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Can't Tell Car's Condition by Odometer

May 23, 1985|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | Times Staff Writer

Question: I have a 1966 Rambler Classic that runs beautifully. How can I prove to a future buyer that the 66,555 miles on the odometer are all the miles the car has been driven? Everybody thinks the meter has gone around.--S.M.R.

Answer: A really savvy automobile collector, or any used-car buyer for that matter, will probably not put much importance on the odometer reading. It is far more important to assess the condition of the car and the type of maintenance it has received.

Even an expert mechanic could not actually prove that your car's odometer has not gone around and that you have not accumulated 166,555 miles. On certain odometers, the numbers will not align properly after the odometer has turned over 100,000 miles, but this is unreliable.

Antique and classic-car collectors know that it is very difficult to estimate the mileage on a car from the apparent wear and tear the car shows. For example, interiors can be upholstered, the rubber pads on brake pedals can be replaced and engines can be steam cleaned.

Assessing the value of a car involves determining if it runs well, if the steering is not sloppy, if the springs don't sag, if the engine is not consuming excessive oil and that all the various appliances work properly. A paint job may hide a defect such as rust-through, but otherwise new paint should enhance a car's value.

You may also ask an auto mechanic to determine whether original replacement parts have been used in servicing a used car or whether inexpensive, shoddy parts were used. A well-maintained car may prove to be much more reliable than a poorly maintained car with thousands of fewer miles on it.

Q: I have a 1976 Volkswagen Scirocco. Within the last 10 months, I have gone through four fuel pumps, and now the fifth is acting up. The four previous pumps lasted about a month and then could not deliver enough fuel to go 50 miles per hour. I had my carburetor rebuilt and the fuel line from the pump to the tank replaced. What next?--K.V.

A: In 1976, Volkswagen changed its fuel pump in mid-year. It went from a fuel-injection system with an electrically powered pump to a carburetor system with a mechanically operated pump.

First, determine which system you have and make sure the proper pump is used for your fuel system. In either case, have your mechanic determine whether the pump is delivering fuel at the proper flow rate, which is specified in shop manuals.

If there is a restriction anywhere in the fuel system, an electric pump will overheat and fail prematurely. Check the fuel filters at the carburetor and the fuel tank. If you have a mechanical pump, make sure that the push rod that operates the pump is not worn out.

Q: What can we do about small rust spots on our car? Some spots appear to have penetrated the metal. We want to do the work ourselves.--A.W.E.

A: If the rust is occurring from the underside of the car, you face a major job that will probably be more than you can handle. If the rust spots are only surface deep, then you can repair the spots and prevent further rusting if you are willing to accept a less-than-professional job.

Sand out the rust spots with very-fine-grit, wet-and-dry sandpaper, sold at hardware and auto-supply stores. You will need to sand down to the bare metal.

Paint over any bare metal with primer and then finish with touch-up paint that duplicates your car's original color. Larger rust spots should be painted with a spray can. Small spots, no larger than a quarter, may be brushed. Finish the job with a rubbing compound to bring out the luster.

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.

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