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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 24

by Bob Hagin

Q. A reader in Sacramento, CA wants to sell her rough '64 Chevy Malibu and needs to know how much to ask for it. In Norfolk, VA an RV van owner hit a curb and has a shimmy problem. "My Ford Bronco rides bad after I had new shocks put on," complains an owner in Geneva, IL.

A. I have a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu. The size and type of engine is a 283 V8 and it has an automatic transmission. The mileage is about 225,219. I would like to sell this car. It needs new upholstery as well as some body work. Could you please tell me how much I should ask for this car?

Q. I have a '92 GMC G20 conversion van, full sized with a 350 CID engine. In the last three months, I have developed a steering vibration but only as certain times. At 45 MPH on a slight incline, the front wheels and the steering wheel will vibrate like mad. On a smooth road it is OK. I have had the tires rotated, the wheels aligned and the tires balanced. I have taken off both front wheels and can't find any free play. I struck a curb last February at 15 MPH and this has happened since. The shocks seem OK and the tire size has been changed from 225/75 R15 to 255/75 R15. I have 94,000 miles on the van.
A.S. Geneva, IL

A. If you have 94,000 miles on the original shocks, changing them is a good place to start. Since the right front is the side that took the pre-problem blow, the odds are that it's the location of your problem. Measure the wheelbase on each side (center of the front wheels to the center of the rears) and if the variation is more than a half-inch, you've bent something in the suspension or wheel on that side. Also check the ride height as per the factory specifications. From that point, it's a matter of checking out each unit in the suspension system. Another indication is to see if either front tire is wearing abnormally.

Q. I have a 1989 Ford Bronco II that I drove off the lot at the time of purchase. I have replaced the shocks twice. The first set were gas-charged shocks with a lifetime guarantee. They lasted a good while and gave me a good ride, with no swaying or rolling of the body from left to right and back again. I had a new set put on about nine months ago. The manufacturer replaced the shocks at no charge but the replacements weren't the same shock as before. Apparently, the company had discontinued the original type of shock that I had. Since I had the shocks replaced the second time, I've had a very poor riding vehicle. The installer said the replacements were performance shocks for light trucks. Satisfied with that, I asked my mechanic about the poor ride. He suggested I have the springs replaced, since this component is at work all the time. Do you think the shocks need replacing or do you think my problem could be the result of the shocks that were installed in place of my original gas-charged shocks?
R.R. Norfolk, VA

A. Since your Bronco II went immediately from good (or at least acceptable) performance with the first gas-charged shocks to unacceptable performance with their replacements, it's a pretty good bet that the second set aren't up to the job. Springs (especially the semi-elliptic type that's on the rear of most pickups and SUVs) do sag and lose their tension. When this happens, they should be re-arched or replaced. Toyotas are particularly prone to this problem. But before you have the springs gone through, it would pay to buy a set of top-quality gas-charged shocks. Since you got good service out of the first set you bought, you got your money's worth. Pay for the next set. Sometimes you get what you pay for if the replacement is free.

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