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Autmania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I recently tried to buy a shop manual for my 1991 Ford Aerostar all-wheel-drive van from a company in Virginia, but my letter was returned as undeliverable and there was no forwarding address. Do you know a place where I can buy an original shop manual for this vehicle?
D.W. Lynwood, WA

A. I called the parts department of our own local Ford dealer and was told that the manual for your Aerostar was available through any authorized Ford dealer. They're printed by an outside company that produces all the printed material for Ford and the turnaround time is a month or so. They're not cheap at around $90 but over the years, I've found that manuals from any of the factories are pretty expensive. For example, a factory manual for an '84 Toyota Van cost me $60 and that didn't include the booklet on the various wiring schematics and diagrams for the same vehicle. Since they're professional-level, these factory shop manuals often tell amateurs more than they need to know. Most of the time, the $15 aftermarket vehicle-specific manuals available at independent auto parts stores are all an amateur mechanic really needs.

Q. I have a '90 Toyota Camry four-cylinder with an automatic transmission. When starting the car, there is frequently a screeching noise in the engine. After two or three attempts, the starter will "catch" and the car will start. One Toyota shop told me that the problem was the starter relay and that the starter would have to be replaced for $300. Another said it was the ring gear on the flywheel and to fix it would be $950. Both said that there was no way to check the fault first. Any ideas on which might be the correct solution?
R.G. Richmond, CA

A. When the starter on any vehicle is removed, a small section of the starter ring gear on the flywheel or torque converter drive plate is exposed. Once the starter is out, the mechanic can rotate the ring gear a section at a time and inspect it for nicked or mashed-over teeth. When I was pulling wrenches for a living, I hated to replace a starter gear without doing the ring gear too, because very often the slightly damaged ring gear would eventually chew up the new starter gear and the problem would return. In either case, the starter has to come out.

Q. My 1991 Eagle Talon all-wheel-drive has had an ongoing tire balance problem ever since I bought it. I acquired it second hand a year ago because the weather here is very severe and I felt that a vehicle with all-wheel-drive would be safer under icy road conditions. I didn't buy a used sport/utility vehicle because they usually use a lot of gas and are awkward for my wife to get in and out of and to drive. Our children are grown, so this a two-door coupe fit into our present lifestyle very well but the tires are impossible to balance. A teeth-shaking vibration starts at about 55 to 60 MPH. I had new tires put on, which didn't help. The tire shop rebalanced them twice and even switched the tires front to back. They replaced the brake pads and resized the rotors but nothing seems to make any difference.
T.E. Bennington, VT

A. Chrysler had lots of all-wheel-drive problems with its vehicles of those days, and to find the cause and cure of wheel vibration in them is a tough and time-consuming job. It includes making sure that the wheel lug nuts are equidistant from the center of the axle, and that the mating surface of each hub is flat and "true." It can also require removing the tires from the wheels and then reattaching the wheels to the hub to make sure that they're not eccentric or crooked. It takes a while and can be very frustrating for a mechanic. It could even necessitate replacement of any or all of the wheels. If you had taken a high-speed run before you bought that Eagle, it might have affected your decision to buy it until the problem had been solved.

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