Hi guys. Excuse me for butting in. There is a "sniffer" test to identify a leaking head gasket. That involves drawing air from the radiator through a glass cylinder with two chambers partially-filled with a special dark blue liquid. If that liquid turns bright yellow, the head gasket is leaking.
Besides the head gasket, there is always the chance the head is warped. While that doesn't happen all the time, they can not simply be machined flat as we did years ago. Heads with the camshafts on top have to be heated in an oven and straightened, otherwise the camshaft journals will be in a bind. You're better off with a remanufactured head.
As for the mileage, that is less of an issue on any car compared to older cars. What is of more concern is the timing belt. If it breaks, the valves will be damaged and you'd be looking at doing about the same repair. Chrysler made a lot of really reliable and safe cars. The Neon isn't one of them, and sorry to say, most of their front-wheel-drive cars from the mid '90s to at least the early '00s aren't much better.
I prefer to keep the older stuff running but I look at it differently than most people. Most others look at the value of their car vs. The cost of repairs. To me, the value of the car is irrelevant if I plan on keeping it at least a few more years. It would cost the same for a certain repair regardless if the car is worth $500.00 or $5000.00. Either way, that repair gets me back on the road with a car I like and am familiar with. It's when the cost of repair exceeds the cost of buying something different that I start to reconsider that opinion.
You also have to look at how much you spent on repairs recently. Some people figure if they spent a lot, they have to keep spending more to keep the car going so they get their money's worth from those previous repairs. In other words, keep paying the vet bills for a sick horse in hopes he doesn't get more sick. Some people look at how much they spent and bail out and buy something different when yet another big repair bill is imminent. Too bad we can't see into the future. The best guess is if the rest of the car is in good condition with little rust, with a new head gasket and timing belt, it could go for a long time yet, and you won't have to worry about those pesky car payments that seem to come up about every month.
One final thought; if you do decide to trade for something better, you're typically better off trading your old car when it needs a major repair. If for example, a car is worth $1000.00 on trade when it's in good condition, it may still be worth $800.00 when it needs a $500.00 repair. That doesn't seem to make sense at first, but when you trade a car in good shape, the dealer is already discounting, or taking into account that there are going to be expenses on it for a safety inspection, oil change, and minor repairs and cleanup before they can resell it.
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 AT 6:21 PM