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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1998 Chrysler Concord with 30,000 miles on it. This car has four-wheel disc brakes but does not have anti-lock. My problem is that when I go down long hills and have to use the brakes several times and they heat up, I get a loud rumbling from the front. It is not a grinding sound, more like a roar. It only happens on long hills, never on the level. I am not a fast, hard driver. At 28,000 miles I took the car back to the Chrysler dealer where I purchased it new in 1998. They checked the brakes and said that they could find nothing wrong. They also said that the brake pads were not badly worn and the rotors looked OK. I told them we were concerned about the noise and asked what to do. Their answer was we could put on new pads and rotors and pay $380 since brakes are not covered under the 3-year, 36,000 mile warrenty.
J.M. Greenfield, NY

A. Modern thinking is some shops is to throw new and expensive parts at a problem and hope that it will go away. Brake rotors can "..look OK.." but still have problems. The technician should have checked the run-out of the rotors with a dial indicator that checks for rotors that are warped, like a crooked bicycle wheel. If they're outside the factory tolerances, they can be machined straight on a centerless brake drum lathe. This would also give the operator an indication in the rotors has "hard-spots," small sections that got overheated and became harder. Rotors with hard-spots can be salvaged by the operator using a grinder attachment rather than a cutting bit. There's no way I know of for checking the density of brake pads so the logical thing to do is replace them when the rotors are turned. Try another shop.

Q. I have a 1992 Honda Accord LX with a four-cylinder, fuel injected engine. I've had it new since new and have 87,950 miles on it. Last summer it began to act up. When the engine was cold, it would start up fine but during hot weather, if it was run and parked for a short time it would run and immediately stop. Then it would refuse to start unless the accelerator was held down for a full minute or two without cranking, then it would start right up. Once started, it always ran fine. Talking to the service people at Honda, they suggested the problem might begin with the igniter in the distributor. I replaced it and that seems to have corrected the problem. By that time the weather cooled down and I began to wonder if the problem would return next summer when the temperatures are again in the 90's. Have you ever run into this? Could it be the Exhaust Gas Recirculation system?
D.D. Clayton, CA

A. Periodic problems that occur in the field but not in the shop are hard to pinpoint. Having to hold the throttle open to get it to restart would point to too much fuel in the intake system that might be caused by leaking fuel injectors. On the other hand, the techs you talked to may well have experienced this problem before and found that the igniter was at fault, a kind of seat-of-the-pants repair not covered in the factory repair manuals. It's called "Replace With A Known God Unit" since no available test can locate that intermittent problem. Sometimes you simply have to trust your mechanic.

Q. I have a 1985 Toyota Tercel that I use for driving to work. It began to smoke and I replaced the rings myself, having rebuild several engines in the past. I had the valves ground at a machine shop. I honed the cylinders and did everything right but now it smokes as bad as ever.
A.H. Seattle, WA

A. The Tercel has a very tough engine to deal with. If the cylinder walls aren't roughed-up enough or the wrong rings are used or the valve stem seals aren't "tight" enough or non-break-in oil is used, they're liable to still be a smoker. It's impossible to second-guess the job.


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