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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I recently purchased a '32 Ford Roadster street rod. I was told by the seller, and have a receipt from a major auto parts retailer, that the engine is a GMC 350 cubic-inch V8. The engine number is V0105TBD. Can you tell me what I have powering my High Boy? My local Chevrolet dealer's parts department says that the number indicates that it is a V6, but I know a V8 when I see one.
E.A. Highland, CA

A. It's simply a matter of counting the spark plugs, right? My source of Chevrolet/GM engine lore tells me that the engine in your car is probably a post-1970 350 CID rebuilt engine that originally came from a truck of some sort and the truck could have been either a Chevy or a GMC. An engine from a truck of that era has the added advantage of carrying four-bolt main bearing caps and a steel crankshaft although the original crank could have been replaced by a cast version along the way somewhere. Specially-constructed vehicles like your High Boy can be perplexing unless you where involved in its construction from day one.

Q. We bought our 1992 Toyota Camry new and it now has gone approximately 87,000 miles. It has a four cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. It has been a very reliable car and we've had it the car serviced regularly by a mechanic that has been servicing it since the factory warranty period expired. For the past six or seven months we have noticed that the smoke comes out of the tail pipe when we first start it up. Once the engine warms up, the smoke stops. We took it to our mechanic who said that he believes oil is being pulled into the engine past the valves. He also said that it would involve removing the cylinder head and dismantling it in order to replace the seals. He suggested that we have the valves replaced at the same time since the labor would be the same if they need work later on. The engine seems to have as much power as ever, so we wonder if this smoking will be detrimental.
K.J. Eugene, OR

A. Your mechanic is right in his diagnosis. Worn out valve stem seals are pretty common in four-cylinder Camrys of that era. Your engine smokes in the morning because being cold, the engine clearances are wide (metal shrinks when it's cold) and excessive oil gets past the valve stems and is partially burned. Your catalytic converter isn't hot enough by then to burn up the oil, so you see smoke until the system gets hot. The smoking will no doubt get worse and there's a strong likelihood that the residue will "poison" the converter by coating the active metal inside that makes it work. Have the cylinder compression tested and if it's within specs, you needn't have the valves serviced. The seals can be replaced by an experienced mechanic without pulling the head, but it's a delicate operation and best done by someone who's done it before.

Q. Our 1993 Ford Explorer has only 40,000 miles on it and it is experiencing a brake problem. Lately the brakes have had a funny "feel' to them when I first drive away on cold mornings. They feel like they are sticking momentarily and then letting go again, almost like they are pumping themselves very lightly. I've taken it to a brake shop and was told that there was plenty of lining left on both the front pads and the rear shoes.
L.H. Chesapeake, VA

A. According to a bulletin put out by Ford, the material on the original rear brakes shoes on those vehicles (and their Ranger pickup counterparts as well) was too sensitive to moisture in the atmosphere and tend to lightly grab and release until they get hot. The cure is to replace the rear shoes with shoes of a harder lining material. Simply replacing the shoes without servicing the rear wheel cylinders can lead to fluid leakage so you might have them re-cupped or replaced, too.

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