QOTD – What Auto Repairs Have You Put Off, And Why?

While out driving today, my thoughts returned as they often do to a nagging noise from the back half of my daily driver that I have lived with for quite some time. It’s a kind of low level, quiet, grinding sound – pronounced only when turning left – that has persisted despite my changing rear wheel bearings, bushings, axles/CV joints, driveshaft (including the universal joints) and center bearing. As part of that driveshaft job, I also changed out the wonderfully-named “giubo” or driveshaft flexdisk. I mean frankly, at 230,000-some miles, all of these things might as well get replaced anyway on a car that I intend to keep relatively forever. Still, the noise persists, and after this fusilade from the parts cannon, there’s really only one thing that I can imagine that could still be responsible for that noise…the differential.

And yes, I’ve changed and checked the differential fluid…a stinky, annoying job that in my car involves using a pump to extract the fluid through the singular orifice BMW provides for filling and draining. BMW has essentially designed the cnidarian of automotive devices.

“Cnidarian”…sounds like a a good name for a new Buick crossover/SUV.

Fact is, changing out the differential is not a particularly difficult job on a BMW E91.  It’s a far easier DIY task than several of the other things I’ve done on that end of the car. I’m looking at you, rear wheel bearings.

Here’s the part where I discovered that both the bearings and axle nuts I was sent in fact DO NOT fit my car, since the RWD wagon has a larger diameter axle than any of the other E90s. Oy vey…


I use that DIY job to gain cred from normal/real BMW mechanics.  “Oh man, you did your own rear wheel bearings in the driveway?  Cool.”

So, why have I dithered around and not just done the differential job so as to hopefully resolve my noise issue once and for all? What secret pleasure does procrastinating on this task hold such that I’d clearly rather more think about the job than actually do it? Is this a personality flaw unique to me, or do other CC readers have some version of the same, lurking in their automotive lives?  That’s my question of the day.

Well, if you know me, then you know that part of what’s behind my irresolute way of dealing with certain automotive repairs relates to their cost and my general fear in spending more than about $25 on anything at one time. (For some reason, I am happy to spend $25 10 times on the same thing…but never $250 all at once.)  A new diff for this car is north of $2K.  On the other hand, a good junkyard replacement is probably about $400 tops.  Add another $100 to ship that honking piece of iron from wherever to salvage-yard-challenged New England.  A much better solution, to me, would involve a road trip to pull the part myself in a junkyard in some part of the country outside of the Northeast. Texas, for example, seems flush with salvage yards containing BMWs, or maybe I could go back down South where I originally went to purchase the car.

That “plan” is of course entirely economically bananas, but that’s how I roll when it comes to thinking about these things.  The upside of course to the plan (see, I’m not letting go of this) – besides the opportunity to wander around one or more junkyards – is that I’d be able to inspect the part before it shows up in my driveway.  The ability to shop in person might help resolve some of the hesitation I have around just ordering up a used part online.

So, that’s ostensibly the reason why I’m putting off and procrastinating on the BMW differential repair. It’s obviously more than unbolting the differential and bolting a new one on.  Not when there could be a road trip to Texas, North Carolina, or some other place with good barbecue – I forgot to mention that part of the plan – involved. Heaven forbid I ever just suck it up, do the job, and then “only” have constant oil leaks and random computer/electrical problems to deal with.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem that I deserve that kind of automotive luxury.

Some readers may recall that I went through a slightly foreshortened version of this same dithering when it came to replacing the BMW’s starter. That issue resolved quickly enough because the starter mostly worked until it didn’t…and then I had no choice but to commit to the repair.  This low level rear end noise has gone on for a couple of years and potentially could run on relatively indefinitely.  Just in case you’re thinking that this is exactly the sort of thing that a fussy European car (with an under-resourced, overly prone to research, owner) might do, I’ll note that the other 3 cars in my fleet all find themselves in similar situations.

In no particular vehicular order these are:

2015 Honda Fit LX (34,728 miles) – Headliner

A headliner that is periodically full of rodents.  Right now, they’re on Spring Break, but soon enough they’ll be back scampering around over my head as I motor along. I’ve asked them to belt up, but they won’t as they must be New Hampshire mice. Evicting the mice involves pulling down the headliner, which requires disassembling the many things that get in the way of dropping the headliner.

The fellow in this video is a Fit enthusiast who specializes in making these videos where he races the clock to perform common tasks on his car.  Apparently removing the headliner is a common task on a Fit.  He notes that he’s done his 3 times recently.  Hummmm. I’ve watched this video many more than 3 times as I attempt – unsuccessfully – to jazz myself up enough to do this job on my Fit.

After removing the headliner, I then need to clean out whatever mess (I can only imagine…) Mickey and Minnie have left up there and probably fix the wires they’ve chewed through. And that’s just until they come back.  Which will be soon. Peppermint oil, dryer sheets, cats.  I’ve tried everything.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that mice were here long before humans.  They will certainly be here long after my Fit and I are gone (particularly if I contract hantavirus).

