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Q&A with Kit Foster: June 21, 2012

Q. My 1988 AMC Eagle has a carburetor, same as my ’84, ’86, and ’87 Eagles.

Kevin Kiewel, via e-mail.

A. Indeed it does. In last week’s “last carburetor” response, I neglected to point out that the AMC Eagle lived on for a further two years after the Chrysler takeover as a “plain” Eagle. Its engine, however, survived until 1990 in the Jeep Wrangler, which tied with the Olds-built 307-cubic-inch V-8 as granddaddy of American carbureted passenger cars.


Q. Back when I was a poor educator driving Datsuns in the 1970s, I found the perfect device for making sure the cars started during the harsh Wisconsin winters. For some reason, Datsun 510s (I owned three and raced one) would not start below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I found an in-line heater-hose heater with a pump. The packaging indicated it was for a V-8. Once installed and plugged into a 110-volt source, the cars started without a hitch. In fact, I could twist the key to the “on” position, flip the heater fan switch and feel warm air. During one winter, an overnight snowfall was melting off the hood when I went to leave in the morning. After that event, to save some cents on my electrical bill, I inserted a timer into the circuit to begin the warm-up process for only an hour before I needed to start the car. Now that I have a heated garage, I don’t need any more engine heaters.

Rick Albrechtson, La Crosse, Wis.

A. I have seen this type of heater, sometimes called a “tank heater” since it has a small reservoir. Brian Curtis reports that he had good luck with one on his 1948 Dodge: “With the coolant warm, the car started effortlessly.” We had a different type on a Peugeot diesel we owned many years ago. It was a small electrical element that inserted into the bottom radiator hose. The thermal gradient it provided created thermo-siphon circulation, obviating the need for a pump. Even on a cold New England winter morning, it kept the engine warm enough that it would start without warming the glow plugs. Thankfully, today’s electronic fuel injection has resulted in cars that will start in all types of weather.


Q. I purchased a Delco voltage regulator, part number D-663, to be installed in my 1966 Chevy Impala, 283 V-8 engine with air conditioning. When my mechanics installed it, it did not work. The supplier sent me another one. This time, when it was installed and the accelerator is pressed, the regulator starts running and overcharges. Release the accelerator pedal and it goes back to normal. Accelerate and the same problem shows up. I sent an e-mail to Delco and they were unable to help. The supplier feels the same way. My mechanics are very good working with old cars and they are been taking care of mine for about 40 years. Do you have any idea to help me resolve this problem?

Francisco J. Castillo, via e-mail.

A. You don’t say what prompted you to replace the regulator to begin with, so I can’t easily diagnose the problem from afar. While it is possible that you could have been sent two successive bad regulators, it seems unlikely. However, since “failed units” resulted in different symptoms (I’m assuming the first regulator did not charge at all, while the second charges too much), it is quite possible that they each had different faults. Electrical components are tricky, because sometimes failure in one part will cause another to fail, too, and replacing only one of the parts may result in the good replacement being damaged by the other faulty unit. That’s why many suppliers won’t take returns on electrical components. This is a good argument for dealing with a local auto electric shop, one that works on electrical systems every day and who can get their hands on the car (or at least the generator and regulator) and do some diagnostic work before replacing parts. Something as simple as a missing ground or a bad connection can result in voltage being somewhere it shouldn’t, and cause failure of a seemingly unrelated component. Since you can’t actually see electricity, you need instruments to measure it and diagnose its problems.



Q. I work for a towing company in Minneapolis. This hubcap is hanging on the wall of our building. Any ideas on what it is for?

Mickey Nielsen, Minneapolis, Minn.

A. I recognize it as used on 1965-66 Ford light trucks and vans. I see a notation in the “Pickup and Van Spotter’s Guide” that the background for the letters was black in 1965 and red in 1966, which would make yours 1966.

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

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