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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. The battery in my 1987 Toyota Tercel goes dead if I don't use the car every day. I've had the auto club come to restart it several times in the past six months. It seems to recharge itself but the battery drains down when it sits. I plan to go on vacation for two weeks and I'm afraid it will be dead when I come back.
D.H. Boise, ID

A. It's possible that some small electrical device is staying on which will slowly drain the battery, but a more likely cause is a dirty battery that's allowing current to escape across the top. Removal for a thorough scrub-down and a cleanup of the battery cables should cure it.

Q. I have a 1989 Ford F250 XLT Lariat pickup truck. I have read all the information on it and all I can find is that it's classified as a 460 motor. I know this is not the horsepower. What is the exact horsepower rating of this motor? I pull a 27-foot, fifth-wheel trailer and am now thinking of trading my pickup in on a new '97 F150 XLT three-door. How is this pickup compared to the truck I am now using? Also I would like to know the horsepower of the new Ford 351 V8.
M.H. Florence, OR

A. The numbers used by auto and truck makers sometimes don't have much to do with the specifications of the vehicle. On your '89 Lariat, the 460 designation refers to the engine's displacement, and yours should be producing about 230 horsepower, and around 390 lb-ft of torque. This torque figure allows you to tow heavy loads effectively, without undue engine stress. You'd naturally assume that the bigger the engine, the higher the horsepower number but it rarely works that way. Your 460 was used in some of the old Lincolns and there, the engine was "tuned" for high power, but was toned down considerably when it was put into Ford's truck line. The 351-inch Ford V8 produces high power for the '95 Mustang Cobra and Ford Lightning truck, (240 horses) but was made mild for utilitarian pickups (200 horsepower). If you're planning to buy a new Ford truck to pull your trailer, the '97 F150 XLT you're considering has a pretty small engine for that kind of duty. You'd do better to consider the larger F250 or F350 versions. They can be custom-ordered with a variety of towing options and engines that include a gas-powered 460 and a somewhat smaller turbocharged diesel V8 (210 horsepower, 425 lb-ft of torque). You'd have to settle for a'96 model, however, because the 1997 big Ford trucks won't be out for a while, according to Ford.

Q. I recently bought a 1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z coupe with an automatic transmission and a 350 cubic-inch V8 motor. It has very low mileage and I bought it because I think that it will become a collector's item if I keep it in good condition. The former owner had several cars and only used the car in good weather and on special occasions. I use it somewhat more than he did and I find that it has a disturbing characteristic. It takes a long time to start when it's cold. It hasn't gotten to the point where the battery has run flat but I'm afraid that it will eventually happen.
G.I. Aurora, IL

A. Your Camaro is a fun car and certainly one that won't lose much of its value over the years, but don't plan your retirement around its future resale value. There were a lot of hardtops made which makes them less valuable than the same car in convertible form. Your car's starting problem could be caused by many things, but it's most likely a fuel delivery malfunction. One or more of the fuel injectors might be leaking, the fuel pressure regulator may be faulty, the cold-start injector may be malfunctioning, or the fuel pump check valve may be bad. There are procedures to check them all out but they're best left to a pro. Better get the problem rectified pretty quick because prolonged engine cranking is hard on the starter as well as the battery.

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