Hooniverse Asks: Have You Ever Had to Junk a Car or Truck for Mechanical Reasons?

old scrap car
No one likes a quitter, or so I’ve been told. Another maxim is that there’s no use in beating a dead horse. You know, because he’s dead. There must be some way to strike a happy medium between these two. When it comes to cars we especially never say die, seeing as they are sizable investments and often the object of our most passionate desires. Of course some times you just have to let go.
I remember cruising the U-Pull-It yards right after Cash For Clunkers hit. They were full of seemingly decent rides, all with tags noting that their engines had been run with abrasives so they would never be used in anger again. That kind of sucked, especially if you were looking for a low mileage oil pump for a Land Rover Discovery.
Outside of Cash for Clunkers there’s occasionally the instance where I come across a car in the junk yard that looks – for all intents and purposes – remarkably intact. These are often parking violation impounds, but sometimes they are cars that have suffered some catastrophic mechanical failure – timing belt, transmission, what have you – the repair of which exceeded the value of the car to their owner. That’s sad too, but at least kind of reasonable. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever had to junk a car due to a mechanical failure that you just couldn’t justify paying to repair? How’d that go for you?
Image: cashjunkcarssydney.com.au

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36 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Have You Ever Had to Junk a Car or Truck for Mechanical Reasons?”

  1. nanoop Avatar

    I’m still trying to find out good criteria when to deliver a car to the knacker. When the upcoming bill is higher than buying a better replacement?

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      Well, if you’re looking at it rationally, sure.

    2. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar

      I’ve yet to get to this point, voluntarily junking a car which isn’t destroyed beyond repair.
      I either sell them ’cause I’m tired of fixing/looking at it, or wreck ’em.
      Actually, gave my last car away, a ’95 E320 Mercedes sedan. My stepson need a ride, and I had a replacement, already, so….

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    One of my own? No. But there was the ’70 Olds 98 LS of my brother’s that we ended up junking (actually an Olds dealer junked it), after I unwisely spent too much time and money trying to rebuild a catastrophically overheated 455 that we should have just thrown away – warped heads, warped intake, warped carb(!), two bent rods and one bad piston.

  3. dukeisduke Avatar

    And I still shudder when I think about Cash for Clunkers, and all the YouTube videos of cars being murdered.

  4. Maymar Avatar

    So, my first car (’95 Chrysler Intrepid) probably [i]should[/i] have been junked when the transmission went and saddled me with a $2500 repair bill (you know, plenty of money to find a simple reliable replacement). But I held off for another year or two until the water pump died, taking the timing belt with it. As a non-interference engine, it would’ve been reasonably salvageable, but I was quoted $1000 for the entire job, didn’t have the willingness to try it myself at the time, had access to a replacement car for $100, and frankly, was just ready for something new.

  5. Pixel . Avatar
    Pixel .

    I junked a ’91 Subaru Legacy because it needed a clutch. I’d bought it for $455, drove it for two years, and when the clutch started to go I was told it was an $800 job. I didn’t have a cherry picker at the time, nor any desire to try and get the engine out of the cramped engine bay of an AWD car. I tried to sell it for a few hundred for parts with no bites, so off to the crusher it went after being stripped of usable parts for it’s ’96 Outback replacement.

    1. Scubie Avatar

      Similar… Sold an 89 Legacy for NZ$1000 (US$700), and it suffered a terminal failure of some description 12 hours later. Nothing wrong I was aware of. Buyer wanted a refund. I gave them $200 back cause I felt guilty, but wasn’t my fault!

  6. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    We junked my 1989 Mercury Sable. At 228k miles the transmission was acting up again (the first time was at 176k) and the rust was starting to be an issue. NJ State inspections were notoriously overzealous at this time and they were actually compensated for failing a car. Mine failed due to rust, not kidding. Sure the lower rear quarter panel had a hole the size of a dollar bill, but that didn’t mean anything.
    Next the heater core went, and the A/C had been gone for a few years at that point.
    The dash started to crack, the lights wouldn’t turn on with the switch, but a combination of the switch and then fiddling with the dimmer wheel to get both the dash and the headlights to light up.
    The radio backlight no longer worked so I had preset stations into it so that I could then “tune” to the ones I wanted.
    Basically, a car that started its life as a fleet car for my dad in the Kansas sales district (that he bought for $6k with 50,000 miles on it after 2 years) was on it’s way out.
    We had already pulled the plates and insurance figuring it would be towed. Everyone was going to charge us to take it, so we put the original JO Kansas plates on it and drove it to the “Auto Part Recycler.”
    3 weeks later I saw it driving down the highway. I guess it wasn’t junked.

    1. Alff Avatar

      It surprises me how many KC area connections there are on the ‘verse.

      1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

        I’ve moved around enough so I make a lot of local connections that way.
        Just so we can all get on the same page. Where I have lived:
        -Joliet, IL
        -Kalamazoo, MI
        -Leawood, KS
        -Lowell, MA
        -Newark, NJ
        -Central NJ
        Work/Family/Life has put me in these places for significant amounts of time:
        -North Shore MA (Lynn, Danvers, Peabody mostly)
        -Chicago (every summer of my youth was spent in and around)
        -VT/NH (mostly hiking and MTN biking)

        1. Kiefmo Avatar

          Leawood, eh? Schnozzy!

