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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a new Honda and I recently changed jobs. My new job is just a mile from my home and I've been told that the engine in my Honda won't get warmed up enough driving such a short distance every day. I've also been told that this will be bad on my engine and make it wear out too soon. Should I drive the car to work anyway? Should I ride a bicycle instead?
Y.L. Redding, CA

A. I'm not sure that a mile of low-speed driving is enough to get your engine up to its optimum operating temperature. The coolant temperature as indicated by the heat gauge on your dashboard doesn't give a true reading of the temperature of the entire engine and it's moving parts. The critical factor is how hot its motor oil becomes. If it isn't hot enough, it won't vaporize the water and other contaminates that are formed by engine combustion and allow them to be pulled into the cylinders through the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system and burned. An oil temperature gauge would help but normal passenger cars don't have them. The original oil in you Honda is specially compounded to let your engine break in and friction-resisting oil is put in at the first oil change. Drive your car to work an check how soon the coolant temperature gauge comes off its peg. Modern vehicles are designed to get up to operating temperature very quickly to reduce the overall output of pollutants so the damage done by short hops may be minimal or non-existent. A bicycle would probably be better for you but I'd hate to think of you having to struggle to work this way when the weather turns bad.

Q. I have a 1995 Dodge pickup that has 76,000 miles on it. The engine is a V8 and the transmission is an automatic. For quite a while now I've had a problem with the smell of gas inside the cab. It's particularly bad when the truck sits for a while and the weather is hot. It's really bad just after I have the gas tank filled up and then drive it on to work. By the time I get off and start to drive home, I have to drive for a while with the windows open. I've looked under the truck and under the hood but I haven't seen any signs of gas leaking. It's getting to the point where I'm almost afraid to drive the thing in hot weather.
D.M. Santa Fe, NM

A. You have good reason to be afraid to drive you Dodge with strong gasoline fumes in the cab. Gasoline is very toxic and can do considerable damage to the brain after extended periods of contact. It's actually not a good idea to let gasoline come in contact with your skin since get inside through your pores. According to a Chrysler service bulletin on the subject, the problem is in a malfunction in the fuel evaporation recovery system. This system stores gasoline fumes that are developed in the fuel delivery system in a fairly large canister that usually located in the engine compartment. It's filled with activated charcoal and absorbs the fumes and then "purged" when the engine is started. It's best not to try to fix it yourself since it may necessitate replacing a valve on the fuel tank as well as the canister.

Q. I've read your columns on the collector car hobby and I'd like to get involved with it somehow. I'm about ready to retire from a life as a mid-management executive and know very little about automobiles. What's the best way to get into the hobby without making a lot of mistakes along the way. My wife thinks I'm crazy.
O.G. Newport, VA

A. Most people get bitten by the bug at an earlier age. There are several auto restoration magazines on the market so subscribe to several and study the hobby for a while before you invest in a car, parts and tools. Otherwise you wife may prove to be right.


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