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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1998 Kia Sportage sport/utility vehicle which I bought new. It is the first new car that we have ever bought and was very excited about it. Within only five months and just 9000 miles, the car has developed a most disturbing quirk. As soon as I try to open the door with the remote locking key, the alarm goes off and it stays on until I start the engine. I took the car to the selling dealer who was not helpful. Then I took the car to a Kia dealer in another town and the mechanics there were helpful but were unable to cure the problem. I took it in five times and each time the car reacted the same way when I got it back. Recently the service manager had two factory field representatives try to fix the problem without success. The manager called me and asked me to pick up the car, saying that the Kia engineers stated that the problem was unfixable. I don't know where to go next.
Z.A. Concord, CA

A. Although there are relatively few Sportages on the road, I've had three letters complaining of the same problem. If a manufacturer wants to, it can fix any problem on a new car if it takes replacing every electronic item on the vehicle with parts from a new one that is unsold but works right. You have a couple of problems getting satisfaction. You bought the car from one dealer and the problem has landed in the lap of another. You can use the Lemon Law but in most cases, the buyer loses. The other is that you may owe more against the car than it's worth. If any of our readers have an answer, I'll pass it on.

Q. We have a 1995 Chrysler Cirrus that has a water build-up in one of the tail light units. We took it to the dealership where we bought the car and although the car only has 60,000 miles on it we were told that it was a common problem and we'd have to buy a new unit. I was shocked at the price of the parts and labor. Is there some way that we can get the water out of that taillight without having to spend as much as it costs to make a payment on the car?
P.H. Milton, WA

A. The prescribed procedure is to examine the unit for cracks and for poor factory welds. Some dealer shops don't look very hard, since replacing the unit is lots more profitable than fixing to old one. You may want to call in outside help if you don't want to do it yourself. If you find an opening into the unit, you can drive out the moisture by leaving the tail lights on until it dries out. Then you can seal it up with clear epoxy. If not, you'll have to live with it or put on a new one which has a drain tube that is lacking on the original.

Q. We have a 1987 Pontiac four-door sedan that we've had for a very long time. It has around 200,000 miles on it. It's now used strictly as a second car for our high school-aged children as transportation to and from school but without any long trips. It uses oil but not an tremendous amount unless my son drives it on the highway at speeds over 50 MPH. When he comes home, there's oil all over the driveway and the underside of the car. We took it to a gas station and the mechanic there said that as far as he could tell, the engine was worn out and needed to be replaced. The car isn't worth the expenditure and the problem doesn't show up unless we drive the car on the highway.
K.L. Aurora, IL

A. As piston rings and other internal parts wear on high-mileage vehicles, they pump unburned blow-by gases from the cylinders into the crankcase which raises the pressure there. At low speeds, the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system can handle it but at higher speeds, the pressure may get high enough to blow oil out of the various engine seals and gaskets. Wash the engine area off, replace the PVC valve that's supposed to do the job and see if the oil blowby goes away. Changing to a higher viscosity oil might help too.

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