          1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

            I had plenty of low-rent to go with my high-rent, haha.

        2. Alff Avatar

          Los Angeles
          Kansas City

  7. Kiefmo Avatar

    Nope, but I have sold a car that should have been junked for about 5x the junk price.

  8. Alff Avatar

    Once. Driving home from work, I was surprised to see my MIL parked at the entrance to our neighborhood in her ’94 Dodge Caravan with over 200K. She was having transmission problems. I sent her on to our house in my car and attempted to drive hers. I ended up getting it back to our place by cruising through the subdivision in reverse. After checking costs for replacement trannys and looking unsuccessfully for potential buyers, we ended up selling it to a dismantler. When he came to retrieve it, he put it in D and drove it straight on the roll off.
    In hindsight it was likely a heat related issue, as MIL lives three hours away. Probably an electrical gremlin, solenoid perhaps. Although I could have been the hero with a bit of diagnosis, I’ve never regretted not digging into that one. Working on Caravans is no fun (the family has had eight or so of them) and this particular van didn’t owe us anything after serving as my wife’s company car and mom’s DD for several years.

  9. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I once gave a car to a guy, as scrap. It was the gutted shell of my first LeMons car. I was a bit upset when I found it on craigslist before he had ever moved it from my driveway. It’s not that I minded him trying to get a few bucks more than what that scrapyard would give him. I just didn’t want anyone thinking that it was I who thought it might conceivably be worth $600.
    I have otherwise twice scrapped vehicles. Well, once, but for two vehicles. One of them I intended to fix as a toy. The other was destined for the scrap heap anyway. The “urban miners” in conjunction with the city forced my hand, and the most expedient way to avoid jail time* was to call the scrapyard to haul them both away.
    *The city issued a warrant for my arrest because I had vehicles on my property that had been “harvested” for their radiators, wheels and a steering column.

  10. ptschett Avatar

    My KLR650 should get junked, but it’s still in my garage. The “doohickey” spring failed and I didn’t know it (did these people know what “DFMEA” means? I have my doubts…) resulting in the balancer chain running with insufficient tension, causing excess wear on the crankshaft sprocket. It needs a $300 crankshaft left end (plus crankshaft rebuild labor & full engine disassembly/reassembly), or a $600 crankshaft (and full engine disassembly/reassembly), or a $1000-$1200 engine, in a bike that can’t be worth much more than $1000.

  11. JayP Avatar

    I’d traded a boat for a TR6 that’d been in storage for 10+ years. I refreshed the gaskets and got the engine to run. About the same time I discovered the frame was rusted thru, my brother swiped the armco in the MG. The TR went to the Britcar graveyard for bodywork for the MG.
    So, maybe.

  12. mr smee Avatar
    mr smee

    I junked a perfectly good, well-maintained car with new tires and brakes because of all the idiot responses I got to my sales ad. 1999 Sunbird (Don’t laugh, it was more reliable than my Japanese cars) V6, A/C, loaded and everything worked, interior was spotless. I listed it for $500 and got offers of $50 and “free” So, I junked it and told the next idiot that called to fish it out of the crusher.

    1. JayP Avatar

      Hardcore, man.

    2. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

      (I think you meant 1989, 99 was the Sunfire and only had the 4-cyl.)

  13. tonyola Avatar

    My 1990 Honda Civic LX sedan (5-speed) finally got sent to the big junkyard in the sky in 2008 and after around 250K miles. It served me well for 15 years but there were pending problems (clutch, radiator, water pump, timimg belt, suspension) that were much more expensive than the car was worth. I had just inherited a pristine, low-mileage 1994 LeSabre and had no room in my life for two cars.

  14. Batshitbox Avatar

    A SAAB 99 GL that was consuming it’s transmission in small bites. Every oil change a bunch of pin bearings would come out. (B-motors share the crankcase and transmission oil.) Drove it into the Junkyard and handed over the title.
    A Dodge Spirit. A bad brake rotor was the nominal cause of junking it, but really it was doomed by being a Dodge Spirit. Again, driven in and signed over.

  15. David Avatar

    When I think back over the cavalcade of marginal cars I went through in my younger days, it’s surprising I can only come up with three. The first was a 1960 bugeye Sprite that a friend and I bought as a parts car. It was missing the all-important front clip of the bodywork, so after harvesting what we needed, off it went. Second was my 1989 Dodge Caravan, bought new and driven close to 200k far-from/troublefree miles. I junked it (actually donated it to Red Cross) the second time the transmission went. Number 3 was a 1977 280Z. Again, close to 200k miles, but the various electrical gremlins started to organize and work together to make driving it an adventure in guessing what would fail next. Red Cross got that one, too.

