, or is it possible warning signs of some gremlins starting to rear their ugly heads?

I expect to have to do things such as replace spark plugs, tune-ups, etc... But starts, alternators, and a transmission? I am mainly asking because I keep hearing people (especially Toyota 4-Runner owners) talk about their japwagons being "at almost 200K without a hiccup." Well, I certainly consider a transmission rebuild a hiccup.

Reason I ask is that if these potentially costly issues keep coming up, and more importantly if my truck decides to die on me on the side of the highway again like it did today (AAA paid for itself right there), I would entertain the thought of selling my truck for current market value and buying something else of similar vintage and value with a reputation for reliability (such as this 4-Runner: http://austin.craigslist.org/cto/3167469743.html; or a Subaru Forester, Honda Civic, etc) that I could drive through flight school before purchasing a newer vehicle when I am more financially stable. This truck is my first vehicle and I'm fond of it, so I want to give it a fair shot before kicking it to the curb, but if it turns into a (bigger) money pit...

Teach me oh wise ones (see what I did there?). Seriously though, those in the know, information is greatly appreciated.
- I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski


  • ghostsniper1ghostsniper1 Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    It is what is expected for a high(er) mileage vehicle. As long as you are fairly descent on routine maintainance such as oil changes, flushes, etc.... I don't see any of that as potential problems. Just some wearable items that gave up the ghost.
  • steffen19ksteffen19k Posts: 255 Member
    If its dying on the road, you need to start looking for a new vehicle.

    Its only matter of time before it well and truly strands you somewhere out of range of a tow truck and that's not a gamble you should be taking.

    Otherwise, do what your wallet can handle, and don't just dismiss buying a new vehicle because of sentiments. You should always look out for yourself first, and your vehicle a very, very close second.
    Here is everything I know about war: Someone wins, Someone loses, and nothing is ever the same again.
  • TeachTeach Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    Has the shop figured out what caused the sudden stop? You mentioned a starter- - - -was this a "failure to restart" after a stop, or did it just stop running for some unknown reason? Only a massive short that burned up wiring in the starter area would cause a sudden stop without shutting the engine off first. If the starter just decided not to work one more time, that's different. I've coaxed a few more starts out of one with worn-out brushes by doing a little massage on the starter housing with a ball **** hammer, BTW.

    My criteria for replacement of a vehicle has always been a comparison between maintenance cost and a car payment. When one starts averaging more for manitenance than the cost of making a payment, it's time to go shopping. Of course, that's "parts only" in my case, since I do virtually all my own work. Short of a major engine overhaul or rebuilding some of the newer transmissions, anything else gets done out back in my shop. Last week my grandsons and I swapped out front springs, front hubs, and an idler arm on the car one of them will be driving to college this fall. A $1,200.00 quote from a local shop ended up costing a little over $250.00 for parts. The only added cost was for a wheel alignment after the parts were installed.
  • VarmintmistVarmintmist Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    Teach wrote: »
    I've coaxed a few more starts out of one with worn-out brushes by doing a little massage on the starter housing with a ball **** hammer, BTW.
    BF cresent wrench
    tire iron

    SS3, nothing but the transmission seem out of line with normal wear and tear, and the trans is understandable. The dying on the road, could be fuel filter, pump, one of the stupid computers that they need to make cars run now, depends.

    2 things to look at:
    1 do the cost of repairs and the savings in gas$$ come close to the cost of a new vehicle.
    2. Is the vehicle reliable enough for me at this point in my life.

    I have ditched decent vehicles for having a lot of minor problems because the cost of staying home and repairing vs needing a vehicle to get to and from work beat the price of a new one.
    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Posts: 12,419 Senior Member
    Teach wrote: »
    I've coaxed a few more starts out of one with worn-out brushes by doing a little massage on the starter housing with a ball **** hammer, BTW.

