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A Junk Car Turned into Dependable Second Car Without a Car Payment

Updated on January 13, 2011

Second Car Without the Car Loan

When you buy a junk car, you’ll pay between three hundred and five hundred dollars plus, tax, title, and registration. You will put a few hundred dollars more into  repairs, depending on what is needed to get the car running. However, when you are done with the repairs, you will have a solid used car without a car loan. Junk cars are always on used car lot especially the You Buy Here- You Pay Here lots. These are the cars with blown engines and blown heads. With a bit of work and a some money you can get the car running again and have that second car you desperately need with out a car loan. Don't be afraid of doing this type of job. You will be amazed at what you are capable of accomplishing.

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Research is the Key

The first question is what kind of car should you buy. Stay away from foreign cars. Foreign car parts can be expensive, American car parts are getting up there but they are not as expensive as foreign car parts. I would suggest a late model Chevy or Ford with an automatic transmission around the 1987-1995 model car years. If you live in the warmer climates you will be able to find a decent car without to much of a problem, if you live up north it might be a little harder to find one at the right price but you should be able to locate one with a little bit of effort.

Do your research. You need to look at the used car ads to see what these types of cars are selling for. Once you have a good idea of the price range buy a couple of car manuals for Ford and Chevy; model years run in gaps of about five years give or take a year and model type so you will be dealing with the same engine sizes with similar specs. and engine repair procedures. Go through the manuals and see just what you will need to do to pull the heads, radiator, water pump, wheel bearings, tie rods, camshaft, muffler, do tune ups, set the timing, brake job, and how to pull an engine ( it’s not that hard).

A little sanding and some paint It will be good as new

Test and Tools

Familiarize yourself with testing procedures such as vacuum checks, compression checks, what fouled spark plugs look like, how to check ball joints, check brakes, check shock absorbers, and air filter. Once you become familiar with the inspection procedures and different engine types now make a list of cars that use that engine. These are the cars and engines you are familiar with based on all your research. Do Not Deviate from this list.

Your basic tool kit of ratchets, opened end wrenches, box wrenches, screwdrivers (flat head and Philips head), and pliers will do nicely. You will also need a vacuum gauge, timing gun, pry bar, flashlight, a refrigerator magnet (check for bondo), floor jack, voltmeter, looseleaf notebook, and pen. With these tools you will be able to get a good idea of the mechanical condition of the car you’re thinking of buying. You probably wouldn’t be able to pull spark plugs or do a compression check on the lot or, if it’s a private sale, in the guys yard; however you can do enough diagnostic test which will tell you what the car is worth.

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Type of Repair Work

Heads and gaskets are not that difficult to replace. Piston rings and crankshaft bearings however, can be difficult to replace when the engine is in the car. If you plan on pulling the engine to do a complete rebuild then replacing those parts are easy. Other options are to buy a used engine for about $500.00. You can then replace all the bearings, gaskets, camshaft, and the cylinder heads can be reconditioned before you put the engine in the car. Again, it all depends on how much time, how much effort, and how much money you want to spend on the car before you get the car back on the road.

Power Windows by Hand

What is The Bottom Line

I resurrected a junk car on a shoestring budget. I bought a 1983 Chevy Malibu with a blown engine for $500. The salesman was going to let it go for $300.00 but the manager said $500.00 becuase it was a Malibu. I bought a used engine with high mileage for about $400. This was back in 2003; the car starts up every time on the second crank. My total investment to date (car repairs) is about $2,000. That means over a six-year period I have spent $333 a year or $27 a month to keep a second car on the road; whereas a car loan for $200.00 a month over a three-year period would be $7,200. It makes since to due the work yourself.


One position Ergonomic Steering Wheel

Final thoughts

Remember, you’re not buying a car that has all the bells and whistles. You’re not buying a car that is solid dependable transportation, which will run for a few thousand miles before it needs work. You are buying a car that has problems and needs work now. The type and number of problems will determine just how much time, effort, and money you will put into the car to get it running. The used car dealer is going to do even less work and charge you more money for the same type of car, which will probably need another $1,000 worth or more of work in a few months. Do the work yourself and save money. Just do the research and be realistic about what you can do and can’t do. After you complete this project, you will have the confidence and the ability to perform your own car repairs.


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    • profile image

      nestor m redondo 3 years ago

      Cambiar gaskets cabezas

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      A very useful hub for the handyman who can read a workshop manual and has basic mechanical skills. Well done!