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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 2 YEAR 2001

by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1997 Ford Taurus station wagon with a V6 engine and about 67.000 miles on the odometer. About a week ago, I took it into a quick oil change shop to have the engine oil and filter changed. I picked up the car and drove it about a mile when the engine suddenly stopped. I called the shop from my cell phone (the phone number was on my receipt) and talked to the service manager. He asked me to try to restart the car again and it did start but the engine oil red light stayed on. He told me to drive it back to the shop which I did. When I got there, he checked the oil stick and found that there was no oil in the engine. A very young mechanic had service my car and the manager said that he had forgotten to put fresh oil into it. I made the manager write that on my receipt. He filled the engine with oil and started it up. He said that no damage had been done but after I left and the engine got warmed up, the oil light came on when the engine was idling. Now the oil light comes on when it idles and I'm worried that permanent damage has been done. I called the shop again but the manager assured me that it would be OK.
D.W. Concord, CA

A. When the oil light comes on in a vehicle, stop immediately and have it towed somewhere to be inspected. Driving it back to the shop may have ruined the engine. When the engine stopped, it was because the bearings or pistons or both had seized and become scored. Driving it back exacerbated the problem. Contact the owner of the place and demand that a shop of your choice examine the engine and do what needs to be done to fix the problem. It's possible that you may need a new "long block" which includes a crankshaft, cylinder block, heads, etc.

Q. I have a '90 Chevrolet Cavalier with the 2.2-liter engine and automatic transmission. It has 121,000 miles and has been well maintained. It is a good car but recent repairs in the past four months are eating up my wallet. In this time period I have had to replace the heater core plus a cooling system flush, the ECM computer for the fuel injection, leaking heater hoses, ignition module, power steering hose, the fuel pump and sending unit and the power steering pump. This pump was replaced for the third time with a GM unit after two aftermarket pumps failed this year. Previous repairs have been pretty minor and not expensive. What can I expect in future repairs? I'm the original owner and had planned to keep it for two more years.
C.M. Virginia Beach, VA

A. There are around 18,000 parts on a modern car so you can take your pick. A quick guess would be a problem with the automatic transmission (very expensive), brakes (if you haven't had them replaced already) and/or the camshaft timing belt (hopefully it's been replaced since it's really bad news if it breaks). At the rate you drive, two years will produce 22,000 more miles on the car. Be ready for problems and pick a replacement ahead of time.

Q. I am going to buy a device to put onto my 1987 motorhome that is mounted on a Dodge chassis. It has a 440 cubic inch engine. The device uses a fluid that is a platinum solution that is pulled into the carburetor and plates the inside of the combustion chambers and spark plugs with a thin layer of platinum which acts as a catalytic converter to eliminate smog and increase fuel mileage. It has been approved by the federal government according to the brochure.
D.S. Melton, WA

A. Before you buy, check with the Environmental Protection Agency people. They'll no doubt tell you that it won't hurt your engine (it's really just a water injector) but that they have no proof it helps. Those things have been around for decades and I have one in my shop.

 

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