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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. Here's something that has confused me for a long time and I've been driving for more than 45 years now. Why don't all the car manufacturers design all cars with the gas filler on the driver's side so that all the cars, as they pull up to the pump, drive to the right of the pumps so as to avoid a "roadblock." Also, one of my cars has the filler on the right and the other is on the left. I always have to think which side of the pump do I pull up on this time.
P.E. Naperville, IL

A. It would be easy to say that your suggestion would be too logical for engineers, but the truth is that the location of the fuel tank in the original design most often dictates where the fill neck will be. The tank has to be located in a position where it's best protected in the event of a crash and won't spill its contents out on the street or worse yet, on the passengers. You no doubt remember the infamous situation of the early Ford Pintos that had their fuel tanks in the rear where they were not only unprotected but prone to explode when hit. General Motors has a similar problem with its pickup trucks a few years ago when it was proven in court that its "sidesaddle" tanks were prone to rupture and explode during a T-Bone crash. Modern fuel tanks are located inboard of structural members and ahead of the rear wheels. Some years ago, a reader sent me a sample of a decal he sold for a couple of dollars that displayed an arrow. You stuck it below your fuel gauge and if you made the arrow point to the right or left, that's where the fuel filler was. I used it but for other vehicles I made my own using a blank "sticky" label and a marker pen.

Q. My '99 Ford F150 truck with stainless steel exhaust system drops about a half-pint of water from the muffler after short runs when it is parked on a slope. Would you advise any action to drain this water on level surfaces such as drilling holes in the muffler?
G.A. Seattle, WA

A. I don't advocate boring holes in an exhaust system for several reasons. Your truck is no-doubt still under a factory warrenty so it's best not to modify anything. Another reason is that it's probably illegal in many states. One of the byproducts of the combustion process in an internal combustion engine (especially when it's equipped with a catalytic converter) is water. When it exits the combustion chambers it comes out as steam and goes out of the exhaust pipe as water vapor once the converter and the muffler are up to a normal operating temperature. But before that temperature is attained, the water vapor can condense in the muffler and return to a liquid state. When you park nose-up with a cold exhaust system, the water simply drains out. Since you eventually driver further distances and get the system hot, the water will boil away. The system is stainless steel so it won't rust out.

Q. The anti-skid brake sensor has failed twice on my '96 Mercury Grand Marquis. At 19,000 miles the light came on a couple of times and I had it replaced under warrenty. At 29,000 miles, the brakes made a growling noise and again the left front brake sensor failed and was replaced under warrenty. Now at 36,000 I have heard that noise again and it makes me very frightened to go far. I called an auto supply store and was told they should last 10 years. Can this be permanently fixed? The car is now out of warrenty,
B.M. Hercules, CA

A. If you've always taken your Mercury to the same dealer's shop, try another or an independent but don't expect to get it repaired without paying for it. I tried all the usual complaint web sites with no luck. Please report it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 800-424-9339. It's always interested in chronic safety problems.


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