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Author Topic: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.  (Read 10518 times)

THE NORSEMAN

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"Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
« on: November 07, 2008, 10:23:33 pm »
What you're looking for here is a car that is mechanically sound, not necessarily cosmetically appealing.  We're talking about all the mechanical systems-brakes, engine, trans, steering components, etc.:

Belts:  Check for cracks.  Both across or lengthwise.  If any are present that are more than very minor, replace it.  If it squeals?  Check for proper tension.  If the tensioner is operating correctly and it's still making noise, replace it.  Belt "dressing" products just hide the problem for a short time.  Replacements are usually recommended around the 30,000 mile mark.

Brakes:  Check fluid level and condition.  Check pads/shoes and rotors/drums for excessive wear.  Also make sure that  brake components are wearing evenly.  If they are not, this would indicate a problem that will most likely require parts replacement.  If the vehicle in excess of 50,000 miles, consider a total system flush, system components(especially ABS) are expensive, a brake flush is not.

Coolant:  Check for proper level and condition.  Check radiator and heater hose condition.  Hoses should be soft and flexible, not hard or spongy.  If the coolant is in excess of 30,000 miles or two years, replace it.

Engine:  Check all fluid levels for proper amounts and condition.  If any appear brand new, be a bit wary, as they may have been recently changed to hide problems.  If any are low, find out WHY.  As far as overall engine condition goes?  Have a trusted mechanic run a power balance test, and a compression test.  If all this checks out, and there are no weird noises, you can be fairly certain that the engine will last a long time given proper maintenance by you in the future.

Filters: Check and/or change them all- oil, air, fuel, and trans, especially if the vehicle has in excess of 35,000 miles on it.

Steering:  Check linkage for looseness or excessive wear.  On vehicles with power steering, check fluid level and condition.  Any problems here can cost your some money.  Again, if the vehicle is over the 50,000 mile mark, consider a system flush.
Tires:  Check for proper inflation and even wear.  Any issues here could mean under/over inflation issues, or worse, steering/suspension system components are worn/failing.

Suspension:  Check shocks/struts, sway bar components, I-beam components, etc for wear.  Listen for noises and feel for any slushiness during a test drive.  A quick way to check shocks/struts?  Get the car bouncing pretty good by pushing down on the bumper and releasing until you have the car bouncing pretty good.  STOP IMMEDIATELY!!  The car should stop bouncing almost immediately as well.  If it doesn't, you have worn out shocks and/or struts.  Service life on these items is usually around 40-50,000 miles.

Trans:  Check fluid level and condition.  Pay close attention to how it shifts during the test drive. 
Manual: If the clutch is stiff or rough, or any grinding when changing gears, or metal shavings in the fluid could mean expensive repairs in the near future. 
Automatic:  Any delays in shifting, slippage, or rough/harsh shifts,  will most likely mean expensive repairs.  When changing the trans filter, have the pan checked for any material other than fluid, any metal or clutch material in the pan means that the trans has a fairly heavy amount of wear.

Check these items as well:  Heater/AC operation, windows, radio, lights, horn, door and trunk latches, windshield wipers, washer operation,  etc.  If you're uncertain of your skill level?  Have a trusted mechanic do a "used car inspection".  He should be able to find anything that would require attention.  Money spent on this initial check will pay for itself many times over.

Paint:  No major rust?  You're good to go.  This is a beater, not a blingmobile.

Interior:  Again, who cares?  As long as the seats are solid and a cushion spring isn't poking you in the backside, you're good.  We aren't talking about a chick magnet here!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2008, 07:40:05 am by THE NORSEMAN »
This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

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    ljnowell

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #1 on: November 07, 2008, 10:33:34 pm »
    Ive got a couple of those.  1998 bonneville, paint peeling off all over, runs like a champ.  Course,  I rebuilt the engine about 9 months ago.  Ive got about 2K in it altogether and have put 100k on it. 

    Beater?  I bought a 1993 festiva for 100 bucks.   Previous Owner said it was ready for the junkyard.  Fixed a few wiring gremlins that he and the owner before him sold it because of.  Between the two of them they spent 700 bucks on fixing wiring, and neither got it fixed.  I also put a fuel pump in it.  Gave it a good cleaning and sold it for 1200 bucks. 