    Same here.
    SS3 wrote:
    4 cylinder, 5-speed transmission, 2WD, just a tad shy of 135K....Now the truck is in the shop again for what I believe will be a new starter.....truck decides to die on me on the side of the highway again like it did today

    With a standard trans, you should not ever be stuck with a dead starter. Do you know how to push start or roll start a standard?
    I have driven standards for months with a dead battery or dead starter. Just always park it on a hill, or bring someone with to push.
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • jbp-ohiojbp-ohio Posts: 10,932 Senior Member
    Lots of things start going over 120,000 miles. Was the radiator flushed on schedule?? If not the water pump is living on borrowed time. Do you have a timing chain or belt?? Belts usually need replaced by now. Some are easy, some aren't. Long chains for DOHC's are usually in the mainetance schedule fro replacement by 120,000......

    As I said before, how can you maintain new vehicles that don't have a single Zerk fitting????
    "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." Thomas Jefferson
  • samzheresamzhere Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    There seems to be a cycle of repairs that comes along about the 140-180k mile mark for many cars, even if you've taken decent care of them. Not necessarily a rebuild for the ****, but maybe a head gasket or the whole radiator/pump thing goes out.

    In my experience (and I'm certainly no expert), after this naggy barrier, you can usually expect pretty good service from your vehicle afterward, until it gets into the real high mileage zone.

    For specific brands, yes, all pals of mine who've owned Toyota 4Runners have gotten long mileage and extreme dependability. The 4Runner seems to be a champ in that vehicle class.

    Overall, Toyotas also seem to have a bit more durability than Nissan. Some years ago when I was meeting w. Ford engineers on a new electronic diagnostic system they were using (this was at the Dearborn labs), they said their studies told them that among the "affordable" brands, Toyota was tops in reliability, and it was Ford's goal to match them in 5 years. Apparently they did it, if you remember it was in the late 80s that Fords became way more reliable.

    I don't think you got a lemon, however. It just seems that most vehicles go through a "cranky" period about 150k miles and then seem to stay together afterward. This is just my loosely held opinion with no real data to back it up.

    We all go through the same doubts -- do I trade in my "junker" (even if it's not a junker) and buy upscale? There's no right/wrong answer to this, either.
  • ilove22silove22s Posts: 1,539 Senior Member
    i would suspect that youre going thru normal pm replacements. as the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. components will fail and thats the way it is.

    i would keep a truck diary about all of the issues you are having or have had. that would include cost for repairs, dates and what was done. you can keep a tally on the running expenditures including MPG when you swap out your tires for new (better?) ones. it maybe a little late, but at least you can see how much you are spending on your ride. use excel, you can add/del rows and columns on the fly so you dont have to have it right at first.

    imo, eventually you will change or replace most of the major components so you will eventually have a new (parts) vehicle. but i would be saving some $$$ now jic, you need to buy a new ride or any major repairs. Ive been putting $$ away every year for a newer ride in several years. my ride will randomly activate the Theft deterret system where it shuts off the fuel pump for 10/15 minutes. It hasnt done it while running, but it likes to do in when you get in. luckly i dont do holdup jobs and the car has always started up after the 10/15 minutes. its an annoyance, but it still has some life in the car and i need to use it until i save enough for the next one.

    my friend had a Nissan p/u truck that he babied everyday. It would get a detailed wash everyweek. he had replaced the motor at least once and the A/C was replaced 2x but it kept on failing for some reason. imo, he put more $$ into it then what i was worth, but thats what he wanted. Many poeple would ask if he was going to sell it, but it was a no. he did eventually sell it, iirc, the A/C still wasnt working and he just put in a new xmission.
    The ears never lie.

