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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I had the hood fly up on my 1964 Buick Special four-door sedan while I was driving on the freeway. It didn't do much damage to the rest of the car, but the hinges and the hood are pretty badly damaged. I'm a student and this is my first car. I bought it from a retired lady who couldn't drive any more. I want to keep it nice but I don't know where to get parts and our local junkyards don't have cars that old.
Y.G. Tucson, AZ

A. I admire your determination to keep a nice old car in good condition. According to Special Interest Autos magazine, older four-door sedans are becoming collectible because they're all that's left that's affordable. The Buick of America is a good place to start. The address is Box 401927, Hesperia, CA 92340. The phone number is 760-947-2485.

Q. I have a 1990 Ford Probe V6 with overheating problems. I have had a new radiator installed, three new radiator caps and three new thermostats. I have also had new radiator hoses installed and it still gets hot going between two local towns. The route involves some hills. Why is my Ford still getting hot?
H.T. Yucaipa, CA

A. There are lots of things that could be causing your uphill overheating problem besides a malfunction in its coolant circulation system. If the water pump impeller-to-pump body clearance was too big because of wear, it could be pumping too little coolant to get the job done. It could also have something causing a restriction in the passages that route the liquid through the cylinder head and block. A cylinder head gasket could have a small rupture somewhere that is allowing a small amount of combustion gas to be introduced into the system, a common problem with the V6. Combustion gas could also be entering the cooling system through a small crack or pinhole in the aluminum cylinder heads themselves. Combustion gas can be detected in the cooling system by putting an infrared analyzer probe into the top tank of the radiator after it has been partially drained and the engine restarted and allowed to heat up. This same technique can also be used using a Leak-Check fluid test kit that's made by Chemi-trol Chemical Co. of Gibsonville, Ohio. I've found this to be the most accurate method of detecting combustion gas in the cooling system but it's a job best left to a pro.

Q. I have a 1997 Lincoln Continental and it sounds like there's a dead body in the trunk. There's a noise back there and no one can figure out what it is. We took it to the dealership and the mechanic rode around in it, but he couldn't find the problem. We took out the spare tire tools and we rode around in it for a while, but the noise is still there. We checked the tires and rims, but they looked fine. We even got new tires. The noise might even be in the back end and not even coming from the trunk. It doesn't go on all the time. If I go over a bump or on a rough road, I can hear it. I love this car, but it's very embarrassing to have someone sitting in the back seat when this is going on. I hate to take it to the dealership because it costs $50 each time.
V.M. Chesapeake, VA

A. If your mechanic rode around with you while seated in the comfortable back seat, he was doing it the easy way. In my younger years, I'd get into the trunk, have another mechanic close the lid and drive around for a few blocks over bumpy roads. Usually I could pinpoint the location of the noise and go on from there. I'd also put the vehicle on a lift and tighten all the visible nuts and bolts and bang the suspension items with a lead hammer. There are a couple of factory service bulletins regarding rattles in the rear of the '97 Continental and your dealer's shop has access to them. A common thing to check is for loose heat shields over the muffler and/or the catalytic converter.


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