Niagara Gazette

August 8, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Tips for increasing fuel mileage and other questions answered

By Tom Torbjornsen
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — This week’s column features a few questions and answers:

DAN FROM PHOENIX: Other than keeping up on oil changes (I use Mobil 1 synthetic 5w-30) and keeping up on the air filter, is there any after market stuff I can buy to increase mileage? I know there’s aftermarket stuff that increases horsepower, but not mileage. I’m looking for good quality products that are a surefire way to make a noticeable difference in mileage. Please help!

TOM: Using synthetic motor oil is a good move. You might also want to change over the transmission fluid to synthetic ATF; this will help reduce internal transmission drag. Using synthetic transmission fluid is a move many carmakers use to increase fuel efficiency. Keep your tires inflated to the proper levels and replace the air filter with a K&N high-flow air filter. These combined moves should result in measurable fuel mileage increases.

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GLEN FROM MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.: I own a ‘68 AMC AMX with a 390 engine. It sat for 10 years without running. My question, is the engine ruined because it hasn’t run in so long? I didn’t store it properly and would like your advice on how I might be able to revive this classic car engine. Will it need professional care at this point?

TOM: Have you even tried to start it yet? Try to crank it over. If the engine cranks, that’s a good sign. Drain the crankcase and fill it with new oil. Next, replace the oil filter, and before you install the new filter, fill it with oil. Pull a valve cover. Next, ground the coil wire and crank the engine until the rockers pump oil up into the head. Make sure you have spark from the coil, then reinsert the coil wire and start the engine up. Should the engine NOT crank, find our why. There could be rust in the cylinders or a seized crankshaft. The only way to find the cause is to disassemble the engine. If it’s extremely rusty inside, find another engine. Good luck.

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MARY FROM DALLAS: I own a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country with 85,000 miles. It’s running well except for a little stumble now and then. My father used to clean his plugs when that happened to his car. Does this sound like a good idea to do to platinum plugs or should I just change them?

TOM: Have a computer scan done to see if there are any misfire codes. This will tell you if the plugs are dirty resulting in misfire. Bad spark plug wires can also cause this condition. Why? When the insulation breaks down then the wires crossfire. An effective way to see if the wires are cross-firing is to spray water in them. If they crossfire, then the wires need replacing. Another suggestion, have a flight tester hooked to the vehicle’s datalink connector and drive it. This way the tech can monitor the datastream to observe any anomalies in the system. Aside from this course of diagnosis, anything else is a shot in the dark. Success to you.

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TONY FROM PHILADELPHIA: I bought a 2007 Mercury Grand Marques and I am not happy with ride. I talked to the dealership and they said nothing could be done to improve the ride. I changed to one of Michelin’s better tires and it did seem to help a bit. I also changed the shocks and struts and that helped a little too, but I am still unhappy with the ride. The car does not have air ride suspension. Would this give me a ride closer to the Lincoln Towncar? Thanks for your input.

TOM: Yes, the air ride suspension would help the ride of your Merc. After installing the air ride system, you can adjust the shock and strut feel by adjusting the air in the system. There are many aftermarket systems available for that car. A simple keyword search on Yahoo rendered over 400,000 results. I went to a site called “Suspension-Alternatives” and found three good kits ranging from $235 to $500. I wish you success.

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YVONNE FROM LILLINGTON, N.C.: My 2002 Grand Prix, 6-cyl needs a new battery and I would like to buy a brand name (but not a costly brand like Delco). I am able to spend up to $100. I heard that Interstate is a good product. Is this true?

TOM: Interstate makes high quality products. Your car takes the Interstate Mega-Tron MT-51R battery. I research the battery and, based on the stats on Interstate’s application chard, this battery is well suited to your car, and the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) is $115, with the average retail price coming in at $96.95. It looks like this battery fills all your qualifiers.

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KATE FROM MAINE: Why is there white smoke coming from the exhaust when I start my car? After a while, it goes away. My car is a 2005 Chevy Malibu. Thanks.

TOM: The “white smoke” could be due to condensation in the system. Typically, when it’s cold outside, hot exhaust gas passing through the cold exhaust system causes condensation (water) to form inside the system and thus “white smoke” (water vapor) comes out of the exhaust pipe until the system heats up enough to evaporate all of it. If the “white smoke” continues after warm up, you may have a blown the head gasket. And if the smoke smells like gasoline, you may have a fuel delivery problem. Good luck.

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PAMELA FROM CARSON CITY, NEV.: The check engine light on my 4WD Isuzu Rodeo came on. I had it checked out at a shop and the code that came up is number P1441. What is this and how does it affect my car?

TOM: There is a TSB on this very issue. It is TSB# SB00-02-S002 from Isuzu. It states:

Condition: All affected vehicles with the P1441 Evaporative Emission Code that has been diagnosed with “no fault found” from the appropriate flow chart in the Drivability and Emissions Manual.

Correction: After determining that no faults exist for P1441, the affected vehicle may require an updated fuel sender and/or an updated calibration number. Do not replace the entire Fuel Pump and Sender assembly.

So you might need a new fuel-sending unit in your truck. Have it checked by the dealer before proceeding. Best to you.

‘Til next time ... Keep Rollin’

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.