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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. The J.C. Whitney Company informed me that they have no ignition wire sets for our 1985 Itasca motor home because it doesn't have stainless steel exhaust manifolds. We checked with our local motor home dealer and found that he wants $95 for a set of wires. The 31 foot motor home has a Chevrolet 7.4 liter V8 motor in it and uses an automatic transmission. The odometer only reads 56,000 miles. I would appreciate your opinion on the use of metal core wires.
W.D. Reno, NV

A. I've always been a little leery about buying parts and accessories from mail order houses that lists items ranging from fuzzy dice that hang from your rear view mirror to complete replacement bodies for vintage Jeeps to engine overhaul kits for late-model Fords. Several years ago I ordered a set of exhaust headers for a Toyota that I was working on and was sent an exhaust kit for a Chevrolet. I got my money back but the time and trouble involved made it a losing proposition for me. I suspect that Whitney's reluctance at selling you a set of conventional wires for your Chevy engine involves high underhood heat that would cause them to deteriorate at a rapid rate. A stainless steel exhaust system would reduce the temperature and allow the wires to last longer. Your motor home dealer may well be offering you wires that he gets from a Chevrolet dealer and then marks up for sale to his customers. Check with a Chevy parts department directly and you may save some money. An independent auto parts store may be able to supply them, too. Those counter guys are usually very knowledgeable. Solid core plug wires are a bad idea for you engine since they set up magnetic fields that may interfere with electronic equipment in the immediate vicinity.

Q. Enclosed please find an interesting article I found in our local newspaper regarding the West Coast Isetta and Weird Little Car Meet that was recently held here. It mentions the early Subaru 360 pickup truck. If it was indeed a Subaru pickup, I wonder if you know when they were produced. I'd also like to know if there is a club for Toyotas.
H.V. Eugene, OR

A. I had the misfortune of having to pull wrenches on the 360 when I worked for a Subaru dealer in the 1962. It was a a terrible little car. The engine was a two cylinder, two-strokeR with just 16 horsepower. Nothing really worked right and the "suicide" (rear-hinged) doors had a habit of popping open at anything over 40 MPH. The 360 minicar was built from 1958 to 1971 although I don't think any were imported that late. Although I never saw one, I recall that the company offered a cab- forward pickup version for commercial use and it was called the Sambar. Since the Toyota is no longer a "specialty" car, I don't think that there is a general club for owners of all models although I'm sure there must be registries for the rare ones like the Toyota 2000 coupe.

Q. In early 1991 I bought a used Dodge Caravan with the 3.3 liter V6 motor. I later read that this vehicle was a lemon due to considerable trouble with the automatic transmission. Outside of an oil seal leak, I haven't had any trouble with the transmission which I have had serviced every 30,000 miles. Was there a recall on my automatic transmission? I'm told that there was one and on my peeling gray metallic paint, too. A dealer here tells me that there is no factory recall on either item.
K.B. Sacramento, CA

A. Chrysler did indeed have a corporate headache in that automatic as installed in its minivan but a recall is never demanded by the government unless the problem causes a safety hazard. I've talked to Caravan owners who had transmission failure and they told me that Chrysler only picked up the tab if it lost in arbitration or in court. You've probably headed off the problem by having it serviced frequently. You'd waste your time trying to get a repaint on a six year old van.

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