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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

Auto Questions And Answers For Week 42 Year 2001

by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1999 Buick Century Limited with 24,000 miles on it. There is a bad oil burning smell but we cannot find the cause. I have had it to the dealership several times and they agree that there is a smell but they cannot find the cause. There are no oil leaks. With only 12,000 miles left on the warranty I want to get this taken care of.
N.A. Walnut Creek, CA

A. The first thing to do is to get everything documented. I assume that every time you took you Century into the shop, you had repair orders written up that specified that there was a burnt oil smell in the car, that the technicians were aware of it and actually smelled the smell, and that they couldn't find the source of the problem. If you don't have these repair orders in your possession, get copies of them from the dealer's service files. The next step would be to inform the owner of the place about your problem and see if he or she can help. Have your dealer's shop request a personal inspection by a factory field representative to verify the problem and get a copy of the report for your own files. Since the smell may be caused by something that could catch fire, report the problem to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at 1-888-327-4236 or at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Your mechanics might give your Century one more going-over with an infrared analyzer. It's a "sniffing" device that's used in tailpipe emissions testing and can pick up hydrocarbon gasses that our noses can't detect.

Q. We own a 1987 Honda Accord DX, four-cylinder with an automatic transmission. It only has 48,000 miles as we do not drive it very much. We bought it new. If I use the car daily, it starts up right away. but after three or more days sitting in the garage, the car is hard to start. Could it be that the fuel pump? The battery is new and the car had a tune-up recently with a new fuel installed at the same time. The carburetor was also OK. My mechanic said that we just have to drive it more often. I am not ready to part with it as the car is in very good condition.
J.M. Redmond, WA

A. If a vehicle isn't driven very far or very often, lots of things can begin to lose their edge. You might do well to have the engine lubricating system and sump power-flushed to make sure that the piston rings haven't become partially stuck in the pistons. Then have a complete diagnosis which should include a cylinder pressure test to see if the piston rings and valves are sealing up as they should. Have a set of spark plugs installed and have the mechanic check to see if maximum firing voltage is available to them. Put a couple of bottles of a gas-drying chemical to the fuel tank just before you fill the tank. This gets rid of any moisture that's accumulated in the tank. Make sure that the choke is working correctly on the carburetor since it my not be closing all the way. Then go on a fairly long ride for a couple of hours on the freeway. Your Honda will appreciate a chance to stretch its legs.

Q. I plan to replace the timing chain soon in a 1985 Olds Cutlass. It has a 231 3.8 V6 two-barrel carb Buick engine. My book indicates that the pan has to be removed on some. Could you tell me if the pan has to be removed for the above engine? If so, does the engine have to be jacked up for the removal?
J.M. Suffolk, VA

A. Sometimes the official method of doing a job like a timing chain replacement can be "fudged" a bit. Once you strip off the front ancillary units and start to remove the timing chain cover you'll probably find you'll have to raise and block up the engine to drop the pan to get at the lower chain sprocket. If you're careful and lucky, the pan gasket will stay intact and you can seal it and slip it in place when you're done. You may have to disconnect the exhaust system too.


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