Expensive Car Repairs Hit Us Again, But This Time We Were Prepared…Sort Of

by Khaleef "Fat Guy" Crumbley on December 28, 2012

in Finance

When I was in high school, the idea of getting my license and being able to drive was very exciting for me. It seemed like the path to both adulthood and freedom was only entered after getting a license. Of course, that is how the world looks to most teenagers who have to depend on their feet, the bus, or their parents to get everywhere. But now I know the truth! :-x

You may remember me writing about our car escapades in the past. First, the transmission went on our 1993 Camry, just short of 200,000 miles (which led to my in-laws giving us one of their vehicles before they moved out of the state). We were able to sell our old car, thanks to a sacrificial deer.

This year, we had to take $2,000 out of our emergency fund to cover car repairs and other unexpected expenses! My wife’s car needs some repairs, but we were holding off on those things until we could build back up our emergency fund and then save the needed money (since the repairs weren’t crucial).

Prepared Car Repairs

That plan was going pretty well until my car began to overheat recently. I took it up to my mechanic (a 45 minute drive) and found out that I needed to replace much of the cooling system (heater core, all hoses, and the thermostat), as well as do some other maintenance, which would cost close to $1,300! We recently acquired a credit card that we use solely for expensive car repairs (even though I hate debt, I can admit that there are certain benefits to using credit cards), so we had them do the work (which took 2 days) and put the expense on that credit card.

After driving the car for a few days, it began to overheat again. Initially what seemed to cause the damage to the cooling system was “sludge”. The heater core and other sensitive parts became clogged over time. When I took the car back again, they found an air pocket in the system – apparently it hadn’t been bleed properly when the parts were replaced. They didn’t charge us for any of the work since it was their error.

Fast forward a couple more days and guess what happened…yep, the engine started overheating again! When we took it back up to the mechanic, they found that the new thermostat they put in a few weeks prior had gone bad. After replacing the unit, they drove the car up and down the highway to make sure that the problem was solved – my mechanic even called me the next day to check on the status of the car. Again, they didn’t charge us for any of the work since the part they installed was faulty.

The third time’s the charm, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes? Unfortunately, my car didn’t get the memo. It began to overheat for a 4th time, one cold night after prayer meeting at my church. This meant another trip to the mechanic. Fortunately, he said to me after the 3rd trip that if it happened again, it was probably due to the sludge getting into the radiator before they had a chance to flush it out. That’s exactly what it was.

So, that meant spending another $500 or $600 to replace the radiator. Since we were getting frustrated with the numerous back and forth trips, and our mechanic really felt bad about us having to drive up there so many times – we sometimes had to drop the car off which meant putting round trip (and then some) miles on both cars most times – he decided to do the work for free and only charge us for the parts! That cost us about $300.

So we have spent $1,600 on our car, and still haven’t done the necessary work on my wife’s car. Fortunately, we have the credit card that I mentioned above. The great thing about this card is that we have 6 months to pay off the balance before any finance charges are assessed.

I know there is a general hatred for credit cards in the personal finance sphere (as if a piece of plastic can really be blamed for a lack of preparation or self-control), but if it wasn’t for this card, we would have to either apply for a few same day cash loans, or completely drain our emergency fund (which is still not at the level it was earlier this year). Our plan is to have it paid off by May, but if not, then we will use our emergency fund to cover the balance.

The situation could have been a lot worse, and I am thankful that we were able to have two plans in place to deal with emergency car repairs!

Since we plan to share most of the details of our household finances on this blog throughout 2013 (actually, as long as it takes to get out of debt), you’ll get to see how we attack this and all of our other debt along the way.

What are some of the things that you do to prepare for emergencies?

photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

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funancials December 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I just save as much as humanly possible. By doing that – emergencies just become annoyances. I see nothing wrong with relying on a credit card when you’re in a bind as long as you have a repayment plan. I only get concerned if you’re using the credit card for everyday items and can’t pay it off monthly. That’s when something is wrong with the budget.

Khaleef "Fat Guy" Crumbley January 2, 2013 at 9:32 am

I agree with you on that. Things come up, but if we are prepared, they will just be an inconvenience.

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