Emergency car repairs

We're not in the habit of doing this, but Gary and I have been put to some extreme straits with our cars recently. Gary was driving a beloved but aging little beater ('01 Cavalier) that was up for safety check renewal (in PA, safety and emissions checks are required every 6 months), and this time it was about to give up the ghost ... two separate evaluations at trusted shops showed us the needed repairs (air bags and whole dashboard had to be replaced from a rainy accident a while back, Y-joints ... I think that was the term ... in frame rusted through, muffler support broken, several other items) would cost more than the car was worth. Meanwhile, my own car (also due for inspection) took a road rock to the windshield right at the base, quickly spread across much of the glass so that it will need to be replaced (even small cracks, if they reach the edges, can't be fixed but must be replaced).

Gary had been putting money aside from his job toward another car, had $900 when he was let go without warning a few weeks back (the management there isn't known for very reasonable practices, to put it nicely), he is still looking for work; my own income covers us with only a little extra per month, so I was able to contribute a couple of hundred. We resorted to private sellers, since financing at any dealer would also require added insurance that we also can't cover at the moment. After several weeks of searching, we found what seemed to be a pretty good deal, '02 Sentra in decent condition and average mileage, owner willing to negotiate. He seemed an honest guy (I still think he was), something of a gearhead who works at Auto Zone; when we met him to look at the car, he volunteered information about the engine, etc., before we had even asked a lot of questions. The car drove and handled well; it too had a crack in the windshield, but he was willing to bring down the price a little for that. The best approach is to have a mechanic examine the car, of course; however the distance (an hour apart, even meeting about in the middle), plus the natural challenges of getting schedules to match (Gary and a family friend headed out the first time to meet him, the seller had to cancel due to an emergency; I later took a day off work for us to meet him), plus our already tight finances, made that unfeasible.

We ended up agreeing on $900, my added $200 covered most of the title transfer and other fees, and we seemed to have a good deal. However, when Gary took it in for its own safety check (the car was from NJ, so didn't have PA inspections), the rear brakes were found to need replacing, another $400, along with three of the tires (I thought the tread had looked fair enough, obviously I'm not as good a judge of tires as I thought). We got the brakes done as an obvious safety need, but that took about all the money we had left between us; then as if something more were needed, one morning it took Gary about 10 minutes to get the car started, and shortly afterward the infamous check engine light came on ... which proved to be due to three sensors that have to communicate with one another to get the crank turning, and we are told that replacing those will run about $800.

And no, unfortunately we don't have available credit to apply ... I was building a career in academia till it dropped out from under me some years ago (along with much of the economy), taking savings and credit with it, and I've struggled ever since to rebuild in a different line of work.  So this isn't for lack of working hard or trying to make responsible choices, we have both been doing the best we've known how. We don't live extravagantly, even without TV service (which we wouldn't use anyway, a cheap subscription to Netflix gives us plenty to watch if we want). 

As I said, we're not accustomed to reaching out like this! We have no family members or close friends in a position to help (and some of them have been there for us in wonderful ways in the past, they would also do this for us now if they had the means), we approached them first, of course. If you are able to help in any way, God bless you, any little is a help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me of course.

Thank you very much for your time in reading this, it's very appreciated!

--- Roger and Gary


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Roger Smith 
Philadelphia, PA
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