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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a problem with my '93 Mercury Cougar with a 3.8-liter engine. It developed head gasket problems according to several Ford dealers and I can't afford to pay the cost of the repairs. Ford has recalled a number of vehicles for this problem. I've contacted the manufacturer several times only to have them say no. The problems started to surface about a year ago. I noticed that the temperature gauge would run over into the hot zone. Once the ENGINE FAILING gauge lit up and I contacted the Ford dealer only to have them tell me that it sounded like a thermostat problem so I had it replaced. The problem resurfaced in the fall of 2000 and was diagnosed as faulty head gaskets. My car is now being stored. I can't afford the cost of repair. According to Ford dealers, the 3.8-liter engine is known to develop head gasket problems. If this is the case, why isn't Ford recalling and fixing all of them? Without my vehicle, I can't get around for food, medicine or to see my doctor.
J.K. Kalamazoo, MI

A. Ford has, indeed, been aware of the problem for a long time and was finally arm-wrestled into covering the cost of repairing many of their cars that used this engine. A close friend had the same problem with the Thunderbird he bought used and after several cajoling attempts, the selling dealer (not a Ford franchise) rectified the problem out of his own pocket. Ford hasn't done a recall because it isn't a safety problem so the government hasn't gotten involved. Several class-action suits have appeared on the internet so contact one of them. In the mean time, use taxis or friends because Ford isn't going to ride to your rescue.

Q. I've recently come across four vehicles listed for sale in my local periodical devoted to car sales only. These cars are a 1931 Nash Single-Six, a 1951 Glass Par roadster, a 1954 Kaiser Darrin and a 1954 Wildfire Woodie Woodill. I've never heard of any of them. Their prices range from $8500 for the Nash to $46,000 for the Kaiser. The last three are very beautiful sports cars. Are they worth looking into?
H.V. Springfield, OR

A. Nash was once a very popular American car that was made from 1917 to 1957 when it was absorbed by American Motors which is now part of DaimlerChrysler. The Glasspar (correct spelling) and the Woodill Wildfire (no "woodie" involved) were American-made fiberglass "specials" built in the '50s during the height of our sports car craze. Actually, they both came out of Southern California and the Woodill used a Glasspar body scaled down to fit a Willys chassis and various running gear. There's a group of enthusiasts that specialize in these early small-run American sportsters and the cars are becoming very collectible. The Kaiser Darrin was the brain-child of Howard "Dutch" Darren, a well-know designer of the period, who convinced the ailing Kaiser-Frazier Corp. to produce his sportster mounted on a Henry J chassis. They were so expensive that Darrin had to buy back a bunch of them and later put Cadillac engines in many of them. The Kaiser Darrin was a sort of big company version of the other two.

Q. My '93 Cadillac has a fuel problem. When the fuel level in the tank gets below six gallons, the engine will stop running. What's wrong?
A.L. Wendell, ID

A. The first thing to do is to determine if the problem is in the gas tank or in the fuel gauge system. Siphon out or drain all the gas from the tank when it stops. If there's no gas in the tank, the problem is in the sending unit in the tank or the gauge in the dash. Both can be tested by a mechanic. If there's really six gallons in the tank, the problem is usually a dislodged fuel pickup or tiny holes that have rusted through the metallic part of the pickup system.


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