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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1997 Lincoln Town Car with 32,750 miles on it. Last September something went wrong with the ride it had. It rides like a loaded pickup. I took it to three Lincoln dealerships and no one can find the problem.
J.C. Norfolk, VA

A. Pickup trucks are built with heavy-duty springs and usually when one is going along with a heavy load, the traditional rough ride smooths out. I assume that your Lincoln is now riding rougher and harder than it was rather than more smoothly. A supplementary air-suspension system was offered on some of the Town Car models like the Cartier and it's possible that your car has some sort of an malfunction that's affecting the pneumatic suspension. If the factory shops that you've tried can't or won't find your problem, try and independent shop. If you don't know of one, talk to all your friends and acquaintances for a recommendation. Word of mouth advertising is the most reliable kind.

Q. My '86 Ford full-sized Ford Bronco has a 302 cubic inch V8 engine. and an automatic transmission. It is having trouble getting up hills. It seems that whenever I am going up a hill, the truck just jerks and jerks before it gets to 2000 rpm. Then after it reaches that point, it runs fine. When I step on the accelerator, it again jerks at 2000 rpm. At normal engine speeds it runs well an a flat, level surface. What is causing this jerking action when I'm going up a hill?
B.W. Lakewood, WA

A. I assume you've checked the regular tune-up stuff but when a vehicle has trouble picking up power when the accelerator is nailed and/or the load s high like going up hill, the first thing to check is the exhaust system. If the muffler and/or the catalytic converter is plugged up with carbon, the high volume of exhaust gas that's being produced under a load can't get out which means that a fresh charge of fuel and air can't get into the cylinders to make power. Sometimes you can "feel" the diminished flow of the exhaust at the tail pipe when the engine is quickly accelerated on the shop floor, but a more sanitary method would be to attach a manifold vacuum gauge to the intake manifold, string its hose (a long one) into the cockpit and check the vacuum value going up hill. If the vacuum stays high when the throttle is open, the exhaust is plugged up somewhere. The reason the engine runs OK on level ground is that not so much exhaust gas is being made and enough will get through.

Q. Unfortunately, we own a 1998 Plymouth Neon that has given us nothing but trouble since we bought it new. We had to have the cylinder head gasket replaced twice and finally the whole engine gave out and had to be replaced. Then we had to have the electrical system gone through because periodically the engine wouldn't start. The car now has 61,000 miles on it and it seems to be running OK. The dealers who have worked on the car have always been very nice but they seem exasperated by all the problems the car has had. Now we find that the interior of the trunk has collected a lot of water in the spare tire well. We didn't have to go into the trunk for several months and just now discovered it. I don't want to go back to the dealer's shop with such a small problem. How does the water get in?
J.F. San Francisco, CA

A. Chrysler says that there is a gap between the wheel house outer panel and the left side body aperture panel. This gap should be filled with a "liberal" amount of RTV sealer after it's been cleaned and the stuff often has to be plastered in with a spatula. It's a small problem compared to you other woes but it reflects on Chrysler quality.


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