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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. We own a 1996 Hyundai Elantra sedan with an automatic transmission and a four cylinder engine. It now has about 65,000 miles on it. It has developed a terrible noise in the engine that seems to be at its worst when the engine is cold and idling. The noise is there when the engine warms up, but it isn't as bad. There is no Hyundai dealer where we live anymore and I didn't want to travel far just to get it looked at. We took it to a local mechanic who was recommended to us as being good on foreign cars. He didn't want to work on our Hyundai but he listened to it and said that it sounded to him like a loose timing chain. I don't know if it will hurt the engine if I keep driving it this way but it has gotten worse as time passed.
H.O. Antioch, CA

A. Many mechanics are reluctant to work on Hyundais because parts are sometimes hard to get and information on them is in short supply. I found a source of information online and learned that the rattling that you describe and that the mechanic diagnosis is, indeed, most likely a noisy timing chain. The cure is to replace the chain with an updated version. The site also has some technical information, but it takes patience to get it organized. Your problem is typical of the problems that face the buyers of vehicles that don't have a strong parts and service network.

Q. We bought a 1992 Isuzu Impulse as a second car for commuting. It has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. I bought it because of the all-wheel drive which is handy on icy roads. It's in remarkably good condition and has about 80,000 miles on it. The only problem I have is a small, irregular clicking noise that seems to come from the rear of the car when I go around corners. The mechanic that services the car inspected everything in back and could find nothing wrong. It's really not too annoying but I don't want it to get worse and lead to a major failure.
C.C. Denver, CO

A. According to Isuzu, you have a fairly easy problem. The stabilizer bar brackets back there are coming into contact with the body of the car. When you go around a corner, these brackets bump and grind and make the sporadic noise you hear. You can buy new brackets from an Isuzu dealer, but since the company doesn't market autos here anymore (just SUVs), you may have a long wait. See if your local independent mechanic can do a "field fix" to make them stop rubbing.

Q. I just saw on the news that General Motors is soon going to stop making Oldsmobiles. I have a 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme V6 which has given me very good service. I plan to keep it for quite a while being that I'm a senior citizen and have to watch my expenditures. What will happen to the owners of Oldsmobiles when the company stops operation? Will parts still be available? I know that some cars that are no longer in production are now worth a lot as collector cars. Will my car be one of these?
O.F. Virginia Beach, VA

A. Traditionally, when a car company goes out of business, they are required to make parts available to owners for a certain number of years. Fiat left this country a almost 20 years ago but parts are still available. Your Cutlass is in truth a GM "clone" so parts and service will continue to be available through Chevy and Pontiac dealers. There are some Oldsmobile models that already have collector interest but they're from the Muscle Car era of the '60s and '70. The Olds Aurora with the 4.0-liter V8 motor is popular with buyers of sport sedan and they may hold up in value very well in the future. Unfortunately, your Cutlass is currently too common to be of collector value.


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