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YOUR WHEELS / RALPH VARTABEDIAN

Need a Grease Job? Know Your Car

March 18, 1994|RALPH VARTABEDIAN

The job of greasing the suspension system on your car had all but disappeared in recent years. Now, greasing is making a comeback.

In the 1980s, many auto makers eliminated greasing points because they believed that the quality of grease had so improved it would last the life of the car.

But motorists knew better. What "lifetime lubrication" often meant was the grease would last 60,000 miles, then the part would wear out and a $300 repair was needed.

General Motors was one of the few that continued equipping its cars with grease fittings.

A typical GM car today has grease fittings on the lower ball joint, the two pivot points on the lower control arm and on both tie-rod ends. So, for 10 cents worth of grease, you should be able to get substantially more life out of the front suspension system.

Most foreign manufacturers long ago stopped manufacturing systems with grease points. Ford and Chrysler also abandoned grease points in the 1980s, although they equipped the suspension parts with plugs that could be removed for the installation of grease fittings. Now, they too are equipping many of their new cars with fittings.

The reason auto makers abandoned grease fittings was highlighted in a letter from a Lakewood reader, who asked why the lithium grease he bought was being phased out of auto parts stores. Lithium grease was introduced in the 1960s as a major improvement over conventional petroleum greases. But lithium grease was still subject to breakdown from water and had a limited life.

By the 1980s, the petroleum industry came up with greases that were water resistant and stood up to very high temperatures without melting, leading car makers to believe that they could permanently seal suspension parts and constant velocity joints.

Car makers continue to seal constant velocity joints but are reverting to grease fittings on suspension parts.

The problem for car owners is that many service stations don't have a clue about which cars have grease points and which don't.

You should check your owner's manual to see whether it recommends periodic greasing of the suspension and specifically tell your mechanic what your car needs during an oil change.

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Q: I have a 1988 Buick LeSabre. The fuel pump on this car fails about every 7,000 miles. The car has been towed into the dealer six times. What do you suggest?

A: Buick says it does not have a history of failures on the LeSabre fuel pump, although you are not the first LeSabre owner to write me about the problem.

You must have a separate problem that is causing the fuel pumps to fail, because it is improbable that you received six defective pumps.

First, make sure the electrical circuit to the pump is not open and the pump is properly grounded.

Also make sure the fuel lines are not restricted in any way that would overburden the pump.

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