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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. We have a 1990 Isuzu pickup truck that has a 2.6-liter four cylinder diesel engine and a standard transmission. It has 160,000 miles on the odometer. I used it in my upholstery business until a couple of years ago at which time I bought a big Ford van which is more useful in my business. My son was 17 and I turned the truck over to him as his first car. He paid for the insurance and for its maintenance. He ran it into a tree and damaged the right front fender. The damage wasn't bad enough to keep the truck from running so my son and a couple of his friends pounded the fender more or less into shape, at least enough so that the headlight was roughly pointed in the right direction and the turn signal worked. Now he's away in college and doesn't want to take the truck with him. I decided to drive the truck occasionally to keep the battery up and to make sure that it's safe. It starts up and drives OK but when it idles, the steering wheel vibrates so bad I can't hold it still. It doesn't vibrate when I drive it. What could have happened when my son hit that tree? Was something knocked loose? I asked my son about it and he said that it had been shaking even before he hit the tree.
D.B. Oakland, CA

A. According to a service bulletin I found, the problem is most likely in the motor mounts. Apparently they soften up and the engine shake is transmitted to the steering. Modified mounts are probably still available through a Isuzu dealer's parts department but you'll have to explain to the counterperson what the problem is. You might consider having a pro install them since getting at them and supporting the engine while they're being installed is a hassle.

Q. Our Ford Econoline is a 1991 model and it has an automatic transmission and 166,000 miles. It runs fine but occasionally the blower on the heater stops working, usually after we've used it for a long period of time. We've taken it into our shop four times for this problem and the mechanic has had to replace the electrical switch each time. He says that they just seem to burn out. Is there a stronger switch that we can put in to keep this from happening? In the summer it's not so bad but in the winter, the defroster won't keep the windshield clear and I have to keep wiping it off.
H.F, Portland, OR

A. Your problem is caused by the weakness in your Ford's electrical system. Too much current is passing through the blower switch. Ford has a factory-fix which involves installing an electrical relay into the circuit to cut down the current going to the switch. It's a big, complex and costly job, but Ford dealers have a kit to do it. Better price it out first. When you do, you might want to avoid using the blower motor as much as possible and keep a towel handy in cold weather.

Q. We have owned our 1984 Buick Century since it was new and it's been a lovely car. We are retired and don't do much driving, so the mileage is only 60,998. My husband can't drive any more due to his eyesight and I must do all the driving. For the past year, whenever I start the car and put it in gear, the engine stops running. When it first happened, my husband told me to let it warm up and then to try it. I did, and it ran fine. We took it to a gas station where the mechanic changed the spark plugs but it still stalls when I start it. I'm afraid that some time we'll need it and it won't go.
R.P. Hampton, VA

A. Sometimes a mechanic in a shop that isn't a stand-alone repair facility doesn't go far enough in diagnosing a problem. An engine needs lots more electrical power to start than it does when the engine is warmed up. Take it to a shop that specializes in ignition components to see if your previous mechanic missed something.


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