Question: I have a 1982 Buick Skyhawk with an annoying squealing from the front brakes. After many unsuccessful repairs, the noise went away after new brake pads were installed. But it returned six months later. Is there a solution other than having new pads installed every six months?--P.B.
Answer: The squealing is almost certainly the result of glazing of your front disc brake pads, a minor drawback to the many benefits of disc brakes. The pads, which are flat linings about the size of a hand, can become glazed when subjected to excess heat and dust during either abnormally hard or soft braking.
You can help prevent the problem by avoiding riding your foot on the brake pedal and by avoiding repeated fast stops. These tend to overheat the brakes and prevent brake material from wearing off normally.
In addition, not all brands of brake pads have the same tendency to glaze. The trade-off is that brakes that tend to glaze are generally harder and longer lasting than glaze-resistant brakes. The longer-lasting pads contain more metal, which promotes glazing.
If you are willing to sacrifice somewhat in the intervals between brake jobs, then it may be possible to purchase and have installed brake pads that are softer than the original equipment on your Buick.
Q: I belong to a car club, and we do a number of parades each year. How much damage occurs to an engine in prolonged idling?--B.O.
A: Assuming that your fuel system and cooling system are in good working order, prolonged idling should do very little damage to your engine. At idle, an engine is subjected to very little stress, because pressures and forces inside the engine are at a minimum.
The exception to that rule is if the car overheats or if the engine is flooded with gasoline during idling. When the outside air is hot, the cooling system must work well to prevent overheating when the car is not moving.
In addition, some older cars (made before the early 1970s) were equipped with carburetors that provide a very rich gasoline-air mixture to the engine. In some cases, these older cars deliver such a rich mixture that gasoline can wash down lubrication inside the cylinder walls and dilute the engine oil.
As bad as that sounds, wash-down and dilution cause little excessive wear. If you have a classic or antique car and you suspect that gasoline is diluting your oil, you may want to change your oil after every parade.
Q: I own a 1970 Plymouth Duster with a six-cylinder, 225-cubic-inch engine that has 100,770 miles on it. I have cared well for it, but recently it stalls and falters on cold starts. I have had a major tuneup and replaced the choke--all with no improvement. What should I do next?--B.G.
A: The choke is still opening before the engine is sufficiently heated, so you should concentrate your efforts there. Other owners have complained of similar problems on Chrysler's slant-six engine, so the condition is not a fluke.
The choke normally opens and closes through the actions of a heat-sensitive spring. While the choke may work well in subzero weather, it does not always work well above freezing.
First, check whether the choke is sticking. If so, apply a special choke lubricant. As a last resort, you may want to convert the choke from automatic to a manual operation with a kit sold at auto-parts stores. But make sure first that it will not violate local anti-pollution laws.
Ralph Vartabedian cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to automotive questions of general interest. Do not telephone. Write to Your Wheels, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.