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Automani/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a lifter problem with my 1990 Plymouth Acclaim which has the 2.5 liter engine. The lifters are rattling badly. Normally I would adjust them and in the Haynes repair manual for the car, they mention lash adjusters. Are the valves on this engine adjustable? I have talked to two different mechanics and they have both suggested that I just keep driving the car. It idles and accelerates well, gets good mileage and has plenty of power but I don't like a noisy motor. The car broke its camshaft at 40,000 miles and it has had this problem ever since that happened. I grew up in a garage and so I do most of the maintenance on the car according to the owner's handbook that I came with it. Would you recommend changing the lifters? Can the lifters be adjusted?
L.W. Rialto, CA

A. Usually camshafts are pretty tough and don't break unless something else is wrong but maybe there was simply a flaw in the casting. The rule on camshaft replacement is that whenever it's done, whatever rides on its lobes (lifters or valve rocker fingers) should be replaced too. In the case of your engine, it's the rocker fingers that should have been replaced. When both are new, the camshaft lobes "seat" into the rubbing faces of the rockers and microscopic matching groves develop between them. When you change the camshaft without changing the rockers as well, you run the risk of wearing out the new camshaft, the old rockers or both. The surfaces of both have very precise curves ground into them and they shouldn't show any wear at all as their surface hardness is very thin. Better examine the cam lobes and rocker fingers very closely for wear. Replace them if necessary or turn up the volume on the radio. You might also check the oil pressure and delivery to the hydraulic lifters.

Q. I recently had new tires put on my 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis and the tire shop at the department store where I bought them said that I needed to have the front end aligned and new shock absorbers put on as well. The car only has 47,000 miles on it and we only drive it around town. I replaced the tires because the fronts were bad but I decided to replace them all anyway. I went ahead and had the alignment done but decided against the shock absorbers. Should a car with only 47,000 miles need new shock absorbers?
D.O. Tacoma, WA

A. If you wore out the front tires while the rears were still in pretty good shape, chances are that the front end was out of alignment and the cause of the problem. At 47,000 miles, it's possible that the shock absorbers need replacement too but not likely. Really bad shocks cause tires to "scallop" at their edges but this is a rare situation and usually develops in vehicles that travel pretty fast. Shocks sometimes wear out their piston seals, leak their hydraulic fluid and then they are history but a leak can be spotted visually. Internal shock wear can be checked by pushing down vigorously on each corner of the car and checking the reaction. If that corner bounces a couple of times before it returns to its original position, the shocks are in need of replacement. Original equipment shock absorbers are built to a price rather than for long-time service.

Q. An elderly couple on our neighborhood is going to sell their 1968 Rambler American sedan and have offered it to me since they know that I have a mild interest in old cars. It has a miss in the motor, the paint is pretty thin and the upholstery needs to be stitched up. They have offered it to me for $1000 and I'm not sure that it's worth it but I hate to hurt their feelings.
K.K. Toledo, OH

A. Go ahead and hurt their feelings. Ramblers aren't hot collectables and you'd wind up putting lots more money into it than it's worth.

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