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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 41

by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a problem with my brakes. While changing the pads, I noticed that one of the pads had dug into the rotor on one side so I changed both of the rotors, all the brake pads and the brake hoses. The brakes now heat up and get very hot. I took my vehicle to a Ford dealer's shop and was told that the brake hoses were collapsing and it would cost me $200 to change the already-new hoses to correct the problem. I took it to a tire station and left without a solution. The mechanic there said that the type of rims I have on my car don't allow air to get in to help cool things down. They say it's not the proportioning valve.
W.S. Chesapeake, VA

A.If your brakes were working well before you changed the pads and rotors, it doesn't make sense that your wheels suddenly weren't letting air get in to cool them. All vehicle brakes get hot since they convert forward motion energy into heat energy (pads and shoes rubbing on rotors and drums) that is dissipated into the air stream. You may have incompatibility between the friction material on the pads or shoes and the discs or drums, but it's more likely a mechanical problem wherein the pads or shoes aren't being pushed away from the rotors or drums and are "dragging." This can happen if the calipers aren't sliding or "floating" as they should. This situation may have occurred if you simply slid the calipers back over corroded slides or pins rather than cleaning up all the operating surfaces. I don't think the problem is a hydraulic pressure buildup. If this happened, your vehicle would eventually come to a complete stop but to check, open the caliper bleed screws when the brakes are hot and check for high residual pressure.

Q. I have an '87 Buick Riviera that I bought second-hand five years ago and it's never had any problems. This summer it started to run hot and the air conditioner wouldn't work. We called a local repair shop, took it in and were asked if we wanted a tune-up too. We had it done and when we picked it up, we were told that the shop couldn't work on cars with computers and that they couldn't fix the overheating problem. We took it to a Buick dealership and when it was checked out, we were told that the car wasn't worth fixing the computer. My husband asked if it could be fixed for $1000 and was told it wasn't possible. We paid a fee for checking it out and found that the car didn't overheat on the 60- mile trip home. I love this car and would like to keep it.
H.M. Elizabeth City, NC

A. According to my latest Kelly Blue Book, a first-class '87 Riviera is worth around $4100 so it's probably worth shopping around but in the future, ask the independent shop owner if his shop has the equipment and expertise to fix your problem. Overheating problems can usually be traced to head gaskets that leak, cylinder heads that crack, water pumps that are faulty or a number of other cooling system problems. A cooling system shop should be able to pinpoint your problem if it persists and an air conditioner shop should be able to cure your other problem. To keep your aging Buick operating, you'll have to find these experts.

Q. I have a 1996 Honda Civic CX with over 50,000 miles on it. I'm a food salesperson so I spend a lot of time on the road. Since I drive it around town a lot every day, I'm very sensitive to how it feels. I don't have a Honda shop service it but I take it to a fast-oil-change shop regularly. I feel a very slight roughness in the gas pedal but my boyfriend says he can't feel anything wrong and that it's my imagination. Should I have a mechanic check it out?
K.H. Pleasanton, CA

A. It's not your imagination. A small number of '96 Civics had slightly rough-acting throttle cables and while most owners don't feel it's a big enough deal to worry about, Honda wants to fix them. Check with a local dealer to see if your car is one of them. It may be free.

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