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Humming Fuel Pump May Work Just Fine

November 07, 2001|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Question: The fuel pump on my 1993 Dodge Caravan is making an odd noise, like a hum. My mechanic told me that the hum is coming from the electric fuel pump inside my gas tank and that it's normal. Another mechanic said it means the pump is ready to fail needs to be replaced. What do you think?

K.I.

Answer: Fuel pumps often emit a humming sound, so that does not necessarily mean yours is ready to fail. It's often difficult to diagnose when a particular part is going to fail because of an abnormal noise. Even if the pump has become noisy, you may find that it continues to work fine for quite a while.

Fuel pumps are costly to replace, because parts are expensive and the gas tank usually must be drained, disconnected and removed from the vehicle.

Although there is no regular maintenance you can perform on fuel pumps, many mechanics advise that you should not let your gas tank become nearly empty. When little fuel remains in the tank, any suspended sediment is concentrated and can be agitated by sloshing. Such sediment is abrasive and can damage the fuel pump.

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Q: I am seeking advice on my 1992 Lincoln Continental. I have replaced almost every major part in the car, including the head gasket on the 3.8-liter V-6 engine. I understand Ford Motor Co. has done a recall for the affected 1993-96 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln models but not those from 1992. When I called Lincoln, I was told that the company hadn't received many complaints and wasn't going to do anything about it.

G.A

A: The bottom line is you're probably out of luck. Ford has not included the 1992 models in its warranty extension program on the 3.8-liter engine, despite an outpouring of consumer protests over the issue. I have received hundreds of letters from drivers whose vehicles have suffered head gasket failures, and most have not received assistance from Ford.

The 3.8-liter engine has a cast-iron cylinder block and an aluminum head; differences in the thermal properties of the two materials subject the head gasket to substantial stress during repeated expansions and contractions during engine use.

Ford has designed a replacement head gasket that it says solves the problem, but some owners nevertheless are experiencing second gasket failures.

Master mechanic Sam Memmolo says affected Ford owners should carefully consider the brand of replacement gasket their mechanics use. Rol, a Midwestern manufacturer of replacement gaskets, has developed a gasket that allows significant differential expansion of the cast iron and aluminum surfaces, which is typical of the Ford 3.8-liter engine, without damage to the gasket.

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Q: I am looking to replace the headlamps on my 1996 Ford Taurus with ones that have a hint of blue. I'm looking for something that can pass inspection and give my car the same appearance as HID lighting like you see on high-end automobiles.

C.C.

A: Many replacement headlights with blue tinting fail to meet federal guidelines and may be illegal. Others do meet federal guidelines, but are a source of complaints by other motorists, who say they are poorly aimed and often cause troubling glare at night.

Since these are not original-equipment items and were not designed or tested by the vehicle manufacturer, it's best to stick with bulbs that were intended for the vehicle. In other words, nobody is going to be impressed by blue bulbs on your Taurus.

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Ralph Vartabedian can be reached at ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com.

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