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Ask Doctor Crankshaft: Chevy Cavalier wonít start

How difficult is it to fix a leaking heater core?

Chevy Cavalier wonít start
Q: My 1998 Chevy Cavalier wonít start. It ran fine a few days ago and then stalled out. It wonít start, although it cranks properly and all the gauges work. My neighbor has a code reader and checked the car, only to find that there were no trouble codes. What might be wrong and is it worth it to get a shop to go over it? ó Jeannell
A: If it wonít start and no trouble codes show up, the first place Iíd look is the spark plugs and wires. If the Cavalier has a lot of miles (more than 100,000) and the plugs/wires havenít been changed, there might not be enough spark to get the engine running. You should have a shop do a diagnostic test on the car to see if there is spark and whether itís weak or not. Itís a little worrisome that the car suddenly stopped running. Iím a bit concerned that there are no misfire codes, but things need to be tested in order and the high-voltage ignition system is the first to be looked at.

How difficult is it to fix a leaking heater core?
Q: I have a 2000 Dodge pickup with a leaking heater core. I can get a new core at the parts store for $65 but donít know how difficult it is to replace it. What can I expect to find if I start dismantling part of the dash to get at the heater? I donít want to spend hundreds to get it fixed. ó Cappy in Rochester, NY
A: You can expect to find a detailed, lengthy process involved to replace your heater core. You need to remove the glove compartment and entire right side of the dash to get to the heater plenum. This means that the top of the dash has to come out and particular attention must be paid to the air bag. You can get to the plenum assembly underneath the dash but there are a lot of fixtures on the top of the plenum that necessitate removal of the top portion. The plenum has to be removed to break it apart to gain access to the heater core, hence the typical $700 charge to have it done at shops. Thereís nothing particularly difficult about all this but it does take several hours.

What do you think of the U.S. Top Gear Show?
Q: I love to watch the BBC Top Gear show and recently watched the U.S. version. I thought it was pretty lame and seemed to copy the BBC show too closely. Iíd like to know why they thought they could put together a U.S. version and how they chose the presenters. Do you know any of these guys, and what do you think of the show? Also, what do you think of other car shows on Speed? Be honest, now. ó Bill in Chantilly, Va.
A: I, too, look forward to every episode of BBCís Top Gear, as do more than 350 million other viewers worldwide. Itís enormously entertaining and proves how important it is to have the right hosts. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have the perfect mix of personalities and knowledge. The U.S. version was put together by the showís owner, and I must confess that the first season was less than captivating. In my opinion, the only host on the show who should remain is Tanner Faust. Heís a great driver and easy-going guy but the other two hosts are just cartoonish imitations of the British hosts. This seasonís shows have improved, however, so maybe the show will take off with the viewers.
As for other shows, most of the truck and car shows are worth watching, with the exception of Desert Car Kings. Frankly, this show is insulting to the car restoration and classic car collection hobby. The hosts are smarmy and the so-called restoration work they do on the featured cars is appalling. They do superficial, cosmetic restorations and think nothing of throwing in engines/transmissions that havenít been rebuilt, just cleaned and painted. You can see rust on the underside of hoods and trunk lids and poor bodywork on your TV screens, so imagine how poor these cars look in person. This show does nothing for car enthusiasts and makes legitimate car restorers look bad.

Dr. Crankshaft is automotive writer, radio host and restorer Les Jackson. In addition to writing for newspapers, he's editor-in-chief of www.secondchancegarage.com, the web's first all-restoration subscription site, and co-host of ďCruise Control,Ē heard Saturdays from 10-noon EST on the USA, National and Cable Radio networks. You can also listen live at www.cruisecontrolradio.com or download podcasts from iTunes. Send your questions to Dr. Crankshaft at DrCrankshaft@AutoWritersInk.com; please include your name and a location.

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