Questions and answers for the ‘Car Doctor’
Q. I have a 2005 Buick Lacrosse and it has been making a clacking, snapping sound when I brake, and 50-100 ft after brake is released. The sound itself seems to come from the from the brake on the left side, and toward the center front in the car. Sometimes if I hit an unforeseen bump which cannot be avoided, I hear the same sound. The mechanic replaced the left front tie rod, but the noise remains.
A. I would start by going on a road test with a mechanic so you both hear the same noise. I suspect that the first repair was on the right track. It is possible something in the front suspension, inner tie-rod end wear is common, stabilizer links, body mounts or even a brake caliper is shifting could be making the noise.
Q. The speedometer is reading way out of normal range (on the dial). Does the dash need to be removed to repair this, or does the speedometer mechanism have to be replaced entirely? Can it be reset?
A. This really depends on the age and type of vehicle. Nearly all speedometers today are electronic and do not use traditional cable drives. The issue could be the speed sensor in the transmission, or a faulty circuit in the instrument panel. A technician with a scan tool should be able to determine is the speed sensor is working properly.
Q. The steering wheel whirrs when I make a sharp right or left turn and the noise seems to be outside the car. Is this a simple repair job?
A. There could be several causes of this noise, from low power steering fluid to a worn or losoe power steering belt.
Q. I own a 2015 Mercedes GLK 250 diesel, which has displayed the check engine light frequently. The dealership has checked this out with repairs and claimed it to be part of the recall for diesel emissions. The recall was completed, and the light still returned intermittently. It frequently occurred after long road trips over 150 miles and with subsequent driving sometimes went off by itself. Mercedes high end repair shops recommended replacement of the entire sensor board since they said it was easier to affect a repair by its replacement rather than trying to replace the sensors individually. This is a very expensive repair. They said that since l am a Mercedes owner, I could afford the expense. Hogwash. Is this a Mercedes engineering fiasco?
A. The first thing that needs to be performed is a test to see what codes are causing the check-engine light. There are some common issues with this vehicle. Some or all of the following could cause a check engine light to be illuminated intermittently. There could be a vacuum leak, damaged and leaking O-rings, damaged water pump impeller, low battery voltage and even contaminated coolant or engine oil. Using the “parts-cannon or shotgun” approach of just throwing parts at the car almost never actually repairs the issue and is certainly not in the customer’s best interest.
Q. I have a 2006 Toyota Sienna, 103,000 miles, runs great, well maintained with no problems. Should I have the transmission fluid changed? As far as I know. The fluid was never changed.
A. Toyota considers it a lifetime fill and unless there is a leak or other issue is good for the lifetime of the car. But you could certainly change it as a preventative measure. If you do use only Toyota or equivalent fluid, not a generic fluid used in some flushing machines. If it were my vehicle and I drove it “normally” I would leave well enough alone.
Q. My Husband’s car was taken to get an oil change and inspection sticker yesterday. They did the oil change but rejected the car for the sticker. The reason was front body rot/rust. A front cross member piece is needed because it is so badly rusted. The car is a 2007 Chrysler Pacifica; do you think one could be found? He loves the car, and it still looks great. Any suggestions?
A. Yes, you can find a good rust free front subframe on eBay motors and other salvage yard websites. The part is $6-$900 plus about six hours labor to install it, plus a wheel alignment. There could be added expenses due to other rusty parts, but yes it can be repaired.
Q. I own a 2016 black Subaru Forester and I need to touch up some scratches. Can you please recommend a good brand to purchase for me to do the job myself?
A. The brand that I have been most happy with over the years is www.automotivetouchup.com Great color match and everything from touch up pens to quarts and gallons. Plus, they have clear coat paint to get the factory finish look. Recently I was alerted to another similar company https://touchuppaintfactory.com which also has factory color match in all size applicators. Like all painting, the preparation before painting is what determines the outcome of the job.
Q. I recently saw a Chevrolet at a car show, it was a small two-door wagon (not a Chevrolet Vega). The car was highly modified with a big V-8 engine. The steering wheel was on the left and I suspect it may have been a Canadian car. Is this enough of a clue to know what it could be?
A. What you may have seen (and I just saw one recently) was a Chevrolet Caravan. The car was from Brazil and sort of a combination of a Chevy and Opel. Sometimes referred to as an Opala, the factory engine was a 2.5-liter, 150 cubic-inch four-cylinder, but over the years many four-cylinder engine were replaced with a larger 250 cubic inch straight six-cylinder engine.
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