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Automania/Repair and Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 02

by Bob Hagin

Q. We own a 1994 Hyundai Excel four-door sedan with a four-cylinder engine and it has 47,000 miles on it. We bought it after it had been repossessed by a bank and offered to the highest bidder. When we first got the car, it didn't run all that great but we kept it anyway. Gradually over time, it ran worse and worse and now it takes considerable cranking to get it started. When it does catch, it idles very poorly and also has poor acceleration. There is no Hyundai dealer near us and so I took it to a local independent shop. The mechanic there did a routine service on it but it didn't help. He found nothing wrong and really didn't seem very enthusiastic about working on a Hyundai. I'm afraid that if it gets much worse, it won't run at all.
H.H. Milton, WA

A. If your mechanic doesn't want to work on a Hyundai, make him happy and go somewhere else. I recently came across a Hyundai factory service bulletin that seems to describe your problem and what it takes to fix it. The fault is most likely a cracked in-tank fuel line between the pump motor and its assembly mounting flange. The fix is to replace it and while the mechanic is at it, have him or her replace the flexible hose that's in there, too. They apparently had a bad habit of developing pin hole leaks due to faulty material. The next step is to find a Hyundai parts dealer within driving distance.

Q. I own a 1950 DeSoto hardtop coupe. My grandmother was the original owner and she told me as I was growing up that this car was one of only 500 ever made. Now that she is gone and the car is mine, I'd like to know if this is true.
W.E. Virginia Beach, VA

A. I checked through the "Encyclopedia of American Cars 1930 to 1980" which lists your DeSoto as a Sportsman Hardtop coupe, and notes that 4600 of them were built. "The New Complete Book of Collectible Cars 1930 to 1980" gives it its own niche stating that "Of the several interesting DeSotos from the 1950-51 period styling generation, the Sportsman hardtop is the most important historically." I was a high school kid when it came out and what impressed me most was that it was very slow.

Q. I own a 1984 Dodge full-sized pickup with a 318 cubic inch engine, a two-barrel carburetor, an automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning. It has no power at all and only averages about 10 to 11 miles per gallon. I use it to pull a 19-foot fifth-wheel trailer and it's barely up to the job. Going over a grade is time-consuming and frustrating. I've had the engine checked out and everything is alright. It presently has 125,000 miles on it. Are there any add-ons that I can use to improve its performance? I plan to have the engine rebuilt in the near future and I wonder what changes could be done then. Would an RV camshaft help? Would it be worth it to put on a four-barrel carburetor and manifold at the same time? I remember as a kid that the 318 Dodge engine had pretty good pep but mine is a dog.
B.A. Sacramento, CA

A. As I recall there were two 318 cubic inch Chrysler engines, the early version being much wider and altogether different from the later model. The early version may be the one you remember. The one in your truck would no doubt profit power-wise from a complete rebuild at 125,000 miles. By now your high-miler may have flat cam lobes, a stretched timing chain, leaking valves and rings, a malfunctioning carburetor, a faulty distributor (they wore bushings as soon as they came off the assembly line, and who knows what else. A quality engine rebuilder can guide you through the necessary steps and finances to update your Dodge but be careful about adding unapproved hop-up equipment. Sometimes they don't pass the state inspections that are required in some parts of the country.

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