THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
THE CAR DOCTOR

Have a hotrod to rent for the day?

Plus: Danger of running on empty, poor idle

By John Paul
Boston.com Correspondent / November 13, 2008

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Q. I want to rent a 1939 Ford "hotrod" for a day – it's my boyfriend's dream car. Any idea where I can do that? Most exotic car rental agencies have new cars such as Corvettes and Shelby Mustangs. Are there locals that would let me take their car for a spin for a few hours?

A. There are agencies that rent all kinds of cars for movies. Perhaps this may be a place to start. Regarding renting a car from a private individual, this may be a lot to ask, although you never know. If you are reading this and have a 1939 Ford and are willing to let it out for a few hours email me (jpaul@aaasne.com) and I'll pass on the information.

Q. My 1999 Ford Mustang GT has a knocking sound coming from the lower rear end of the engine. This knocking occurs only when in the 3,000 to 5,000 r.p.m. range. What do you think this could be?

A. The noise is most likely a worn bearing in the engine. However, before you condemn the engine, make sure the transmission torque converter bolts are tight.

Q. Our 2002 Ford Windstar van shakes violently (as if it is going to die) while sitting at a stop light. We have had a tune-up, replaced the battery, fuel filter, alternator, and some other part that has something to do with the idle. Any suggestions?

A. Poor idle and engine misfire can be caused by numerous items. Start by looking at the basics, including the ignition system, fuel system, and engine mechanicals. With this vehicle it is common to find leaking intake manifold gaskets. When the gasket leaks, the engine will run poorly and generally the "check engine" light will illuminate.

Q. I have had a 2002 Pontiac Grand AM SE four-cylinder since February. For the last two weeks when I accelerate from a stop, my car begins to shake violently. This happens until I let off the gas and proceed slowly until about 15 m.p.h. It will not shake if I roll then accelerate slowly. What could this possibly be?

A. Have a repair shop take a look at the engine and transmission mounts. These mounts are heavy-duty rubber brackets that are bolted to the engine, and in turn, to the frame or body of the car. If the engine mounts are broken or worn, the car will shake as you described.

Q. I know this is a stupid question... I can never tell if I'm running low or super-low on gas because I have no idea if I have a low gas light or not. Can you tell me if my 1993 Ford Taurus has a low fuel light?

A. Your car, like many, has a low fuel warning light that comes on when there is approximately an eighth of a tank of gas. Although the light may come on when the tank is low, I would try to fill up before that. The fuel pump in your car is both cooled and lubricated by the gasoline in the tank. If you routinely drive around with very little fuel in the tank, it will certainly shorten the life of the fuel pump. By the way, there is no such thing as a stupid question!

Q. Can you explain to me the debate about whether or not my 2000 VW Passat requires synthetic motor oil? My second question is, is it true that once synthetic oil is used, I cannot go back to organic oil?

A. Your car requires oil that meets the Volkswagen Oil Quality Standard VW 502.00, such as the synthetic oil Castrol Syntec 5W-40. In general, as long as your car doesn't require synthetic oil, it won't do any harm to switch from synthetic oil back to conventional oil.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com.