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My wife drives our Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme which has only...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



My wife drives our 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, which has only 60,000 miles of easy driving on it. The car is loaded and is in mint condition. It has the 3.4-liter twin dual-cam V6 engine. Recently, we were advised by our local dealer's service manager to either get rid of the car or have the timing belt replaced, at a cost of about $600. He said if the timing belt breaks, the whole engine could be ruined. The owner's manual suggests a change at 60,000 miles. What should we do? Trade? Repair? Or do nothing? -- Bob

TOM: Repair! The service manager is nuts, Bob. Why would you trade in a cream puff with only 60,000 miles?

RAY: I know: The service manager wants the car for himself.

TOM: You think so?

RAY: Yeah. It's in mint condition. He's hoping Bob will trade it in for a song, and then HE'LL get to drive it for the next 60,000 miles ... or score points by giving it to his mother-in-law. I do this to customers all the time. How do you think I got my 'Dodge Colt Vista with the rust up to the windows?

TOM: Bob, you should absolutely fix the car. The service manager is right when he says that a broken timing belt on this car can ruin the engine. But that's not a reason to spend $25,000 on a new car when, for $600, you could have a perfectly good car in mint condition.

RAY: And you might have to spend another $600 soon -- tires, brakes or who knows what? But who cares? When you add it up, it'll still be cheaper than monthly new-car payments. I guarantee it.

TOM: So, as long as your old car is safe, is serving your needs and you're happy with it, repairing it is almost always cheaper than trading it in. So fix it, Bob.

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