    I just picked up a 1996 nissan sentra that wouldnt run for the last guy.  He told me I could have it for 250 cause it wouldnt run.  I popped the distributor cap off and found oil in it.  Paid in cash.  100 bucks later and its for sale for 2K.   ;D 

    Sometimes being a mechanic is a good thing, god knows it dont pay enough.
    Exodus 22:2
    "If a thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed"

    THE NORSEMAN

    • To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them. - Richard Henry Lee
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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #2 on: November 07, 2008, 11:50:16 pm »
    My best beater?  '82 Olds Omega. Cost me 200 bucks, and I drove it for about 80,000 miles. (Omega was certainly an appropriate name in this case ;D) .

    Getting in and out of the driver door?  Dukes of Hazard style baby.  Latch was broke.
    CV shafts were noisy as hell any any direction other than "straight".
    You had to cycle the key if you went more that 50 miles or so at a time to re-energize the fuel pump relay.  Either that, or coast to a stop with a dead engine.
    Oil CHANGES?  Nope.  Leaked too bad. Seeped out of almost every gasket in the engine, and I do believe the valve guides/seals were shot. Used a quart of oil every 5-700 miles, closer to 500 if it was freeway driving.  So I just changed the filter every 3,000 miles.

    The best part?  I found Snap-On 3 foot long, 1/2" drive impact extension that some previous owner had lost wedged between the AC condenser and the grille the day I was finally sending the car to the bone yard.  SWEET!

    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    Outbreak

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #3 on: November 18, 2008, 12:30:27 am »
    Norseman, you had me laughing all the way through your description. Good thing I don't have a beverage.

    ljnowell, its been a while since I did anything involving a distributor, but IIRC, there's no earthly reason why there should be oil in one. I understand why the car didn't work, just not how the oil got in the distributor in the first place.
    TexasOutbreak

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    ljnowell

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #4 on: November 18, 2008, 11:47:43 am »
    Norseman, you had me laughing all the way through your description. Good thing I don't have a beverage.

    ljnowell, its been a while since I did anything involving a distributor, but IIRC, there's no earthly reason why there should be oil in one. I understand why the car didn't work, just not how the oil got in the distributor in the first place.
    The distributor bolts into the end of the head and connects to th end of the camshaft.  There is an oil seal in the distributor to keep the oil from getting inside.  When the seal craps oil gets on the optical "eye" inside.  No more spark.
    Exodus 22:2
    "If a thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed"

    g.willikers

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #5 on: November 18, 2008, 03:51:54 pm »
    Here's a beater story for the times:

    A mechanic friend was working in a new car shop. One day a guy brings his car in and says another garage said his low mileage, nice car needs serious transmission work and he'd like to get a second opinion.
    My friend takes it for a drive and agrees it needs something, 'cause it's making a terrible, tranny-like noise coming from the floor area.
    After hearing the possible repair bill, the car owner says he thinks he'll just try to find someone to sell it to, cheap.
    So, my friend buys it, cheap.
    About a week later, he decides to take a chance and drive it home and notices a bean bag ash tray wobbling around on the floor. He stops at a store and pitches the ashtray in the trash barrel.
    Tranny noise gone. That's all it was.
    Some guys have all the luck.
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    Avenger29

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #6 on: November 18, 2008, 08:49:10 pm »
    I drove a similar vehicle for a few years...'91 S-10 Blazer...4.3L engine...parents had it a while...while I was growing up. Gave it to me...beat to s___...used a quart of oil frequently, beat up steering gear...not too bad to work on...

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    Avenger29

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #7 on: November 18, 2008, 08:50:07 pm »
    Here's a beater story for the times:

    A mechanic friend was working in a new car shop. One day a guy brings his car in and says another garage said his low mileage, nice car needs serious transmission work and he'd like to get a second opinion.
    My friend takes it for a drive and agrees it needs something, 'cause it's making a terrible, tranny-like noise coming from the floor area.
    After hearing the possible repair bill, the car owner says he thinks he'll just try to find someone to sell it to, cheap.
    So, my friend buys it, cheap.
    About a week later, he decides to take a chance and drive it home and notices a bean bag ash tray wobbling around on the floor. He stops at a store and pitches the ashtray in the trash barrel.
    Tranny noise gone. That's all it was.
    Some guys have all the luck.

    Lucky, lucky...

