What’s the Scoop? — 7/27/2015


Last week was a bit of a roller coaster for me. As of Wednesday night, I had not sold any cars and it wasn’t looking good. I asked our pastor to pray for me and the small group who met for prayer meeting Wednesday night prayed as well. Thursday was slow as well with no sales until 7 pm. I sold a car then and two more on Friday! As a Christian, I am glad to recognize God’s help in answer to our prayers.

1984 Pontiac Fiero

Not every lesson learned is a happy one. I sold the Jaguar and purchased this 1984 Pontiac Fiero 2M4. I enjoyed the car for a few days until the head gasket blew Saturday. Thankfully our mechanic was on duty and diagnosed the problem for me. I am still unsure whether fixing the head gasket would really fix the problem. It would probably be better to replace the whole engine. Thankfully, a friend from church is willing to haul the car back to our driveway. We shall see what transpires after that.


The replacement for the Jaguar is a 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320. It is a nice little vehicle with leather seats, Bluetooth, and working A/C. The latter two are something I’ve not had in my personal vehicle in a long time. Yesterday, we drove the ML to church in Windsor and enjoyed the ride through the country. The vehicle comes with a 215 hp 3.2L V6 and AWD. Both will help during the wintry months in northeast Ohio. As in all things, I’m thankful to God and several people who helped to make this possible.

I tried to be a loyal American…

Fiero at Car Show

After owning Europeans cars for the last 14 years, I sold the Jaguar and bought an American car. And, as you would expect, it was unusual. I bought an American made two-seater called the Pontiac Fiero. A mechanic friend said, “I haven’t seen a Fiero since I was in high school.” Yes, it was an interesting car for the first 48 hours. I purchased it in Brunswick and drove it back to Painesville with no problems. I drove it to work Friday with no problems and even took it to the Friday night car show at the town square. Am I a loyal American now, or what?

This morning, however, everything turned upside down. As I was driving in to work, I was happily thinking about how much I would save on fuel. The 1984 Fiero 2M4 with the 2.5L engine is rated at 32 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission. While the Jaguar wasn’t bad on gas, it never attained numbers like that. So, this was going to be a new day for Andy: (1) he’s a loyal American again, and (2) he’s frugal with fuel. All that changed when I parked the car at Easy Auto in Madison and soon noticed a green puddle forming under the radiator. Yikes!

1984 Pontiac Fiero

Thankfully, our mechanic was there to diagnose the problem. He started by replacing the thermostat. But soon after adding antifreeze, the car wouldn’t start. The problem turned out to be the head gasket. With a digital scope, the mechanic showed me that one of the cylinders was filled fluid. The Fiero needed either a head gasket and some mill work (the head threads for one spark plug were stripped) or maybe a whole engine if the antifreeze had gotten to the internals. That certainly wasn’t what I was looking forward to today. Needless to say, I was distracted during my time at work.

Besides the obvious questions in my mind about fixing the car, I now was faced with another. Are American cars really worth buying or are they all junk? I realize that my sample size is fairly small and involves a 31 year-old General Motors experiment, but I certainly wasn’t impressed with my experience. And the other unfair part of my opinion is that the Fiero wasn’t in tip top condition. The owner had jerry rigged some wires trying to get things to work and several wires were left disconnected. So, this shouldn’t be a case in point. And yet, the impression still exists in my mind.

2002 Mercedes Benz ML320

As things turned out, I decided not to fix the Fiero and purchased another European vehicle. The new car is a 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320. It’s a mid-size SUV with enough room for the family and the creature comforts I’m used to. Sure, it won’t be a good car to take to the car shows, but I think it should prove to be a better car than most of my other options in my price range. Will parts cost more? Yes. Will any mechanic be able to work on it? Probably not. But will it be more reliable than most American cars? I tend to think so. And will I be content with it? Yes, I think so.

