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Old October 17 2010, 10:43 PM   #1
Bears Discover Fire
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Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

My 1999 VW Jetta, which was purchased new and has served me for 12 years, has decided on a career/personality change of sorts. It's gradually gone from sweet reliable transportation to a surly 4 door money pit of Sarlacc-like proportions.

I consider myself pretty lucky, actually, as 10 of those 12 years were almost free of mechanical and electrical issues. I took very good care of the car, kept the oil changes/routine maintence up, and was rewarded with 0 problems outside of a failed cadallitic converter when the car was already 8 years old. Apparently, if one goes by the myriad of VW hate sites out there, this particular model and vintage typically did in their owner's sanity and bank accounts many years before my car did in mine.



Mi carro, when she was younger, prettier and not a fussy BITCH.

Alas, the universe tends toward disorder, and my car is not exempt. The big problems started two years ago, when the cooling system failed a part at a time over a period of 3 months. I shelled out almost 3K over the summer to replace it. At the time, I still pretty fresh out of school, paying high rent with a low wage, and didn't have enough money to buy another car, even a junker. Gee, I wonder why:

Then, the radio, cassette deck and CD player went batshit insane. CD player ate the cartridge (I still haven't pried free it and the discs that are still in there), the radio turns itself on and off at random, and the cassette deck also turns itself on and off, constantly flipping and searching for a ghost tape, and shredding any real cassette unfortunate enough to be fed to its electronic maw. I haven't even bothered to attempt to fix it.

Then, the A/C compressor clutch inexplicably sheared off and the car made a screaming banshee death wail on the freeway that almost made me lose bladder control, and I found myself stranded, at 11 pm, in South LA. Not a safe place to land. I would have just gone without A/C, except the mechanic informed me that the compressor clutch was attached to a chain that turned this wheel that moved that belt which regulated this other chain that would Fuck. My. Shit. Up if I didn't fix it.

Another 1K to replace the compressor and prop up the system. Less than 6 months later, the A/C stopped blowing cold, and the fan won't shut off while the car is running. God dammit.

In the course of replacing the compressor, the alarm system/keyless entry stopped working. Two mechanics and 1 dealership counting, no one can figure out why it stopped working or how to fix it. The pros told me that they see this very occasionally, and if I was just patient, it would come back...eventually.

Which it did, uh sorta. Came back 2 months later by spontaneously locking and alarming the car, refusing to disarm, and disabling the ignition. Disconnecting the battery worked once or twice, and then didn't after that. The fucking alarm would intermittently hold my damned car hostage.

At this point, I said, um, maybe I should take the bus a lot more? I was already a transit rider for my commute, but I began to concentrate my savings for a newer, better car. Gas, parking costs, oil changes, etc - all calculated and tossed into savings.

Then, a slick began to accumulate in my car port, and the car almost ran dry twice, well within the 3000 mile oil change parameters. I was barely driving the thing, but running out of oil every thousand miles or so. Ruh Roh. I took it in, hoping that I had a simple broken seal or something like that, and wound up sinking a grand in it to fix:

*2 major oil leaks;
*Transmission oil pan leak, which was causing my transmission to slip out of gear when cold then kick violently back in, throwing me into my steering wheel on more than one occasion;
*Major leak in the differential;
*Leak in my front axle, which was dripping corrosive acid onto my brake pads.

Lovely.

I got the car back, only to find that the idle had been reset below stall speed. Fan-fucking-tastic. Hoped I could just adjust a screw or something, but nooooooo, it's controlled by the CPU and has to be reset with special equipment. Took the car back to the mechanic, who fixed it for free.

The battery went dead because at this point I would go weeks without driving it, and on one stint I just went too long without starting the car. I jumped the battery, only to find that not only was my idle back down below stall, but my cruise control was disabled, my door locks and alarm disabled again, my ABS disabled (chances are my airbags are disabled as well, but I'm in no hurry to find out!), and my favorite: the sensor that reads the brake being depressed, that gives permission to release the car from park and put it in gear - Disabled.

All other frustrations aside, the car is currently sitting useless in my carport downstairs, because I can't get it out of Park. It's been less than 2 months since I put that 1000 dollars in it to fix those leaks.

I think the car's CPU brain has gone senile, because when hooked up to a diagnostic machine, everything looks peachy, even though this dysfunctional, demon-possessed thing flails and bitches before our very eyes. Autohiemers disease or something.

:klin gon:f uck fuck fuckity-fuck fuck it all I'm over it I'm trading it in. :s cream::scr eam:

If I planned to stay in LA for much longer, I'd stick with the bus and not bother, but I want out of here, which in SoCal, means moving into a transit desert. I'm also job hunting, which may take me to places where the bus won't cut it. I'll need a car for my next phase in life.

