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General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions

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On: Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 9:08AM | By: Peter C Sessler

General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I’ve got a 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier which runs fine. However, in the past two years, I’ve noticed that the paint is actually coming off in certain areas—primarily on the roof and on the hood, leaving a light gray area. It isn’t rusting out or anything, but it sure makes the car look bad. What do you suggest?
This sort of thing is happening with other makes, too, not just your Cavalier. The problem is that the car makers don’t put as much paint on their cars as they used to, so the paint eventually wears-off. Obviously, your car is way past any kind of warranty action so you can either: A) leave it alone, B) touch it up (but that won’t look very good), or C) have your car repainted. If you plan on keeping your car for a while longer, option C is the best way to go. Of course, taking your car to a body shop and having it painted is a major proposition; however, you can take your car to Maaco, and the results aren’t bad at allconsidering what they charge. I’ve used them with pretty good results, and you’ll find they often run half-price sales. Call them and ask them when their next sale is on.

Q: We’ve already had some pretty hot days and I wonder is there anything I should do to make sure my car doesn’t overheat over the summer? What about removing the thermostat?
Don’t ever remove the thermostat! It’s there for a reason and the reason is to make sure your car warms up quickly. Once it’s warmed up, it will run more efficiently. Now if your car overheats, it could be due to a faulty thermostat, which isn’t opening and allowing the coolant to circulate through the radiator. Now, even though this might sound hard to believe, running your car without a thermostat can actually make it overheat! Water can hold a tremendous amount of heat energy, but it takes a long time for it to absorb itsort of like waiting for the water to boil when you‘re making spaghetti. Without a thermostat, the water circulates very quickly through the engine, without it ever staying in one spot long enough to absorb the heat, and so the engine overheats. The way to avoid cooling problems is to have the system reverse-flushed every two years (there are do-it-yourself kits available) and change the anti-freeze according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Q: I have the possibility of getting a car that’s been sitting a whilean old 1980 Pontiac Firebird. The body looks pretty good but I’m concerned about the engineit hasn’t been run for years, even though it’s been garaged. What do you think?
How much money do you have in your bank account? Even if it’s been garaged, there’s certain to be some deterioration inside the engine and transmission (especially if it’s an automatic). There are different schools of thought regarding this, but I’ll tell you what I would do. First, I’d change the oil and filter. I’d replace the battery, if it’s still there, squirt some upper-cylinder lubricant into each cylinder (and since you’ve got to remove the sparkplugs to do this, install new ones at the same time). Disconnect the wire going from the coil going to the distributor, and then crank the engine over. This is to allow the fresh oil you’ve just put in to circulate a bit. The next area you’ve got to tackle is “how good is the gas that’s in the tank?” If the car has been sitting for a really long time, you’re probably better off draining and replacing the gas. Still, you can try running it, but most likely the car won’t run too well. If you do decide to go the running-it route, add a couple of containers of dry-gas in the tank.

You may luck out and the engine will run fine. However, you may also run into a host of leaks. Gaskets, seals, O-rings (especially those in a transmission) have a tendency to shrink and dry out if the car isn’t used regularly. Brake calipers and wheel cylinders, not to mention rusted-out discs and drums will need replacing. The tires may be dry-rottedand the exhaust system will probably be rusted out, too. Resurrecting a car is a big proposition because you’ll run into the ”you might as well” syndrome. You’ve taken this apart so “you might as well” replace that while you’re at it. Soon, you’ll end up replacing everything and totally restoring the car. Hey, it’s a 1980 Pontiac Firebird, so “you might as well!”


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