    South Carolina
    I don't THINK I'll ever have to face down routers in the streets.

    I should hope not. Mobs of rogue woodworking tools would suck to repel.

    Skeptic49

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #8 on: December 06, 2008, 10:34:35 am »
    Why is it mechanics have either a beater in bad shape or a beater and a show car?  And why do so many put their loved ones in Hondas and Toyotas?

    Geoff
    Who has seen a few mechanics rides, one I got a lift home in was a horrible beast with a cracked windshield back window and a terry cloth covered interior.  Six month later it has been worked over and was a beautiful example of a big V6 in a small Dodge Shadow?  Owner claimed 15 second quarters and I'd swear to a 1 g 90 degree turn at the speed limit without much tire squeal.  >:D

    Kirktree

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #9 on: February 02, 2009, 02:52:17 pm »
    Here's a beater story for the times:

    A mechanic friend was working in a new car shop. One day a guy brings his car in and says another garage said his low mileage, nice car needs serious transmission work and he'd like to get a second opinion.
    My friend takes it for a drive and agrees it needs something, 'cause it's making a terrible, tranny-like noise coming from the floor area.
    After hearing the possible repair bill, the car owner says he thinks he'll just try to find someone to sell it to, cheap.
    So, my friend buys it, cheap.
    About a week later, he decides to take a chance and drive it home and notices a bean bag ash tray wobbling around on the floor. He stops at a store and pitches the ashtray in the trash barrel.
    Tranny noise gone. That's all it was.
    Some guys have all the luck.

    and some guys are just stupid

    D4N

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #10 on: July 20, 2009, 06:18:10 pm »
    This is my beater Citroen ZX 1.4l, just after beeing beated . Few days after crash, that could have end much, much worse...
    After riding thought the ditch, the exhaust has been torn of, I had to use my ear plugs that I use for shooting for a few days, before my bro welded it back. I had to replace the head light cos' I don't wanna attract cops.

    BTW. Every car turns into beater in my hands sooner or later, ehm, well sooner :-[. I'm end user of every car I ever had.
    « Last Edit: July 20, 2009, 06:39:36 pm by D4N »
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    dot4x4

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #11 on: September 13, 2009, 03:51:20 pm »
    Well I just picked up a 82 datsun, (nissan) king cab two wheel drive truck for 600 bucks.  This thing drives great, straight with no pulling or shakes at 80 on th efreeway and passed smog fine.  Oh and there is nothing wrong with the paint, interior and is registered.  I felt guilty taking this truck from the guy for 600, it was worth at least 1800 with the shape it was in.  Oh and has AC to boot. 
    Yes I live in California.  Please dont hold that against me.

    bmitchell

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #12 on: January 06, 2010, 10:45:16 am »
    That is a great deal.  I wish I could find an old Nissan for cheap to replace mine if it dies (maybe it won't).

    Ben

    luke213(adamsholsters)

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #13 on: February 10, 2010, 01:56:18 pm »
    Well after reading this thread I have to share a beater car story.

    A good friend of mine bought a 1986 Toyota Corolla for $400 with around 100,000 miles on it, not a bad little car good shape etc no major issue. We were 16-17 years old at that time, he beat that car without mercy for several years. No major issues, then he blew a CV and sold the car to my brother for $200, who threw a stereo in it and beat it for another several years. He actually had several Corolla's over the years, car was rounding 140,00 at this stage in it's life. Starting to have minor issues but nothing too terrible, door was sagging lot's of body rust(that's what you get in the Upper Peninsula of MI where salt cakes the road white until June). Slave clutch cylinder was going bad and you had to fill it with brake fluid daily and since the body was so bad he parked the car. Sat for about 2 years back in the woods. My car broke at the time and I was looking for something to drive to work and I decided to resurrect that old Corolla. Tossed a battery I had handy that was charged in it, and it fired up with the 2 year old gas in it:) A little worse for wear but nothing much more wrong with it, drove it 15 miles to the gas station to fill er up:) Didn't even change the oil, started having several other oil leaks after sitting so long, started using around a quart every 200 miles or so. I drove that car to and from work for a couple years, and even took a 12 hour trip to North Dakota(without a heater in winter mind you, had to use the ice scraper on the inside while driving). It took 3 fills of the slave cylinder to make that trip and I actually had to stop more for that than fuel. I made it home without issue, and the next day the slave cylinder completely crapped out. Put a new one on and kept on going. I met my wife, who was then my girlfriend, and while we were living together this was our only car. She hated it so much that once my brother in law borrowed the car and she told him to try and kill it to force me to buy a better car(I was upset about this, once I found out. But women can be wiley:). He nearly rolled it, ran it through the ditch at highway speeds and came home without a grill. Few new scratches and bumps and squeals but nothing terrible, actually didn't find out they tried to kill it until later that week when I asked where my grill happened to be:)