Actually, I don’t need to imagine since this is what the Fit’s cabin air filter looked like when I inherited this car. As I said, the mice were here before me.




Just for comparison, this is what my Toyota’s cabin filter looked like on the same day that I changed the Fit’s filter (above).  I live in a rodent-rich environment.

Anyway, I could do all of that Sisyphean extermination within the Fit’s headliner…or I could just wait until the little buggers chew through the brake light wiring.  I’ve made my choice.  I’m waiting for the mice to magically disappear.

1976 Volvo 245 (300,590 miles) – Cracked Dashboard

This one in particular kills me since I have actually replaced the dashboard in this car already! Finding a minty, un-cracked, pre-1982 240 dashboard (it needs to be earlier than 1982 for maximum compatiblity with my older car) is – was – quite the feat.

The 245 during its first dashboard transplant. I’ll also note that replacing the dashboard requires conjuring the demons of ancient Swedish electrical systems (and fiddly/fragile vacuum-operated heater controls).  This is not for the faint of heart or fat of finger.


Unfortunately, the new 45+ year old dash I scored through one of those old-Volvo-guys parts swaps (if you’ve done that, you know what I mean) up and cracked over the past year.  Yeah, I know, most of them are cracked by now. There’s probably a way to fix it…it’s only one long crack (unlike the many long cracks the car came with when I got it 5 years ago).  But geeze, again?  It’s just depressing.  And yet, it’s even more depressing to look at the crack, or to try to ignore it even if I don’t look at it.  So I’m stuck.  Meanwhile, the dash goes un-repaired while I wallow in my interior-related misery.

In fact, just now I took a 30 minute detour from writing this post to learn about “plastic welding” and the various products I could employ to melt something into the crack (said something seems to only come in 15′ lengths…and at best I only need about 6″ of the stuff) and then some other spreading goop stuff to cover that.  And then sanding and painting.  Cool. But if I keep Googling, there turns out to be a variety of other products that promise to do the same thing.  It looks like I could easily be into this thing for $85. Or just $35 if I forego the melting stuff and go straight for the spreading goop stuff.  And so it goes on and on.

2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid V6 AWD (213,266 miles) – Your Guess is As Good As Mine

There’s stuff wrong with this vehicle, but we don’t know what it is, and can’t even begin to diagnose it.  While that may sound terrifying it’s actually not, since the car’s Toyota genes are strong and it continues to rack up the miles as a 5-day-a-week daily driver while making various weird noises and periodically doing bizarre random stuff such as fully and unexpectedly discharging its (normal, non-hybrid) battery overnight. Despite the fact that doing something as simple as changing the coils and spark plugs requires removing the intake manifold…or the engine…this car has soldiered on remarkably long.

The OTHER 3 plugs/coils are back there underneath the manifold and throttle body and maddeningly nearly under the cowl. The big orange hammer was just there for good measure and for tapping off the manifold. This job wasn’t really hard to do.  Nor was changing the radiator.  It’s just the whole layer of stuff that is in addition to the normal V6 ICE that is the problem.  That’s the black box.


This is the car that even the local Toyota dealer pretty much refuses to service.  The last time we had it in for a set of seemingly-dire warning messages (something along the lines of “Stop Vehicle. Hybrid System Service Required Now”…sorry, I don’t recall specifically since the car is so often warning me of one seemingly catastrophic thing or another – “Moonroof OPEN!!!” — that I pretty much tune it out) the dealer had it for 2 days, took most of the hybrid system apart, and eventually found “a loose wire”.  Upon returning the car to us with a $1000 labor bill and a $3 parts bill, the distinct message of “Don’t bring this thing back unless you’re trading it in” was conveyed.

Taking the car to anyone else to work on something other than the most basic mechanics is pretty much out of the question since no one seems to have knowledge of how this thing functions.  Seriously, it’s a total black box. I think I can find more YouTube videos on how the Patriot Missile system works than I can find about how to diagnose and service an early-generation, built in Japan, Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

In particular, no one can explain the little buzzing noise made from somewhere deep inside roughly the middle of the car at random points during a drive.  It seems to be some kind of pump that is priming/starting up.  No one can explain what “pump” would be making that noise just as no one seems to actually know what’s inside of one of these magic Highlanders.  I sure would like to know if it’s the harbinger of something more dire.  Or not.  Hence, we just worry about it and wait to see what happens; hung betwixt and between. Would getting a real diagnosis (if possible) wind up with a multi-thousand-dollar repair bill and therefore a terminal Highlander experience?  Or might we find out that it’s a $10 repair? Best not to ask, I say.

So, there you have my current list of procrastinated auto repairs.  All things that could potentially be fixed, and maybe in some cases really oughta need to be fixed but for one reason or another have not been addressed.

What are you driving around with?  Ticking time bombs, nagging details, things that are just too much of a p.i.t.a. to address until you have to…or get rid of the car?

Do tell.