Question: I have a 1984 Volvo with silver paint. I live where the summer temperatures are frequently over 100 degrees. I have heard that silver is the most likely color to fade. What is the best protection against fading?--H.C.
Answer: Silver paint, especially silver metallic paint, is the most susceptible to fading and wear. It is a sad fact of auto ownership that today's factory paint jobs do not last as long as they used to.
Automobile manufacturers are very often using water-based acrylic paints, which are soft paints that don't seem to hold up well to oxidation caused by sunlight and atmospheric pollution.
In addition to using softer paints, many cars are receiving only one coat of primer and one coat of color. A clear coat of acrylic is sprayed over the color coat. This is called a two-stage paint job.
It appears that the durability of paint is one area that American manufacturers still can boast of leadership over foreign firms. In either case, however, manufacturers are no longer using several coats of lacquer paint, which was an extremely hard paint that could be rubbed to a bright polish. It wasn't unusual for an original paint job to last the life of the car, if it was well cared for.
Metallic paints are not as durable, according to experts at the Southern California Automobile Club. Solid-color paints appear to last longer and will always be easier to touch up in case of scratches or damage in the later years of a car's life.
As for protecting your Volvo, you should try to park the car in the shade or use a car cover during the summer months when the sun is most intense. Wash it frequently and use any high-quality paste wax two to three times each year.
Q: I have a 1978 Thunderbird with 105,000 miles on it. Oil is starting to accumulate in the crankcase breather. There is no suction in the hose connecting the filter to the valve cover.--R.C.
A: Crankcase breather caps and hoses frequently become plugged with oil residues after years of usage. It's best to replace the cap if you detect an oil buildup in the cap or if oil is being sucked into the air filter.
If you don't want to replace the cap, it can be easily cleaned with solvent. Try soaking the cap in a pan full of kerosene. If you use gasoline, do the work outside and take all safety measures.
Q: I have a 1983 Chevrolet S10 Blazer equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission. When it had 26,214 miles on the odometer, the transmission overheated and caused a $993 overhaul bill. Less than three months later, a front main seal on the transmission blew. At 41,749 miles, it needed a new torque converter. I also installed a transmission oil cooler. At this point, I am writing in hope that just maybe GM will step up to its responsibilities.--G.D.
A: Unfortunately, you aren't the first owner of a General Motors four-speed automatic transmission to have a horror story of unending repairs, especially with oil-seal leakage. General Motors, however, says the transmission has no history of overheating problems.
The Center for Auto Safety, a Washington consumer group, has investigated problems with the transmission and believes that GM has quietly instituted a warranty program for owners who complain loudly enough. GM has disclosed no warranties beyond the standard agreement covering its autos.
Although you should expect the vehicle to provide the type of heavy-duty service worthy of a truck, you will probably have to settle for limiting usage of your Blazer to only light-duty carrying that will not put too high a stress on the transmission.
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.