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rob's garage

Greetings Rob,

I have a 1999 Ford F-150 4 by 4 with approximately 160,000 km on it. Recently I was trying to back into my driveway but the left front wheel would not respond to me turning the wheels, so the truck wouldn't move.

I know that one of those arms that make the wheels turn must be broken, though I cannot see by just looking under the truck (nothing is hanging down).

Considering the age/mileage of the vehicle is it worth having the truck towed to a service station to find out if the repair will cost more than the truck is worth?

I have phoned around and the garages estimate the bill will be at least $700 to $800. If I do have to cut bait, should I use the vehicle for a trade-in or just tow it for scrap/try to part it out somehow?

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

Yours sincerely, Ron

The amount of clicks on your truck isn't significant, so don't let that be a deterrent to you fixing it up. But you're right when you mention that the repair is getting close the value of the vehicle. This is obviously where the fish or cut bait philosophy must be considered.

If you use the truck as a truck, then I would consider having it repaired. If it's a daily driver, then I probably would not repair it. If it's used as a truck, consider what you would replace it with. If another truck, will it be a used model? If so, you won't really know what you are buying until you have an extensive inspection done – and even that doesn't capture all that could or would go wrong in the future.

Here's the rub Ron; your description of the break-down sounds like a steering arm or tie rod end failure. Although the parts aren't too expensive, the labour to replace them is. Combined with the front end alignment that follows this type of repair, you're quickly going to start throwing good money after bad in an attempt to keep up with the break-downs that will start occurring with the remainder of the front end and steering parts.

Steering components that break while you are driving are never a good thing! One more reason to consider moving on to a new or newer truck.

Consider that when you own a vehicle for a number of years, you know what you have on hand. Buying a used truck, (especially), you have to be careful with the inspection process. Do yourself a favour and look at the condition of the box. If it was used as a true work truck – walk away. If the box is clean and has no dings or rust and the interior is clean, you might be on to something.

So consider the replacement vehicle. Are you buying old (your vintage) and will you use it as a truck? Will you use it as a daily driver? I would not recommend this last point given the price of fuel and the fact that an older truck will not be fitted with the latest in engine management technology.

Trading this vehicle in will not give you much return. Most car lots would send this to an old vehicle auction – if they take it in trade at all. Trying to part out a vehicle requires a lot of work, and if you live in a neighbourhood that has covenants prohibiting work on vehicles on driveways, using a program such as B.C.'s "Scrap It" might be your best bet.

Lots to consider Ron, I don't envy your position.

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