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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. My car is a 1985 Ford LTD that has 92,000 miles on the odometer. It has a V6 engine, an automatic transmission and car has been serviced on a regular basis ever since I bought it new. The same servicing company has maintained it the entire time. Obviously I don't drive it very much and at 90,000 miles I was advised by the repair shop that my car should have a tune-up. I was quoted a price of $200 for the parts and labor. I took the car to another shop for an estimate and there I was quoted a price of $133 total. My car runs well and I have had no problems so far but I know it is an old car and will need work from time to time. I wonder at what point I should consider not putting any more money into it because of it's age.
M.R. Norfolk, VA

A. The current wholesale price on your car is listed at around $1000 and retail is around double that amount. Anything you buy that is newer is going to cost you considerably more than $2000. If your Ford is running well, looks good (not a rat) and you like it, it would probably be worth putting some money into it to "renovate" those things that might go wrong. Before you have a tune-up, have the car analyzed for leaking engine valves, piston ring seal, etc., to make sure that you're not pouring money into a potentially bottomless pit. Also have the brakes and transmission checked out by experts (guys you can trust not to "highball" you) and in general, have a thorough physical examination done on it. Don't have any repairs done until you calculate what the expenses would be compared to trading up. This usually tips the scale in favor of sticking with what you have and going for another 90,000 or more miles. And don't stop comparison-shopping.

Q. I have a 1995 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck with a 318 cubic inch engine. I have lots of accessories on it, including a Star Craft package with flared fenders, running boards and a real wood interior. The truck is painted emerald green and my question is what is the best auto wax for this truck? Would it also be the best wax for my wife's 1996 Chevrolet Blazer which is teal in color?
D.E. Martinez, CA

A. I get a lot of mail asking for an endorsement on or a recommendation for the "best" auto wax or polish, almost as many as I do regarding the "best" motor oil. Barry Maguiar spends hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting his car products as being the best and even bought me lunch to help convince me. But so do the folks from Zymol, Turtle Wax and all the rest - and their products are all good. Personally I like to use whatever product is the easiest to use and I can get the best buy on but if Barry Maguiar will buy you lunch too, use his stuff - especially if he gives you free samples.

Q. We own a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with the six cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. In full-time or part-time four-wheel drive, when we attempt to turn and back into or out of our garage, the steering mechanism locks. When we accelerate to break loose the lock condition, the whole vehicle shakes. Our selling dealer says that this is normal for this type of vehicle. Have you heard of this condition in vehicles of this type and if so, how is it remedied?
S.V. Schenectady, NY

A. We just tested a new Jeep Grand Cherokee and it didn't exhibit the steering lock symptoms that you describe but maybe we didn't back it up under the same conditions. Jeeps uses an antiquated solid front axle and it may be that the company engineered too tight a turning radius into them in which case it could be adjusted for a longer lock-to-lock action. Contact the Chrysler factory rep to check it and if it's "normal," contact the National Highway Safety Administration to report it. Call 800-424-9393. It sounds dangerous.

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