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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. In November of 1994 I bought a '95 Ford Windstar. At this date I have put 30,000 miles on it. I have taken the car back to the selling dealer for service three times, all for brake overhauls. The first time was at 9,000 miles when it got new pads in front, new shoes in the rear, improper brake runout rectified, etc. The second time was at 21,000 miles. Again all of the items that were earlier replaced were changed again plus a new master cylinder was installed. The third time I took it in, everything that had been replaced or repaired previously was done again, plus the parking brake control was replaced. The car is used for pleasure driving, it's had no abuse, I haven't "ridden" the brakes, I don't do excessive stop-and-go driving, and nothing is done to the extreme.
R.L. Seattle, WA

A. I've had lots of letters regarding the brakes on those early Ford Windstars and as far as I know, Ford engineers have been unable to find a cure. I'm suspicious that the system was simply under-engineered and isn't up to the job. If your van has an anti-skid brake system (ABS) it's possible that a malfunction in this area may be the cause of the excessive wear but the folks at Ford in Dearborn haven't taken me into their confidence on the matter. Unfortunately I don't think it's possible or even legal to disable the ABS but if it's any consolation, Chevrolet and GM Truck have had so many problems with the ABS on their big Suburbans that it's the subject of a class-action suit. If I'm ever made privy to a cure, Ill pass it on.

Q. I've recently located a derelict 1971 MGB that I can buy very inexpensively. I owned one of these car in the late '70s and enjoyed it immensely although it was hard to keep running. I finally sold it and bought a Honda which provided more reliable transportation. Since I was forced to do a great deal of the repair work on my MG myself, I feel that I have the necessary experience to do a restoration at home. I've been away from British cars for a long time don't really know where to start looking for the necessary parts to do the job. MGs are no longer sold in the U.S. so I can't go to a dealer's parts department. I don't see any MGs on the road anymore so I can't even ask an owner.
H.T. Cleveland, OH

A. British Car magazine is a good source of parts and services for vintage British cars and if you can't find a copy on your local magazine rack, you can call the publisher in California at 650-949-9680. But be ready for a shock. The price of parts for these old Brits has gone up considerably in the past 25 or 30 years. Unless you simply want to engage yourself in an expensive albeit sometimes frustrating hobby, you'd be better off buying an MGB that someone else has restored, gotten tired of and decided to sell off. Statistics show that you'll be paying about two-thirds of the costly of a first-class restoration when you buy the average restored car from a private party. But if you do, you'll miss all the fun of skinned knuckles and the chance to use all those expletives that you learned when you kept your old '71 MGB running.

Q. I recently say a classified advertisement in our local newspaper for a 1974 Mercedes 200D diesel sedan that was selling for $600 dollars. The ad said that it was in good condition except for a blown head gasket. A car like this is close to being collectible and I wonder if it would be a good one for a home mechanic to buy and fix.
M.H. Alamo, CA

A. The cost of parts for any Mercedes of any year is very high. Due to its high compression, when a diesel engine blows a head gasket, it may also destroy lots of other internal parts when it lets go. The owner of that car probably got some bids on its repair and determined that it would cost more than buying a good runner to replace it.

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