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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I'm the original owner of an '85 Ford Bronco with the 351 cubic-inch engine and an automatic transmission. My mechanic installed a rebuilt engine 34,000 miles ago. It had a 10,000-mile warranty and always ran a bit rough but was OK for the first 10,000 miles. Then it started stalling on cold mornings and the roughness increased. My mechanic rebuilt the carburetor twice, changed the intake manifold gasket once (he wanted to check for a flat camshaft lobe), and finally said he couldn't find the problem. His analyzer indicated that one cylinder was weak and he suggested I sell the vehicle. When the car is warmed up, it still has a popping sound in the exhaust, feels like it's running on six cylinders, has no power and is starting to stall again. I'm afraid that it won't pass the state test. The rest of the vehicle is great and I can't afford new, so I may have him put in a Chevy V8.
D.H. Folsom, CA

A. Then your troubles would really start. Consider all the things that would have to be changed (transmission, driveshaft, exhaust system, linkage, etc.) and you might still wind up with a replacement engine that hadn't been rebuilt right. Ford 351 engines aren't inherently bad and a rebuilt engine is only as good as its rebuilder. There's lots of things that could be faulty (incorrectly reground camshaft, cracked intake manifold, sticking valves, etc.). Pinpoint the faulty cylinder(s) and have your mechanic (or another one) analyze the problem methodically. Engines aren't "cursed", so there's a logical answer.

Q. I have a 1989 Buick Park Avenue with 108,000 miles. It is equipped with antilock brakes. The brakes have failed and I took it to a Buick dealer where I was told that I will have to replace the entire anti-lock system at a price of about $2600. I am wondering if there is a less expensive way to fix it or if maybe I could change it over to a regular braking system like most of the other 1989 Buicks.
L.B. Monticello, KY

A. The curse of high-tech equipment is that when it gets old and goes bad, it's expensive to fix. You wouldn't have heart surgery done without getting an opinion from several specialists besides your own doctor, so do the same with the brakes on your Buick. Go to a couple of independents and some other GM dealerships (Chevy, Olds, etc. as well as Buick), pay for an analysis, and then form an opinion. Not many mechanics in their right minds would take on converting your brake system because of the liability factor that's involved. I'm not even sure if it's legal in Kentucky.

Q. My grandson is just turning 15 and has become passionately interested in auto racing. His mother who is raising him alone tells me that he watches every race he can find on the television. His mother bought him a second TV and a video player so that he can tape them. His father has no interest in racing and doesn't see his son very often. Is there some racing magazine I can buy a subscription to for his birthday? I can't find anything in our supermarket that specializes in racing.
O.G. Westbury, NY

A. Most "buff" magazines (Road & Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, etc.) cover auto racing, but their articles are three months late. AutoWeek is up-to-date, but its coverage is limited to just a few pages because most of the magazine is devoted to new car road tests and other features. While there are magazines on the market that cover specialized types of racing like Victory Lane and Circle Track, try On Track first to see if he stays interested after he discovers girls. It's a biweekly that covers all kinds of U.S. and international racing in depth. It modestly bills itself as "The Auto Racing Magazine of Record" and you can sign up over the phone by calling 1-800-883-7323. Maybe he'll get over it, although I never did.

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