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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. We bought our 1993 Toyota Corolla with 15,000 miles on the odometer. It's a great car except for the shock absorbers, which are very weak. The car now bounces all over the road which makes it very uncomfortable and tiring. What can you recommend as to replacing or improving the shock absorbers.
E.M. Monterey, CA

A. You're right about the original equipment shocks that came with your Corolla. The nicest thing that you can say about them is that they are inexpensive, but for ride control on anything but a super-smooth boulevard, they leave a lot to be desired. I'm told that most of the quality aftermarket shock absorber manufacturers (Koni, Bilstein, etc.) make high-grade performance shock-and-strut kits for your Corolla but they're all pricey. The least expensive comes from KYB and they go for just a little over $90 for each corner according to the latest catalog. That's pretty expensive but they carry a lifetime guarantee. I've always considered a tighter, more controllable ride well worth the price. Toyota does not offer tighter shocks for your Corolla through its parts department but replacements of the factory-installed original set are guaranteed for the length of time you own the car.

Q. We have a 1990 Chrysler Fifth Avenue that was given to us by my dad last year when he got too old to drive it. He drove it every day and kept it in fine condition. He never had a moments worth of trouble. After we took over the car, we only used it as a second car and maybe ran it once a week. For some reason the car won't start easily if we let it sit for more than a couple of days. First I put in a new battery thinking that it had failed just because it was five years old. This cured the problem for a few weeks but then it went back to its old problem of not starting if I let it sit. I then took it to a shop and they put in a new alternator thinking that it's output was too low. The shop that installed the alternator has tried to pin-point the problem but hasn't come up with a solution. I'm considering buying a inexpensive battery charger just to keep it from going dead.
K.L. Boston, MA

A. If the battery is up to snuff and the charging rate is within the amperage limits set by the manufacturer, there's not much left other than something that's supposed to shut itself off is staying on. On modern vehicles, there is always a slight draw on the battery to keep items like the LED clock working but in your case, the draw is no doubt pretty high. It may be something as simple as a light bulb not being shut off when the trunk lid or the glove box door is shut. This can be checked pretty easily by a mechanic with auto electrical experience.

Q. I've completely renovated my 1976 Volkswagen Westphalia camper and it only as 85,000 miles on it. During the past six months, it has gradually developed a misfire that happens only when I put the engine under a load or am going up a long hill. My mechanic specializes in air- cooled VWs but he can't seem to find the problem. He has had the distributor out several times to change the points and says that the ignition advance system is working fine and the coil is putting out plenty of spark. I've spent over $150 so far trying to get it right and we still can't cure it. As it is now, I'm afraid to go on family camping trips with it because it might break down and leave us stranded.
D.B. Eugene, OR

A. If you check the points and find that they show signs of burning, have your mechanic change the condenser. An intermittent misfire under a load could well be a condenser that has a loose or dirty ground and this will make the points fry and the engine miss periodically. Most of us occasionally neglect to change the condenser when we change the points on those old VW busses because it's buried down under the point plate.

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