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This is definitely off topic for SourceForge -- I do want to record some things here, but then I need to (probably starting in January, 2003) make a renewed effort to install TWiki on another Internet hosting site for things that don't belong on SourceForge.

I do some of my own car repairs -- I've learned a few things along the way (and I've forgotten and may never remember many of those) but I'd like to record some of the more recent ones, and gradually any others that I can remember.

(I thought I had already recorded something about the front disk brakes on my Topaz -- but a quick search today didn't find anything.)

See AboutThesePages.


1994 Mercury Topaz

4 cylinder gas engine, auto transmission, A/C

Acquired at a reasonable price at 100,000 miles with no visible oil leaks (and still none). (_The oil drain plug was frozen in place and I had a great deal of trouble removing it -- finally took it to one of those speedy lube places (in Pittsburgh) which managed to remove it (and replace it). I think the problem is partially due to a steel bolt in an aluminum drain pan.

(Fairly extensive (front?) suspension repairs at first inspection -- I should look for the bill and record those here -- I'm now experiencing rear shock symptoms (at 135,000 miles).)

Somewhere after buying it I noticed that it shifted "funny" compared to other cars I was used to. I dropped the transmission pan and changed the fluid. Found some small particles (like a faint smudge of Never Seez type stuff) and had a transmission specialist test drive it -- he thought the shifting was normal. (Maybe it's a two speed -- I don't really know -- I should have asked him -- maybe I did, but I can't recall the answer if I did.)

Front Disk Brakes

At about 130,000 miles:


  • A large C-Clamp let me push the caliper back into the piston to let me take the caliper assembly off the rotor (after I removed two holding screws that had a Torx head (T-20? -- I had to buy one)
  • The (a) book warned me to siphon some fluid out of the master cylinder to avoid overflow when retracting the caliper -- I looked before I retracted the first caliper -- looked like I had plenty of room (and I did) didn't look before the second and did not have enough room.
  • The disks needed to be replaced (they were in pretty bad shape with a deep groove on the back side of each, lots of rust, etc.). They were fairly inexpensive to buy (about $14.50 each), so I bought new instead of attempting to have them resurfaced. They were frozen tight on the hubs -- I thought about finding a large gear puller -- one of the guys at the store where I bought the disks recommended I use a ball pein hammer to strike the disk sharply and hard between the wheel studs (I don't know if I'm using all terminology correctly). I was worried about damaging the bearings (on these front wheels of this front wheel drive car) -- so far (after maybe 3-5000 miles, no sign of trouble. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Exhaust and Muffler

Replaced the exhaust pipe and muffler (i.e., from behind the catatlytic converter on back (around the same time as the brakes). Got the prebent exhaust pipe from National Auto Stores, IIRC, and the job wasn't too difficult -- removed the clamp behind the catalytic converter (twisted at least one of the bolts off) and then (carefully) chiseled under the one pipe and split it (without damaging the inner pipe) so I could pull it loose (I had already taken other things loose, like the hangers, and maybe even had the muffler off at that point). At first I planned to reuse the tailpipe, but the replacement muffler (a universal replacement) required a different size. National Auto wanted about $12 for that 9" pipe -- I bought a short pipe with a bend in it at Strauss for much less.

Radio Replacement

The radio slides in (IIRC), held in place by a springy clamp (IIRC). The real point of this is that you need a special tool to remove the radio (I forget how/where I found this out). IIRC, I could buy the tool for $10, but I called some of the car radio installation places around town and eventually found one that had the tool and would let me borrow it for five minutes in their parking lot. I forget exactly how I installed the replacement radio -- but apparently not as well as the original as it will occasionally rattle or start to slide out of place.

1985 Oldmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham

  • V6, 3.8 liter gas engine, auto transmission, A/C

Aside: I don't know if I got a lemon or had some really bad maintenance done on this car, but at 40000 miles it had far too many oil leaks. Now (1t 98,000 miles) one of those leaks includes the rear engine seal (which probably implies the rear engine bearing is going, which implies major repairs).

Acquired at a good price from a family friend, so I didn't "look a gift horse in the mouth".

Adjusting the Timing

I eventually paid Strauss Auto to do this, but I could not get to the distributor holding bolt with the old "standard" GM distributor wrench that I have (9/16"). I even went to the trouble of removing the belts from the power steering pump and alternator and then removing the alternator and still could not get to it (I was closer, and might have got to it if I had tried harder.) If I ever try it again I should (IMHO) adjust the idle speeds while the alternator and belts are in place (so the adjustment is done "under load"), and then consider removing the alternator and belts to adjust the timing.

Occasional Starting Problems

At about 98,000 miles:

Occasionally, turning the ignition key will not produce anything not even the starter solenoid "click" (I'll listen more carefully next time it occurs to double check). The first time it happened, I shifted out of park, moved the gearshift around, and back into park. It then started. The next time I tried the same thing, but it didn't seem to help. Then I checked the fuses (removed the panel covering the fuse holder also). After I did all that (and let the car sit for a while) I could start it. I thought briefly that it might have been a loose fuse or something (or a bad transmission neutral switch, but I now don't think so.

The 19 to 19 book that I bought does not have wiring diagrams for any of the model years after 1980. I don't know whether that is a shortcoming in the book or that the wiring diagrams for 1980 and after are all identical (or very close).

Anyway, it looks like there is a clutch switch in the starting circuit (manual transmission), but no transmission neutral switch (auto tranmission) at least based on the 1980 wiring diagram.

I'll probably jack the car up and check the wiring -- but I think I'll shop around for a starter motor (the solenoid is an integrated part of the starter motor, in contrast to some other cars I've worked on). Another thing I might do is rig a temporary wire from the right place on the starter solenoid up towards the battery, so next time I have the trouble I can try jumping directly from the battery to the starter and see if that solves the problem (I suspect it will not).

Hmm, I should keep up-to-date with my notes. I eventually replaced the starter motor and that solved the problem. IIRC, the starter solenoid (or a second starter solenoid) is built into the side of the starter motor, and that was the problem. Don't recall if a repair kit was available.


See ResourceRecommendations. Feel free to add additional resources to these lists, but please follow the guidelines on ResourceRecommendations including ResourceRecommendations#Guidelines_for_Rating_Resources.

Auto Parts Supply Web Pages

<For me, see for local stores.>

  • Advance Auto Parts -- shop for parts online -- pick them up locally or have them delivered -- oops -- I confused AutoZone with Advance -- it was Advance I dealt with last time, and their webmaster (??) to whom I suggested they start something like a wiki with repair information (like I'm now starting -- don't know what words I used) -- anyway, their price was as low as anybody's for the Topaz brake parts.

  • AutoZone Free Diagnostic Service -- "Our Free Diagnostic Service can tell you what caused your "Check Engine" light to come on and what to do about it." -- They have several pages providing technical information for car repair (like the above and including fluid recycling, for example) and lend specialized tools for just a deposit (the seldom used stuff you don't want to buy). (Think I'll go and ask them about the starter problems on the Oldsmobile.)

  • Strauss Auto does not seem to have an online presence. They will often (?) do some amount of free diagnosis.

  • National Auto ??

<Currenty no significant information below this line.>

Auto Repair Newsgroups, Mail Lists, Web Sites


  • () RandyKramer - 09 Oct 2002
  • <If you edit this page: add your name here; move this to the next line; and include your comment marker (initials), if you have created one, in parenthesis before your WikiName.>

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