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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1986 Toyota Celica GTS, 2000 cc engine, not turbocharged, with 168,000 miles. It has a five-speed transmission. It runs excellent and recently I had the valves adjusted, new seals installed on the crankshaft and a new water pump installed along with a new timing belt. It recently passed emissions testing. The problem is that when I start the engine from a cold start, the engine emits a noticeable amount of black smoke for about 30 seconds. After that, there is no noticeable exhaust. I have been considering replacing the catalytic converter and possibly the muffler in an effort to eliminate the black smoke problem. Do you think this will eliminate the problem?
A.F. Fair Oaks, CA

A. I assume that your Celica has the twin-cam 3SEF engine since that powerplant is well-known for smoking on a cold startup. The problem is caused by valve stem seals that were designed wrong and wear out prematurely. They don't seal correctly as they age and as the engine cools off, oil that stays in the head finds it way past the seals and into the intake ports. When you start the engine, this oil is pulled into the combustion chambers and burned. Once the engine is warmed up, this excess oil is gone and won't return until the engine is cooled off again. OEM replacement seals are a different design and don't leak at shutdown. Your catalytic converter is probably working fine or your Toyota wouldn't have passed the emissions test. Oil is a hydrocarbon like gasoline and your converter is burning it up when it get there but eventually oil will shorten the life of a catalytic converter.

Q. My wife has a 1991 Chrysler Imperial with 45,000 miles on it. There is one big problem. I can't find the Goodyear Invest replacement tires anywhere. I've been to two Goodyear dealers and they say that the tire has been discontinued and can't be found anywhere. Somehow, I envision some company having some of these tires when they were discontinued or were able to them from Goodyear. I've tried a couple of tire companies advertised in the car magazines but no luck.
P.L. Norfolk, VA

A. I checked into the Goodyear website and its Invecta GL is still shown as being available. I couldn't wait for a response from the customer service hot-line (an 11-minute wait, I was told) so I called my local Goodyear person and was told that the Invecta is, indeed, out of production and that the Club model is recommended. She also said that many Goodyear stores still have some in stock and you should be able to find enough for your car. Make sure that you ask for them by application and size (yours should be 195/75R14 according to Goodyear) and how long they've been on the shelf. You may have to go to a more modern, upgraded tire. Tire technology has changed a lot in 10 years.

Q. I always assumed that the window sticker vehicle description and total MSRP is the final sales price which in this case included $600 for destination and delivery. However, an additional dealer mark-up of $1995 was added. Is this a legal practice? On another car we bought this year from a different dealer, the MSRP was the total sales price.
E.R. Edmonds, WA

A. The initials MSRP on the official window price sticker stand for Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price and the operative word here is "suggested." When a dealer buys a vehicle from the factory, it's his or her property although they're almost always "floored" (lent the purchase price) by a bank or some kind of lending institution. The factory is out of the picture. the dealer can sell it for less or more than MSRP as long as the lender is paid back. When the government crash-testers went looking for a Plymouth PT Cruiser to demolish, they were thwarted by the fact that no dealer would sell them two for less than $10,000 over MSRP and government regulations wouldn't let them do it.


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