It appears the troubles with one of my cars is almost over. For a recap: My Taurus suddenly stopped running well. The engine sounded horrible and it had no power. It has also had a history of overheating at the most inopportune of times. The Metro had numerous problems. I replaced the tires on it and drove for a few weeks until I happened to notice that the tires that were just put on were almost bald. My dad and I looked at it and realized an axle was bad, so we replaced it. I bought tires again and went to get a front end alignment, but I was told that the ball joints were bad. My dad and I checked them ourselves and they seemed fine. Weeks later, I looked at the tires and these tires were also bad. At this point I had no money for any repairs, so the plan was to continue using the Metro for delivering pizza and my dad's jeep for all other vehicular activities. Coincidentally, during this period, we were not busy at Pizza Hut. I was down to working 2 days a week, which was good for keeping the car running for a bit longer, and I had my sons visiting, but exacerbated the "not having money" part. While driving the Metro, the water pump went out. I was officially without a functional car of my own. I replaced the water pump and waited a week for a paycheck from my "real" job and bought new controller arms, since you can't just get ball joints for a Metro :( Once those were replaced, we did a front-end alignment ourselves (if I had known how easy it is, I would never have paid to have one done), and the car felt better than I ever remember it feeling while driving. The tires on it are all worn out in some way (sides or middle), so the last thing I needed to accomplish before this car was "all better" was to replace them. By sheer chance, I happened to check Craigslist yesterday and found an ad for 4 almost new tires for my car for $50. 4 brand new tires would be around $260. I immediately called and was advised that someone else was also interested but he wasn't holding them for anyone. 20 min after the guy had posted the ad, I was on my way to go get them. Now, I just need to get them mounted and balanced :)
The Taurus is another story, not nearly as bad as it seemed at the time: The initial diagnosis was that a rod was bent, just because of how it sounded. After taking the engine apart, my dad found that a piece of plastic had somehow gotten lodged in one of the valves. No bent rods. There was also water found in the oil, though not it the oil tank, which seems to confirm my dad's suspicion that there was a small leak in the head gasket which lead to the overheating issue. Currently, I'm waiting for the money to arrive in my hands to buy a head gasket kit so the engine can be put back together.
Needless to say, I'm feeling much happier than I have in a while :)