Question: I have a 1984 Buick Skylark with about 10,000 miles on it. I took it to a Buick dealer for a routine oil change. Afterward, the car started to buck. Immediately, a cloud of very dense white smoke came out of the tailpipe. Oil was dripping from the tailpipe. I barely made it back to the dealer. We got it cleared up by running the motor for some time. What happened?--T.L.
Answer: The short answer is that your mechanic seriously goofed. He either poured some oil down the carburetor or, more likely, he grossly overfilled the crankcase with oil. At the very least, an overfilled crankcase can cause minor problems and may well do major damage.
Oil is stored at the bottom of an engine in an area called the oil pan. If the oil reaches too high a level in the oil pan, it can be agitated excessively by the engine's moving parts. The oil will splash upward and get into the cylinders, causing oil fouling of the spark plugs. The oil is then burned off and sent out the exhaust pipe. That's what caused the smoke coming out your exhaust.
Worse yet, if foamed oil is drawn in the oil pump, it can cause the formation of air pockets that can starve the upper engine of lubrication. You should immediately check your oil level. If it is overfilled, you should drain the oil and restore it to the proper level.
Q: I have a 1984 Ford Tempo with an automatic transmission that has 48,000 miles on it. About half the time, the transmission does not shift into high gear at 35 miles per hour but will stay in second gear up to speeds of 45 m.p.h. to 65 m.p.h. Any suggestions?--J.G.
A: Any of half a dozen conditions can cause your problem. First, check your automatic transmission fluid dipstick. Make sure it is filled to the correct level and that it is a clear red color.
Discolored fluid that smells burned is an indication of serious mechanical problems. If you have never had your transmission fluid changed and the fluid filter cleaned, you may solve your problem with this relatively inexpensive repair.
Next, your mechanic needs to check the throttle linkage, which is a mechanical link that tells the transmission how heavily the engine is accelerating. This is unlikely to be your problem, however, and you are now headed into a major transmission tear-down.
That will first involve checking the valve body, which is the brain inside the transmission. The valve body operates with a series of hydraulic valves, which close and open under tremendous pressure. A leaky or stuck valve can cause the problem you describe.
Some new information is available to a recent question regarding how to best protect a battery on a vehicle that is parked for long periods of time in a remote location.
It was suggested that the battery terminals be kept clean, the battery be kept full of fluid and fully charged just before shutdown. If it is to be left unused for months, the battery should be taken out of the vehicle and kept charged on a battery charger.
But there is another solution. A solar-powered, auto- and truck-battery charger is available. The cost is about $149. The unit can be ordered at most solar-energy equipment dealers.