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General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #5

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On: Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 3:04PM | By: Peter C Sessler


General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #5

Q.  I've seen several "miracle" oil additives at the auto parts store and I wonder if they work or not. They all make the same sort of claims that they protect the engine from heat and friction and make the engine last longer. What do you think?
A. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) sent out a bulletin saying that the claims made by one of the largest additive makers were false, or at least misleading, back in 1990s, and another additive maker was fined for misleading claims. My feeling is they aren't worth the money. When I did research on synthetic oils, I found that many of these additives consist of the same basic ingredients found in synthetics. When it's time to change the oil, down the drain they go. Engines last a long time these days even if you use conventional oil and change it every 3000 miles. I know of cars with over 200,000 miles on them with their owners changing oil every 4,000-5,000 miles. Synthetics are much better, but more expensive. So don't waste your money on the additives.

Q. I've got an older car, 1988 Chevy Celebrity with 95,000 miles on it and it has run fine over the years. The problem I'm having is that it starts fine when it's cold, but after the engine is at normal operating temperature, it has a hard time starting. I've also noticed that on really hot days, the engine sputters and hesitates at high speeds. My local mechanic has checked everything over and could not find anything wrong. Any ideas?
A. Have your mechanic check the fuel pressure at the injectors when the car is hot. The problem is probably a failing fuel pump. The fuel system is set to run richer when the engine is cold, but when it gets warm the enrichment circuits shut off, thereby leaning the system out. Low fuel pressure will then lean the mixture even more. It could also be a restricted fuel filter. When was the last time you changed it?

Q. Every day on my way to work I see an early Mustang parked in a field. I've always thought about getting an older car and tinkering with it. It's been there a long time and I wonder, is it worth restoring or fixing it up?
A. First, you have to ask yourself, why it's been there so long. The problem with cars that have sat on fields for a long time, particularly Mustangs, is they're probably rotted out pretty badly by this time. Yes, they can be restored because there is a large aftermarket industry making parts for them, but it will cost you more than the car is worth to repair it. You're better off getting a Mustang that's already restored, or mostly restored.

Q. My 2000 Dodge Dakota with the six cylinder engine makes a very loud roaring sound when it's first turned on and then it subsides. I've been told that this is considered normal. Now the roaring sound comes on and off at various times, even when I'm cruising. It's very annoying and the dealer said there's nothing wrong with the engine. Is this normal?
A. Your engine uses a viscous clutch which engages the cooling fan when it senses that the temperature has gone over a preset limit. The fan then turns on and pulls additional air through the radiator to cool the engine down. It makes a lot more noise when it is engaged than when it is just freewheeling. What is probably happening is it is engaging when it isn't supposed to. Have a mechanic check out the fan clutch.

Q. My 1999 Honda Accord was in a fender bender and I took it to the shop the insurance company recommended. I stopped by before the work was completed and I noticed, to my surprise, they were using a fender and parts that had obviously come from a junk yard. I was very upset and I called my insurance agent who told me it was up to the repair shop where they got the parts. Is this legal?
A. Yup. Junk yards prefer to be known as recyclers and as you probably can guess, the insurance companies prefer to have the job done as cheaply as possible, too. New parts are usually very expensive while "recycled" parts are cheaper.

Q. The voltmeter in my 1993 Dodge Caravan reads toward the third section of its range, towards the 18 mark. The manual says it should rest towards the middle, between the 8 and 18. What does this mean?
A. With most cars, the normal alternator voltage output is around the 14 volt range. Much above that results in overcharging the battery while below that results in an eventual dead battery. You should have your system's voltage checked - it's a simple matter of attaching a lead to each of your battery's posts to a voltmeter (a fairly cheap instrument) or you can have it checked by your mechanic.

Q. Recently, I've noticed a small leak from the neck of my radiator. I've asked around, and I was told that it can't be fixed because it's made of plastic. I checked the price of a new one and it's over $250. Is there a "quick-fix" you can recommend?
A. Try using epoxy (or JB Weld) first. Some brands will work better than others. Depending where the leak is, you may be able to clamp a piece of hose on the opening, too. The next cheapest alternative is to visit your local "recycling" (junk) yard. A used radiator is a lot cheaper than a new one. If that doesn't do it, you'll just have to get a new one.




Comments

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Gfautoshopper | 5:02PM (Thu, Oct 6, 2011)

Nice input. Its easy to get sucked in to the miracle fixes. It's good to know they are a hoax.



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