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The Yankee Express

Are steering shafts on Chevy El Caminos interchangeable?

by john paul

Q. I’m trying to replace a damaged steering column in a 1987 Chevy El Camino. I got one from a 1986 Chevy El Camino but where the transmission linkage hooks up to the column is in a different position on the 1986 than the one from the 1987. Would you know if they are compatible with each other?

A. Although both parts are discontinued, looking at the exploded view and parts numbers on, both years use the same internal shafts. So based on this, the steering columns should have some level of interchangeability. The other option is to go with an aftermarket which is available through several specialty GM parts sites. Going aftermarket gives you the ability to go with a shorter or longer column that may make the car more comfortable to drive.  

Q. How can I avoid my 2018 Mercedes Benz E-400 from draining the battery because I do not use it frequently? 

A. The best thing you can do is to drive the car for 30 minutes once a week or so. If that isn’t possible and you park in a garage with an electrical outlet and battery maintainer (float charger), that is a ideal method to keep the batter fully charged. Once installed it is simply a quick disconnect plug under the hood or through the grill. Deltran Battery Tender and CTEK are quality brands. If you are parking outside, a solar charger may keep the battery charged depending on how much sunlight the car gets. 

Q. Recently I’m experiencing what I believe is a tire balance problem. It occurs between 60-70 miles per hour. Below or above that speed I have no problem. It feels like I am running over a rough roadway with a rumbling sensation. I tried to have a high-speed re-balancing of tires, (not the Road Force Balancer that you have recommended). The tires have 45,000 miles on them and I’m thinking of having all four tires replaced. Is there a service device that would duplicate the tire imbalance sensation at that speed of 60-70mph? What are your thoughts?

A. From you description it sounds like a tire balance issue. It could be a tire, rim or combination of both. Years back we had on-car high speed balancers that could spin the tires and you were balancing the hub, wheel and tire, these machines are generally long gone. Although high-speed balancing machines allow for easy and quick balancing, I see mistakes being made with technicians not paying attention to balance weight placement, the wheels themselves or rust buildup on the wheels/hubs. At 45,000 miles and with the Farmer’s Almanac (if you put any belief in this publication) predicting a snowy cold winter replacing the tires with an all-weather tire would be money well spent. 

Q. Any opinion on Volvo’s long-term reliability?  We own three in our family and purchased them for their overall safety records. We are a little worried about cost of maintenance and repairs. Lastly any suggestions on aftermarket brake rotors?  The rotors on two of the cars have been replaced under warranty twice because they warp slightly and cause brake chatter. 

A. Typically, Volvos are about average or slightly above when it comes to maintenance and reliability not quite to the level Of an Acura or Lexus but generally a little better than some other luxury and near luxury brands.  Regarding rotors, generally there is nothing better than factory parts, but Bendix, Raybestos, Centric, Brembo are generally a good choice for Volvo and one that is recommended on Volvo forums is DuraGo-which I’m just starting to see more of.  You could try to move up to a drilled rotor which can offer better cooling which may help. Stay away from high-performance slotted rotors which are good for track cars not great for general use. Also, when the wheels are removed for tire rotation or any other work, they should be reinstalled using a torque wrench.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over forty years’ experience and is an ASE-certified master technician. He will answer readers’ questions each week. Email your car questions to [email protected]. Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook, mrjohnfpaul.