Want ad: “Old truck. Runs! $60” … Find out what happened when one family responded!

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Want ad: “Old truck. Runs! $60” … Find out what happened when one family responded!
Image Credit: Kevin Rechin
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Last month, we told you about a 2000 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck with more than 700,000 miles on the odometer. If you liked that tale of a tried-and-true daily driver, you’re going to love this story about a fixer-upper with um, a few extras included!

Read more: This pickup truck has traveled over 700,000 miles and still going strong!

Ever heard of Snakes on a Plane…How about Snakes in a Truck?

Some people will do anything to save a buck! That’s certainly true of the father of Lauren Clarke of Haslett, Mich.

When Lauren’s family gave up being city slickers to move to an old farmhouse, one of the first things they needed was a truck.

So her frugal folks were elated when they saw a want ad that read, ‘Old truck. Runs! $60,’ and they naturally jumped all over it!

‘In my first-grade class, I did a crayon drawing of [that truck]. When my teacher commented on the ‘orange polka dots,’ I piped up, ‘That’s the rust!’” Lauren recounted in a piece she wrote for Country Magazine.

‘This truck was exactly what the ad said it was: An old vehicle that still ran. And that was the absolute best thing you could say about it.’

No matter how many times it broke, Lauren’s father would fix the truck again and again. She counts among her fondest memories riding in the back of the bed while bouncing along old country roads. Of course, she had to take care to avoid the really rusted-out areas of the truck bed — otherwise, she might have fallen through and become road pizza!

Eventually, after decades of use, it was time for the family to finally abandon the old truck in favor of a newer model. Since they couldn’t seem to completely let go, it wound up being relegated to the side of the barn!
Yet the day finally came when even dad wanted to get rid of the old thing. His frugal nature prevented him from paying to have it towed to a junkyard, so that meant getting under the hood again to get the old girl running one last time.
‘He lifted the hood and leaned in for a good look, then immediately leaped back,’ Lauren remembers. ‘A neatly coiled snake stared up at him from atop the air filter assembly. But despite his momentary shock, Dad was undeterred. He shooed the snake away and dug into the engine compartment. If only he’d taken the snake as a hint of what was to come.’
Lauren’s dad did get the truck running again, and he headed out on the road to the junkyard behind the wheel. But his troubles didn’t end there. Unfortunately, a bevy of scaly creatures had taken up residency in the $60 jalopy while it wasted away on the side of the barn.
He pulled off the road and stomped a hole in the floor of the truck after flinging off one snake. That’s when he made another discovery: A whole pile of baby snakes wriggling around under the seat!

‘After strongly encouraging all reptiles to leave the truck and checking to make sure they were gone, Dad proceeded to do the only thing he could do: He got back in to finish the drive,’ Lauren recalls. ‘You’d think after all that, he had earned an uneventful end to the trip, but no.’

‘Just short of reaching the junkyard, the old truck died, and died for good!’

4 tips for car maintenance on the cheap

If you’re thinking about buying an old jalopy — hopefully one that’s not as run down as the truck Lauren’s family had! — you might want to consider the following advice from Clark…

You may be able to get free or discounted auto repairs done by the manufacturer

Vehicle recalls get a lot of publicity in the news, but too often people just ignore them in their daily lives. It’s estimated only one out of three people will comply once notified of a recall. But in the world of vehicle maintenance, not everything is a full-blown recall. Many times when there’s no official recall, there still might be a TSB (technical service bulletin) from the manufacturer.

Thousands of TSBs are issued each year, as automakers become aware of systemic problems reported by mechanics and consumers.  You can preview both full-blown recalls and TSBs for your vehicle by make, model and year at the Center for Auto Safety website at AutoSafety.org and also at ALLDATAdiy.com. Another good resource to know about for TSBs is SaferCar.gov. In addition, Consumer Reports also has a write-up about so-called ‘secret or hidden warranties.’

By knowing if there’s an active TSB, you can take it to the dealership and show it to them. With known issues like TSBs, very often you can get free or discounted repairs, even if you’re out of the manufacturer’s original warranty period.

You should stretch your oil changes a bit

Most owner’s manuals for newer vehicles will tell you it’s acceptable to go 5,000 miles between oil changes under normal conditions. This has become something of the new norm.

In fact, a Consumer Reports study also recently put the brakes on the myth of the 3,000-mile oil change. They found no noticeable difference in engine protection whether you changed the oil every 3,000 or 7,500 miles.

Ultimately, this one has to be a personal decision. Maybe you’re comfortable changing every 3,000 miles and think 7,500 is too long to wait. Then why not split the difference and do it every 5,000 or so miles? You’ll be saving about a third by going those extra miles between oil changes.

Experts say a $20 oil change is the best preventative maintenance you can do. So the interval is really up to you as long as you don’t exceed what’s recommended in your owner’s manual.

You can reduce the cost of what you pay for tires

Have you gotten sticker shock when you needed replacement tires for your vehicle? Chances are you may have expensive non-standard tires. Automakers create multiple lines of a single vehicle at different price points. One of the up-sells they add to the pricier lines are fancy wheels that are larger than usual tires.

Some models even have speed-rated tires that are designed to perform at 149 mph or higher. We’ve all seen the commercials with stunt drivers tearing it up on closed roads. It’s like James Bond syndrome! But how often do you drive even 100 mph?! Do you really need those high-performance tires?

Want to avoid a big bill for tire replacement down the road? Check out the tire size and type before you buy a car. Or simply ask the dealer about the replacement tire price. Of course, for many people style is king and they don’t care if they have to pay extra. But if you do care, use TireRack.com to check tire prices.

Another good place to check is Sam’s Club. In addition to free tire rotation and free repair of flats, Sam’s Club has a benefit that is very unique: Emergency roadside tire service! For three years from purchase, Sam’s Club members have 24-hour toll-free access for emergency tire change service. That’s a deal!

Don’t forget the salvage yard for replacement parts

If something breaks on your car and the estimate you get from the body shop or mechanic is too large, what about doing the work yourself? This works particularly well if the fix is a minor one. Because nobody really wants to be charged $100 to change a light bulb or a car horn!

Here’s a real-life story about how this worked out for one of Clark’s listeners. ‘Back when I lived in Atlanta traffic, I listened to Clark every day. I drove a Honda and the horn button was broken,’ Kati W. told Team Clark.

‘I originally contacted the dealer and they estimated the repairs to be around $170 and said the airbag would need to be re-packed. Based on Clark’s advice to another listener, I went to a Honda-only salvage yard in an Atlanta suburb. They found the part I needed, charged me a dollar and it took me about 30 seconds to attach it!!! I honked my horn all the way home in tribute to Clark!’

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller "Living Large in Lean Times."
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