    - Don Burt
  • RazorbackerRazorbacker Posts: 4,646 Senior Member
    I've got a 2001 Dodge Ram I bought new. It's got the 360cid motor and full towing package. All the bells and whistles to. Which can a factor because sometimes one little thing goes out but it's in series, so to speak, with other things.
    But it's been a good truck. About 6 months ago I had to put over 1k in the front end and brakes. But over all it's been a good truck. I can't say it's 173,000 miles have been bullet proof but in looking around at some gently used possible replacements I just can't justify taking on monthly payments, higher insurance, etc.
    It's been paid off for 5 years or so. If the motor goes, having it rebuilt is a lot cheaper than a new truck. That's just the math I use. So I plan on driving it til the rear end sharpens off.
    Teach your children to love guns, they'll never be able to afford drugs
  • coolgunguycoolgunguy Posts: 6,637 Senior Member
    Like Teach said, stick with what you have until the average cost of repairs is approaching what you might spend for a car payment. Buying something of 'similar vintage' puts you back in virtually the same spot, without the benefit of the money you just wasted on the 'new' car....just sayin'
    "Bipartisan" usually means that a bigger than normal deception is happening.
    George Carlin
  • BigDanSBigDanS Posts: 6,992 Senior Member
    I want to add, there's nothing wrong with getting new technology after some time with your vehicle. Any 10 year old vehicle with 120,000 miles is going to have maintenance issues.


    Tires, shocks, brakes, rear diff fluid change, auto trans fluid change, radiator flush, timing belts, battery, starter, A/C system recharge or repair, lights, wipers, u-joints, timing belts, water pumps, oil changes, plugs and wires, fuel injection cleaning, exhaust system repairs, and on and on. How handy are you? How much down time can you afford?

    Sometimes it's just nice to get a new car / newer car because you just want to change it out for a new toy. It costs more, but life is short! The technology in the newer cars is interesting, especially the built in blue tooth electronics and back up cameras.


    "A patriot is mocked, scorned and hated; yet when his cause succeeds, all men will join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." Mark Twain
    Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.... now who's bringing the hot wings? :jester:
  • jbohiojbohio Posts: 5,618 Senior Member
    From what you've said, sounds like you're over the hump now. Those are just stuff that wears out, and you've got most of it out of the way. If you haven't changed your timing belt, you should look into it. You're probably due for shocks, and maybe some front end work.

    Like was said, buying something similar, you don't know what the previous owner did to it. You might be buying the exact same trouble.
    Having said that, I have the same year 4Runner you pictured. I love it, it has 152K. I've replaced 1 rear axle bearing, 1 inner tie rod end, the exhaust, plugs, wires, cap, rotor, and brakes in the last 2 years. Just the way it is. FWIW, it gets 19-20mpg. In town, highway, whatever.
  • TeachTeach Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    I think if I switched out the tires I'd get it back to the 26MPG I used to get.

    One small suggestion before you go to the trouble and expense of swapping tires - - - - -if the O2 sensor hasn't been changed recently (or not at all) try changing it first. Those things have a nasty habit of failing, or just getting "lazy" and demanding a lot more fuel than necessary. They usually don't set a "check engine" trouble code. I've seen improvements of 2-3 MPG with a simple O2 sensor swap.
  • SirGeorgeKillianSirGeorgeKillian Posts: 5,463 Senior Member
    FYI, foaming bore cleaner works on O2 sensors..
    Unless life also hands you water and sugar, your lemonade is gonna suck!
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    I'm in love with a Glock
  • ilove22silove22s Posts: 1,539 Senior Member
    one other thing.

    right now you have a vehicle youre familiar with and know (hopefully). if you buy a different vehicle, you can buy someone else headache and the trust issue can be dicy. its like riding an old horse youve ridden before vs a new one you dont know.
    The ears never lie.

    - Don Burt
  • Gene LGene L Posts: 12,815 Senior Member
    The tolerances of the engine get worn beyond the computer's ability to deal with them. Could be it's time to replace or modify that module.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • jbp-ohiojbp-ohio Posts: 10,932 Senior Member
    I've heard of guys pulling the - battery cable for a couple minutes, then the computer will 'relearn' the engine over again. Sometimes helps the engine perform better.
    "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." Thomas Jefferson
  • TeachTeach Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    That pactice is a little out of date. Now there's a "keep alive" battery in automotive computers just like laptops, desktops, etc. When was ther last time your PC lost its memory when the power failed or it got unplugged? When things like total mileage started getting stored in digital format it was necessary to design a computer with a "life of the vehicle" memory onboard.
  • outdoormaniac94outdoormaniac94 Posts: 12 New Member
    Two words...preventative maintenance. Your truck will treat you as good as you treat it.

