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Automania/Repair and Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 37

by Bob Hagin

Q. My car is a 1990 Lincoln Continental, which I have owned for three years. It has 107,000 miles on it and while the body and interior look great, I've had to spend more than a normal amount of money on it in repairs. The last straw came when the "Level Ride" suspension system blew out while I was on my way to work. This is the third time that this has happened. My mechanic said that the fourth and last bag was also cracked and that I should have both of them replaced to save on the cost of labor. There are two other Lincolns that have come into his garage with the same problem. Was there a recall of which I wasn't notified or was this a known defect that was later corrected? Also, do you think that I have any chance of getting even a partial reimbursement for the $2000-plus that I have shelled out on this car to have the problem fixed?
K.H. Amsterdam, NY

A. I don't think that you have any chance to get any of your repair money back from Ford. The car may well have been out of warranty when you bought it in 1994 and Ford doesn't usually extend goodwill factory-fixes to second owners, though it couldn't hurt to ask. It now has over 100,000 miles on it and the Ford response would probably be to buy another Lincoln. The fault you're experiencing with the suspension bags was pretty well-known until '91, when the system became marginally better. By '94 the suspension system on the Continental was listed as above average in reliability but that doesn't do you any good. There was never a recall on it because it wasn't considered a safety problem - but it couldn't hurt to register a complaint with the National Highway Safety Administration by calling 800- 424-9393.

Q. I bought a '93 GMC Jimmy sports/utility with two-wheel-drive and a V6 4.3 liter High Output engine. After I got it, I discovered that the truck had been in a collision before we bought it, repaired and sold to us as new. There was never any mention of the fact that it had been badly damaged. What recourse do we have and who should we take our complaint to?
H.J. Martinez, CA

A. If you were sold the Jimmy as a brand-new vehicle and you were the first registered owner, the place to start would be with your state's department of motor vehicles. The laws regarding the sale of new cars is stringently enforced in all states and a dealer could get into unimaginable trouble for selling a wreck as new. The second place to go is to the customer relations department of GM Trucks and you can get its hot-line number out of your owner's manual. If you bought the truck as the second registered owner, you have a problem. If a vehicle is wrecked and the shop that puts it back together buys it not as salvaged junk and gets an ownership certificate with it, the law doesn't require him or her to tell you the extent of any damage that's been done to it.

Q. I bought a very nice 1980 Oldsmobile 98 Regency sedan from an older couple who never drove it very much, kept it garaged at night and never drove in bad weather. The car is almost perfect in every way, but I didn't get an owner's manual with it. I've tried an Oldsmobile dealer but I was told that the manual was out of print. Is there some place that deals in owner's manuals that can sell me one new or used?
J.M. Hartford, CN

A. To get the answer, gamble 10 bucks and buy a copy of the Vintage Auto Almanac at your local book store or find one in your public library. The Almanac lists six pages of businesses that sell automotive literature, including owner's manuals. It also lists several Oldsmobile owner's clubs and they might be able to point you in the right direction. As a last resort, scour local wrecking yards and you might find one in the glove box of a wrecked 98 Regency.

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