Dear Car Talk: I came across a 1999 Corvette with less than 5,000 miles. It’s been sitting in a garage and owned by a divorcee. It is immaculate. If I were to buy this beauty, what would you suggest being my priority?
The tires are Goodyear run flats. With 24 years on the car, should they be replaced? Hoses and belts are also a concern. They show no signs of deterioration, but I assume they’re the same age.
Any suggestions from you would be greatly appreciated. — Bruce
Bruce: I think your first priority should be to repaint it, so the guy who lost it in his divorce doesn’t come after you, Bruce. After that, I’d say all of the above.
Depending on who you ask, tires should be replaced every six to 10 years due to degradation of the rubber, even if there’s still tread left. The actual life of a tire can depend on climate and storage conditions.
So, if these Corvette tires were kept in a cool, dark garage — instead of, say, outdoors in Tucson — you might be OK at the latter end of that time frame. But you’re already one bar-mitzvah past the maximum limit, so don’t mess around. Replace these tires.
The same is probably true of the belts and hoses. Although the garage storage helps, they’re also probably degraded and unreliable.
I’d also have a mechanic check all the other rubberized parts of the car, like suspension bushings and dust covers for the tie rod ends and ball joints. That stuff may be fine, but it should be looked at.
Same with the brakes. I’m guessing the brake lines are fine, unless the car was stored near the ocean. But the calipers, for instance, could be seized from sitting so long, and you want to know that before you head out on a mountain road. Then you want to change all the fluids: oil and filter, brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant.
And then, drive it. If there’s anything else that’s wrong — like a family of Corvette-based mice with open shirts and gold chains living in the air cleaner, you’ll figure it out. And if a guy comes up to you around town and says, hey, where’d you get that Corvette? Tell him it was a graduation present from dental school.
Dear Car Talk: Help! I have a 2017 Subaru Outback with 64,000 miles on it. It runs great, and I have never had any problem until now.
I took it to the dealer last week for routine maintenance, and they told me that the “cam carrier” was leaking. My response, of course, was “what the heck is a ‘cam carrier’?”
Anyway, they showed me a spot on the engine that appeared to be slightly wet. This is allegedly where the leak is. In any event, it is not dripping.
While they assured me that the engine wasn’t going to imminently blow up or anything, I would eventually have to deal with it. From what I have seen online, some folks say this is a $3,000 repair job.
Some people say they just do nothing but keep an eye on your oil level. As you can see, I don’t put a lot of miles on my car. What do YOU think I should do? — Paul
Paul: Sorry to hear it, Paul. This is quite common on Subarus. On these horizontally opposed engines, a cam holder is bolted to the top of each cylinder head. There’s a seal between the cam holder and the head. That seal is what’s leaking.
The reason it’s a big job is because you have to remove the timing belt to get at the cam covers. And that’s a lot of work. Because it’s an enormous pain in the lug nuts to remove the timing belt, when we’re in there, we’ll replace everything else that’s accessible and may wear out or fail in the near future —the timing belt itself, the belt tensioner, water pump, the valve cover gasket and front seal. Why not?
All that stuff will fail eventually, and the incremental cost of replacing it while the timing belt is already out is comparatively small. So, with all that stuff, by the time it’s done, it probably is a $3,000 job. But there are two pieces of good news.
The first is that if you do the work, you won’t have to think about any of that stuff again for at least another 65,000 miles. In fact, we find that, when done right, the repair can last longer than the original job.
Second, it’s almost certainly not urgent. It sounds like it’s barely leaking now. And it might leak very slowly for a long time.
So, what’s my advice? If you’re planning to keep the car for another 50,000 or 60,000 miles, then just go ahead and do it now. Get it over with and enjoy the serenity of not worrying about it.
Get an estimate from an independent shop that works on Subarus before you fix it though. Ask them to include all the stuff I mention above. They may be able to do it at a lower price, or the price may be $3,000, but it may include all the extras.
Finally, you should also ask your Subaru dealer to consider helping you with the price of the repair. You’re really not far removed from the five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty. And we’ve had Subaru customers in that situation tell us that their dealer has taken $1,000 off this job as a goodwill gesture.
If you’re not planning to keep the car for the long haul, then you can just keep driving and monitor your oil level carefully. You’ll know when it’s time because your oil loss will increase, and your driveway will start to look like the Texas Permian Basin. But you might be lucky. It might not need to be fixed until after you’ve traded it in for a 2025 Outback.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.
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