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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. We are planning to make a cross-country trip in a used car that we acquired from the original owner not too long ago. It is a 1983 Chevrolet Citation sedan with the V6 engine. It now has 72,000 miles on the odometer and is in very good condition. The former owner was very meticulous about its upkeep and always had the car repaired at once. Do you think that a car this age can make a trip across the country and back here to Oregon?
R.D. Cottage Grove, OR

A. Whenever a person buys a used car from a private party, it's a good idea to try to acquire all the past repair records, even those that reflect warranty jobs. The only thing about your letter that bothers me is the fact that you say that the former owner had the car repaired immediately when it was needed. If you have access to the records of these repairs, you might be able to get an idea of what went wrong and how long ago the jobs were done. Those Citations had a couple of problems during their life-span. There was some serious trouble with the rear brakes locking up and as I recall, there was a factory recall to rectify the problem. Make sure that this job was done on your car. Another problem was that the power rack-and-pinion steering would develop a "tight" spot when turning but it would diminish as the car warmed up. The usual repair was to replace it with a rebuilt unit rather that to repair the original. Have a mechanic you trust check out the car before you go and fix anything that needs attention. One of the worst situation a motorist can face is to be broken down and stranded on the desert. It happened to me when I was very young on a trip across Arizona and I think the experience nudged me into becoming a mechanic.

Q. I own a 1994 Lincoln Town Car with 72,000 miles on it. I bought it used in 1994 when it had gone 20,000 miles. My problem is that it whines when passing through the 46 MPH range and then the noise stops when I exceed that speed. It whines again at that speed as I slow down and then goes away. When I engage the cruise control at 46 MPH, the noise comes and goes. I've taken it to two different Lincoln shops and neither could find a problem. What do you think is wrong?
C.H. Norfolk, VA

A. I've heard from my local source of Lincoln lore that there have been several incidents of rear end failure with those big Lincolns due to a mismatch or misalignment of the gears in the rear end. A slight misalignment of the ring and pinion gears back there will cause a noise or whine at one particular speed but not above or below it. Have the differential oil drained and checked with a magnet for any ferrous (iron) material floating around or laying in the drain pan. If the noise has been there since you bought the car and it hasn't gotten any worse, chances are it will remain just an annoyance but check with your favorite dealer about a "secret" warranty on the problem. It's possible that Ford is still picking up the tab for a repair.

Q. My grandson is turning 18 and for his birthday, he has expressed a desire for tools to use in his hobby which is working on his car. I want to surprise him but I don't know what to get him. Is there a list available somewhere that will tell me what to buy for a beginner?
O.L. Boise, ID

A. Surprise him with a gift certificate to a local tool supplier like Sears to be spent on whatever he needs since he knows best what he is lacking. I mentioned Sears only because its quality is high, it's easy to access and its tools are guaranteed for life if they break but Snap-on, Mack and the rest are equally as good and also have a life-time warranty. Without any expertise, you're likely to buy him duplicates or odd-balls he'll never use. As soon as my five sons started working on their cars, I bought them sets of their own and kept my own locked up.

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