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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. In 1995 I bought a new Ford Ranger. Mechanically, it's the best vehicle that I've ever owned but there is one thing about it that has been bugging me - literally. This Ranger is the first vehicle that I have ever heard of or seen where the space between the instruments and their glass face wasn't sealed. I'm a stickler for cleanliness and this area has sucked in all kinds of dust and there is even a dead bug in there. I took it to the dealer where I bought the truck and the shop manager said that it would be a two-hour job. It would require removing the dash to get at it and this would cost me about $130. Isn't there a way to remove the glass and get to the dirt without all that? Why did Ford leave this area open to the outside.
R.D. Springfield, OR

A.I haven't driven one of those '95 Rangers since we tested one that year so I'm not acquainted with the problem. In my days in the used car business, I knew guys who could get the front glass off an instrument panel to "clock" a speedo in just a minute or two. Check around at other shops to get an estimate and don't forget body and fender shops, too. They get into those sorts of things to do crash repairs. In the metropolitan San Francisco Bay area I know of a couple of shops that specialize in speedometer/tachometer/instrument repairs. Ask the body shop guys in your area if there's a shop like this near you.

Q. I bought a '94 Chevrolet 20 Custom van with 24,000 miles on the odometer with the warranty still in effect. There appeared to be a whine in the rear end at 44 to 48 MPH. I took it to a Chevrolet dealer and they installed new pinion gears. This did very little to stop the whine. I checked the history of the van and found that this was the second set of pinion gears installed. I took the van back several times and the shop changed the differential oil using heavy grease but it didn't stop the whine. I drove it several thousand miles but there was no change. Back at the dealership, the factory person took it for a drive and admitted that there was a noise. He didn't agree to further work but extended the warranty to 72,000 miles. I now have 59,000 miles and am really fed up.
B.J. Virginia Beach, VA

A. I've had several letters on the whine in certain G.M. trucks and vans and I've never gotten a satisfactory answer from the factory people. The ring and pinion gears in a vehicle are a matched pair and are "lapped" together at the factory while a liquid containing an abrasive compound which is squirted over their mating surfaces. The speed-related "whine" you hear can only come from gear teeth that slightly bang into each other, rather than make a "clean" contact. Setting up a new set of gears takes a lot of patience and experience to get the right tooth contact "pattern." Some readers say the factory has installed new rear end units, housing and all, and they still whine. It's possible that a new set of gears with a slightly different ratio and a different contact "timing" might change it but this would require a different speedometer setup and possibly other modifications.

Q. We drive a '93 Ford Crown Victoria that we purchased new. We've serviced it every 3000 miles but at 45,000 miles it started using two quarts of oil between changes. We have an extended warranty but the Ford dealer says that it's within Ford specs. Mechanics have told me it might be cracked rings, a bad gasket or even that it wasn't broken in right.
D.B. Richmond, CA

A. Oil consumption is a sore subject with most auto makers. I have a bulletin from Ford that says 500 miles per quart is "acceptable." If your car suddenly started using oil, something happened. Tests can be run to determine leaking rings or head gaskets, and/or if the valve seals are OK. Unfortunately, it sounds like Ford won't pay for it.

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