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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I am a widow and I own a 1990 Dodge Dynasty with a six cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. It has 83,254 miles on it. for the past six months the car has had a bad smoking problem. A Dodge representative said to change the valve cover but that didn't help mechanic told my son that he had done everything to a van that had the same problem but it still smoked. Have you heard of this before and/or do you know what can be done? I have a problem with any kind of fumes so you can understand my dilemma. I don't like to drive a smoking car.
M.E. Barstow, CA

A. Have a qualified mechanic determine where the visible smoke is coming from. Replacing the valve cover or its gasket would indicate that it was thought that motor oil was leaking from the engine and burning on the hot exhaust manifold but a visual inspection after an engine cleaning would have determined this. If visible smoke is coming out of the tail pipe and isn't visible under the hood, the problem is in the engine operation itself. If the PCV valve (it controls engine "blowby" fumes that form in the oil pan) is stuck open, liquid oil (not fumes) will be sucked back into the engine and come out the tail pipe as smoke. There are several expensive things that could be wrong with its internal parts (piston rings, valve stem seals, etc.) that would require an engine overhaul but an experienced mechanic can do a series of tests to determine this. Start by checking how much oil your Dodge uses in a 1000 miles. There's never anything wrong with an unexploded engine that can't be fixed by a good mechanic but first the problem has to be identified.

Q. How come the recreational vehicle makers build mini-motorhomes on Toyota trucks and why don't they use Nissan or some other small compact truck? I've seen several 1978 or 1979 models. Did the RV makers make mini-motorhomes before this period?
H.V. Springfield, OR

A. In 1969 I was working at a Datsun (now Nissan) shop and made the mistake of volunteering to drive a Datsun "chassis-mount" (not a shell mounted on the original pickup bed) from Perris, a town south-east of Los Angeles, to the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a distance of around 500 miles and it should have taken eight hours. With only 67 horses, my progress was very slow and it took me 12. Going over those mountain passes was second-gear most of the way. I think that the RV makers build chassis- mounts on trucks that they can get the best deal on at when fuel prices go up, I'm told that mini-motorhomes become popular. For a while they were built on Toyota trucks that were turbocharged but even then, you have to be patient when traveling through mountain passes.

Q. We own a Ford Explorer with the 4.0-liter V6 engine that we purchased new in 1996. The car is reaching 100,000 miles and it soon will be time to changes the spark plugs. The manual implies that the spark plugs for cylinders one, two and three have an "EG"suffix and the spark plugs for cylinders four, five and six have an "E" suffix. Is this possible? Do cylinders one, two and three really have different spark plugs from the others? To further complicate things, the manual states that suffix letter "EE" should appear on the replacement plugs. Why the switch? I typically perform my own maintenance. What spark plugs should I use? Is it alright to use Autolite APP 765non all six cylinders with a .054-inch gap? Our driving habits are somewhat average. We speed a bit on the freeways but don't abuse the engine.
B.P. Fall City, WA

A. The difference in the original plugs may be in heat ranges or electrode location to achieve satisfactory pollution control results for the original federal certification. I've never found contrary spark plug recommendations by reputable makers to be detrimental to an engine.


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