It was time for me to get a new vehicle this year. I wasn't really expecting to do so though. In February my 2003 Ford F-150 sprang a small head gasket leak into the heater core. My mechanic, whom I trust, told me it would be about a $4,000 fix.
I wasn't about to dump $4,000 into an 11 year old truck with 185,000 miles on it - that was just too much.
The more I think about it, the head gasket has probably been leaking for a few years and only now got bad enough to make me notice it more. For the last few years I could hear a gurgling sound from the heater core from time to time. I never noticed any problems with performance or heat so I didn't think much of it.
During this winter, the coldest and snowiest on record since records were kept from the winter of 1880-1881, I took notice of the problem. I noticed the thermostat had been running a pinch colder than normal and for a month I figured it was due to the extreme cold we've been having, you know, nights where it's -35℉. Then one day while driving around town I made a left hand turn into a business and the heater blowing hot air immediately switched to cold air, as if I had just turned on the A/C. It did that a couple of times and then I brought it into my mechanic. He said the thermostat needed changing, as it was the original one. I drove it for a day and the temperature was where it was supposed to be and the heat was strong and solid.
The next day, another left turn and the hot air went to cold air again. I brought it back to the mechanic and he looked at it again and said it was probably the head gasket leaking into the heater core, causing it to air lock. When I would make a sharp turn all the fluid would move to one side and the air would lock it in place causing the fluid to not flow and thus produce cold air.
Changing a head gasket isn't a simple task. One has to remove the engine from the vehicle, sometimes, or just disassemble it while still in the vehicle. Either way, it's very labor intensive and the engine has to be taken totally apart to change them. That's why the estimate was $4,000.
Typically, when a head gasket leaks, the engine will lose compression in one or more cylinders and you notice a dramatic hit in performance. I didn't have that problem - yet. If I kept the truck and didn't repair it, I'm sure that would start to happen before long.
I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to drive the truck until it hit 200,000 miles, but oh well.
Instead of fixing the truck, I decided to trade it for a lease on a 2014 Ford Fusion SE.
Its a very nice car and it's actually the very first car I've owned. I've owned a 2001 Ford Ranger, a 2002 F-150 and a 2003 F-150. I kept the 2003 F-150 these past 11 years.
The dealer pulled out the first Fusion in white after he asked what color I liked. I replied with white, black, and red. He picked the white one first and its the one I ended up leasing for two years.
I thought about another F-150 but the fuel economy on the new ones isn't much better than the old one I was driving. Plus to get a new one equipped similarly as the one I had, it was about an extra $10,000 more expensive than in 2003. While I like having a truck, I don't need a truck. I decided on the Fusion for it's lower price and much better fuel economy.
The lifetime average gas mileage of the F-150 was 14.5 mpg. The sticker on the Fusion said an average of 26 mpg between city and highway driving.
This model is a front-wheel drive 4-cylinder. For a 4-banger, it boogies quite nicely. I don't worry about getting run over when entering a roadway or the expressway and merging with 70 mph traffic. When I step on the accelerator it takes off. It's not going to keep up with a Mustang or a Camero, but it gets going well enough for me.
It has plenty of nice options, but what I am most impressed with, besides the fuel economy, is the smoothness and quietness of it. When I open the door and look down the inside of the fenders I can see where they added sound-deadening material which is why it's so nice and quiet. The ride and shifting of the transmission is silky smooth and makes for such a comfortable ride.
Some of the other nice options are the Ford Sync Bluetooth/stereo system, sport seats, sport mode transmission, well-lit dashboard (no more 1980's green dash) and modern speed control system.
Typically I set the cruise control to the speed limit and ride that way. On the new car, I can move the speed up or down by 1 mph increments with the touch of a button on the steering wheel. I like that as it comes in handy when people in front of me cannot maintain a consistent speed. Before, on the truck, I'd have to cancel the cruise with the brake or the button and re-adjust my cruise speed.
I like having the temperature and direction display again too. The truck had it, but the circuit board burnt out after the warranty was over and it was $300 to replace it. I didn't replace it.
It took some getting used to being in a car. I certainly miss the 4-wheel drive in the snow and I miss being up high where I can see over top of traffic and what's ahead. But, that's okay, I'm getting used to it and and very well-pleased with the car.
A couple of things I don't like about it are the Goodyear tires it came with. I've never liked Goodyear and I still don't. I wish Ford and Firestone never broke their 92 year old relationship. The truck came with Goodyear's and I didn't like them at all. Once they wore out, I replaced them with Firestone's and was totally happy with them and kept buying them when I needed new tires.
The Goodyear's on the truck and on the new car were totally horrible in the snow. I got the car stuck in 2 inches of snow and a tiny incline. I had it a week and didn't know how to turn the traction control off because there is no dashboard button to do so. That is my other complaint about the car. I had to have two friends push me to get over the little incline in a parking lot because the traction control kept me from spinning the tires. The next day I figured out how to do it. I have to navigate the dashboard settings display via the keypad on the steering wheel. That's too clumsy to deal with when you're stuck and need to get moving. A dashboard button is a necessity in this case.
Overall, its a great car and I am very happy with it.
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