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Dear Tom and Ray:


I regularly read your column and listen to your radio show and enjoy both. But enough fawning and on with my question! I have a 1991 Ford Escort LX which has 22,500 gentle miles on the clock. Over the last few months, the engine has started making a loud, metallic clicking noise, which speeds up as the engine speed increases. It goes away after about 20 minutes of driving. I took the car to my local Ford dealer and was told that the noise is entirely "normal." It is caused by the "valve lifters waiting to get oil." They could do nothing about it as there is no fix. They recommend "racing the engine for about seven minutes to get rid of the noise!" Even I, with limited intelligence and zero mechanical knowledge, know that racing a cold engine is extrememly bad for it. I was also told that the noise would not cause any long term damage. Bull!! The noise is so loud and metallic that it HAS to be causing some damage somewhere. You don't get metal to metal contact with out something wearing out, especially when the area is not being properly lubricated. I can hear the noise at a range of over 100 yards when my wife drives off to work in the morning. What do you recommend I do, other than sell the car (after it has warmed up!)?
David

TOM: Do they have "cabaret" seating at this dealership, Dave? Because you're getting a good, old fashioned song and dance.

RAY: You're absolutely right that this is not normal, and that you're doing damage to the engine. The noise is coming from the valve train, which is not being properly lubricated. And eventually, some part of it will need to be replaced. It should take only seconds for oil to get to the valve train, not twenty minutes! And you can bet that the lack of oil is also shortening the life of other expensive parts of the engine.

TOM: The advice you're getting from this dealership is absolutely reprehensible. You should get right on the phone to Ford's customer service center in Detroit (1-800-392-FORD) and tell them about the ridiculous baloney you're getting from these guys.

RAY: If they don't immediately apologize and agree that this dealer has his head up his tailpipe, then here's plan B: Do exactly what the dealer told you to do. Race the heck out of the engine first thing in the morning (this assumes you have a three year/36,000 miles warranty).

TOM: Right. But instead of doing it with your foot, because your foot will get tired, I'd use a cement block on the gas pedal.

RAY: Just rest that baby on the pedal, so it revs at full throttle for seven minutes, or until the engine melts--whichever comes first. And as the dealer says, it's best (worst) to do this when the engine is stone cold. So the second it starts, rest the concrete block on the pedal, and go inside for a cup of coffee.

TOM: And when the engine blows up, have it towed to the dealer and say "I did exactly what you told me, and the noise is gone. Unfortunately, I also need a new engine...under warranty, of course." Good luck, David. Let us know how you make out.
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