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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1989 Nissan Maxima with 133,000 miles and it runs very well. The steering began to pull to the right, so I took it to the Nissan dealer and I was told that the alignment was OK. I left the garage but even at that point, the steering wheel would still pull to the right. Then I went back to the tire store where I had purchased four new tires a year ago and had the alignment checked there. I was told that if I let them rotate the tires, it would be OK. There was no change, so I took it back again and had them do another alignment on the front end. Again there was no change and it still pulls to the right.
M.K. Chesapeake, VA

A. To do a correct suspension alignment, it takes a skilled technician who understands the basic principals. Assuming the tire pressures are correct and the wheels aren't bent, the first thing to be done is to check for damage to the undercarriage and for bent suspension pieces. The ride height has to be checked against specifications left and right as well as front and rear. The wheelbase (center of a front wheel to center of the one behind it) has to be checked against specs on both sides. The caster and camber have to be checked and adjusted on each side (sometimes this is a major operation involving a frame shop) and the toe-in has to be measured on each side against the centerpoint of the car and not just against each other. This has to be done with the steering wheel locked in its straight-ahead position. The rear suspension on your car is independent too, so all these alignment checks have to be done on the rear wheels as well.

Q. I have a 1971 Ford F-100 pickup with a 360 V8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor and an automatic transmission. About a year ago, I put in another engine from an auto. I have tried all different fuels but I get a lot of pinging after the engine is warmed up. I put on a new carburetor and even replaced the distributor with an aftermarket Mallory electronic distributor. I've changed the distributor setting, replaced the spark plugs, wires, cap and rotor, but I still hear the pinging after the engine is warmed up. I'm at my wits end on this one.
D.K. San Bernardino, CA

A. If the engine you put in last year was used and of an unknown quality, it may have either a very high compression ratio or a heavy carbon buildup which could raise the compression. Try cleaning the combustion chambers with the old water-and-brake fluid routine and see what happens. The new carb may be running too lean and you can catch that by doing a spark plug mid-speed tip examination. Your distributor may have too much total advance adjusted into it, so setting the timing at idle won't help. Check the instructions that came with the distributor to see how to reduce total advance and you'll probably come up with the remedy. As a last resort, you may have to use a chemical octane booster or lower the compression ratio with thicker head gaskets.

Q. We own a 1987 Nissan Maxima that has relatively low mileage for a car this age (45,665 miles) and is in almost perfect condition. The people who owned it kept it up very well. The only problem we have found is that the blower on the climate control system will only work at high speed. The former owner said that it did this all the time that they owned it and they simply learned to live with it after having it fixed three time. Is there some kind of special quirk in these Nissans?
O.F. Boise, ID

A. I'm told that the quirk is in the blower motor itself and that there was a service bulletin out on the subject. Some of the electric blower motors drew too much current and would burn up their resistor. The cure is to replace the expensive blower motor which is probably why the former owner passed on getting it fixed.

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