Eagle Buying Tips

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So you are planning or thinking about purchasing an AMC Eagle? As with any used car, especially a car that is at least 18 years old, there are some things you need to look for. We have listed here some issues common to AMC Eagles based on owner feedback. You should also consult used car buyer guides for further information. This list is not arranged in any particular order, just as they came to me. By the way you can use this knowledge as bargaining tools when purchasing your car.

We have also included with each problem area a Mechanical Ability Index which rates how difficult a repair job could be; assuming the proper tools are at hand. As the How To's become available we will link within this page to the appropriate How To so you may further see what is invovled.

Index Ratings:

1) Very easy. Little auto repair knowledge needed. Minimal hand tools needed.

2) Fairly easy. Basic understanding of auto repair. Basic mechanics tools needed.

3) Moderately difficult. Good understanding of auto repair and systems. Good set of tools needed as well as tools specific to the repair.

4) Very difficult. Well versed in auto repair - should be attempted only by persons who feel they can handle the repair. Good set of hand and power tools needed, as well as tools specific to the repair.

5) Extremely difficult. Professional level auto repair. Extensive tools of varying types required, especially specailized ones.

1. Structural Rust. As with most cars built today AMC Eagles do not have full underbody frames. The car's stuctural integrity is maintained by the entire car body. AMC pioneered the use of uni-body construction and the good news is that AMC uni-body cars are much stronger than many other makes to include much newer cars. However, you are contemplating purchasing a car that has been exposed to the elements for nearly two decades or more. That is why you need to examine the underbody of the car closely, looking at all components for rust-through and structural failure. Common problem spots are the inner rocker panels; stub frame rust through; floor rust thru; shock tower rust thru; fuel tank rust thru; and suspension (front and rear) rust damage. If a seller does not allow you to closely examine the under body or send you good quaility pictures of all of the above then there is a good chance they know there are significant problems under the car.

2. Door sag. Common problem on older cars, especially the 2 door models. Mechanical Ability Index: 2 - 3. HOWEVER, make sure the hinge mounting surfaces are not rusted thru. Not easy to fix.

3. Car sits low in rear. Indicates the need for new rear springs and probably new shocks would not hurt. Mechanical Ability Index: 2.

4. Oil leaks - Engine. If the car has one of the "plastic" valve covers put in the Inline-6 engines from 1981 thru 1986 then it probably leaks or soon will. The only long lasting way to repair this is to purchase and install an aftermarkert extruded aluminum valve cover. Mechanical Ability Index: 3. Also see: How To Upgrade Your Valve Cover

5. Oil leaks - Transmission. Check for any leaks from the transmission. Especially from the front seal. You will need to start car, leaving it in park, and watch for leaks. Another likely source is from the shift lever seal. Mechanical Ability Index: 4 to 5.

6. Fuel leaks. Fuel tank or lines could be rusted thru. Mechanical Ability Index: 3.

7. Car shudders/wanders/shakes. Front suspension issues. Could be bad ball joints; idler arm; strut rods; axle shafts or other suspension issues. Mechanical Ability Index: 3 to 5.

8. Air conditioning does not work. More than likely just a bad heater control valve. Mechanical Ability Index: 1.

9. Brake shudder. Overhaul of front or rear brakes is probably needed. This does not just mean new brake shoes. You should also replace drums, rotors, calipers and inspect all lines and hoses closely. Mechanical Ability Index: 3.

10. Car idles/runs poorly. If its an Inline-6 it could be the carb. More than likely that tangle of vacuum lines under the hood is the culprit. May just need a good tune-up Mechanical Ability Index: 3 to 4. Also see: TFI Upgrade (I-6 cars only).

11. Headlight sag. Probably broken adjusters. Mechanical Ability Index: 1. However, could be damaged headlight housing which will require replacement. Mechanical Ability Index: 2.

12. Gauges do not work. Could be a bad ground to the instrument cluster. Mechanical Ability Index: 3. Or, bad sending units. Mechanical Ability Index: 2 to 4.

13. Broken hatch hinges. The years have taken their toll on the hatch hinges on AMC wagons. This is due from a casting defect from AMC's supplier of these hinges. There is a good chance that if they have not been replaced that if they are not broken they eventually will, espeically if you change out the old hatch struts. Hinges are somewhat hard to find and they all have the same inherent flaw. Some New Old Stock ones are still available thru a variety of AMC vendors, but they tend to be pricey. Note: Left and Right side are different. Mechanical Ability Index: 2.

14. Hatch/lift back won't stay up. Weak struts. Must be replaced in pairs. Mechanical Ability Index: 1.

15. Wind/water leaks around doors and hatches. Seals/weather stripping is probably original. New material can be purchased thru AMC vendors and perhaps part stores. Some of it is direct fit while some is not. Mechanical Ability Index: 2 to 3.

16. Tire Rub. Tires too wide/tall or weak springs -- or both. May require different tires or renewing springs/shocks. Mechanical Ability Index: 2 to 3. Also see: Rear Shock Installation (This How To also includes Air Shocks).

17. Car appears to be much higher than typical Eagle Someone has probably done a "lift" to your car. If done properly it may be OK, but you need to learn what parts/modifications they made so you can replace parts when needed. Many were home-made jobs and your safety may be compromised. Be wary of these cars unless you plan to immediately inspect and correct. Mechanical Ability Index: 2 to 5.

19, Clutch does not work. The clutch set up is of good design and typically the friction/pressure plates need to be renewed as needed. HOWEVER, there are a couple of primary reasons a good clutch will not work. 1) The firewall sheet metal is rusted and "soft" where the clutch master cylinder is mounted. This will cause erratic operation or make the clutch entirely unable to operate. The other reason is the master and/or slave cylinders need to be renewed or rebuilt. Mechanical Ability Index: 3 to 5. Also see: Hydraulic Clutch