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posted: 10/19/2013 12:10 AM

Weighing repairs versus replacement

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Q. I always have enjoyed your column in the Daily Herald. I have a '97 Mazda Protege with 156,000 miles on it. I keep up regular oil changes and the car has been good for the most part. With my recent oil change, they told me both the transmission and a valve gasket are leaking … nothing serious yet; just keep an eye on them.

They also said the motor linkage on my wiper, especially the driver's side, should probably be replaced. I asked what would happen if I left it, and they said the wipers could just stop working one day. Anyway, the cost is $330. Should I get this fixed?

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When do you stop putting money into a used car, especially one like mine that is 16 years old? Thanks!

P.S. When the trains and valve gasket things get bad, I would assume for sure it would not be cost effective to fix those?

A. Without seeing the car it's hard to know how much you should put in to it. Generally the Protégé is a pretty good and reliable car. According to Kelly Blue Book, if you tried to sell it, your car it might be worth somewhere around $1,600.

If the car is in good condition, as you say, I would think it would be worth it to repair the wipers. I would monitor the leaks and re-evaluate before next summer.

If the valve cover leak increases, you might want to get that repaired, as well. The last thing you want is oil leaking down the side of a hot engine. This is a bigger concern during the hot summer months.

As far as the transmission leak goes, depending on where it is leaking, that could be the one where you draw the line. Again, I would monitor that one and if it becomes bad enough that something has to be done, you can make a decision at that time.

It sounds like you are working with a good shop that is keeping you well-informed about the condition of your car. This is important and allows you to make well-informed decisions. Remember, if you buy a used car at some point, you will want to have that shop give it a good once over so you know what you are getting into.

I don't think you are there yet though if the Mazda is meeting your needs. Keep driving it. It probably gets you some pretty good gas mileage, too!

Useful car care website

October is Fall Car Care Month. There is a wealth of information on the Car Care Council's website, www.carcare.org.

Check out their site. You will find all kinds of helpful information, from custom service schedules to Car Care Month events and repair tips.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit douglasautomotive.com. Send questions to underthehood@dailyherald.com.

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