A 'Blown' Engine Story

by Nikki Willhite


Life can be so unfair at time. My middle son is working two jobs trying to earn money before he gets married this summer. He gets up in the morning at 2:30 AM, and drags home at 9:30 PM. What happens to him? The engine in his Chevy Blazer blows out <sigh> What to do? The truck is almost 15 years old. Yet it looks great- new tires, tinted windows, no body damage, and a lot of money has gone into maintaining it. Now the engine is gone. Is it time to buy a new vehicle or is it worth replacing the engine?

As my son sat at my kitchen table with his head in his hands, (my husband being out of town, of course), I realized that I was going to have to help make this decision. He was depleted physically and emotionally. Not only was his transportation gone, but also his place to sleep for an hour or so in between jobs.

So many thoughts ran through my head. If he bought another vehicle, it would have to be another used truck. It could have just as many problems. He would probably have 3 years of payments, just as he was beginning his marriage.

He couldn't sell the Blazer to help with the down payment- with a blown engine. He couldn't sell it to a private party, and he wasn't in a good position to negotiate with a car dealer either. How about salvage value? What would that be?

I needed to know how much the vehicle was worth. My husband is an insurance adjuster so he has a Blue Book, but you can also find it on the Internet at: www.kbb.com.

According to the Blue Book, that Chevy Blazer is still worth over $4,500, which is hard to believe because of the age and mileage.

However, it would be so easy to go into a car dealership and sign a piece of paper and drive off with a running vehicle. If we decided to put in a new engine, it would be in the shop for quite a while, and I would be stranded without a car, as naturally I would let him drive my car while it was being repaired (motherhood)! That was so tempting!

Then I thought of my in-laws. I don't know many people more frugal than they are, or with more savings! They don't even have a touch tone phone in their home. They lived through WWII in Germany. They knew what it was like to go hungry. They save their money. I thought of the car my mother-in-law drives. It is on its 3rd engine.

That was the final deciding factor. I started calling around. The shop to where the truck was towed offered to put in a new engine for $3,000. That seemed too steep. After calling all over, I found a shop that would put in a rebuilt engine for $1,900. It would have a brand new motor, refurbished parts, and best of all, come with a 5 year or 50,000 mile guarantee.

They were true to their word. They had it up and running in 7 working days, at the agreed upon price. Thankfully, I later found out it was a wise decision. It was a good price and a good guarantee. My son will be able to pay off the bill before he gets married, and he has a brand new engine with a good guarantee. His yearly car license tax, which is high in this state, will remain low, and he will not have to make payments.

As for the shop we towed the vehicle into originally, they tried to get the truck from us- said they had someone "interested" in it. I wonder how much they would have given my son for it? Not as much as it was worth, I am sure.

I'm sure that some of you have the skills to replace an engine yourself, and have done it before. If you have the skills, that is great. For the rest of us, remember that the frugal way if not usually the easiest.

It is now a year and a half later than when the engine was replaced. The truck is running great, and has been very reliable transportation for my son and his new wife. Think of all the car payments they have saved. If my son had been in debt, they probably would not have qualified to be able to buy the FHA Government Repo Home they bought and fixed up right after they got married. That home has gone up more than $20,000 in one year. So how much money did they save putting in that engine? A lot!


Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at www.frugalhappyfamilies.com - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! Article first published at www.allthingsfrugal.com

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