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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1995 Hyundai Elantra with a four cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. It has only 17,000 miles on it and I purchased the car used in 1996 from a local car dealer. Whenever I am going slowly around corners am in stop-and-go traffic or accelerate from a stop light, it does not go into gear. I accelerate and the engine revs up but it just doesn't go. I have taken the car to the dealer four times but each time they tell me that they can't find the problem. They say they have checked the transmission but find nothing. This seems to happen more in the warm months. I doesn't happen all the time but enough to be a safety problem. I have to take my foot off the accelerator until it changes gear and I can hear a clunk when the change happens.
C.P. Norfolk, VA

A. I think that you're taking your car to the wrong shop. Although the outfit that sold it to you may have it covered on some kind of a warranty, you're going to get a more thorough examination and evaluation from a shop that specializes in automatic transmissions. Shop around through the Yellow Pages of your phone book but ask friends, co-workers, and acquaintedness too for recommendation since some shops are good but some are not. The automatics on those Hyundais are notoriously weak so have a shop change the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and its filter first to see if there are chips and debris laying in the pan. For a quick test, pull out the automatic transmission dip stick and smell it. If it smells burned, it's out to lunch. If this is the case, be prepared for a possible wait since I've heard that the parts are in short supply.

Q. I have a 1991 Plymouth Sundance America four-door sedan with a stick-shift transmission and a 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine. I bought it new and it now has 170,000 miles on it. I keep it up myself and it has been very reliable with no outstanding problems but now I'm afraid that something is going wrong. When I drive over a section of a street that's particularly rough, I hear a grinding sound under the car coming from the front end. It also judders pretty badly when it makes the turn on a freeway off-ramp. The front tires are beginning to wear in an unusual pattern. It's like pieces the size of a 50 cent piece are being carved out of the edges of them.
M.W. Concord, CA

A. Since your car is pretty light, its easy to have the front shock absorbers wear out gradually without noticing it. Modern cars like yours have a pair of vertical struts up front and rather than have separate tubular shock absorbers attached to the suspension on each side, shock absorbers are built into these struts. Having them replaced is not a particularly inexpensive job but it will save what's left of the tires it your swap them to the rear after the job is done. Replacing the struts is kind of a tricky job and I don't recommend that the average home mechanic try it but it's not a monumental task to change the shocks in the rear.

Q. I recently bought a 1964 Chevrolet panel truck. I recently took up the carpet and found that the floorboards are completely rusted out. Do you have any suggestions on how I can redo them?
M.P. Drain, OR

A. Get ready for a crash course in the welding your local community college and get acquainted with the folks at your neighborhood welding supply store. There are restoration shops that undergo jobs like replacing a rusted-out underbody but they usually do it to vehicles that are pretty valuable once the job is done. Replacement floorboards are available for cars like the Porsche 356 but total restorations on these are very popular. Magazines like Hemmings Motor News, Car Restorer, etc., can put you onto supply houses that specialize parts and tools for home restorations as well as how-to books on the subject.

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