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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. Although I'm not really a dyed-in-the-wool auto enthusiast, I usually attend the Pebble Beach Concours d"Elegance that's held annually near my home. It's billed as the most prestigious in the entire world and I know from being there that collectors from all over the world bring there cars there for display. The only thing that I find disturbing is the fact that I am sure that many of the classic cars of the '30s that are displayed have not been restored using the original colors. Doesn't that count against these cars when they are judged?
S.F. Salinas, CA

A. Denise McCluggage is probably the best known female auto racer in the country and a talented auto journalist and writer. Her current best seller, "By Brooks Too Broad For Leaping" is a classic on her involvement in international racing in the '60s. She was an honorary judge at that event and filled me in on some of aspects of judging in that rarefied world of million-dollar collector cars. Although some of their colors and color schemes look to be very modern and not what we associate with the somber days of the custom-built classic cars of the '20's and '30's, the restoration of these very expensive works of art is researched very carefully by experts and repainted with colors that were available in the original coachbuilder's catalog. McCluggage said that the judging is done on a technical basis (..."points off for the wrong screws in the top".. was an example she gave) as well as the purely subjective standpoint of elegance. Putting non-original colors and equipment on a car worth seven figures would be as foolish as restoring an original Rembrandt using day-glo paint.

Q. I have a 1989 Oldsmobile 98 Regency which I use very little and is in fine shape. Two years ago I had a new battery put in and it had a six year warranty. Three weeks ago I was driving in city traffic when my car stalled while I was making a turn into heavy oncoming traffic. The auto club tow driver started the car, said that the battery was no good and that I should get a new one.I drove to the place where I bought the battery and was told that one of the cells was no good and that I would get credit on a new battery for the unused years that were left on the warranty. The old battery had leaked and the area around it was badly rusted. I want the place where I bought the battery to have that area repainted and to give me all my money back but the owner refuses.
O.B. Tucson, AZ

A. If the area around the battery box in your Oldsmobile is rusted badly and the battery case itself wasn't cracked, its possible that your electrical system is overcharging and "boiling" the liquid out of the cells. Have your charging system checked for output and repaired if it's too high. While the mechanic is in there, have him or her make sure that the alternator drive belt is tight enough. A too-loose belt will let a battery run down and you may not be aware of it. The shop that sold you the battery would probably OK the underhood paint if the battery maker would pay for it since they built the thing but I'd bet they wouldn't.

Q. My 1996 Honda Accord has over 100,000 miles on it and has given me good service. I do most of my own maintenance and last week I noticed that there was a small amount of antifreeze seeping from the neck of my radiator. It's made of plastic and I was told they can't be fixed. The price of a new one is almost $200. Is there some way to fix it?
J.R. Hollywood, FL

A. A plastic radiator can be patched with epoxy repair paste that's available at most auto parts stores. According to the counter guys it's a patch-up repair at best, so don't plan on another 100,000 out of it. A radiator shop can install a new tank on your original core but the mechanics there tell me that the failure rate is about 30 percent. If you can swing it, buy a new one. It will save time and frustration.

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