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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. We recently purchased a 1993 Cadillac Sedan DeVille from a local Cadillac dealer primarily for the convenience of a four-door sedan. When we bought it, it had a noisy power steering which the dealer agreed to remedy. After installing two rebuilt pumps and one directly from the factory over a period of six weeks time, we still have the noise but not only when turning the wheels to park but when driving. It is especially noticeable in th lower gears when the engine speed is high in relation to the road speed. The problem has been verifies by an independent garage as being the pump. The car is very comfortable and otherwise satisfactory so we don't want to take a loss on it by selling it. The dealer obviously is unable to fix the problem. Is this an inherent problem with these cars?
H.S. Tehachiapi, CA

A. There's no problem on a car that can't be fixed is someone is willing to pay whatever it takes. Three faulty pumps in a row is unusual but not impossible. The only way to be absolutely sure a new or rebuilt pump is OK would be to try it on another car or install one on your Cad that has be on another car where it worked fine. But as I said, someone would have to pay for all the exploratory work. If all the mechanics who have examined and worked on your car came up empty-handed, its hard to second guess them. One of our own vehicles had a very noisy power steering pump and we were ready to install a new one when we were informed that there was a system available that would flush a power steering pump and complete system without removing anything. We had it done and the noise disappeared. Check around your area and you'll not doubt fine a shop that is equipped to do the job.

Q. Our son is returning to high school for his senior year. He has his driver's license and wants us to buy him his own car. What do you think is the best one for him to own?
D.H. Portland, OR

A. Having had five sons, I can tell you that there's lots more to the question of a kid's first car that make, model and year. The first step is to lay down guide lines. He should have some money earned and put aside for it even if he can't pay for the whole thing. He has to have enough to pay for on-going auto insurance or to off-balance the jump your own rate will take if he rides on yours. He should understand that servicing and taking care of the car is a necessity and not just something nice to do. He should agree (in writing, if possible) that if his grades drop, so does his license since you can have it pulled by the DMV if you want. Help him chose a car that has a good track record for service in the Consumer Reports April auto issues. You library has back issues for reference. Don't get a pickup: it's too easy for kids to climb in back. Don't get a four-door for the same reason. Don't get the hot version: speed is hard to resist if you haven't done much if it. My last piece of advice is to hold your breath until he's out of school, has a job and is on his own. That's what I did.

Q. Our 1994 Dodge Ram van has 45,000 miles on it and we recently had a complete safety inspection. The inspector said that everything was OK except that the rear brakes were almost worn out although the front brakes were almost perfect. We plan to have the rear brakes replace but we wonder if this is a problem with this vehicle and if there's a way to keep it from happening again.
A.O. Virginia Beach, VA

A. Sometimes the factories guess wrong on what kind of brake material is best for a particular application and I think this one of those times. If everything else in the system is OK (the hydraulic valve that balances front-to-rear pressure, self-adjusting hardware, etc.), it probably just needs shoes with harder lining installed.

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