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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Landau and am the original owner. The car is in excellent condition inside and out and has not been involved an any accidents. The reason is that I do not drive on the freeway, I only go golfing at courses close to home and do my grocery shopping locally and have hair appointments at local shops. Being a widow makes decision making very difficult. My question regards keeping the car. Should I keep the car and have a diagnostic check done to see if everything is in good condition? On the other hand, I wonder if I should buy a newer and more up-to-date car? Many people ask me if I want to sell my car. The car passed the smog check but it uses a lot of gas.
P.M. Concord, CA

A. Although your old Chevrolet is in good shape and no doubt has a lot of miles left on it, age takes it's toll. Things go wrong over a period of time so I suggest that you have it checked out at a diagnostic center such as those operated by the various auto clubs. They're not in the business of doing repairs so your pretty sure of getting the unvarnished truth. If you still feel comfortable with the car and the cost of supporting its appetite for gasoline isn't a problem, keep it. On the other hand, a new car can be therapeutic. New cars are very different and much easier to drive than your old- timer. But if you haven't bought a car since 1976, be ready for the modern syndrome know as "Sticker Shock." New cars cost more than many of us paid for our first homes.

Q. I am the second owner of a 1973 Mercury Cougar XR-7. It has low mileage - only 58,000 - and all the deluxe options that were available at the time. The body and the white paint are in excellent condition and require no work. The vinyl top is also in excellent condition. The engine has not been started for five years and the car hasn't been run for at least 10 years. What steps do you recommend I take in order to get the engine running again and what else should be checked before it gets back on the street? I do plan to sell the car and based on my description, what value should I place on the car?
J.G. Springfield, OR

A. The first thing to do is to remove the battery and turn it in on a new one. Clean the battery box, install the new battery and clean the cable ends. Drain the gas tank and refill it with fresh fuel then drain the oil, change the oil filter, remove the spark plugs and ground the primary side of the coil. Squirt a little oil into each of the cylinders, remove the fuel line to the carburetor, attach a few feet of flexible fuel line to the tube from the fuel pump and stick the end into a catch-can. Spin the engine over on the battery and you can check the operation of the starter, the action of the fuel pump, the condition of the secondary side of the ignition system and build up oil pressure without starting the engine "dry." Replace the fuel filter, reattach everything, check the brake fluid level and pray that it starts. Have the coolant, brake fluid and the automatic transmission fluid and filter changed and put some miles on it close to home. The Blue Book says your XR-7 is worth about $5000 plus maybe 10 percent more for low mileage.

Q. Why is the pressure shown on the tires on my Mitsubishi Galant so much higher that the pressures that are listed on the sticker on the driver's door? It says to put 29 pounds into the front tires and 26 in the rear but the sides of the tires say that the pressures should be 35.
K.N. Ramsey, NJ

A. The pressure given on the side of a tire give the maximum cold operating pressure, not the suggested pressure. That's up to the auto maker and he give the pressures that give the best ride. It's not unsafe to go above 35 psi but it tends to wear out the middle of the tread. I like to run tire pressures about five pounds higher than the factory recommendations because it makes the vehicle handle better.

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