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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. For the past year, I've really developed an interest in American cars of the '60s in general and muscle cars in particular. I've never been into these cars before but now they take up most of my leisure time. I acquired a '69 Chevrolet Nova with a 307 CID V8 engine and I've put in a new camshaft and ground the valves with the help oF my dad. I can buy all kinds of trim pieces for it and wonder if it would be cool to put decals and badges on it to make look like it is a Nova SS with a bigger engine and all the trick stuff.
B.H. Dallas, TX

A. It would definitely be uncool to make out that your Chevy is something it isn't. No one would know, of course, except other muscle car enthusiasts and they'd laugh at you. Special wheels, tires, exhaust headers and engine accessories are OK but when you begin to fake it, it's like painting stripes on a house cat to make it look like a tiger.

Q. I have a 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier. The engine is a 2.2 liter L4 with an automatic transmission and about 95,000 miles on it. The problem is that when I start the car, the oil pressure gauge hops all the way over to the right clear past the high pressure mark. Then when it idles, it kind of hops around in the middle. When I put it in gear, it goes to the right again and stops there. Sometimes when the gears in the transmission shift, the needle moves then too but the oil pressure light never goes on. I have recently changed the oil and the filter and was wondering if this could have something to do with the oil pump being plugged or defective. It would be hard to take off the oil pan to change the pump because it sort of rests on the frame. I was wondering if the whole engine has to be removed in order to get at it.
S.Z. Fontana, CA

A. Before you get involved with major mechanical surgery, do some simple checks. If the oil pressure system was OK before you changed the oil and the oil filter, obviously the problem it in that circuit. Change them both but use a different brand of filter - maybe a factory original. Some oil filters have built-in oil pressure relief valves that keep the pressure from going too high but if they stick, it can go sky-high. If that doesn't cure it, install a hydraulic non-electrical oil pressure gauge just to test the system. I've never trusted electrical oil pressure gauges since too many other things can affect their performance. Since the gauge needle is pegged, you don't know exactly how much pressure is being put out and that can be dangerous. I've seen oil filter seals blown out from excess pressure. According to the Chilton manual, the pan can be dropped without pulling the engine.

Q. Last week I purchased a 1992 Dodge Spirit from a local dealer and so far I've had good luck with it. However, I do notice that the needle on the voltmeter perpetually rests in the upper third of the meter's range - that is, towards the "18" mark. According to the manual, the voltmeter's needle should be resting at the halfway point between the far left (8) and the far right (18). I also notice that on wet, rainy days, the voltmeter seems slightly erratic while driving slowly. The dealer says this is nothing to worry about. Is he right?
R.S. Fairborn, OH

A. This is our day for instruments. Have a professional-level voltmeter put on the car by a pro to determine if the alternator output is within the limits as prescribed by the shop manual. Usually the specs are around 14 volts but this number varies from make to make and from model to model. Too little output obviously results in the battery eventually going dead but excessive output leads to overcharging and the early demise of the battery by "boiling" away the electrolyte. The slight variations in wet weather could be caused by moisture or possibly a faulty ground somewhere.

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