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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I bought a 1996 Ford Escort Wagon in 1996. About December of 1999, I started smelling gasoline in my car. I took it to the Honda dealer that I bought it from and they could never find what the problem was. Then I took it to a Ford dealer to see what they could find. They too could not find anything wrong. In April of this year, I was backing out of a parking lot and my accelerator stuck, causing me to damage two other cars. Could you please tell me what might have caused my accelerator to stick or if the smelling of gasoline before in my car would have had anything to do with the accelerator sticking now?
E.A. Fontana, CA

A. Gasoline fumes in a vehicle are extremely dangerous. Not only can they accumulate and be ignited by some sort of spark (the static electricity caused by sliding across front seat upholstery, for instance) but they're toxic to your system. I saw the results of this on one of my errant auto shop students some years ago. Sometimes gasoline smells are very hard to locate. From my own experience, the usual cause is a malfunction in the fuel evaporation system that's supposed to prevent fumes from being dumped into the atmosphere from the fuel delivery system. It works when the underhood temperatures go up and the engine is shut down. I can't connect your unintended acceleration problem to the gasoline fumes problem, but it's possible. Gasoline fumes in a vehicle can be located using an infrared analyzer if the shop wants to take the time to do it. Please contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to register a complaint (1-800-424-9393) and find a website on the internet to tell your Ford story.

Q. I have a 1995 Chevrolet S-10 pickup with an automatic transmission and a 4.3-liter V6 engine. The odometer registers 44,700 miles. At 40,000 miles, the transmission failed. Subsequently, the selling dealer installed four remanufactured units, of which the first three failed within 175 to 400 miles. Recently, I heard a loud knocking which sounded as if it was coming from the engine. This occurred immediately following a short distance rapid acceleration. The noise is very similar to a connecting rod bearing knock. After decelerating and driving a short distance, the knock disappeared. This has occurred twice. Each time I have checked the oil pressure gauge and oil level. Both were OK.
J.T Chesapeake, VA

A. You and your dealer are patient people to put up with three failures out of four rebuilt transmissions. The noise you heard could be either a failing connecting rod or even a crankshaft main bearing, a broken valve spring or any number of other problems. Keeping in mind the number of times the transmission has been in and out of the truck, the noise could possibly be a cracked torque converter drive plate. Drain the engine oil, but catch it in a flat pan and check it for metallic residue. Sometimes you can force the noise from a cracked torque converter plate by doing a "power stand" (foot hard on the brake while the engine is accelerated in Drive) but I've had this test cause transmission damage and you don't want to press your luck.

Q. I going to by a 1970 Datsun 2000 sports car at a very reasonable price. It has considerable hydraulic leakage at the back brakes so I can't drive it. My brother is restoring his MGB and he tells me that there are lots of parts and services available for restoring old British sports cars but where can I get parts for a vintage Japanese vehicle?
T.H. Seattle, WA

A. You won't be able to find pieces for a Datsun 2000 as easily as your brother can for his MG, but I found a couple of Datsun Roadster specialists in the latest Vintage Auto Almanac and Datsun Roadster websites, one of which is a non-profit club. So you won't be alone.

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