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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. Our family is forced to put our grandmother in a rest home since she can no longer take care of herself. We are going through the process of sorting out her possessions and when we were cleaning out her basement, we came across a very old toy pedal car that my father and uncle had played with as children. It's in the form of a fire engine with a step in back where another child can stand. It's in terrible condition being pretty well battered and rusted from the hard use Dad and his brother gave it before they were in kindergarten. My dad is not the sentimental type and neither is my uncle. They say that they'd just as soon throw it away but I have heard that these things have value to car collectors. It looks like junk to me but I'm hesitant to throw it away and I don't know exactly how to go about getting it evaluated.
T.T. Puyallup, WA

A. I have a photo of my youngest daughter sitting in one of those fire engine pedal cars and I wish I'd kept the car, too. All seven of my kids used it and by the end of its service career, it must have had five pounds of welding rod holding it together. Pedal cars are indeed hot items on the collector's market and the best source of value would be conventional antique stores since they have catalogs that list all that stuff. I went to the Oakland Roadster Show last year and found more than a dozen pedal cars on display. Their restorations had been as carefully done as if they had been full-sized vintage cars.

Q. Our Mitsubishi is hard to shift. The service station that we go to for repairs doesn't know what is wrong and the dealer's shop wants to take it apart without telling us what it will cost first. It is a Precis with a four cylinder engine and a five speed standard transmission. It had gone only 10,000 miles when we bought it in 1991 and we have put on 60,900 more. It is very hard to shift the transmission from fifth to fourth no matter what speed we are traveling. Once it is stopped, it is also very hard to shift it into reverse, too. It is getting so difficult to shift that my husband is afraid that he will eventually break something.
L.P. Phoenix, AZ

A. Although I've never come across the problem myself, I found a reference to it in a Mitsubishi service bulletin that might help your mechanic in doing the job. Fifth and reverse are on the same "plane" with fifth gear being selected by pushing the shift lever to the right of the shifting pattern and then forward while reverse is selected by pulling the lever back from the same position. There is a spring-loaded detent ball that rides on a selecter rod and it provides the "click-in" feel you get when you shift into either fifth or reverse. The ball and spring are carried in a hollow bolt that screws into the top of the transmission and can be accessed without removing the transmission. Have your mechanic take it out and replace it with an updated version of the unit. It's available from the Mitsubishi parts department.

Q. My 1992 Honda Accord was in a crash and the repairs were done by a body and fender shop that was chosen by my insurance agent. While the car was undergoing its repairs I stopped by the shop to check its progress. To my horror, I found that the shop was using parts that had come from a junk yard. I objected to the shop owner and my agent and was told that it was left up to them as to where the replacement parts would come from. Is it ethical to use junk parts to repair cars?
J.R. Hollywood, CA

A. "Recycled" is a better word to use for merchandise that comes from a multi-million dollar industry. The engine in my '84 Toyota van came from a recycler's yard and it was lots cheaper than fixing the old one. Body parts from a recycler save on insurance rates but are only as good as the technician who installs them.

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