Now before you get too concerned about my ill-formed logic in this short article, remember how my day turned out. I’m probably not making a whole lot of sense. Even so, I’ve become much more comfortable owning European luxury cars. It’s not a snobbery thing or an anti-American agenda. It’s just something I’ve grown into in the last 14 years. If you come to Easy Auto and ask to drive an American car, I won’t stop you. I’ll even point out the features that make it a good buy. But if you ask my opinion about a Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, SAAB, or BMW, you will probably find out what I really think are the best cars on the road.

2003 Land Rover Freelander : Thermostat Removal

Backyard Mechanic

If you are a backyard mechanic and want to know how to change the thermostat on a 2002-05 Land Rover Freelander, this 42 minute video will be very helpful. After skimming through the instructions, I think I would rather do the job on a 2003 Land Rover Discovery II. In fact, after you watch this video, you may trade in your Freelander for a Discovery II. Or you may be wise to take your vehicle to a mechanic after watching this video. However, if you are handy with tools, have lots of time, and like a challenge, this will be fun for you. Enjoy!

2000 Mercedes-Benz ML320 stuck in Park

Backyard Mechanic

The owner of a 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320 asked for help with his SUV on an the MBWorld Forum. Without warning, his vehicle stopped allowing him to shift out of Park. Ever had that happen to you? This is how he explained the problem:

I need your help. My gearbox is stuck in PARK…..also BAS/ESP light was on. Had the ML320 towed to a shop….and left it there. Any ideas what’s causing it to stay in PARK? This might be a protective mechanism like Limp Mode imo.

My first instinct was that some vehicles have a shift-lock release button that allows you to circumvent this problem. I could not find such a device in the 2002 model currently in our inventory. So, there must be a difference solution to this owner’s problem.

shift-lockWhat year is your model? If it is 2002 or older, my bet is the brake pedal switch. That does not mean there could not be other causes but the brake pedal switch is often the cause. You have to depress the brake pedal in order to shift out of park. With a bad pedal switch, the system cannot tell if the pedal is depressed so you cannot shift out of park. Also the bad pedal switch will also cause the warning lights for BAS/EPS, etc.

You can shift it into gear by sticking a pen into the opening on the shifter. See pic. Your shifter may look slightly different but the opening is there for all shifters.

So, there you have it. Not only can you get it out of park, you also know one of the primary causes of the problem. If you would like to read more of the conversation and see the pictures, click on the link below:


QOTD #57: How do I sell my car?

Chances are you may be thinking about selling your car or trading it in. But how can you sell your car for the most amount of money? Whether you sell it to a private party or trade the car in at a car dealership, you should consider a few tips before putting the car up for sale.

Clean your car.

Most buyers are looking for a car that looks good to them. Keep in mind that the first impression may be what eventually sells the car to them. So, be sure to clean the car before presenting it. A good wash and vacuum will go a long way in showing the next owner that you took care of your car.

Take good pictures.

Speaking of first impressions, your pictures can make or break the sale. Take nice corner shots that make the car look good. Hold the camera level with the windshield for the best angle. Be sure to make the car look good but also show any major problems so that the next owner is not surprised.

Research your car’s value.

Determining your car’s value can be done a number of ways. You can look up its value at KBB.com. Be sure to input the actual options, trim level, and condition. But remember that their values are not guaranteed. Look also at what similar cars are selling for on your local Craigslist site. Knowing what you are up against will help you to price your car appropriately.

Be realistic.

If you sell your car yourself, realize that it will take time. Holding out for a big profit may prolong your ownership of the car. Price it below the competition for a quicker sale. If you decide to trade it in, however, realize that trade-in price is not the same as private party value. A used car lot pays less because they may need to make repairs, detail the car, and are in business to make a profit themselves.

Selling your car doesn’t need to be a hassle. If you take the time to prepare yourself and your vehicle, you will do much better than most sellers. A little hard work will keep you from a big headache. So get to work!