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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

Auto Questions And Answers For Week 32 Year 2001

by Bob Hagin

Q. My car is a 1995 Ford Escort LX four-door sedan with a 1.9-liter engine. It has 180,000 miles on it. Lately, when I'm on the freeway and I accelerate, the front end shimmies and shakes. As soon as I ease up on the throttle, the ride smooths out. Do you have any idea on what may be wrong? I rotated the tires and had them balanced but it was no help.
N.B. San Bernardino, CA

A. The front wheels on your Escort not only have to do the steering but the driving power as well. Front-drive cars have to have a couple of articulated "joints" in the axle shafts that go from the transmission/ differential to the wheels. These joints eventually develop some wear and it's sometimes enough to cause a vibration under certain conditions. The joints are protected by rubberized flexible "boots" that sometimes rip and allow dirt and road debris to get into them. If it's caught in time, the axles can be removed, cleaned, lubricated and new boots installed but if the wear is too bad, the joint has to be replaced. The problem is common and most independent shops replace the entire axle shaft with a rebuilt unit and it's much more economical than a new shaft and lots less work than installing new joints on the old shafts. The job is simple enough for a skilled home- mechanic but most owners prefer to have a qualified shop do it. Have a shop analyze the problem first since there might be other problems too.

Q. I purchased a new 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix in February. I wanted a two-door but my dealer only had four-doors. He used the computer and found what I wanted but it was at a dealership in a nearby city. I was called a few days later to come and pick up my car at night. The next day while driving, I noticed that when I looked through the side mirrors, the door trim stuck out slightly. Then I began looking around the car more closely. The fit on both doors is slightly off, more so on the driver's side and the gap between the doors and the quarter panels is different. The inside of the driver's door appears to have been worked on because one of the cover caps for a screw hole is broken. Then I found a foot print in the rear inside panel. I looked around and under the car and found loose panels on each side of the rear wheel wells. I can easily push them in and out as if some sort of brace is missing. I couldn't find anything like overspray or anything that might indicate the car had body work or painting done to it. I can't believe that a factory inspector wouldn't have seen these things. I haven't said anything to the dealer yet because I'm wondering it there is a way I could check for information as to who the original dealer was who received the car. Is there a service that can look at my car to tell if it's been repaired from an accident? It disturbs me to think that I was sold a car that might have been in an accident.
E.M. Portsmouth, VA

A. First rule on buying a new vehicle is never pick it up at night. Second rule is to inspect it very carefully for fit and finish before you drive it away. If you take the vehicle, have all its flaws listed on the purchase order or on the dealer's letterhead stationary and signed by the manager. The salesman may not work there later. The original receiving dealer is listed on the window sticker which has to be on the vehicle when you pick it up. Take your complaints to your selling dealer right away. Don't wait until the first scheduled service.

Q. How can I find rubber trim parts for my 1950 Henry J. I've had it for almost 40 years in my garage and now that I have the time, I want to restore it. The rubber parts have deteriorated.
B.R. Garden Grove, OR

A. When I typed in "Kaiser-Frazer" into an internet search engine, nearly 1000 sites came up. There were a half-dozen clubs there that supply links to shops that supply Henry J parts and service.


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