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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. We have a 1993 Dodge Intrepid four-door sedan with a V6 engine, automatic transmission and 80,000 miles. We bought it new when we lived in San Diego where the weather is always mild. Last year we moved to Bellingham because of a job transfer and found that although the heater worked fine in San Diego, the system does a terrible job of defrosting the windshield when the weather is cold or damp. We found a mechanic up here to do our general servicing and maintenance but he says that he can't find anything wrong with the heater and that it just doesn't put out enough air to the windshield.
P.M. Bellingham, WA

A. It took some digging around, but I found that there was a factory-fix on the problem some years ago. The problem is pretty simple. The defroster ducts don't get enough air directed to them to be suitable in areas like yours. To get it right, a Dodger or Chrysler dealer's shop will have to install some foam rubber strips on the defroster ducts to route more air to the bottom of the windshield. Since your car is so far out of warranty, I don't think that Chrysler or Dodge will be willing to pick up the tab but it can't hurt to ask. If the kit comes with instructions, you might be able to buy the stuff and have your own mechanic install it and save some money there.

Q. My son bought a 1987 Chevrolet Camaro with a V6 engine and an automatic transmission. He is a high school senior and has been taking auto shop for three years and wants to put a V8 engine and a stick shift into his car. His instructor advises against it and won't let him do it in the school shop. Now my son wants to do it in our garage and says he can do it with the help of friends and some borrowed equipment.
V.P. Lubbock, TX

A. He'll need a 'donor' Camaro of the same vintage to get all the correct brackets, parts, wiring, etc., so you'll need a two-car garage. My advice is to sell what he has and buy a the Camaro he wants, otherwise you may wind up with a garage and yard full of junk. His shop teacher is a smart man. Friends eventually peter out on those jobs.

Q. I bought a 1986 Nissan Deluxe King Cab 4X4 pickup truck with a five-speed stick-shift transmission. It needed considerable engine work. It had 230,000 miles on it and it smoked pretty badly and made a lot of engine noise. I've done a lot of auto repairs in the past, so I had it towed home and overhauled the engine. I never drove the truck before I began to work on it although I did start the motor. I bought a do-it-yourself shop manual and did an engine overhaul by the book while it was in the truck. I had a machinist measure everything in the engine for wear and then honed the cylinders and put in new piston rings and bearings. I had a machine shop overhaul the cylinder head. I put it back together very carefully and it runs fine but it has a high speed vibration that seems to come up through the floor. I wonder if I did something wrong when I overhauled the engine and something is now ready to come apart. I want to use it when I go fishing in back country places and I don't want to get stranded somewhere.
J.R. Eureka, CA

A. If you followed the instructions in your manual and had an automotive machinist check it out, I can't imagine that you did anything wrong when you overhauled the engine. Those older Nissan 4X4 trucks had some driveline problems that caused a noticeable vibration at highway speeds. Usually it was caused by a rear driveshaft that was out of balance. It can be checked out on a lift by running it as speed in gear and marking the front flange of the rear drive shaft with chalk, but that's pretty scary. Take the rear driveshaft off and take it to a machine shop for balancing. They can check the universal joints at the same time.


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