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Question DetailsAsked on 2/4/2017

I need Someone to come take a look at my car, to tell me exactly what I need to buy for it, can a professional help

My car is a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder, I bought it from my neighbor for 300, the battery is dead and she says it needs a tune up. I need a professional to come out to my house and take a look at my car to tell me exactly what I need to purchase, and replace. This is my first car, and I have no clue what to do! Please help me!

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2 Answers


Hmmmm - a car for $300 - that is probably about scrapyard value because a quick web search shows a range of about $1500-4000, with roughly $2000-2500 being the most predominant price range, as the going price for a used running '95 Pathfinder. If it was not running satisfactorily when you bought it, you might have gotten a pig in a poke.

Normally, this sort of thing should be done at a shop with full computer hookup - though some of the larger mobile mechanics do have full computer analyzer equipment in their truck, but an inspection of this type should really be done in a full shop where they can put it up on a lift and check underneath easily and thoroughly.

There have been a lot of questions recently about mobile mechanics - maybe AL will add a category for that, because right now they are lumped in with all other Auto - Service vendors so you have to google or yellow pages to find mobile auto mechanics in your area, then cross-check those names on Angles List to see if they are listed and for their ratings and reviews.

Got a car-handy friend who can charge the battery for you maybe, and see if it will start so you can drive it to a regular auto shop (assuming it is registered and insured) - or typically about $100 or less for a towing company to put it on a flatdeck tow truck and haul it to them. Some repair shops will do the towing for free if the shop charges amount exceed $500 or so.

From what you say - DIY new battery probably about $70-100 for a cheap one or $100-150 for a fairly good one. Purchased from and installed by a shop or dealer - more like $150-250 installed probably unless you go real long-life.

Tuneup - depending on whether fuel injectors are all good (after a cleaning) or not, might run a couple to few hundred typically, or more like $300-600 including fuel rail and throttle body cleaning.

And depending on whether she kept up on the maintenance or not, might need some or all fluids and filters changed - typically from $30-50 for engine oil / filter change only, on up to around $400-700 for all fluids and filters (including engine oil, transmission, differentials, transfer case, brake fluid, power brake and steering fluid, coolant, ,fuel filter if replaceable) changeouts if they have never been changed or at least not reasonably recently. Your owners books will tell you the recommended interval (time or miles) for fluid changes.

Check the glove box - might be the services were recorded in the maintenance log - would give you an idea of what service it has had over the years - though most people do not keep that up to date so would probably depend on whether she used a mechanic who kept it up to date - some dealers do, most others not. You could also ask her where she took it for service if she had it dopne at one regular place - you might be able to get a printout of the service record from them. Also, many places doiung engine oil/filter changes put stickers with the date and mileage on the driver door jamb, left side of windshield, or on the underside of the hood when an oil change is done - that might tell you (if there) when last engine oil change was done, at least. Course, if sticker is old, that does not tell you if there was a more recent one not stickered.

Checking the dip sticks for coolant reservoir, transmission (if automatic), engine oil, power steering fluid (manual will show where they are - if not in car, download from manufacturer website) might give yuou an idea of whether fluid changes have been done relatively recently - or maybe never. Coolant should be a thin clean red or green or yellow or orange or blule depending on type, but not smoky or blackish or any oily residue on the stick. Transmission fluid and power steering and brake fluids should also be semi-transparent and clean, without black streaking - brake usually yellowish or clearish, power steering usually clearish to slighly brownish and soemtimes red, transmission fluid usually red like thinnish cherry juice but occasionally other colors. Engine oil should be from thin honey colored and consistency if quite new to a medium to darkish brown if nearing changeout time - but if basically black is past changing time, and should not have any foam or yellow or whitish crud on the dipstick tip area (might be a bit right up at the handle end from condensed oil and moisture - that is OK). And of course none of them should have anything floating around in them or particulates like pieces of metal or carbon - wipe dipstick off on paper towel to check for that. Lots of Youtube videos on how to check your engine compartment fluids (other drive train fluids have to be checked though removeable plugs under the car) and what typical fluids look like.

What else - who knows, but if the neighbor sold it to your for $300 personally I would not have high expectations because I expect she got a repair estimate on it that was more than she figured the car was worth - hence sold it to you at about scrap value. And I would assume the tires are nothing to brag about either, at that price.

I would get a well-rated, good reputation mechanic to give it a complete going-over (for about $100-200) before sinking money into it, because you might find the repairs to make it a reliable car would cost far more than it is worth to you. Preferably charging your battery (if not permanently dead from sitting dead for a long time or freezing when discharged) or using a shop battery to start it and check out its running condition BEFORE you even pay for a new battery for it so you don't start sinking money into a possible lemon before it has even been tested. You might be lucky and find she did you a favor by selling it to you cheap because she just did not want it any more and gave you a deal and it is actually a running vehicle with a bit of maintenance work - hope so for your sake.

And since this is your first car and you evidently know little or nothing about cars, do you have a friend who is car-savvy who can maybe be with you to talk to the mechanic after he has done his inspection, so you have a better fell for whether you are dealing with an honest one, or maybe someone who may try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge.

And beforehand I would price around at a used car lot or on the web for the likely cost of a replacement car that you could afford - as a comparison to match against the repair estimate, so you don't get into a situation of sinking more money into the car than it is worth - especially if it may not run at all once the battery is charged or a charged battery is put into it. This is important - because a used car that is running you can pretty well tell if it has very serious issues with a test drive - but one that you buy not running you may have to sink some or a lot of money into just to get it running to be able to tell whether it can reasonably be fixed or will be a black hole - so bear the alternative costs in mind.

Course, if you find the repair cost is too much or indeterminate without sinking a lot of $ into it just to get it running so the mechanic can deetermine what its condition is, and decide to scrap this one and get another used car, you will have new registration/tax costs on the new car. And possibly a $100-200 disposal fee for this one - though many junkyards will take a car that is not wrecked off your hands for free or maybe even pay you a little bit for it, depending on whether they figure it is resaleable or only good for parts or scrap metal.

Good Luck - sort of a tough intro to car ownership for you, you have my sympathies.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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