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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 43

by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a '32 Ford streetrod with a 327 Chevy engine, a Turbo 350 automatic transmission, an Edelbrock manifold, headers, 300 heads and a fully-shrouded Walker radiator. When I get into slow traffic or go "cruising," it overheats. I had the radiator completely gone through and the core rodded out. I took it to our local super tune-up shop and when they put the analyzer on it, they said there was an abnormal amount of hydrocarbons in the coolant. I'm running a 50/50 antifreeze/water mixture. They stated that anything over 30 on the analyzer would contribute to overheating. Mine reads 106. Their conclusion was that a head gasket was blown, but I've seen no evidence of this. Also, when I stop for gas after a continual run and then hit the starter, nothing happens. Since the starter is close to the exhaust headers, I thought it might be heat-related, so I installed a new hi-torque mini-starter but it didn't cure the problem. My wife and I attend some 15 car shows each year, so I'd like to get these problems solved.
W.W. Pollack Pines, CA

If you're getting hydrocarbons (unburned fuel) into your cooling system, you do, indeed, have a leak from one of more of the combustion chambers into a the coolant jacket. Another test is to warm up the engine, put a pressure-tester on the radiator neck, pump the tester to 17 pounds and see how long the pressure holds. Ideally, it won't drop at all. Retorque the head bolts first, but if you pull the heads, have them crack-checked too since it may be more than just a gasket. Since the starter on your Chevy engine is easy to get to, do a starter draw test when it won't start and you'll quickly pinpoint it as a bad battery connection, neutral safety switch, solenoid or the starter itself.

I have a 1976 Ford F150 pickup truck and my title reads 1976. However, now the dealer's shop foreman claims it's a 1973. After a closer look at the paint, I'm sure it was repainted as there are marks on the front of the hood. The vehicle identification number plate in the defroster hole has been bent back so I can't read it. The sticker has been replaced with a smaller one on the driver's side door. This has a vehicle identification number and the date of manufacturer is 8/76. This pickup was sold to me as new, but now I'm wondering if I was taken for a ride. I put in a rebuilt engine which now has 5000 miles on it. The total mileage on the pickup is 105,000.
Q.N. Harrisburg, OR

It's pretty hard to do much investigative work 23 years after the fact, but the first place to examine is the vehicle identification number (VIN) tab in the defroster vent even it the windshield has to be removed. There are also other places on the truck (most not easily accessible) that carry the VIN and were put there in order to identify a stolen vehicle if the VIN plate was altered. If the selling dealership hasn't changed hands, it may still have the original paperwork that came with it from Ford. Many years ago, I knew of an operation that stole a Datsun off the pier and modified them with numbers and paperwork that went with salvaged cars, so it's possible (but not probable) that your Ford was involved in the same kind of a scam.

I have an '89 four-cylinder Mazda pickup with 93,000 miles. When it is cold, I have to start it three or four times before it will keep running. When it's warmed up, there is no problem. I paid one shop $40 to check the carburetor and I paid another shop $424 to do a computer diagnosis. The last shop seemed to cure it but it's doing it again.
L.B. Portsmouth, VA

A. We could go over a lot of things that could make your Mazda not go to a high idle but since you've recently paid a shop $424 to cure the problem, the most rational thing to do is take it back and tell the mechanic that the "fix" didn't work.

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