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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long story short, just went to get my NC registered car an MD inspection so that I could get MD plates and stuff. I've heard a lot a lot of nasty things about the ridiculously uptight and yet "one time in ownership" inspection in MD and chose a recommended garage and got failed, garage dude roughly threw out an estimate of $1500 or more. Car is a 01 Taurus with 140k miles, not perfect, but never failed NC annual inspection, and passed the most recent inspection in April.

Just want to get you gurus' opinion on how many of those are really urgently needed and estimate:

1. Power steering pump replacement
Power steering belt (these two are valid, my power steering pump have been leaking slowly and I kept refilling fluid to keep the level. The belt might have crack due to the fluid leakage)

Remove steering wheel cover (No idea what this about)

2. Both front lower ball joints replacement
Both sway bar end links(I've driven the car for 40K miles since I got it, no memory of any suspension repairs. So it might be valid since I got similar joints recommendation from last oil change two months ago. But the sway bar end links are related too?)

3. Both front brake roters
Both rear drums (Said the roter and drum were too thin. Might be valid, because for the past 3 years at least, I only remember rotor being resurfaced and brake pads changed )

4. replace left headlight assembly

buff right headlight (Condensation in my left headlight assembly and the right one is not transparent enough. Mechanic said only replacement can fix the condensation. But is that necessary)

5. Lower rear engine mount (Mechanic said it was loose or got seperated, need replacement)

Basically the mechanic said it ain't cheap coz most of the stuff listed are replacements since there's no easy fix.

Can you guys take a look and tell me if all those stuff need to be replaced to pass the inspection? Anything sounds fishy? And what price range are we looking at? This car is not worth much above $2000, if I need to throw $1500 to pass an inspection, I'd rather get rid of it. Thanks a lot.
 

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You do not have a power steering belt, you have a serpentine belt that runs for all the vehicle components (AC, alternator, PS pump, etc) (or if you have a DOHC, a seperate belt for the water pump on the opposite side of the engine).

Do you have a cover on your steering wheel?

Lower ball joints needed to be done on my car even when the car was 8 years old, boots were torn, and it is an SC car, so you may need them. Use good ones: Moog or Motorcraft. The sway bar end links, if busted, do make the vehicle a bit more squirely (it definitely won't handle abrubt/evasive manuevers as well). Easy job to do on your own.

If you don't have much pad material left and the rotors are a bit then, then it's time. Rear drums may be due as well, mine needed to be done at 109k.

Visible clean lights make sense to pass inspection. Oxidized/cataracts lenses aren't helping.

The hydraulic filled motor mount next to the firewall/passenger corner is definitely a failure prone one on the DOHC.

If you have a basic set of ratchets, and a Autozone Loan A Tool seperentine belt removal tool and pulley removal tool, you can do the Pump, belt, front rotor and pads, end links and headlight on your own. And your car is from NC, so no rust crap to deal with!

The ball joint & engine mount are bigger jobs.

Do you have another shop you can get a second opinion from? Check the mechanic files on cartalk: Car Talk. Car tips, advice, and troubleshooting. Where are you in MD? Maybe if you need a hand with repairs a nearby member can lend a hand...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thanks so much for the reply.

I do have a decorative cover on steering wheel, so that's it?

Also I'll get the real estimate by Monday and I also intend to call around with those jobs to compare price. Just want to know if it's the shop's BS since the MD inspection system is a total BS-prone system, garage would try their best to convince that you'll have to rebuid this used car in order to pass, LOL. One of my friends actually recommend another place after he's been through the same bullshit. The 2nd garage only asked for 2 minor repairs on his 96 thunderbird, instead of this $2000 repair bill from the first inspection place.

I'm in White Oak, MD. I've always wanted to do more DIY work and anxiously in need of a teacher/master, since I'm still renting (so no garage, and my apt did not allow car work in the lot). I much appreciate anyone who would kindly give me a hand. And I'm totally willing to offer my help in case anyone need a hand (I can learn as well, but don't count on me being the expert, I can only offer my weight lifting skills).

After the exhaustive move (and moving sale), I only have the 104 piece auto tool set from craftsman and a few small hammer, pliers etc.
 

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All the listed things seem valid and are related to safety on public roads. Maybe not the motor mount...
They can be done by yourself with hand tools or rented ones (Advance Auto Zone will rent the speciality tools needed for front ball joint replacement). Lenses can be cleaned with a kit and an electric drill.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Is there anyone who would be kindly to guide me through those DIY-able fix in this area? I don't have enough tools nor the experience to finish all those by myself. I'm not totally illiterate about cars, also I've been an engineering student for the past 5 years (so wrench/bolt/weightlifting on daily basis), I just need a master to guide me through and point out those tricky parts for protection. I'm in White Oak, MD btw and can drive to anywhere in DC metro area or even to Baltimore, and I need to get it done or get rid of this car. We just moved from NC and it's the only car for us, wife uses it everyday to commute to Baltimore for work. Thanks a lot in advance.

P.S.: I have a mechanic tool set and the Haynes repair manual in hand. So we are not starting from the scratch at least.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Got their estimate:
1. Power steering pump replacement
Power steering belt $420 2hr job

Remove steering wheel cover (No idea what this about)

2. Both front lower ball joints replacement $470 3hr job
Both sway bar end links $220 1hr job

3. Both front brake roters $250 1.5hr
Both rear drums $230 1hr

4. replace left headlight assembly $150 0.5hr

buff right headlight $46 0.5hr

5. Lower rear engine mount (Mechanic said it was loose or got seperated, need replacement) $220 1.5 hr job

Total estimate of 2K repairs. I know the power steering pump sells for $76 ($30 core charge), the most expensive one on rockauot is like 200ish, those guys charge $49/hr labor (fair price), but looks like they are trying to rip off from the part side? They do not accept customer provided parts.

I'm currently contacting other shop for 2nd opinion. But from what I got, do you guys think it's a fair bill?

BTW, my car is only worth $1550 trade-in @ fair condition KBB.
 

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^+1. When they lo-ball labor and hi-ball parts, it makes the garage look like angels and the parts suppliers look like crooks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Got another quote for about $1000 for all the repairs. Checked the value of my car more closely, KBB trade-in fair ($1550), private party ($2500). People around me warned me that dealer might only offer a couple of hundred based on my car's current condition. Two opinions basically: repair it and drive it for another year or two (now my wife's commute would be putting about 12000miles/year on it); or trade-in to buy a new car without the repair hassle.

My only concern is I have this time-limit of 10/30/11 when my NC license expires, so I have to get everything done before that. I might have enough time to do research n stuff for the new car purchase and then got scammed by dealer.

My wife's thought is even if we decide to trade it in, just get a newer used car instead of brand new one, since she's only be driving like this for less than 3 months (previously all on local roads of NC, so no heavy traffic etc), she thought that driving a new car will make her constantly stressed about possible scratches/dins etc.

What's your recommendation, trade-in for used, trade-in for new or repair and keep driving?
 

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I would bite the bullet and get it fixed before you trade it in (huge $ loss) Always try to sell it outright, you'll get more $. You know the car better than anyone else, and you know what's been done to it in the past X years. Plus $1000/12= much much less than 1 year of car payments.

Also, definitely go visit 97LX's recommendation for a shop. He's not the first person to tell me about them...turns out my coworker who used to live in Maryland went there too! Small world.
 
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