I've never traded a car in. My dad bought this car for me when I was 16 (spare the entitled princess comments please) and while I accompanied him through the process, it's been a very, very long time and I have forgotten the particulars of car shopping. My dad is no longer around to give me advice or a pushy salesman the stink-eye.

I already have a plan for buying the car, I have enough saved that I could theoretically pay cash for an OK used car, but I've had too many rainy days in the past few years to want to do that. I'm paranoid of possibly pending catastrophes so I want to keep my savings cushion largely intact. I'm thinking a large down payment with a reasonable APR.

I'm looking for a gas-sipper with long term reliability, in the market for a certified used car, because I'd rather have some other chump take the depreciation hit lol. My Jetta has 125K miles on it; I'm disappointed that I have to make this decision now instead of another 125K miles from now.

So, any advice on unburdening myself of this car and getting a newer, more reliable one? Advice both in a good car to buy and the finer points of negotiating and purchasing would be greatly appreciated.

Last edited by Bears Discover Fire; October 18 2010 at 06:41 AM. Reason: cuz pics are pretty.
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Old October 17 2010, 11:00 PM   #2
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

I can't give you advice on trading a car in but i can suggest a car to replace your Jetta. I have a 2004 Nissan Sentra and that girl has never failed me. Go with Nissan.
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Old October 17 2010, 11:14 PM   #3
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

ShamelessMcBundy wrote: View Post
I can't give you advice on trading a car in but i can suggest a car to replace your Jetta. I have a 2004 Nissan Sentra and that girl has never failed me. Go with Nissan.
I test drove an Altima when I bought my Jetta, 12 years ago. The handling was bad and the road noise so atrocious that I couldn't hear conversations from the back seat. Has Nissan improved its product significantly since then?
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Old October 17 2010, 11:48 PM   #4
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

I encountered similar issues earlier this year. I owned a used 1999 Beetle (only had it for about 2 years) that became possessed and due to it's yellow color was thereafter called the Lemon. It left me stranded in dark parking lots more than I'd like to remember. And although it interested the mechanic, I didn't enjoy hearing "oh wow, that's such a rare problem, I hardly ever see that on the cars I work on, that's amazing how that happened!" Bad memories.

Anyway, it wasn't worth it to pay for the repairs so my parents came along to help me trade it in and buy a new car. It was interesting to watch them work out the deal. They told me to always go in a pair, and go the good cop/bad cop route. My mom did all the talking, being chatty and friendly, while my dad sat there in utter silence, except to intermittently state, "No. That will not work." We stated a monthly payment that was acceptable to us from the outset and we just said no to any offer that didn't meet that or that offered too little for the trade-in. We almost left several times but eventually I left with the car I loved and with a low payment I was really happy with. Although you don't have your parents to bring along, I would take someone along with you who has done it at least once before.

As for the type of car, I ended up getting a Hyundai. The company as a whole is one of the few that actually grew during the recession and people seem really satisfied with their product. I really enjoy the feel of the car and even on my lower end model it doesn't feel cheap or plasticky inside like some small cars can. I seriously considered getting a certified owned Elantra they had on the lot (instead I went with a lime green Accent).

A few months after I bought the car something amazing happened - one day I turned it on after a couple of weeks of not driving and a light was on on the dashboard. In my old car this would bring on a feeling of dread and panic. It was for low tire pressure, so I went and filled the tires with air and guess what - the light WENT OFF the next time I turned on the car. It was a fricken miracle that the car actually informed me of a problem and then did what it was supposed to do. A refreshing experience.
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Old October 18 2010, 12:05 AM   #5
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Oh dear, my father had a VW Jetta during the late 80s. Awesome car.
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Old October 18 2010, 05:09 AM   #6
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Bears Discover Fire wrote: View Post
ShamelessMcBundy wrote: View Post
I can't give you advice on trading a car in but i can suggest a car to replace your Jetta. I have a 2004 Nissan Sentra and that girl has never failed me. Go with Nissan.
I test drove an Altima when I bought my Jetta, 12 years ago. The handling was bad and the road noise so atrocious that I couldn't hear conversations from the back seat. Has Nissan improved its product significantly since then?
I will say most definitely. Back in the day, Nissans did used to suck, but they've made leaps and bounds in quality. Hell, you've been in my car before.
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Old October 18 2010, 02:31 PM   #7
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

I don't have a ton of car ownership experience, but I will recommend the Dodge Caliber. I think new they start at $13k. Sort of a cross-over vehicle, but it is nice a roomy and you can pack a lot of stuff into it. Served me well when I moved across the country.
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Old October 18 2010, 02:31 PM   #8
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Wow. I have some friends that swear by Jetta's, but it sounds like you had the bad luck to get a lemon. Unless you put unusually high miles on it, a car that new should not have so many problems if you did all the preventative maintenance like you say you did.

