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Reason for Clunking Noise Is in Dispute

Times Staff Writer

Question: I took my Ford Ranger to the dealer for a clunking noise and a jerking motion several months after buying it in 1985. After countless repairs, including two new rear ends, the clunking and jerking are still there.

I got a letter from the Ford Consumer Board stating that the “clunk you are experiencing has been determined to be a normal characteristic of the 1985 Ford Ranger.” I hope you can help me out.--K.C.H.

Answer: It’s hard to believe that any vehicle manufacturer would say a clunking noise is normal, but Ford is telling a number of its customers who have filed the same complaint as you have that it is normal.

Ford believes the noise is the result of “slop” in the drive train, which is more or less normal for heavy-duty trucks. Ford claims that the drive train and suspension in the Ranger are built to the same heavy-duty specifications as a full-size pickup.

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Generally, full-size trucks are noisier and have a harsher ride than passenger cars. Many of the new breed of small pickup trucks have light-duty drive trains and suspensions.

The truth must lie somewhere in the middle here, because a manufacturer has to have products that satisfy its customers. Obviously, people buying small trucks aren’t willing to accept a ride that resembles a cement truck. On the other hand, most truck owners don’t want a glorified passenger car.

That Ford has already rebuilt your truck’s rear end twice under warranty means they probably have given up most of the profit they ever earned on your truck. They can’t afford that on very many Rangers before waking up to the problem. They’ll have to come up with a fix for later models.

Meanwhile, you’re probably stuck with your clunker. If Ford discovers that the clunk is an early symptom of failure, you can be pretty sure they will fix it under an extended warranty.

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Q: I have a 1985 Toyota 4x4 with an oil leak around the valve-cover gasket. I noticed the leak at 1,200 miles and the dealer tightened the screws. At 2,000 miles, it was still the same and the dealer replaced the gasket. That didn’t help. Can you give me any advice on solving my problem?--W.M.

A: Toyota has come out with a new gasket because the original gasket was defective. The new gasket is standard on the 1986 model, and Toyota will replace the gaskets on the old 22r and 22re engines under warranty.

Possibly you took the vehicle in for service before the new gasket was available. The new gasket is better able to retain oil inside the engine and keep out dust.

Q: I own a 1980 Lincoln Continental Mark VI. When I reach about 50 to 55 miles per hour, there is a distinct vibration from the rear of the car. I have had the wheels balanced and aligned, the torque converter changed and drive shaft replaced, and now the dealer thinks the axle may be bent. After spending untold number of dollars, can you advise me?

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A: Auto repairs can be hit and miss, but your mechanic has mostly missed.

Your wheels need to be spin balanced on the car. Your drums may be out of balance, which would not be corrected in a normal spin balancing.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, you might consider having the ring and pinion gears examined. If the teeth on those gears are wearing unevenly, you will experience vibration at higher speeds. Also, have your rear wheel bearings checked. It’s unlikely you have a bent axle.

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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