Your mechanic is raking you over the coals.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a '73 station wagon that I use to take senior citizens to doctors' offices and hospitals. Many times over the last three months, when I turn the ignition, it just clicks. The mechanic has installed new plugs, new wires, points, a starter, a new battery and it still clicks. Now he says I need a new timing chain for $450. Am I being taken?

RAY: Taken? You are being raked over the coals, Sarah. Even if you did need new points, plugs, and wires, they couldn't have been the cause of the clicking. The clicking you describe is a classic symptom of either a bad starter, a bad battery, or a bad connection somewhere between the two.

TOM: You say you've had your starter replaced, but if you got a rebuilt starter, the replacement could be faulty too. Try this experiment. First, locate the starter. It's at the bottom of the engine--usually on the same side as the battery. It looks like a can of Hawaiian Punch that's been painted black.

RAY: Then, next time you hear the click, borrow a cane from one of your passengers and give the starter a good whack while someone holds the ignition key in the start position. If the car then starts, a new starter will fix the problem. On the other hand, if red fluid starts pouring out, it IS a can of Hawaiian Punch, and that's why your car won't start!

TOM: Actually, if whacking the starter doesn't do anything, and you've just replaced the battery, it's probably something as simple as a loose or corroded battery connection. A worn timing chain can't possibly cause the problem you describe. So we'd have to conclude that "Timing-Chain-Charlie" is either a knucklehead or a crook. Either way, our advice is to keep the old timing chain and get a new mechanic.

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