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Q: I have a 1964 Chevelle Malibu with a later 327-cubic-inch V8 engine. It's been pretty reliable, although it has close to 200,000 miles on the odometer. The engine doesn't burn oil all the time, but it does puff out blue smoke when I decelerate down a hill and hit the gas, or when I pull off from a stoplight. Otherwise it doesn't smoke. Are the rings worn out or is it something else? I assume I should get a new engine if the rings are gone, since the cost would be less than having everything rebuilt. -- Bill, Sante Fe, NM

A: Well, Bill, there's good news here. Your engine is exhibiting the classic symptoms of worn out (or stiff) valve seals. These are little rubber collars that sit on the valve stems inside the springs. They act as umbrellas to prevent too much lubricating oil from being sucked down into the cylinder through the valve stem. Over time and usage these seals harden up and crack and lose their ability to effectively seal oil, especially when the engine is in high-vacuum conditions like deceleration and idling. They can be replaced without taking the engine apart, for about $200 in parts and labor (mostly labor, since the seals cost around $4.00). As far as the engine itself, replacements are so common that it probably would be less expensive to buy a rebuilt one than paying to do yours, barring doing it yourself. Replacements usually come with a 2-year warranty and make lots of sense.


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