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re: Subject: I was took... (long response)

You wrote:
<<New member here..I'm a woman and I think I was had.  I purchased an '87 =

Audi for $800.  The reason the guy sold it to me for $800 he said is =

because there were a 'few' things wrong:  the odometer, temperature =

gauge and window & light problems.>>
Why is a new car worth $30,000 and a used much less?  Because of: perceived
value of something being "new"; a warrantee (i.e., fix it for free), new parts
perceived as less likely to break, and therefore more reliable; etc.  You pay
quite a bit in depreciation, etc. for a new car.

Why was your car worth $800?  Because there are lots of similar cars, with
real or perceived problems, and that's what the market will bear.  They have a
shorter life due to miles, rust, wear on parts, etc.  And they may have more
problems over time, including (for many audis) repair to fairly expensive
systems such as hydraulics, shocks/struts, bushings, etc.  There has been
research done [ref: Click and Clack] that shows cost for repairs actually
levels out after about 4 years; thereafter the car costs about the same for
repairs, year after year...


<<Well... after two weeks the car started overheating - I barely made it =

to the dealer for service - I spent $1500 repairing the head gasket, =

water pump, replaced valves, some kind of converter (I know nothing of =

cars) and other schtuff.

Here's my question, Do I keep the car?  I like it but is it worth =

keeping & spending more money?  My door wouldn't open so I took the door =

panel off to see if I could tweak it - I found a stick holding up the =

window - not a piece of wood, a stick from a tree.  Besides that, I also =

need:  the transmission fluid drained, the lights don't work - I have to =

use the bright lights, I don't have break lights, the air blows but not =

cold and not hot, three windows do not roll down, the mechanic who fixed =

my car said I need a new exhaust system (it didn't sound like that =

Before I took it in ?? Is it because I'm a woman or what?), the temp =

gauge doesn't work, the odometer doesn't work and there's no radio.

Is it worth it?????>>
Before spending money on any car, I _always_ strongly recommend taking the car
to a mechanic that knows that particular model for a prepurchase inspection.
Even on a car costing $800.  As you found out, without a thorough inspection
(usually less than $80), you really don't know the true cost of what you are
buying.  If you can't spend the $80, at least get a friend with more
experience to go with you to evaluate the car.  A friend is probably less
likely to catch the "new car" excitement, and actually see the flaws in the
car.  Take it to your corner gas station, and ask them to put it on a lift,
check your brakes out or whatever.  AAA (auto club) has a basic checklist for
reviewing cars; I'd recommend you take it along.  Borrow the car for an hour
or two before purchasing; try every window, door, handle, etc.  

You don't say what model Audi you purchased; remember, if you had to buy every
part from a dealer, you'd spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it...Also,
compare your monthly repair bill to having a car payment...

You ask if it is worth it.  There's probably a few hundred people on the list
with $800 audis; most are in much better shape than you describe.  What's the
book value (available through your research librarian or bank loan officer)?  

If the book was much higher, factor in the cost of bringing the vehicle up to
working condition.  You could buy another car, and sell that one as is for a
couple hundred, and possibly come out ahead over a short period of time, if
you truly have so many problems with the car.

If you don't like to tinker with cars, and have to pay a mechanic for
everything, an older less-than-well maintained audi can be quite expensive.
However, a well maintained audi can be very inexpensive, especially
considering the car's content/features, and what you'd pay for a comparable

I'd find a good mechanic that you trust, and pay him for about an hour labor
to go over your car, and tell you what needs repair now, what looks like it
may fail soon, and what is a safety hazard (like those brake lights) that must
be fixed now.  If the car's need for all the repairs is because you're a
woman, you're going to the wrong mechanic.

With resources like the quattro list, you can fix almost anything on the audi
for the price of the parts.  And with the research already done by quattro
list members, you can pay much less than dealer price for those parts.  You
already have shown that you can try to repair your car by taking off the door

Without knowing what model, my responses have to be guesses.
*Door handle:  over time the grease hardens, and the pot metal it's made of
fatigues and breaks.  Replace the handle, and grease all the moving parts.
Handles run about $40.  Also check door alignment.  They'll work great after.
You can try cleaning well with WD-40 or similar; it's a temporary repair
(well, couple months)
*The window (held up with a branch) sounds like a broken regulator cable.
There's a fix involving bicycle cable and parts for a few $$ (in archives), or
a new regulator for about $150.  The other windows may be similar, or may have
bad switches (new for about $30, or take apart and clean with contact
cleaner/emery paper for free), or broken wires in the door hinge area.  If one
works, try using that switch on the others to see if it is only bad switches.
*Brake lights:  could be a switch on the brake pedal or master cylinder; also
could be broken wires on/around the hinge in the trunk.  Trouble shoot with a
test light.  Couple $$ to do yourself.
*high beams only.  Could be a bad switch; try moving it slowly through it's
full adjustment, and see if the lows come on.  Some people add a piece of foam
to hold the switch in the low beam position; others switch the high beam and
low beam wires to make the high beam switch location run lows; that way you
lose highs, but keep the more important low beams.  Could also be two blown
fuses.  Or, you could replace the switch for probably $100 new, or $50 used.
*Change transmission fluid.  Autos or manual: most oil change places will do
pretty cheaply, or you could try it yourself; but it's not in an easily
reached spot.  I'd guess at less than $50.  Use your owner's manual for fluid
types, and make sure what they put in is compatable.  Manuals require
synthetics, most listers like Redline synthetic, available mail order for
about $10/quart.
*no cold and no hot air could be several things, depending on model.  4000s
and coupes: check the valve on the heater core to make sure it moves fully;
make sure the control wire is properly routed and secured.  Possible new valve
for $25, possible heater core for much more.
5000s have a more complex system, tell us what works and doesn't and we can
help diagnose.
*Temp guage doesn't work.  Bad sender? $45 to $95 depending on model, etc.
Bad ground?
*Broken odometer: usually a gear has come loose or cracked; send out to be
fixed for around $80, or take it apart and super glue it yourself.
*Exhaust:  dealer will be mucho bucks, midas or independant much less.  Get a
warrantee if you can; there are also mail order OEM supplier versions
available that you can get your mechanic to install.  You may just have a
section of the system that needs repair or replacing.  Since you replaced
"some kind of converter" it may have been a clogged catalytic converter, which
is part of the exhaust.  Now that it is not clogged, you hear your vacuum leak
(and the car runs much better).

*radio:  buy a used radio, or listen to the sweet sound of the 5-cylinder
engine sing.
*It sounds like you had the head off after overheating, and replaced the
timing belt, waterpump, etc.  Those last two are (fairly expensive)
maintenance items usually due every 60,000 miles.  I'm not sure why you were
replacing valves.

Manuals for these cars run about $15 for a simple Haynes, or $90 for a Bentley
factory manual.

Jo and others:  sorry for the length, but there were a lot of issues in the
Hope this helps, Chris Miller, Windham NH, c1j1miller@aol.com
'91 200q