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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

Auto Questions And Answers For Week 41 Year 2001

by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis that has 140,000 miles. It has had good care and well maintained. Every 2500 miles it gets its oil changed, a new oil filter and a grease job. It runs good and drives good. I have taken it to the garage every time something goes wrong but it seems that after I get it out, it isn't long before something else goes wrong. I have put on new brakes, one sensor, new spark plugs and new spark plug wires. I have put new sensors in both manifolds. Now a light above the speedometer comes on when I drive from 20 to 30 mph. If I drive over 50 mph the light comes on sooner. How do I get this Check Engine light to turn off? I can pull over, turn off the ignition switch, turn it right back on and the light is off. But when I drive on, it comes back on. Also, when it changes gears at 30 to 40 mph, the car will quiver a bit.
H.H. Millbrook, IL

A. The Check Engine light on your Mercury indicates that something in your engine may be wrong but it takes a mechanic with an electronic tester to determine where the problem lies. The tester plugs into your car's electronic system and then gives the mechanic a specific signal at to where the problem may be. This doesn't fix the problem, it only gives him a clue as to where to look. If you haven't had your transmission serviced, it's time to do so so the mechanic can tell if something is going wrong with it. Also have him check the drive shaft universal joints for looseness.

Q. I drive a 1001 Eagle Talon with a five-speed transmission and all-wheel-drive. I would like to know if I can have a Class I trailer hitch installed. The car only has 53,000 miles on it and I keep it in good condition. My intention is to haul a light 14-foot sail boat and a tent trailer as well. Since I bought it used there wasn't an owner's manual included. After looking under the rear end, it appears that it is physically possible to attach a hitch if it's done by an experienced hitch shop. What I don't know is if whether the all-wheel-drive would disallow the addition.
F.W. Big Bear City, CA

A. According to friends who operate a well-known string of trailer hitch and camper shell shops, you won't have any problem using your all-wheel-drive Eagle for light-duty towing but you shouldn't go over around 5000 pounds. If anything, all-wheel drive is an asset in towing your boat. Having power delivered to all four wheels when pulling a small boat up a launching ramp is an plus but you have to be careful about contaminating the rear differential, drive shafts and brakes if the inadvertently become submerged. These items are often ignored during regular maintenance and having had to blast apart rear brake systems that had become rusted to the point of non-operation, I've seen the results first-hand. Also, make sure that you always use tires that have exactly the same diameter as each other. Mismatched tires put a strain on all-wheel-drive units and especially so if they're used for towing.

Q. Our 1996 Honda Civic LX sedan has about 70,000 miles and is past the factory warrenty period. When we bought it new, we didn't buy and extended warrenty but now we wish we had. Not long ago, our automatic transmission started to act up. It shifts very hard and we're afraid that something will eventually be broken. Does our transmission have to be taken out and be overhauled?
R.C. San Antonio, TX

A. I've read about this problem and according to a Honda service bulletin, the first step is to have a rather complex five-step transmission flush using factory automatic transmission fluid. It also involves replacing a contaminated transmission solenoid. It's a not-to costly but necessary service.


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