Car Problems Not Worth Fixing

Some car problems with vehicles are unfixable, but not usually. Almost everything that can go wrong with one can be repaired, even if something as big as an engine or transmission has problems. But there are some repairs that, though fixable, are not worth fixing. Unless there is some intrinsic reason you must keep your vehicle, it might be best to send it down the road. 

So what are we talking about? Some car problems might seem reasonable to fix, but can get involved, and costly, in their pursuit. Let’s start with an obvious one.

Hybrid or EV battery replacement

The new GMC Hummer EV and its Ultium battery pack parked on the street in Michigan.
GMC Ultium Battery | Getty

If your electric vehicle or hybrid needs a new battery, it might be time to sell it. Batteries are expensive, costing anywhere from $1,000 to well over $15,000. A Tesla Model S battery replacement can easily cost over $13,000. For a Jaguar I-Pace, it ranges between $39,000 and $42,000. See what we mean? 

Electrical problems

An electrical outlet inside an empty warehouse.
An electrical outlet inside an empty warehouse | Wiki Commons

Chasing electrical gremlins can be labor-intensive, and costly, especially now with so much technology packed in every vehicle. With more computing power than NASA used for the moon landings, how easy will it be once a couple of monitors or a gap in some wiring poses a problem? It’s best to reveal the problems to the next buyer, and feel fortunate you passed the car’s problem onto someone willing to put the time, or cost, into fixing it.

A blown head gasket

Servicing cars
Servicing cars at a dealership | Getty

Blown head gaskets have always been a problem. Not fixing the head gasket itself, that’s easy. The problem is that there is the potential for water and/or coolant to get into engine journals and bearings. And if you limp your car home with a blown head gasket, the only way you’ll know for sure is to look at the engine oil. If it’s milky, or there are obvious water indications on the dipstick, soon that engine will be toast. A complete rebuild will be necessary. 

A bent frame

Dealership service
Dealership service department | Getty

If you get punched hard enough to bend the car’s frame, it means components took a hard hit. And that means problems sooner or later. Cracked transmission cases, bent axles, and other ailments become a real possibility. The frame can be twisted back one frame table, so that isn’t the issue. Besides compromised components, if the hit also damages some of the crumple zone, meant to absorb some of the energy of a crash, then if involved in another accident, your safety is compromised. Even a frame replacement won’t fix that. Time to move on.

A bad transmission

An array of GM six-speed Hydramatic automatic car transmission clutches and torque-converter turbine shafts
GM six-speed Hydramatic automatic car transmission clutches and torque-converter turbine shafts | Getty

Usually, this doesn’t happen when a car is newer. If it does, the manufacturers’ warranty should take care of it. But as the vehicle gets more miles on the ticker, the wear and tear on the automatic transmission mean once it needs to be rebuilt, or replaced, you’re talking a few thousand dollars. Since the vehicle has a few miles on it, it’s worth significantly less than new. Is it worth putting $2,500 into a car worth $6,000? Maybe, but probably not. That’s more than a third of the value of the entire car. Sure, you’ll have a new transmission, but next year that car might be worth only $4,500. It becomes a matter of diminishing returns. And also time to start looking for another car. 

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