So I just got the rig back from the local dealer where I had submitted to the required biannual inspection.
Rather than a simple California-style "smog check", this is a multi-page laundry list of items that must pass minimum requirements in order to receive a certificate. Since the testing fees, certificate fees, and taxes thereof can run a car owner upwards of US$1,000 it's often cheaper to just junk it and buy a new car -- subsequently you'll see very few "vintage" vehicles on Japanese roads due to the expensive upkeep. (New cars get a three-year inspection window instead of the usual two.)
Ol' #303 came through with flying colors, I'm happy to report, other than the standard maintenance of consumables (oil and filter, coolant, wiper blades, the emergency brake pad). Fees ran to $1,300 but I got back a spotless Escape with a clean bill of health.
Except, of course, for the transmission. Some of you folks might remember my complaints that the transmission will occasionally slip -- with a rather disconcerting grunting noise -- when downshifting from 4th to 3rd gear on ascending grades. I revived this point with the dealer, who agreed that it would be prudent to get that worked on now, before it becomes a Really Big Problem somewhere far from home and I end up with a dead Escape lying in a pool of transmission fluid. So he submitted an estimate to the used car dealer, with whom I am still under a one-year warranty (and to whom I've already charged for replacing the ignition coils back in the summer).
We'll see what happens there, but I'm not holding my breath. Replacing the transmission on a 2001 Escape costs nearly US$6,000. I bought the entire rig for $9,300...