Q&A with Kit Foster: June 20, 2013

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Q. I have a 1984 Mercury Grand Marquis automobile with only 63,000 miles on it. It has small picture indicators that light up when there is a problem, rather than gauges in the dashboard. About six months ago, the small indicator, which is a picture of an engine, started lighting up with a red light only when I exceeded 72-75 mph. Once I drove slower than this, the red light went off. When I drove faster than this, it stayed on. There was no difference to this practice whether I was on a hill, up or down, or just cruising along. The speed was the determining factor. The Operators Manual merely states that this engine indicator only comes on when the engine overheats or the automobile needs more oil. Neither of these things was true in this case. My small Chilton manual does not offer any further advice. So far, the automobile still works great, but I am concerned that something may be happening that eventually will lead to a more serious problem. Can you explain this interesting phenomenon?

— Burke Ewing, via e-mail

A. I’m not very familiar with this model, but it sounds like this light serves in place of gauges for both oil pressure and temperature. You say that the car was not overheating. How do you know this is true if there’s no temperature gauge? It may be that at high speeds the engine runs just hot enough to trigger the light, but not show other symptoms like steam or detonation. I don’t know if your car has other diagnostic capabilities that will cause the light to illuminate. I have seen similar symptoms on a 1992 small-block Chevy when the EGR valve was inoperative. Do any 1980s Ford or Mercury owners have some advice?


Q. I have uncovered this old block. I have no idea what type or make it is, and am wondering if you could identify it. The block and head are cast in one unit. The valves are some kind of assembly that fit in the top of the block and are held in place with a threaded lock of some kind. There is an overhead-cam assembly that is bolted down to the top of the block I’m sorry there is not more to go on, but even a mere guess would be fine.

— Dan Cerny, Arnold, Neb.


A. Hmmm. I read the casting number as 36003-8, but that doesn’t help much. It appears to have three intake ports and six exhaust ports, and the cylinders are conjoined in pairs. Detachable cylinder heads had replaced single casting units by about 1920, so this unit must predate that time. Not many cars had overhead camshafts in that period. The 1916 Chalmers 6-40 was one of them. Perhaps that’s what you’ve got.


Q. In the March 7 issue I presented my problem of cleaning the off-white vinyl seats of our 1958 Edsel. What a great response we received. OCW readers are the best. Thanks for the great advice from David Gruthoff, Jeff Lorito, Steve Haley, Clay Hoyt and Bob Horn. We will be trying your suggestions. Thanks again.

— Tony Hambach, Warrenton, Mo.

A. Indeed. This column could not exist without reader input.


Q. In regards to the advice to grease felt battery washers (March 28), this is correct. I just replaced a battery on my 2003 Dodge SRT-4, and the washer I purchased had been pre-greased. I forget the product name. Perhaps all manufacturers do this. Over the years I have replaced numerous batteries and don’t recall checking the felt to see if they have been pre-greased. I will do so in the future.

— Gordon L. Wolford, Casper, Wyo.

A. Paul Semmler, of Hawthorne, N.J., wrote to say he remembers felt washers impregnated with a red, sticky substance. They were sold by Sears under the name CO PRO, and could be purchased in cans of 100. “They worked great in a fleet operation” he says. In fact, the felt washers I mentioned were exactly that type, felt with the sticky, red substance. In the 1960s Sears used to regularly offer them to customers when replacing a battery in their stores. They were intended to be used just like that, without additional grease, I’m pretty sure. I haven’t seen them recently, and have used plain grease with good results, except for the messiness. Of course, the washers will not work on a side-terminal battery due to the design of the connector.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail angelo.vanbogart@fwmedia.com or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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