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Beating the secret society of car repair people

I wish I understood what makes an automobile go. When a car starts sputtering and acting up, I am, like thousands of other people with poor mechanical aptitude, at the mercy of garage mechanics, an elite society, mostly men, who share a mystical reverence for the combustible engine. I bet they even have a secret handshake.

They are keenly aware of their superiority over those who are ignorant of a car's inner workings. This puts them in the driver's seat, so to speak, when a good car suddenly goes bad.

The trick is to get rid of a car when it's on its last wheels, before you sink a lot of money into repairs. I learned this the hard way with an old 1986 Cadillac Sedan DeVille I used to drive several years ago. I had purchased it, used, in good condition and paid cash for it back in 1993. It served me well for about six years. But then one day -- exactly a week after I spent $1,400 to repair it -- smoke began to emanate from the hood of the car and even the dashboard as my husband and I were driving home from church. It smelled like burning rubber and wires, the electrical incense of a car paying homage to a fallen deity. We had to make an instant decision: Pump more money into it or put it out to pasture. My husband deftly maneuvered it into a CarMax parking lot, and we traded it in for a used 1996 Mercury Sable right on the spot.

Lesson learned: Don't invest more money on repairs than a car is worth. It might only last another week.

Accompany me as I relive recent car experiences, and determine if you would have followed the same routes that I took. But before we move onto the next car purchase, answer this question:

  1. Should we have purchased an extended warranty on the Mercury Sable?

    Yeah, that's important. Maybe the previous owner never changed the oil.
    Nah. Extended warranties are a complete waste of money. You pay upfront for repairs you may never need.


Next: How would you handle this?
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