Big puffs of smoke and lots of racket whenever I downshift.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

I purchased a 1984 Ford Ranger, V6, 5-speed. The
truck runs like a charm. My problem is when I
downshift into second gear and accelerate, the
engine pings very loudly and sounds like a
diesel and belches out blue oily smoke (it uses
about a quart every 200 miles).

I have replaced the valve guide seals and the
timing is supposedly right on the mark. I have
plenty of power, and the engine is supposed to
have only 40,000 miles. But I was misled about
other things on the truck, so I'm not sure. I
have been told by shade-tree mechanics that
either the rings are shot, the catalytic
converter is plugged, or a lot of carbon buildup
is causing the problem. Hope you have an answer.
-- Robert

TOM: We have an answer, Robert, but it's not the
answer you want to hear.

RAY: Was the guy selling this truck wearing a
mask, Robert? Because you got held up. This
engine clearly has a lot more than 40,000 miles
on it. The engine is shot. The rings are
probably garbage.

TOM: You've got two choices now. If the rest of
the truck is in good shape (let a mechanic check
it out for you, since your automotive assessment
skills are obviously in question), you can buy a
junkyard engine and have a mechanic put it in
for you. Then you just have to hope it's better
than the one you've got.

RAY: Alternatively, you can start all over
again. We just wrote a new pamphlet called "How
to Buy a Used Car: Things That Detroit and Tokyo
Don't Want You to Know." You can get one by
sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents),
self-addressed, No.10 envelope to Used Car, PO
Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420. The pamphlet
tells you 1) why you should buy a used car (vs.
a new one), 2) how to find a good used car, and
3) how to check it out. It even includes a
checklist of things that your mechanic should
look at BEFORE you buy the car.

TOM: If you follow the procedures in "How to Buy
a Used Car," you should do OK. At least you
won't have to choose between throwing away a car
you just bought or driving around with a
55-gallon drum of oil strapped to the roof. Good
luck next time, Robert.

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