Dear Tom and Ray: I have a '95 Dodge Caravan with a 3.0 Mitsubishi engine and 77,000 miles on it. I changed all of the hoses and belts at 60,000 miles, and I just had the transmission serviced and the radiator flushed. I'd like to keep it until 120,000 miles, so here's my question: I now have about $350-$400 that I can spend on preventive maintenance. The dealer tells me I need engine mounts and a water pump. If you had $350-$400, which one would you do?
Tom: $400? I think I'd paint it and then sell it, Pat.
Ray: Actually, you're not really dealing with preventive maintenance here. You're dealing with "broken" maintenance. If the motor mounts are truly broken -- and you should get a second opinion to be sure -- then you really do need to replace them. In some cases, broken motor mounts can cause unintended acceleration by shifting the position of the engine and thus jamming the throttle cable in wide-open mode. And if that happens, you won't be dealing with "broken maintenance" anymore, you'll be dealing with "Medicare reimbursements."
Tom: The water pump and timing belt should have been done at 60,000 miles, so I wouldn't be surprised if the pump is leaking. If it is -- again, a second opinion can tell you how badly it's leaking -- that should be done right away, too. If the water pump fails, you could overheat the motor and ruin it completely. And then you won't be dealing with "broken maintenance," you'll be dealing with "new-car payments."
Ray: So have another mechanic you trust take a fresh look at both of these things. But if they're both broken, you'll have to bite the bullet and fix them. And it could easily cost you more than $1,000. Sorry, Pat, but you're just going to have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and do what any red-blooded American would do under the circumstances: Borrow some money.