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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1992 Toyota Tercel (four-speed, four cylinder) which has been an outstanding car for me. It has 93,000 miles on it and it now has started using some oil between changes. It uses probably one to 1.5 quarts every 3000 to 4500 miles. Recently when I stopped by my local auto parts store to pick up a quart of oil, I noticed that a major oil company is selling an oil called MaxLife. The promotion says it is designed to be used in cars with 75,000-and-up miles. According to information on its website, this oil will reduce oil consumption by an average of over 25-percent. Is this marketing hoopla or is it for real? Also, could you give me your pros and cons concerning synthetic and synthetic blend oils?
D.S. Redlands, CA

A. Although I'm not from Missouri, I've adopted that state's "Show Me" attitude when it comes to claims for motor oils and automotive additives. There may be something to the product you describe and it may very well remove a buildup or glaze that affects cylinder bores or it may soften and swell-up hardened valve stem seals, both of which will affect oil consumption. Usually, tests of these products are done in a controlled environment with a known test unit. But nothing is going to grow metal back on piston rings or replace a cracked valve stem seal. The only sure way to satisfy your curiosity is to use it on your next oil and filter change and then carefully record the miles-per-quart. If it works, keep using it. If it doesn't, chalk it up to experience. Synthetics and blends are fine on new engines but changing over on a road veteran sometimes increases oil usage. They're expensive, too.

Q. I have a 1993 Lincoln Town Car that has over 57,000 miles on it. At different speeds, there is a rumbling noise that sounds like I'm driving over an old washboard road. I have had the transmission oil and filter changed and it helped for a short period. The car is now due for an annual inspection in a short time and I'd appreciate any information you can give me.
W.W. Cheriton, PA

A. You don't explain why you had the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and its filter changed but I assume it was on the recommendation of a mechanic. It would have been wise to inspect the old AFT for an unusual smell and strained it to see if anything was floating around in it. A magnet drawn through the residue on the filter would have pinpointed ferrous "chips" that may have come off gear wheels or bearings. If it's coming apart, it takes a technician to analyze the problem. You should also have the driveshaft universal joints examined and tested for wear. If they run out of grease, they wear on the thrust or high load side of the "X" and the resulting rumble is noticeable under acceleration but goes away on deceleration or the coast mode.

Q. I have a 1960 Ford Thunderbird convertible. It is insured for $25,000 or less and is stated that way in my policy. With the exception of a couple of minor problems with the grille and body (but no rust), it's in good condition. How can I find the approximate true worth of the car?
J.J. Virginia Beach, VA

A. Like every other old car, it's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. I found a '60 convertible with all the original factory "goodies" on it and in supposedly mint condition in Hemmings Motor News for $45K but the same issue lists a couple of so-so versions for around $15K. To get a really accurate and reliable evaluation or your Thunderbird or any vintage car that has special value, you have to contact a certified and reliable auto appraiser, preferably a specialist. Hemmings Motor News and Old Car Weekly lists several.


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