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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 36

by Bob Hagin

Q. We have a '95 VW Golf Hatchback that we bought for my mother-in-law to use around town. It had 20,000 miles on when we bought it and she has gone less than 3000 miles in two years. She is usually the only one that drives it but recently I drove it to a service center to have it serviced. It drifted to the left a bit so I had the alignment checked too. It was OK but it still pulls. Is the frame or suspension bent?
M.M Chesapeake, VA

A. The problem may be in the original tires. To test it, remove the right front tire, flip it on its rim, rebalance it and replace it. If that doesn't work, change to a different brand of tires on all four.

Q. I have a 1995 Chevy C30 3/4 ton van with 24,000 miles on it. It has a 350 engine with an overdrive automatic transmission. Practically from the day it was new, for just a second when it was first started, there was a clicking noise like the oil had drained down from the tappets. This only occurred once in a great while at first then became more prevalent, but no longer than two seconds as I put more miles on the van. I took it to the dealer I bought it from at about 22,000 miles and the tech I rode with said it was the main bearings that were too tight, .001 inches when they should be .003 inches. It didn't make sense to me, but since it was under warranty, I left it with them. According to their job sheet, the rear main bearing measured at .003 inches and all the others at .001. The connecting rod bearings showed excessive wear and they replaced them. Another diagnosis from another Chevy garage was that I had to use Delco filters to stop filter drain-down. I was skeptical but I had them do the job but there was no change. The mileage is now 24,000, the tapping has progressively gotten louder and longer but still less than two seconds. The three year warranty has expired but they said I had a one year warranty extension from the date the work was done. The bearings were changed in April '99.
J.E. Rescue, CA

A. I think the clicking you hear is from the oil pressure not building up for a couple of seconds when you start the car which lets the rod bearings "rattle." This can be checked by hooking up a hydromechanical test gauge to the system and watching the gauge the next morning during start-up. My guess is that a faulty oil pressure relief valve is letting the pressure drain off. Have it checked and replaced if necessary, but you better have the bearings replace again. As the noise gets worse, the bearings wear more.

Q. I purchased a 1997 Dodge Neon with the uplevel four cylinder, twin-cam 150 horsepower engine for a little added pep. After a month or so, the engine would run rough for 15 or 20 seconds. I made six or seven trips to the dealership over several months during which they changed the plugs, wires and numerous other adjustments with no avail. The service manager showed me a memo from Chrysler telling their service departments to advise owners to switch brands of gasoline and to go up to the highest octane fuel. Since then I've had no problem with the engine running rough but the cost of the gasoline is really high. I recently read that Chrysler dropped this engine because of all the problems they've had with it. Can Chrysler correct the problem on mine?
BD.S. Joliet, IL

A. Another reader just wrote me that his Neon is on its second cylinder head in 40,000 miles. As far as I know, Chrysler doesn't have a cure for the detonation problem which causes cylinder head gaskets to leak and heads to crack on those 2.0 liter engines. If you're Neon is running well, stay with the high test gasoline and hope for the best. I've been told by Chrysler engineers that the newest version of the engine used in the Neon is more reliable than its predecessor but they were reluctant to tell me what the changes were.

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