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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE with a 2.8 liter, fuel injected V6 engine. The car has over 168,000 miles on it and it has been meticulously maintained. Furthermore, the car still has its original engine and transmission. How long do you think a car like this can last? Many people I talk to say that their cars gave out after 100,000 miles.
N.B. Santa Clara, CA

A. It depends on who drives the car and how much he or she respects it. I've known people who change oil in their cars only when it runs out. They also feel that the mud that's splashed up on the undercarriage during the winter does a great job of lubrication and that road tar is a fine rust preventative. I've also known owners who have put a half- million miles on their vehicles and expect to get another half million out of them. Maintenance and heads-up driving are the key factors in automotive longevity. Doing the factory recommended services twice as often as the owner's manual recommends is a good start and a thorough cleaning and waxing once a year extends the life of the body and this includes the undercarriage as well. Keeping it in a garage at night is also a plus. Behind the wheel, a couple of rules of thumb include not letting the engine warm up in the morning while the rest of the car is stationary, rarely using more than a half throttle while driving, backing off for the turns and believing that all other drivers on the road are nuts. I bought my present van when with a blown engine but by then it had 214,000 mile on the clock. One last item: don't ever let your teen-aged children drive your car.

Q. I have an '89 Plymouth Voyager that I bought from the original owner in '92. About six months ago, the paint over the windshield began to peel off and now it is coming off the hood too. I talked to two body shop owners and they said that it is a common problem with Dodges vans. I called a local Dodge dealership and was referred to the Dodge Customer Relations Department. The representative told me that there was no warranty on the paint work after one year and that the company would take no responsibility for repainting the vehicle. If the paint was not properly applied or is defective in some way, it is the responsibility of the automobile manufacturer to back its products and remedy the situation.
S.L. Drain, OR

A. The warranty that comes with a new vehicle is very explicit and tells the owner what the company will do. If something isn't mentioned, forget it, since the warranty doesn't promise to make the owner happy. It usually takes a federal safety recall, a class action suit or massive public pressure to get that position changed. A paint problem may be repaired after a year and then only for the original owner and at a minimal patch-up expense for the company. I don't think you'll have much luck asking Chrysler for help as the second owner after the van's been on the road for a half-dozen years.

Q. At a large Ford dealership I found a new Crown Victoria with a badge on the back that said "CNG". The salesman said that it stood for compressed natural gas and that the car used CNG instead of gasoline. If I had one, could I fill its tank at home with the gas I cook with?
B.H. Cleveland, OH

A. You'd need a high pressure pumping system - CNG vehicle tanks are very high pressure and heavy. It takes hours to do a fill-up this way without having a large storage tank on site and you may not be zoned for one. Here, the post office and the gas company use CNG but I don't know of any private citizens that do. Paying the state fuel tax is a problem too and there are very few retail outlets for refueling a CNG vehicle. Out-of-town travel takes planning and running dry is a nightmare.

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