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Automania/Repair and Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 26

by Bob Hagin

Q. I purchased a 1991 Mercury Sable new in December of 1990 and it is equipped with the anti-skid brake system. Recently on several occasions the brakes have not released after braking. I spoke with a Ford service manager about this and he suggested lifting the brake pedal with my toe to release the brakes. This worked but was an inconvenience and a distraction. It occurred to me that all I needed was a return spring on the brake pedal. I drilled a small hole in the arm of the pedal and installed a tension spring, connecting the other end to the bottom of the dash up out of sight. This arrangement seems to work fine. What harm or problem might this cause? The service manager has no idea as to what is causing this problem.
C.G. Lafayette, CA

A. Ettore Bugatti is reported to have said that he made his race cars to go, not stop. That was OK for the '20s but in today's traffic, doing band-aide repairs to a brake system is like playing Russian Roulette. If your Ford garage can't come up with an answer, take your Mercury to another shop for analysis before it develops into a major problem. There may be something hanging up internally in the brake system - perhaps the master cylinder operating piston or a dragging seal. It's also possible that the factory-designed return spring on the master cylinder is broken or that the operating pushrod is dragging on something. Your Sable is probably past the warranty cut-off date but I'm passing on your letter to the folks at Ford for comment. Unless you have lightening-quick reflexes, you were wise to abandon the toe-return method of stopping.

Q. My dad used to own a variety of British-built cars from the '50s and '60s, among them a car called the Morris Minor. Recently I found a Morris 1000 sedan parked in a residential section of town and it had a for sale sign on it. I called the owner and he said that it was a '58 model and that he wanted $1200 for it although it needs lots of work and doesn't run. I'm considering buying it to restore, mainly for its sentimental value. I'm fairly skilled with things mechanical but I haven't really worked on an automobile since my high school days. Is a Morris 1000 worth restoring? Are parts available? Will it be worth what I put into it when I'm done?
K.M. Milton, WA

A. Having had a couple of them in years gone by, I know from experience that you could hardly pick an easier car to restore than a Morris 1000. The body construction is very rugged and parts are relatively easy to get through the ads that you'll find in the back of British Car magazine. It has a 948 cc BMC engine which was used in several different makes and models as was the rest of the running gear. I've always thought that old British sedans make great restoration projects because of their simplicity and availability of parts although the parts aren't cheap. If you buy it, make sure that all the parts are there, it's relatively rust-free and that it hasn't been "butchered" by a former owner to accept an odd-ball engine and/or running gear. It's one thing to restore a car but remanufacturing it is another matter.

Q. We recently moved from Idaho to Florida due to reassignment by the Army. We brought our '90 Chevrolet Blazer with us and it now has 78,000 miles on it. In Idaho we rarely had need for the air conditioning system but the weather is quite different here and we find that the system doesn't seem to work very well. We had it checked out but the mechanic says that everything is working fine.
D.D. St. Petersburg, FL

A. Chevrolet dealers have a kit that cures the problem. It involves a couple of insulated baffles and a new control switch. Sometimes the only way you can get an answer to a problem like yours is to ask someone in the parts department who reads company service bulletins.

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