The rattle in this Plymouth will be either very cheap or very expensive to fix.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1973 Plymouth Satellite V8. I bought it in 1987 with 98,000 miles for $450. The gentleman wanted $500, but I chewed him down to $450. I felt bad because the car was in almost mint condition. I've done my best to keep it that way, and I've never had any major problems until now. With 154,000 miles, there is now a rattle in the engine which sounds like it's coming from the left side. It seems to rattle faster at higher speeds. I love the car and want to keep it. Do you know what the noise is?

TOM: Well, we have good news and we have bad news, Theresa.

RAY: The good news is that this problem may not be very serious. Something as simple as an exhaust leak could sound a lot like a rattle. And it would increase in frequency as you revved up the engine. That's easy for your mechanic to check by plugging up the tail pipe.

TOM: The bad news is that this problem may be serious, Theresa. If what you describe as a rattle is actually a "tick tick tick tick tick," then the noise on the left side is probably your valve lifters.

RAY: And if they're making noise due to low oil pressure, it may be time for a complete engine rebuild And that runs into serious money.

TOM: So if there's no exhaust leak, the next step is an oil pressure test. If the oil pressure is marginal, the lifters would be the first things to be deprived of oil. And on a car of this age, low oil pressure virtually assures that there's an engine rebuild in your future...your near future.

RAY: If your oil pressure is OK, then the news gets better. Not a lot better, since you're still driving a '73 Satellite, but you do have several less expensive options. One is is to have just the lifters replaced (for $400 to $500).

TOM: Or, if you're feeling daring, you can just live with the noise and see how many more miles you get before you wreck the camshaft, too. But be aware: With 154,000 miles on this Plymouth Satellite, you're already in the "miraculous" category.

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