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lou's garage

Lily is a long-time customer and retiree who drives a 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. A car she adores and is unwilling to part with.

Before retiring, she racked up a lot of kilometres on her daily commutes. But now, the car sits parked for long periods and is falling apart partially because of its mileage and partially because of inactivity. The cost to keep it on the road has far exceeded its usability. Every time she comes in for service, I beg her to stop throwing money at repairs for the car, and just replace it. Her resistance comes from something many retirees are concerned about, their limited retirement income. She has indicated that she has some money tucked away for a newer car, but she doesn’t want to touch it yet, which I completely understand.

I have been in the automotive business for almost three decades and appropriately have an aging clientele, so this is a common theme. When is the right time to get rid of the car that early retirees used as their daily drivers?

Lily’s sister lives a few hours away and she would love to visit her more, but she doesn’t trust the car any more for long-distance drives. At a point in her retirement where she should be free to travel and visit friends near and far, she is choosing to stay home. In my efforts to get her to consider a replacement, I shared some thoughts with her.

I asked her how many more years of driving she thought she had to look forward to before her age became a limiting issue. After thinking about it for a moment, she proudly declared 15 years. My next question was whether she imagined her Monte Carlo would take her through the next 15 years and she immediately responded no. I had set her up, because I knew she would come to that conclusion, which would perfectly lead to my next question. If it is financially tough to replace a vehicle now, is it going to be any easier in 5 or 10 years? And finally, at that moment, I think I made a dent in her thinking.

Now, I’m in no way qualified to offer financial advice, but my common-sense approach to this issue is: If at some point you must purchase a newer vehicle in your retirement years, why not do it when your mobility and willingness to travel are at their peak?


Your automotive questions answered

On a recent popular Canadian television series, a point was made that you should let a turbocharged car run for a minute or two after a highway run to let the turbocharger cool. I remember similar advice from a Volvo dealer back in the 1980s, when Volvo was one of the few companies using this technology. Now many companies are using turbo-technology to achieve power without sacrificing fuel economy. Do you still have to let the turbocharger cool? What about the auto-stop feature that shuts the engine off every time the car comes to a stop, that can’t be good for the turbocharger either? – Ron C.

Historically, turbochargers were used to increase horsepower, commonly in sports cars. It was popular and correct advice at the time to let the turbocharger cool after an aggressive drive. However, letting the turbocharger cool before shutting it off is dated advice when considering day-to-day commuting in a contemporary vehicle. Manufacturers now use turbochargers for fuel economy reasons. The typical turbocharger seen in everyday life now does not work as hard as it used to when trying to make high-horsepower numbers. Add to that, manufacturers can now use electronic waste gates and recirculate valves to control all facets of turbocharger use. This means they can now detect potential heat-related problems and cool the turbos before problems arise. That doesn’t mean newer turbochargers don’t have problems because they most definitely do. That’s a topic for another day.


Lou,

I have a 1988 convertible Mazda RX7 that I totally love driving since I bought it new in 1988 with a whole 7 kilometres on it. When it became difficult to pass emissions with Ontario’s Drive Clean rules a few years back, I had the engine rebuilt even though the rules were eliminated. Replacing the vinyl roof in 2000 with a stock roof cost $300. Replacing it again with a custom rebuild last year cost $3,000.

Which brings me to my real issue – replacement parts. Currently and specifically, my wipers have died. Mazda Canada has no wiper motors. Online clubs and retailers, nada. My guy, a rotary nut, nada. Rainx is fabulous, but not a long-term solution for this issue. Surely a wiper motor can be found to make these wee wipers function again. I can’t imagine trashing an amazing car because the wipers don’t work. I see this as my iceberg moment – there will be many more parts I cannot get than what appears on the surface.

Functional replacement parts for this vintage car. New or used. Where oh where? That is my quest. That is my request of Lou.

And do have a nice day. – Paul B.

I know all about discontinued and no longer available parts. My 1978 Ferrari has trained me extensively on the art of sourcing scarce pieces. When I have exhausted all known suppliers for the piece that I am looking for, I move to eBay. I search all the markets separately. For example, I search the Canadian .ca site first, then the U.S. .com site. As I become more desperate, I move to the European co.uk eBay site. Essentially, I search all the markets where my car may have been available. You may have to keep checking back often, but eventually someone will list the part you are looking for.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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