Is It Time to Say Goodbye to a Faithful Truck?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 20, 2016

Dear Car Talk:

I have been eyeing a lot of new vehicles lately. Why? Has my everyday driver reached its useful life? It is a black, 1982 Toyota pickup with an R-22 engine, five speeds, cruise control, air conditioning, power steering, opening roof window, audio -- still a very nice-looking vehicle. But it is beginning to blow blue smoke out of the tailpipe. The engine has never been worked on. The only major repair I've done is a new clutch. It has 208,000 miles, but the odometer stopped about 10 years ago. I have been driving and caring for this truck for 34 years and still use it every day.

Question: Should I get new piston rings or whatever it takes to repair the oil consumption? Or pick out a new vehicle? -- Lee

Is the dealership open now, Lee? I had a modicum of sympathy for fixing it until you mentioned that the odometer stopped 10 years ago. I think you got more than your money's worth out of this truck.

And while you could rebuild the engine, that could just be the start of a long restoration process. I mean, with an estimated 300,000 miles on this truck, everything could be, and should be, ready to crumble.

Plus, you're missing out on some wonderful innovations that have been introduced in the past 34 years. Like sound insulation. Not to mention fuel injection, air bags, crumple zones, stability control, keyless entry and ignition, anti-lock brakes, advanced pollution controls, Bluetooth, backup cameras and automatic emergency braking. And don't forget CD players. You probably were too early for one of those in 1982. And if you don't hurry up, you're going to miss the CD era entirely.

Generally speaking, we recommend a new car every 34 years or so, whether you need one or not. Based on our calculations -- let's assume you bought this truck 34 years ago, when you were 18 -- your next 34-year truck should last you the rest of your natural life. You might even want that on your tombstone: "Here Lies Lee. Made it through life on only two vehicles."

So you have my unreserved permission to buy a new car, Lee. Some college student or part-time weekend farmer will be thrilled to buy this truck from you for $1,000 and put a quart of oil in it every few fill-ups. And you can enjoy the newer-car smell for the next three and half decades.


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