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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 40

by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1987 Sterling which I bought last fall because we needed to replace our second car. I chose this make to get the reliable Acura engine at a price that I could afford which was about a third that of a comparable Acura. I knew I was buying an orphan. I had a very reliable mechanic change the timing belt and all the fluids as well as the filters. I've driven it trouble-free for 10,000 miles and find it very much a "driver's car." In addition to the engine, what other major components are the same as in a comparable Acura? Did Rover license the entire Acura design and use it, producing some body parts locally, or did they design the car, opting to use only selected Acura parts? Can I use an Acura reference for non-engine replaceable parts identification items like headlight bulbs, brakes, etc? Is the American distributor still in business? I heard a rumor that there was a parts source in Texas. Is there a site on the web for Sterling owners?
L.S. Oroville, CA

A. One of the drawbacks of buying an out-of-production car to use as a daily driver rather than an enthusiast's weekend play thing is that parts and service may be hard to find. Your Acura-based British Sterling is one of these. Made by the British Rover outfit and imported here from 1987 to 1991, the car enjoyed a spate of popularity but British-built bugaboos surfaced and the operation folded in this country. There's no factory support here that I know of and to further complicate matters, Rover is now owned by BMW. I found Post Oak Motor Cars, Ltd. in Houston at britishroyalmotors.com/ and it advertises genuine Sterling parts.

Q. We have a 1983 GMC Vandura van with a 250 cubic inch straight six engine and we are having an ongoing problem. When the engine is idling and I then press the accelerator, the motor shuts off and stalls. The only way I can keep it going is to pump the gas pedal rapidly and accelerate otherwise the engine will shut off again.
S.L. South Mills, NC

A. That old Chevy/GMC straight six is pretty simple and a good place to start would be with a comprehensive tune-up. If you have to pump the accelerator to keep it going, I'd suspect that the main discharge system in the carburetor isn't supplying enough fuel to keep the engine working. With each pump of the gas pedal, you're squirting a small amount of gas into the engine through the accelerator pump system. When you stop, the engine runs out of gas. The problem could be a number of things like a major engine vacuum leak somewhere (they were famous for losing intake manifold gaskets), plugged circuits in the carburetor or a restricted fuel filter. Regular servicing according to the vehicle maker's schedule that you'll find in the owner's operating manual helps keep these kinds of problems to a minimum.

Q. We have a 1995 Dodge Neon that has a 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. The car has given us lots of small problems over the years and at one point, the cylinder head had to be replaced. Several times the dealer has been unable to fix the car because the parts are not readily available and we had to rent a vehicle until they arrive from the factory. It now has just under 50,000 miles on it and it has developed a percular popping noise from the front end when we make a sharp turn at low speed. We notice it mostly when we are backing out of our driveway. We are almost afraid to take the car in for fear it will be tied up for a long period of time. At least now it's still usable and I want to avoid having to rent a car again.
P.B. Milton, WA

A. Chances are that the front wheel bearings are going bad - a fairly common problem on the Dodge/Plymouth clones of that year. I don't think that you'll be hung up on parts this time since the bearings and seals are readily available but have it checked out first.

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