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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 16

by Bob Hagin

Q. In December of 1984 I purchased an '85 Nissan standard pickup with the basic carburated four-cylinder engine and the five-speed transmission. It presently has 173,000 miles on it, gets 33 miles per gallon on the highway, uses no motor oil, and has immaculate original paint. It has had only the factory recommended maintenance during it entire life. How much longer can I expect this enjoyment to last without any major problems? What will go wrong first? Is there anything that has presented problems to other owners of trucks like mine?
S.P. Tepoca, CA

A. I've had some letters come in that related some horror stories about Nissan stick-shift pickups of that era. They suffered from chronic clutch, transmission pilot bearing and internal bearing troubles that came upon them as mileage increased so this may be an area to pay attention to. The problem starts with a squeal when the clutch is let out which indicates a dry pilot bearing. Unfortunately there's no way to lubricate the pilot bearing without removing the transmission and the clutch cover and disk. It's a small bearing (and sometimes a plain bronze bushing) that fits into the end of the crankshaft and provides a "steady" for the input shaft that comes out of the transmission. The input shaft has long serrations along its length on which the clutch plate slides.The clutch plate actually transmits the engine power into the transmission. If your Nissan is going to experience trouble, this is where it's most likely to come from. Some V6 engines have also given some trouble but the four-cylinder unit that's in your truck has been in service for many years and has proven to be as nearly bullet-proof as anything on the road. It's not high-tech but it is reliable.

Q. We have a 1992 Honda Prelude and it has gradually developed a problem while driving on a flat road. If I take my hands off the wheel even for a moment, the car pulls just slightly to the right. Three of usdrive the car (my husband, myself and occasionally our teen-age son) but none of us have hit any curbs or done anything to damage the tires. It isn't causing any problem when we drive and my husband says that it doesn't seem to be wearing out the tires abnormally. Is this something that can develop into a major problem?
S.S. Eugene, OR.

A. There's a certain amount of "pull" adjusted into most automotive suspensions to compensate for the water drain-off built into streets and highways, but the rectification pull is supposed to be to the left. I'd suspect your son's driving having had five of them but then I'm the suspicious type. Have the front and rear suspensions of your Honda closely checked for alignment as well as for being "true" to the chassis specifications. If everything lines up OK, it's possible that you have a defective spool valve in the power steering unit. I don't think it's covered by a recall or a warrenty but it can't hurt to ask.

Q. I have a 1989 Chevrolet pickup truck with a V8 engine and a stick-shift transmission. Several months ago it started to overheat a little bit and it worried me enough that I changed the thermostat in the engine. I put in one that was listed as colder than the 195 degree one that was in it. The engine still runs hot according to the temperature gage. Should I put in another thermostat that is even colder?
B.J. Edmonds, WA

A. Modern engines are designed to run at a prescribed coolant temperature in order to make the fuel volatilize correctly for the best economy, power and emissions control. The engine coolant thermostat is the device that controls this and it shouldn't be replaced with one of a different rating. Check your temp gauge by using a mechanics master gauge. If your temp gauge is OK check for some kind of leak (crack or faulty gasket) between the combustion chambers and the cooling system.

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