    I have a 2000 F350 with 430 000 kilometers, a 2002 F350 with 180 000 kilometers and a 2006 F350 with 180 000 kilometers. I have done automatic transmissions on the first two, a rear diff on the first truck, and injector on the first and 3 injectors on the last. However, i generally look around for an auction deal, buy low, budget a certain amount of money to bring them up to a high mechanical standard. I have been stranded once, but it happens. I expect to spend money on my vehicles. To me starters and alternators and the odd injector is minor, mind you i work the heck out of my diesels in extreme conditions, so i suppose it apples to oranges. Bottom line, gas or diesel, is keeping everything serviced up. Doing oil changes and other filter changes religously goes along ways. Ive seen lots of gas pickups with 300-400 000 km with very few issues.

    I will say this...my 2006 is currently in for 3 new injectors. I spoke with the mechanic working on it at the Ford dealership, and he mentioned that he has a new Ford diesel in with a melted piston...and a $3500 tow bill. New ones break down too....the only good thing is warranty covers repairs, but warranty doesnt keep you from being stranded... I have seen as many or more NEW trucks on the town hook. Ill gladly spend $1500 dollars on injectors and fluid/filter changes on a $4000 truck and i will probably drive it for the next 6 to 8 years...and its paid for off the lot. I have very little faith in the new technology. I will take any of the early 5.4 Tritons, the 7.3 or 6.0 diesels. The bugs have been worked out, people know what they are, and its easy to avoid the known problems with a little bit of work.
  • Big ChiefBig Chief Posts: 32,995 Senior Member
    I've found stuff breaks on my old Saturn with 234,000 miles at odd times, usually when you least expect it! Never at said intervals. Some things had to be replace at 50-100,000 K , but not again.

    You would have to be making repairs every month that are as much as as new/different vehicle payments and get stranded many times on the side of the road before you really need to trade up. Of course, if a vehicle makes you late for work, miss class and is downright undependable, it's time to look for a replacement.

    Plus, relative peace of mind is something to consider. I'm trying to squeeze a few more years outta my 2000 Saturn. Then I'll buy something brand new with a 100K warranty.
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
  • AntonioAntonio Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    If you can afford the decision, sell it; after such mileage and under normal use a continuous flow of assorted mechanical and electronic problems of diverse severity will appear. Eventually you'll have to set a dedicated budget to repairs that will only increase in time and you'll virtually end up with a frame full of a mix-up of new parts and "time-bomb" old ones.

    Avoid getting attached with mass-produced articles with limited life expectancy like cars, computers, musical instruments, cameras, etc. Technology upgrades so fast that getting "feelings" about such objects is becoming relatively expensive, specially if you keep giving them the same everyday use you are used to while expecting reliable, adequate performance.
    Unless stored for sentimental reasons and seldom used under certain circumstances, they will become a money pit and/or a headache source.
  • LMLarsenLMLarsen Posts: 8,337 Senior Member
    When the Wife had her Tacoma, it started spontaneously dying on the road. The mech would replace something, we'd pay him, and it would happen again. After we'd spent close to $800 and it was still doing it, I took it back to him and told him I wasn't paying him another dime until he FIXED THE GLITCH!

    Want to know what it was?

    An itty-bitty ground wire had come loose on the electrical system and as it warmed up, it would lose its connection. A simple and cheap fix! :cuss:
    “A gun is a tool, no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”

    NRA Endowment Member
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Posts: 14,103 Senior Member
    90% of all electrical problems are caused by a bad ground....
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