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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. Three months ago my 1993 Nissan Quest was having a problem with losing power and stuttering. My regular mechanics eventually changed the distributor but only after checking the fuel injectors, fuel pump and spark plugs. The car runs fine now but the smell of fresh gasoline never leaves. When I drive with the windows down I can smell it, my garage smells and people in my car notice it. The tank is on the driver's side. I cannot see any gas leaking on my garage floor and I haven't noticed any change in my fuel efficiency.
N.T. Federal Way, WA

A. You don't mention what your mechanics said about the smell. If your Nissan didn't smell of gasoline before you took it in for the power loss but had it when you drove out, I suspect that your problem comes from some hose that came loose or broke while the distributor was being replaced. Since you don't see any leakage of raw gasoline or note a drop in fuel mileage, my guess would be that something is wrong in the fuel evaporation recovery system. This system routes raw gasoline fumes that might be vented to the atmosphere back to the fuel tank or into a vacuum-controlled canister that's filled with activated charcoal. The fumes in the canister are pulled into the engine when it's started. The source of the fumes in your car should be fairly easy to find by your mechanics using an infrared analyzer. This device "sniffs" through a hose and can detect traces of hydrocarbons (gasoline) in very minute parts per million. Gasoline fumes are very dangerous and can attack brain cells so don't drive your Nissan until you get it fixed.

Q. Your comment that "...Oldsmobile parts should be available for some time.." doesn't ring true for me. G.M.'s track record for my 1983 Buick Riviera convertible parts support is zero. There are none. I acknowledge that some of the parts I seek are unusual (rubber weather stripping, window wipers, plastic/fiberglass stone guards between the bumpers and the body, chrome pieces, etc.). My G.M. contacts tell me the car is too old for parts support. My classic/antique/high interest car parts companies tell me the car is too new. Oldsmobile owners beware.
L.C. Virginia Beach, VA

A. Maybe I should have qualified "...some time" and what parts can be expected to be available through G.M. dealers. Parts to keep a car running are sometimes available through aftermarket (non-dealer) parts stores for several decades but when factory trim parts are gone, they're gone. A lot of really old parts are still available through the auto makers. I'm told that some "hard" parts for the Ford Model A are still available through dealers willing to try. A quick trip through the internet searching for "1983 buick parts" brought up nearly 40 sites and even a couple of owner's clubs. Your Riviera is on the border of being collectible and is definitely Special Interest.

Q. I recently took my wife's car in for regular maintenance (oil change, etc.) to the authorized dealership. Upon inspection, pin holes in the muffler system were found. After removing the old parts, no new parts were available so the old one was put back on and new parts were ordered. We were charged $6.50 for "shop supplies." Three days later the new parts were installed. This time "shop supplies" cost us $11.50. This from a prestige car dealer. Is this scam allowed by other auto makers?
R.M. Palm Springs, CA

A. I don't know of any auto dealerships that are totally controlled by the a manufacturer. What the dealer charges and how quality control is managed is up to the owner of the place. What you paid for under the title "shop supplies" were the little things that get lost or overlooked in a shop. Where I live, the law says that each item the customer pays for has to be itemized and designated as either new, used or rebuilt.


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