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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a car with a 4.5 liter GM engine that has 145,000 miles on it. When I start it up in the morning the hydraulic valve lifters are very noisy. The noise can be heard for about 30 seconds when the engine has been restarted after it has been shut down overnight or longer. Cool or cold weather tends to increase the length of time the noise lasts.
L.Z. Virginia Beach, VA

A. Noisy hydraulic camshaft followers are not only annoying but they can beat up the camshaft pretty badly too. Some of those GM V8 engines had a reputation for eating up camshaft lobes and lifters and your car may have already sustained some damage. There are lots of oil additives on the market that will help free up sticking hydraulic lifters that bleed off their pressure overnight but don't expect a cure in a can. I've never had a whole lot of faith in automotive chemical cures but it can't hurt to try. Rislone, Marvel Mystery Oil and half a dozen others are marketed through parts stores and mass merchandisers and I've used them myself in the past with mixed results. If your car is new enough and worth the expense, you might wind up having to install a new set of lifters but install a new camshaft at the same time. Putting new lifters on an old camshaft will result in premature wear on the new ones. Infrequent oil and filter changes usually cause of the problem.

Q. I bought a 1989 Ford Thunderbird new and have only put 28,000 miles on it. Recently I heard noise coming from the front brakes so I took it to a Ford dealer. I was told that the front brake rotors had to be replaced and I was charged $461 for front brake pads, brake rotors and for adjusting the rear drum brakes. I asked the service manager if there was a recall or service letter on it and he said that there was a recall on the rotors but only on the model that had disk brakes on the rear. Don't they have the same front rotors? I read something in your column about this problem and I wonder if you have any information from the factory. How do I get in touch with the Ford factory about a possible partial refund? I expected a $70 to $100 bill for front pads.
T.P. San Bernardino, CA

A. In your owner's handbook you should be able to find a factory "hot-line" to call with your complaint but don't hold your breath waiting for a positive response. After eight years, your car is ancient history to Ford. You must be a long-time reader of this column because I did write about T-Bird front brakes but it was several years ago. I recommended to the writer that he make a big to-do about it to the factory field rep and the result was that he was able to split the bill with the factory. It was a "squeaky-spoke" warranty job.

Q. While I was taking a cross-country trip in my 1989 Honda Accord, it began to produce a slight jerking feeling through the car as though the automatic transmission was slipping for a split second. I took it into a Honda dealer's shop where the transmission fluid was replace and the residue checked for metal chips. The shop found nothing. During the remainder of my trip the noise and jerkiness still happened occasionally but never increased. I arrived at my destination and in driving around town I experienced the problem more often but mainly when I made right turns. The town is small and doesn't have a Honda dealership and I'm wondering if I can make the 1200 mile journey home OK next month.
J.R. Hollywood, FL

A. When I hear a noise in the front end of a front-drive car when it makes a slow, tight turn, I'm always suspicious of a worn constant velocity (CV) joint on one of the drive axles. These are the devices that allow the front wheels to be turned and receive driving power too. Sometimes the "boot" covering them rips, dirt get into them and they wear out. Replacing a CV joint is well within the capabilities of almost any independent professional mechanic.

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