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What do you do when winter beats your winter beater?

Published February 4, 2013
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What do you do when winter beats your winter beater?

A couple of years ago I bought a 2000 Pontiac Sunfire GT from a friend who no longer wanted it. They wanted a newer vehicle and one that was easier to get in and out of. They offered to me at a price I couldn’t refuse. I was thinking this would make a half decent winter beater.

I was adding a lot of miles to my 2012 Hyundai Elantra and thought this may help reduce the rate of which I was approaching the warranty limit of the Elantra.

More: Beat the winter with these five cheap cars

More: 30 years and 800,000 kms. Here’s how I did it

I know the previous owner had the Sunfire rust checked every fall and the body showed no signs of rust whatsoever. That is a bonus when looking at used cars. It had about 200,000 kms on it. I figured it would be good for at least four or five more years of use.

So I got myself some top quality Goodyear Ultra Grip winter tires and started using synthetic oil. I have always used Mobil 1 synthetic oils in my cars and this is one reason I have over 800,000 kms on my ’82 Volvo despite my racing it for over 16 years in solo competitions. Using synthetic oil through the winter months makes starting much easier as synthetic oil does not thicken up as a conventional oil will in cold temperatures. Synthetics such as Mobil 1 have a “pour point” of around -85 degrees where conventional oils stop flowing at temperatures quite a bit warmer.

I had the Pontiac tuned up and tried the new E3 spark plugs and figured I was set for the next half dozen or so winters.

After only two winters, the Pontiac started to give up.

This January, it picked up a high idle speed of around 2500 rpm which makes driving on winter roads difficult if not dangerous. I did my own investigation looking for the typical culprits – vacuum leak or sticking throttle. There was no evidence of either one so I took it to my neighbourhood garage.

After Brian the mechanic plugged it to their computer scanner, he replaced an O2 sensor and cleaned the throttle valve. It ran fine except now it would not start in temperatures below freezing. What good is a winter beater if it won’t start on cold days?

After some more automotive forensic work, the culprit appears to be the computer for the engine management system. It appears to not like cold weather.

Between this new glitch and the fact that the Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) stopped working a while back (I run with my full head light system on anyway so this is a somewhat moot point), the A/C stopped working and the passenger side window no longer goes up or down, I am starting to think that maybe GM used Lucas electrics! Owners of older British autos will understand that.

The repairs will cost more than the car is worth. I put about 30,000 kms on this car up to present. Let’s just say my GM experience has not been one I will fondly remember.

So now the question is, what do you do when winter beats your winter beater?

It won’t make a good ice racer since it won’t run, it’s an automatic and it would require removing the air bags.

Do I scrap it? Can it be donated to a charity? Will it make a parts car for someone? What does one do with a vehicle they no longer want these days?

Just what should I do with my lowly old Sunfire GT? Let me know your suggestions in the comments below or send me an email at ianlaw@carcontrolschool.com.

Vehicle Image
    • Price: $36,999

    MSRP

    • Price: $67,600
    • Price: $61,699
    • Price: $75,600
    • Engine: 3.8 V6 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: RWD
    • Cylinder: 6
    • Transmission Speed: 6

    Performance

    • Engine: 2.5 I5 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: AWD
    • Cylinder: 5
    • Transmission Speed: 6
    • Engine: 5.8 V8 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: RWD
    • Cylinder: 8
    • Transmission Speed: 6
    • Engine: 3.4 H6 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: -
    • Drive Type: RWD
    • Cylinder: 6
    • Transmission Speed: 6
    • City: 11.5
    • Highway: 7.3
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 17/17

    Fuel Economy

    • City: 12.3
    • Highway: 8.1
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 16/16
    • City: -
    • Highway: -
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 16/16
    • City: 10.4
    • Highway: 6.7
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 14/14
    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes

    Safety

    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes
    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes
    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes
    • Sunroof: Yes
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: Yes
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Climate Control: Yes
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes

    Comfort & Convenience

    • Sunroof: No
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: No
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Climate Control: Yes
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes
    • Sunroof: No
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: No
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: No
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: No
    • Climate Control: No
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes
    • Sunroof: No
    • Air Conditioning: No
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: No
    • Power Seats: No
    • Music System: No
    • Navigation System: No
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: No
    • Climate Control: No
    • Steering Wheel Controls: No
    • Power Mirrors: Yes
    • Max. Seating: 4
    • Number of Doors: 2
    • Seats: 4
    • Power Adjustable Seats: Yes
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes

    Interior

    • Max. Seating: 4
    • Number of Doors: 2
    • Seats: 4
    • Power Adjustable Seats: Yes
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Max. Seating: 4
    • Number of Doors: 2
    • Seats: 4
    • Power Adjustable Seats: Yes
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Max. Seating: 2
    • Number of Doors: 2
    • Seats: 2
    • Power Adjustable Seats: No
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Awards: -

    Awards

    • Awards: -
    • Awards: -
    • Awards: -

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