Motoring Q&A: Have a brake dust buildup?
Q: I hate brake dust. I replaced the front pads and rotors about a month ago on my '98 Saab with Brembo rotors and EBC Red pads, which I have on another Saab and never notice a buildup of dust between washings. On the '98, I have to wash the front wheels every two or three days after about 50 miles of driving. The amount of dust does not seem to be decreasing with use. Any suggestions?
A: My only suggestion would be to check the finish pattern on the rotors. Some pads seem to like a certain type of finish pattern on a rotor. Check with the pad manufacturer to see if they have a specific recommendation. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you could try scuffing the pads with a non-symmetrical finish pattern using a 400-grit sanding disc on your electric drill.
Q: I have excessive play in the steering wheel of my 1998 Dodge four-wheel-drive pickup truck with 150,000 miles. The steering gear seems to be the prime suspect because a mechanic said the steering linkage and suspension components are tight. When replacing the unit, how do I make sure the steering wheel stays straight in relation to the wheels? Will marking the steering coupler to its shaft and pitman arm apply to a new unit?
A: With the hood open, watch the pitman arm, the steering gearbox input shaft and steering coupler closely as someone moves the steering wheel back and forth an inch or two. If the play is in the coupler, replace it. Scribe or mark the coupler orientation with the front wheels straight in order to install it correctly. If the play is in the recirculating ball steering gearbox, it may be possible to adjust the worm gear bearing preload and the front thrust bearing. Chrysler recommends making these adjustments with the steering gearbox removed from the vehicle. Mark or scribe the pitman arm at the sector shaft master spline to reinstall the pitman arm in the correct position.
Q: There are four cars in my family, and it seems I can never get a pair of windshield wipers to do their job. I always end up with a streak or a spot where the wiper completely misses. Is there a secret to getting a pair of wipers to do a better job?
A: Start by making sure the windshield is clean. Automotive glass cleaner and wadded-up newspaper do a good job, but for really stubborn road film, polish the glass with a metal polish like Brasso, then clean the residue with glass cleaner. Also, don't forget to clean the wiper blade edges every time you clean the windshield.
Q: I have a '55 T-Bird with the 292-cubic-inch engine and four-barrel "teapot" carburetor that is notorious for reliability. I've had the carb professionally rebuilt, but the engine won't start without a shot of ether starting fluid. When it does start, it idles and runs fine. It does not seem to get gas on its own for starting even though it has a new fuel pump. Should I replace the old carb?
A: You could try a one-way check valve in the fuel line between the pump and carb, but the most likely scenario is fuel leaking from the carburetor float bowl while the car sits. Thus, when you try to start it, there's no fuel in the carb. Assuming it's a mechanical fuel pump, it won't refill the carb until you either crank the engine for a long period of time or the engine starts.
To determine whether this is the problem, remove the air cleaner, and with the key off, stuff rags or paper towels down the venturis to prevent the screws from falling into the intake manifold and remove the carb top cover to check how much fuel is in the float bowl. If it's empty, fuel leaking from the expansion plugs in the bottom of the float is the likely culprit.
Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.
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