My automotive heart goes out to you. My Toyota is a year older than your car. It probably has fewer miles at 140k, but it's not got a thing major wrong with it. The car I had before that was a 91 Mazda that I took from 120k to 180k. I think I spent about $3k on it over the course of 9 years, Adding various maintenance and the purchase price together.

So, I've been happy with both Mazda and Toyota, but even my wife's 96 Sable (the "piece of shit" car in this house) has been a lot more trouble-free and a lot cheaper to maintain than the frustrating story you've shared. I'd say about anything should serve you better than your unusually bad experience with the Jetta.
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Old October 18 2010, 02:34 PM   #9
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Does it count as a lemon if it ran well for a decade straight?
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Old October 18 2010, 02:49 PM   #10
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

I will never again complain about the problems I've had with my car. Your Jetta sounds like a right clusterfuck, Bears. A certified used car sounds like the way to go. As long as it's got low miles and has been inspected and all known issues fixed, you should be OK. Get an impartial mechanic to look at any car you intend to buy, too, just to make sure nothing gets missed.

My 1992 Corsica has about as many miles on it as your car does and it's had far fewer problems. But I'm also only the second owner, and the first was a little old lady who didn't drive it that much and took very good care of it. I've had a bunch of work done to it in the past year to see if I can get another year or two out of it. Since I own it outright it's not that bad to maintain.

If you want cheaper repairs, I would definitely suggest getting something either American or one of the more common Japanese imports (Toyota, etc.) European cars are notoriously expensive to maintain and repair.
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Old October 18 2010, 03:44 PM   #11
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

if you're shopping and find a car you like, don't buy it the same day you first see it
keep looking. you will most likely find a better deal on a car you'll love even more
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Old October 18 2010, 05:31 PM   #12
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Spot's Meow wrote: View Post
I And although it interested the mechanic, I didn't enjoy hearing "oh wow, that's such a rare problem, I hardly ever see that on the cars I work on, that's amazing how that happened!" Bad memories.
I feel your pain.

"Uh, that's crazy. I've never seen that happen before. Um, I'm not sure what to tell you."*

"Shit, I would have loved to see that!"**

*when the alarm inexplicably stopped working after the A/C compressor repair, then spontaneously came back online months later and disabled my ignition.

**When the water pump went supernova, burst all the seals and hoses in the cooling system, sending coolant all over the engine block and thick black smoke pouring out of the hood. I was stuck in a left turn lane at the moment of the failure and genuinely thought I was about to burn to death in my car.
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Old October 18 2010, 07:34 PM   #13
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

TheBoo wrote: View Post
Does it count as a lemon if it ran well for a decade straight?
In my car-owning experience, yes. I've never owned a car as new as Bear's Jetta and I've only owned consumer cars with less miles on them for about 10k miles.

In other words, cars are usually the age and mileage of hers by the time I get them. It looks like she's spent more on repairs for that car than I have on purchasing and repairing the two cars I've owned. I don't have any repair horror-stories over $500. She's also got a few getting marooned horror stories, while I've never been marooned. Wait, that's not true. I had the battery go dead in that Mazda a couple of times, but I was marooned at my own house. Does that count?

Anyway, from where I'm sitting she had some unusually high bad luck with that particular car and that's what I call a lemon.

ETA: Sorry to drag this off into what may or may not constitute a lemon when you're looking for advice. To echo previous posters, the best advice I have is to look at used cars that are at least 3 years old. The depreciation really starts to slow down after 3-4 years. When you test drive those cars, take them to a trusted mechanic to look over. She'll be able to spot any warning signs for that particular vehicle and tell you if that make and model is particularly unreliable, expensive to repair, etc etc.
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Old October 18 2010, 07:37 PM   #14
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Gore-tho wrote: View Post
TheBoo wrote: View Post
Does it count as a lemon if it ran well for a decade straight?
In my car-owning experience, yes. I've never owned a car as new as Bear's Jetta and I've only owned consumer cars with less miles on them for about 10k miles.

In other words, cars are usually the age and mileage of hers by the time I get them. It looks like she's spent more on repairs for that car than I have on purchasing and repairing the two cars I've owned. I don't have any repair horror-stories over $500. She's also got a few getting marooned horror stories, while I've never been marooned. Wait, that's not true. I had the battery go dead in that Mazda a couple of times, but I was marooned at my own house. Does that count?

Anyway, from where I'm sitting she had some unusually high bad luck with that particular car and that's what I call a lemon.
Yeah, it does seem like she's had an unreasonable number of problems given the age and mileage of the car.
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Old October 18 2010, 07:42 PM   #15
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Re: Entropy Claims My Darling Jetta - Car Trading/Buying Advice Sought

Plus VWs are supposed to be one of the good names in reliability. Though I have heard before that they're very expensive to repair when they do need repairs.
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