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I'm a retired oldster and I drive a Chrysler LeBaron...

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm a retired oldster and I drive a 1985 Chrysler LeBaron
with a turbo. I bought it new and it now has 28,300 miles.
Shopping, doctoring and occasional visiting are my only
driving activities, and I'm now using my neighborhood
garage and filling station for needed services.

Recently, on a shopping trip, the "hot engine" light came
on, and I found I was out of coolant. After refilling the
radiator and expansion tank, I noticed what seemed to be
steam coming from the exhaust. After my next short trip,
the expansion tank was empty again. I added more coolant,
and saw more steam out the tailpipe.

Our friendly neighborhood mechanic is at a loss. He can
find no leaks. He has offered to take the engine down and
look for a minimum charge of $300 with no guarantees. What
should I do? -- Robert

RAY: It sounds like you have an internal coolant leak,
Robert -- either a blown head gasket or a cracked head. And
that "steam" you see coming out your tailpipe is your
"disappearing" coolant, after it's been vaporized inside
your engine.

TOM: So your engine probably will have to be "taken down"
to fix it. But before you let your mechanic do that, have
him confirm this diagnosis with one of two tests.

RAY: If he pressurizes the cooling system and leaves the
car overnight, he can then remove the spark plugs and crank
the engine over in the morning. If the head gasket or head
is bad, some coolant will have leaked into the cylinders
overnight and will shoot out through one or more spark-plug
holes when he turns the key.

TOM: He can also use a dye or his emissions "sniffer" to
check for the presence of unburned gasoline in the radiator
-- another sure sign of a breach in the head or head

RAY: It's probably a blown head gasket, which will cost you
several hundred dollars to replace. But even if the head is
cracked and it costs you 1,000 bucks, you're still going to
fix it, aren't you, Robert? After all, you've only got
28,000 miles on this baby. And aside from this problem,
I'll bet it's in excellent shape, right?

TOM: Besides, this is the perfect car for you, Robert.
You've heard of the IROC Daytona, right? Well, you've got
the OROC LeBaron. The Official Retired Oldster Car!

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