Winning the Lottery

For the record, I don’t play the lottery. I consider it a tax on people who can’t do math. But I still managed to kind of win a sort of lottery today. Let me explain.

My daily driver is a 2003 Toyota Tundra. Compared to Mrs. P’s 1997 4Runner, it’s a relative youngster, but at 190,000 miles, my truck has a bit more road time than her car. We tend to keep vehicles for a long time, unlike my parents, who seem to show up with a new vehicle every couple of years.

Anyway, I took my truck to the local Toyota dealer today for some recall notices I had received. I only go to the “stealership” for recalls and to buy OEM parts – I pretty much do all my own service. But the recall was for the passenger side airbag, and as fun as it sounds to play with pyrotechnic charges, I figured I’d let them take care of it.

When I went to pick up the truck, the service manager had a surprise for me. Turns out there was a second recall, for frame corrosion. They inspected my frame and found perforation in one of the brackets. “OK,” I said. “What’s the repair for that?” I figured they’d weld a patch on the hole and put some corrosion preventative on it. Nope. The service manager floored me with, “Oh, we just replace your frame!” It took a second for me to process that, and I had to ask him to make sure I had heard that right, but I had. Literally the first part of the truck that was built, and the first item put on the assembly line, needs to be replaced. He showed me a 2007 Tacoma in the garage getting the same treatment, and sure as hell, the truck was entirely disassembled – cab up on one lift, bed on the other, engine and transmission hanging from a hoist, rear axle across the shop, and a brand new frame on jacks getting all the pieces put back on it.

I was stunned. I couldn’t even begin to think what it would cost to have that service done – he told me it would be five to seven days in the shop. So maybe 50 hours of wrench time at like $200 an hour – $10,000 in labor alone! And a new frame has to run close to $8,000 I’d guess. Somewhere around $20,000 would seem a safe guess. And I’m getting it for free.

Oh, sure, they’ll try like hell to upsell me – he started today, with the “You might as well think about anything you want done that would be easier with the truck apart.” And I might even bite – the parking brake cable has always been slack and a right pain to adjust, so I might have them do that, and new shocks might not be a bad idea. Then again, the thrill of walking out of the shop with an essentially new vehicle  – they’re even replacing the brake lines! – without spending a dime is hard to resist. Hell, I even get a loaner while it’s in the shop, even if it’s just a Corolla.

I rarely come up holding anything other than the gooey end of the stick in my financial dealings, but I guess this time I got lucky.


    1. APB

      Yeah, right? I told the service manager I wanted to take pictures of the teardown, and he was good with that, so watch for some amazing posts within the next couple of weeks.

      I thought I might be able to wangle something like a buyout from the dealer, but no dice – at 189,000 miles, they wouldn’t be able to sell it other than at wholesale auction. But the sales manager did suggest that after the frame is repaired, if I make it all new and shiny like new, I could get $8000 for it retail on Craigslist or something like that.

      So that’s the new plan – sell the truck and get something suitable for another trip out to Idaho this fall. I’m thinking Sequoia, sometime between 2005 and 2007. Same basic vehicle as the Tundra, but in an SUV form factor. And with a third row of seats and plenty of legroom, it’s make a much better family truckster for the trip. And with 4WD, if we should time the Rockies crossing poorly we’d be better able to handle an early season snowstorm.


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