Looking at buying a car - need some expertise! - Newbies Forum

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Looking at buying a car - need some expertise!
Friday, July 31, 2015 11:23 AM
Hello all, first post on the forum, hopefully not my last!

I've recently found myself in the market for a new car, my beloved base '05 Focus Zx3 Manual having recently developed a transaxle issue at 195,000 miles - it's been a good car, but financially it's going to cost a good deal more than the car is worth to fix it, and it's already in pretty rough shape, so I've decided I need to let it go.

I have an 86 F-150 4x4 with a I-6 4.9 that I can drive until I find another car, but A) It was a gift from my late grandfather and I don't want to tear it up on the pothole ridden streets around my apartment using it as a daily, and B) I'm going into sticker shock putting gas in the tank and putting tires on it is an $800-$1000 proposition. My commute is about 50 miles round trip and it's kind of eating me alive.

I live in an apartment complex, don't have access to a garage, and I'm going back to college in 20 days, and keeping my full time job. I do my maintenance for my vehicles but I simply won't have time or a place to go into the guts of a car and make it work again if it breaks down and it isn't a simple fix.

I've been looking into getting an 04-05 Sunfire - to me it looks like a miniature Trans-Am, and I've wanted a Trans-Am since my cool uncle had one with wing doors when I was a kid. The low price point is also attractive, as is the fuel economy.

I've been trying to do research on the Sunfire, but I can't seem to get anything other than that it's mostly identical to the Cavalier. I've found very little in terms of general reliability or problems spots. So, with that in mind, a few questions:

1) Is the Sunfire in the '04-05 range generally a pretty reliable car? Touchy of maintenance?
2) Does it have any chronic or recurring trouble spots? (I've read about issues with wheel bearings and timing tensioners in a couple of spots, and that made me a bit skittish)
3) I've also read (on a grand total of one website) that the Sunfire has an aluminium block - does that mean it's prone to the same kind of cracks that I've heard about from 90's era Mustangs?
4) Any thoughts on whether the Sunfire is a good fit given my situation (in general, of course)? Or should I just nab up another 05-07 Focus that I already know how to work on instead?

Re: Looking at buying a car - need some expertise!
Friday, July 31, 2015 11:49 AM
As long as the car has been maintained they are very reliable.
Strut mounts and wheel bearings are the biggest issues that come to mind. The timing chain tensioner in the 03/04 Ecotecs isnt the best, but is cheap and easy to swap to a revised style.
Yes, the Ecotec is an aluminum block. No, it does not any of the issues that the Mustangs had/have. It is a VERY VERY VERY good/reliable engine. It handles a decent boost setup very well too.

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