    After that the car spent another stint in the woods while I drove other things, once again needed a car in a pinch started it back up, and found the manual tranny linkage was so corroded and rusty that driving it home I had to knee the shifter to get it over from 2nd to 3rd, and 4th to 5th. Drove it for a few weeks then parked it in the garage. A year or so later a neighborhood kid came over for something while I had the garage open and asked if I wanted to sell the car. Wanted to give me $200 for it, the problem was the brakes and lots of other things were really getting bad at this stage. He didn't know anything about cars and really didn't want to learn so I turned down the offer, I didn't want to see this 16 year old kid get hurt in this rough car;) Later that same week I had a sketchy neighbor offer me $50 for that car for scrap and I actually got to keep the tires and rims.

    It was one heck of a beater;) I forgot to mention, it was Red, and it's nickname was "The Red Dragon" because that was the name of the car Will Farrel had in Old School, it got that name later in life, but man was it a car;)

    Luke

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    Radhnoti

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #14 on: March 11, 2010, 11:24:22 am »
    I'm in a '97 Toyota Corolla with 220,000 miles on it now, for work.  Other than routine maintenance,  I've only had to replace a ball joint.  Well... it's burning a quart of oil every 1,500 miles but I find that acceptable considering.  It's been a great car.

    Deer Hunter

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #15 on: March 11, 2010, 11:30:14 am »


     :neener

    Single speed, steel frame, nice older fork.  I use this every day.  I don't drive much, since I only usually go to school.  

    The other day I had to take my truck in for break and bearing service.  I used this to get back home and to school, then again to go pick the truck up. Only 10 miles away.

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #16 on: December 23, 2010, 07:57:37 pm »
    I've had a few beaters, my latest was the best deal. Bought a 99 VW passat GLX (that's the loaded one) from a guy for $1000 bucks, at the time the cars trade in was over $5000. He had spent $4000 trying to get it running. I paid him and drove off in it. Turned out to be a short in the alarm system, I bypassed it with a roll of wire and put in a push button start at my leisure. Total cost to fix was $15. I've but 75k on that car now and just crossed 150k total.

    My wife gets's the new cars, here's to hoping it's my turn eventuyally.
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    bmitchell

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #17 on: December 26, 2010, 07:43:26 am »
    My old Nissan D21 blew its head gasket a couple months ago.  The odometer died a couple years ago at around 240km so I don't know the exact mileage.
    I picked up a '94 Pathfinder for $1200 with tires worth about that, 169k miles, and very few mostly cosmetic problems.

    Ben

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #18 on: March 07, 2011, 01:09:12 am »
    And why do so many put their loved ones in Hondas and Toyotas?

    Because they've got enough to do at work, they don't want to come home and fix the family cars for free?

    My l'il Honda Civic has been great mechanically for all 16 years I've had it.  Honest caveats : the AC is a different story, the speedometer had to be replaced about 45k miles ago, and the turn and wiper switches on the steering column had to be replaced a few months ago, but I still get 40+mpg on the highway (at not exactly legal speeds, I admit).

    Pez

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    Re: "Beaters" -or- reliable, cheap transportation.
    « Reply #19 on: August 12, 2012, 09:32:09 am »
     :bash It's no wonder people don't trust mechanics. How would you guys feel if your prized firearm stopped working and some gunshop bought from you for cheap then resold it for ten times what they invested in it?  >:D  Or even better...you have wicked pain bc of a kidney stone. Surgeon tells you that you have kidney cancer then sells your kidney on black market...unethical right?  You should never take advantage of someone's ignorance to make a fast buck bc one day you will find yourselves in a situation you will not know how to fix and then you will vulnerable to being ripped
     off by some alleged expert. What goes around....

    New York

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