  16. 0A5599 Avatar

    My first car was purchased from a guy who pulled the body from a wrecking yard where it had been for a decade. He gathered up various components from various donor vehicles, to replace parts that were damaged in the original fender bender or sold off by the yard. The purchase included the details surrounding the surrender of the title when the car was junked, to aid in title reinstatement.
    I guess that makes my score a negative 1.

  17. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    I junked our 1995 Ford Escort in 2012 when the estimated repair bill for various worn out things was twice what the car was worth. Since we decided I could get to work on the train and we could get by with one car it was a win all around.
    I also junked my 1978 VW Scirocco, but that was due to the usual terminal rust.

  18. salguod Avatar

    No, but I’ve given away a couple. When the throw out bearing went at 185K on my 93 Escort I figured it was time to move on, so I gave it to a mechanic friend. Not sure it ever made it back to the road.
    A free to me 88 Subaru wagon that I had been using for my paper route gave up a timing belt just a year or so after I changed it (oil and maybe water leaks in the timing cover), I donated it to a charity auction. It was a third car and I was about to give up the paper route.

  19. Darren McLellan Avatar
    Darren McLellan

    I just scrapped my 01 Ranger. Looked and ran great. Freaking frame rot was unstoppable. It sucked to be quite honest. I always said i would drive it into the ground. Just wasn’t supposed to this soon.

  20. danleym Avatar

    I have a perfectly fine 99 Malibu for free to a family member who I knew was incapable of taking care of anything and would soon ruin the car. Three short years and likely zero maintenance later (not just zero maintenance but probably a lot of plain abuse has happened too) and the car is ready to be junked.
    So I in some way bear responsibility for that one since I knew that would be the result and I gave it to him anyway.

  21. William Robinson Avatar
    William Robinson

    My last two volvos where scrapped because of very simple mechanical reasons. The s70 needed a steering rack and I had one ready to install I was just really sick of driving it after two and half years. The 850 just needed motor mounts but right at that point I had just hit the limit of what I was willing to put up with from a car. I just put all new suspension and brakes on it and it started using a liter of oil every three days. Car junked.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I’m sure someone put all these new parts to good use.

  22. alex Avatar

    About 30 years ago, my wife had a really trashy Pontiac Phoenix. Rust everywhere. she never maintained it. Headliner drooping, started sometimes. Other times not.
    On a whim, I took it to the local speedway for a Demolition Derby as my way to junk it. Possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done in a car. Had to drive in a heat of a figure 8 race to even make it to the Demo Derby. Survived that barely.
    DD started, and amazingly so did the car. Got rocked around, and rocked a bunch of folks. I could tell there were only a few cars still running, when I lined up a guy and was going to back into his driver’s door. He was waving frantically screaming “Stop. You won!. You won!” I looked around, and by God I had won.
    Over 120 cars that night. We numbered ours 666 “The Car From Hell”. I was disappointed that I didn’t even get a trophy or something. A few weeks later a check for $500 arrived in the mail. Still have a copy of the check.

  23. Sjalabais Avatar

    Lots of should-haves, but I came closest with my Nissan Primera. It had new brakes in the front, a new clutch and excellent tires when it failed tech inspection due to rust and the left rear brake being below 20% of its heyday. Sold it for 800$ to some Arabs who fixed it up and used my pictures for a new ad. Full disclosure pictures were not included anymore…
    Man…I always overdo this photo thing. Here’s the collection:

  24. Guest Avatar

    No, but I drive a 1990 Taurus SHO that has almost no past history, other than that it was imported from Colorado, so figure I will have to eventually.

  25. Vann Himoura Avatar
    Vann Himoura

    Hmmm… seeing someone below stating that they had a score of -1 made me think of all of the cars & trucks that I’ve bought OUT of junkyards to keep them from getting crushed! Back in the 90’s I broke the (cast aluminum) valve cover on my wife’s LeBaron and came home from the junkyard a few hours later with a replacement valve cover AND a ’63 Plymouth that grandma had wrecked and the insurance company had totaled. I bought a ’68 Dodge Coronet that had mint front fenders and quarter panels from another junkyard and parted the car out for a nice chunk of change. The current project in my driveway is a ’49 Dodge truck stake bodied flatbed that I’m putting on a 1995 Dodge Dakota Club Cab chassis… Bought that from a junkyard two hours away from home, and it cost me more to have a flatbed bring it home than I paid for the truck!
    I also avoid junking problem vehicles by putting them up for sale but CLEARLY stating (in writing with a sign taped to the window most times) what is wrong with it. I “fixed” a Dodge Magnum with the dreaded Lean Burn system on it once by installing some brand new “For Sale” signs. Never had another problem with it!!! I had purchased what I had hoped to be a good work beater Crown Vic that “only needs a rebuilt transmission but otherwise it’s a GREAT work car…” but it turned out to be a huge turd. So, I had a bullet list typed up and taped to the rear door windows stating all of the stupid crap on the car that still needed to be fixed (A/C needed work of unknown quantity and price, headlights didn’t work, radio wouldn’t play, the exhaust leaked…) but the guys that came to buy it were more interested in the low price more than the list that I kept pointing to. So, I smiled and waved as they happily handed me a nice amount of folding money…