Sick of the Thunderbird
Sorry for the title, but I am starting to get sick of the damn car. It is a 1996 T-bird 3.8L and bought the thing with 48K miles. It now has 115K miles and has cost me a lot of money to keep going. Twice it left me stranded driving between Missouri and Florida (effectively ruining my vacation). I know nothing about cars so I am easy to rip off and take for a ride. On my first vacation the car starting losing power, the check-engine light came on and it became difficult to start at a stop light. I would press on the gas pedal and it would putter for 5-10 seconds and then take off like one would expect. The local shops in Florida said it was anything from a catalytic converter (turned out not to be true), MAF sensor (not true), O2 sensors (not true), broken crankshaft (not true). Finally someone said it was the harmonic balancer. They apparently replaced it and lo and behold - the car worked. Fast forward next vacation, same story, same symptoms, same resolution. Now this was in 2008. No problems since. Now a few weeks back the check engine light comes on.
Shop says all 4 O2 sensors must be replaced (a $600 job). I take it to another shop, they say the same thing. I pay the monies, the O2 sensors get replaced but the shop mechanic tells me that there is a "pending code" in the computer indicating that the catalytic converter is failing. Well, I take the car home and it is puttering again when driven! The symptoms are as follows: when cold the car runs fine, starts fine, I press on the gas pedal and it goes. As soon as it gets warm, it starts stumbling when the gas pedal is pressed. It "bogs down" for 5-10 seconds, struggles and then it feels as if "something opened up" and it takes off as expected.
I went to the shop that replaced the sensors and told them that my car ran fine with the check-engine light on before they replaced all 4 O2 sensors and described the symptoms. The guy there said to take it to a muffler shop and see if they can "chop up the catalytic converter and weld pieces back" which would be cheaper than buying a $600 part and paying about $200 in labor to replace it. He also said something else might be the problem.
Now, I don't grow money on trees. This car is worth about $1000 and I like it (it is actually my wife's car and she likes it even more) but I am sick and tired of f***ing around with it. Any advice on what it could be before it turns into a pile of metal at a junkyard?
Pissed off in Florida