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Automania/Repair & Maintenance
Auto Questions And Answers For Week 35 Year 2001
by Bob Hagin
Q. My father bought a Ford Custom four-door sedan new in 1957 and drove it until he had to give up driving four years ago. He died last year and we have kept Dad's car in the family since then. It's parked at my brother's house. He keeps it covered up and starts it up every so often. My nephew wants to restore it to the way it was when his grandfather bought it. Is it worth restoring? It has a standard shift and a six cylinder engine, some body rust and it needs upholstery.
A. Really good examples of your dad's car are going for around $7000 in Hemmings Motor News and it would cost at least three times that much to do a first-class restoration depending on the skill-level of your nephew. My suggestion is to clean it up really well, store it indoors and keep it in the same condition as when your dad stopped driving it.
Q. In a recent column you discuss brake system flushes. I've been debating with myself about replacing brake fluid. Our '98 Honda Accord is our first new car in 12 years. On previous cars that we usually drive for ten years, I don't remember the maintenance schedule requiring replacement of the brake fluid, which the Honda does specify. Does your experience indicate that brake fluid replacement is necessary to preclude brake system corrosion and assure system reliability? Or if it ain't broke, is it better to leave the system alone? If replacement is desirable, is time or miles the more important variable to determine the replacement interval?
A. Mileage is the determining factor. If you'd bleed your brakes yourself, chances are the first fluid that would squirt out would be a black fluid that's a mixture of brake fluid, water and rubber debris. In the case of some Honda products, it can also hold bits of metal from the anti-skid brake system. I've done lots of brake jobs on high-mileage vehicles with drum brakes and I'd either replaced the wheel cylinders or rebuilt them with new sealing cups. I did this because I have experienced brake fluid leakage at the cylinders after I pushed their pistons back into their bores and into the debris that collected there. Periodically replacing the hydraulic fluid in the brake system keeps this contamination to a minimum. Disc brake calipers don't have quite the same problem but the debris is still there. Water and other brake contaminants can be pulled in through flexible hydraulic brake hoses.
Q. I own a 27-foot Class "C" on a Ford E-350 chassis. It has a 460 cubic inch engine with an automatic transmission with overdrive. I was king of the road with 9.5 mpg. I took it in for its first 30,000 mile service, including an engine tune-up. I now get 8.5 mpg. The motorhome was used when I bought it with 5500 miles on it, so it probably came from the factory with this 9.5 mpg. What could have caused less gas mileage after the tune-up. The motor home came with Michelin tires but with five years of use, I had two blowouts so I replaced all the tires with Kellys. Could the tires have made the difference?
A. Unless the replacement tires are of a different size from the originals, the change wouldn't make a difference in fuel mileage. If they are smaller in diameter, the vehicle would get slightly lower miles per gallon but have better pulling power and hill climbing. It would also make the speedometer read high. If the tire diameter is greater than the original, the fuel mileage would be slightly better but the power on the hills would be worse. The most likely answer to your lower fuel mileage is that something was missed during the your tuneup. If you can, have all the tune parameters (timing, mixture, etc.) checked for the correct settings. Run a couple of cans of fuel system cleanout chemicals through the engine for a couple of hundred miles. It may help.
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