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General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #2

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On: Tue, Sep 27, 2011 at 9:08AM | By: Peter C Sessler

General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #2

Q: My car seems to be running normal (although the temperature gauge is higher than normal), but in the past week or so, I’ve noticed that the heat goes away. When I get home, I check the radiator and the level is down. There don’t seem to be any leaks anywhere, which puzzles me. And the engine oil looks normal so I don’t think there’s a head gasket problem, otherwise the oil would be contaminated. What gives?

A: Actually, you’ve answered your own question. The coolant has got to go somewhere, so if it isn’t leaking into the oil and the radiator and the cooling system is holding pressure, then the only thing it could be is a head gasket that’s going bad. Sometimes a head gasket gets worse gradually and there’s also the possibility that you’ve got a cracked head, as well. My feeling is that you’ve got a cracked head and a bad gasket. Start saving.

Q: I usually keep a can or two of that fix-a-flat stuff in the trunk of my car because, over the years, I’ve found it very useful in dealing with slow leaks. Recently, one of the tires seemed to lose pressure, so I used one can. A couple of days later, it happened again, so I used another can. Now the tire seems to be holding air, but the car sure shakes when I drive over 65 mph. Would a bad tire do that?

A: While one can of fix-a-flat is usually OK, using more than one will cause your tires to go out of balance. The liquid sealer material that is injected into the tire is sloshing around causing an out of balance situation. Take the tire to a service station and have the leak fixed properly.

Q: My car’s (a 1998 Ford Crown Vic) engine has a small leak at the oil pan. It isn’t that bad, but it sure makes the underneath of the car pretty messy. I checked with my local mechanic and he told me it would cost $250.00 to change it. Am I getting ripped off here? I checked at the local parts store and an oil pan gasket goes for only $25.00?

A: No, you’re not getting ripped off. The problem is that so many lines and other components have to be removed to get to it—and probably the engine has to be lifted up a few inches, too—not to mention removing the oil pump or pick-up tube, too. If that’s too much, why not have the bottom of the engine spray-cleaned and then apply gobs of silicone gasket material around the offending area?

Q: I have a 2003 Buick. Since the car is getting a bit old, I thought it might be a good idea to repack the front-wheel bearings, but when I went to do it, I found that they’re sealed for life. How long will they last?

A: Sealed bearing on FWD cars are not repackable. They are sealed at the factory and should last the life of the car—assuming, of course, you don’t make a habit of going over the roughest roads or biggest potholes you can find.


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