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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1995 Ford Escort two-door sedan with a four-cylinder 1.9-liter engine and an automatic transmission. By the time you get this letter it will be in excess of 62,500 miles. I have a gradual clicking sound that comes up periodically when I apply the brake pedal very gently. It then dies down. A sudden stop does not produce this clicking. What is the problem?
J.L. Sacramento, CA

A. You don't mention which end of your Ford the noise is coming from and since your car has drum brakes in back but disk brakes up front, the same noise can be caused by very different problems. Disk brakes work like the brakes on a modern bicycle. Two non-rotating pads "pinch" on a rotating disk that's connected to the front wheel. These pads have to be a bit loose in order to self-center as they're applied. They make a noise like the one you describe when they're a bit too loose and "jiggle" gently when you're stopping gently. Under a hard pedal load, they're not allowed to move at all due to the tremendous hydraulic pressure applied to them. Sometimes the problem is caused by a relatively simple "tensioner" spring that broke off or lost its tension. The rear drum brakes are somewhat more complex and it may be a simple case of the shoes being out of alignment and rubbing gently on part of the rotating drum. But it could also be caused by a pull-back spring that's come loose or had an end break off. You can't fix it yourself so the next time you take your car in for a regular service, have the tech pull off the wheels and check the brakes but have him or her drive it beforehand so that you can make sure the noise is gone afterwards.

Q. My son has a 1994 Honda Civic CRX Ci coupe. He has it fixed up with fancy wheels and tires, blacked-out windows and a straight-through exhaust pipe. He loves it dearly but he let it run out of oil and it started to make noise. He shut it off quickly and had it towed home. After we put oil in it, a mechanic friend listened to it and said it was a connecting rod bearing. I do some of the maintenance on our family car and took auto mechanics in high school so we bought a shop book on the car and followed the instructions to get the pan off. Once it was off, we found that one of the connecting rods was loose on the crankshaft so we took of its cap and found that the bearing had turned around in the rod and had turned blue. The crankshaft didn't seem too bad so we put a new bearing in it and put it back together. It still made a little noise so I put 50-weight oil in it. My son drives it to school very gently but I'm afraid that it isn't going to last.
D.S. Portland, OR

A. You're right - it won't. The only way to do a permanent fix is to pull the engine, remove the head, crankshaft and pistons and have all the damaged parts machined into serviceable condition. Those engines are rather complex and it's easy to get things back together incorrectly. Then you can be in an even worse situation. Those aftermarket repair manuals sometimes get you into more trouble than you can get out of.

Q. Why did the auto industry eliminate bumpers? New car all have molded plastic bumpers and most of them are either scratched or dented almost right away. Some of the new cars have head or tail lights on these molded bumpers. Most new cars look bulky without any account to make the bodies more streamlined. Will bumpers ever come back?
M.M. Bellevue, WA

A. Modern auto safety regulations put the emphasis on protecting the occupants rather than the car in a crash. As a result front and rear sections give way rather than resist. Modern auto styling puts the emphasis on perception rather than practicality. I don't foresee a return to separate bumpers any more than I do wire wheels and running boards.


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