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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1988 Toyota pickup truck that has a four-cylinder 2.4 liter engine and a manual transmission. Since I bought the truck I've kept it in immaculate condition and have done almost all the servicing on it including adjusting the valves as per the owner's manual. It has 160,000 miles on it and until recently, it has performed beautifully. About a month ago it started using water at a rapid rate and water vapor came out of the tail pipe. I finally took the truck to a mechanic and had the cylinder head removed and inspected. The cylinder head gasket was badly damaged and the cylinder head itself had so much corrosion around the edges of the water passages that it could not be saved. There were also tiny pin holes in the intake and exhaust ports that went into the water passages. What caused this problem?
T.C. Martinez, CA

A. In an engine with copper, brass, aluminum and iron used in the cooling system, a low-voltage "battery" is set up and this galvanic action eats away at the softest item which in the case of your Toyota, is the aluminum head. In a high-mileage vehicle like your pickup truck, the corrosion is hard to control but it helps a lot to make sure that your coolant isn't all water because this causes the most corrosion. A 50/50 blend of antifreeze and distilled or soft water is best and it's a good idea to change it at least every other year. It's also a good precautionary measure to install an aftermarket "sacrificial" magnesium anode stick into the top radiator tank filler neck. The magnesium anode gets eaten up over a period of time but it's cheaper than replacing the cylinder head. These anodes are available at most auto parts stores.

Q. I have a 1992 Honda Civic two-door sedan which I bought second hand last year. It has 85,000 miles on it and had a hard life. A college girl used it for five or six years as she got her various degrees and drove it between her school and her home which was some distance away. When I bought it from her father, it looked like she had lived in it. I immediately had to put brakes on it and had a complete servicing including a valve adjustment. They were so noisy that they almost drowned out the radio. But I got it at a good price so I can't really complain. But now the power steering pump loses its fluid and the car is hard to steer. I've taken it to a Honda mechanic and he says that the power steering pump may need to be replaced. Is there some sort of automotive chemical that I can pour into it to stop the leak?
K.B. Houston, TX

A. In my days on a used car lot, I tried everything from a couple of ounces of brake fluid to special preparations that were guaranteed to stop leaking power steering pumps. None of them worked very well or for very long. The usual source of leakage is a faulty "O" ring between the pump housing and its cover. The ring itself is fairly inexpensive, but the pump still has to be removed to do the job. Honda says that only factory-supplied power steering fluid should be used and that it really is different from the stuff sold in aftermarket parts stores. Since it isn't all that much more money, it can't hurt to try their stuff.

Q. I have a '93 Ford Crown Victoria V8. At 60,000 miles the engine light came on so I took it to a Ford dealer. They put on a new sensor of some kind and charged me $100 labor and $100 for parts. The engine light is on again at 90,000 miles and I don't want to have to pay $200 again. I have the first one that was changed and its part number. Can you tell me where it is and how to change it?
A.R. Oakridge, OR

A. A little knowledge can be dangerous. Check an aftermarket parts store for a comparative price on the part and while you're there, buy a shop manual on your specific car. Personally I like the ones produced by Haynes. They tell you enough to do the job without getting into trouble.

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