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  Barbara Signs on with ...
Houston Chronicle
 
 

Barbara Terry is a female car expert.  Barbara Terry interviewed on Houston Chronicle
Barbara Terry is a female car expert.  Barbara Terry interviewed on Houston Chronicles

 

Houston Chronicle brings Barbara on October 2006 for her to write a weekly automotive column and features her on the front page of their Automotive section.


[ See BT's latest Q & A's on Houston Chronicle ]

 

 

Newest Question:  ( Click Link to see Barbara's Answer)
Is mechanic shifty or is his advice about transmission correct?

Current and Past Q & A's


 

Response on tires

DEAR BT:

I read with some interest the problems on the Monte Carlos with Goodyear tires. I have an 03 Windstar that came with factory Goodyears. At about 7000 miles I kept having them go out of round. Finally, Discount Tire service suggested that I buy Michelin.VOILA AT 65000 Miles I am still driving those tires and they look as if there is another 20K Miles. I would suggest going to a reputable tire store, check the tires for roundness and see if they can stop the vibrations.

EE, Houston

A: DEAR EE:

First of all I want to thank you for taking the time and interest to write in and give the solution to a problem that you were experiencing with your tires/ride in order to possibly help out some of the readers out there that seem to be writing in lately with similar problems. I will pass this info on as an option to those readers that seem to be boiling with rough ride frustration.
Thanks again for the assistance.

– BT






DEAR BT:

I Have a 1998 ford mustang coupe and Im trying to locate a window regulator for the drivers side window. And I am having a hard time finding one for my mustang they dont seem to exsist anywhere in Houston if there is anyway you might know of  a place that might carry them or I can order one without it costing me a small fortune.I would appreciate it very much.

Thank you, Barbara B

A: DEAR BARBARA B:

Oh how many times in the past did I face the same issue you are facing while in need of parts for my rides until I discovered the Parts and Accessories section on eBay Motors. Back in the ole days you were faced with traipsing around your local junkyards all day long then pulling those parts and crossing your fingers to make sure that once you got them home and mounted them that they would actually do they were suppose to do…WORK I just now did a search for you to see if there were any of these particular parts that you are in need of and I found several for about $50.00. You must get this problem fixed or how are you going to find it possible to pull up to the ATM and withdraw money for a shopping spree if you can not roll down your window! I hope I have been of the assistance that you need!
Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Jimmy starting problem

DEAR BT:

 I HAVE A 1995 "JIMMY" LOW MI. IT ALWAYS STARTS VERY GOOD ON FIRST START. AFTER DRIVING LONG ENOUGH TO WARM UP THE ENGINE, IT HAS TO TURN OVER SEVERAL TIMES TO FIRE UP, AND SOMES TIMES SOUNDS LIKE IT'S HITTING ON ABOUT 4 CYC. AFTER TAKING HOLT AND STRIGHTING OUT IT RUNS FINE. IF I SHUT DOWN AND RESTART WITHIN A FEW MIN. IT STARTS FINE. ANY SUGGESTIONS.  I MIGHT ADD IT'S A "6" 4.2. I HAVE CHANGED FUEL FILTER, THE FUEL PRESS REG.[spider} VAC. LINE TO VAC. CANISTER. EACH TIME SEEMS TO HELP FOR AWHILE THEN BACK TO SAME PROBLEM.

THANKS , TOTO

A: DEAR TOTO:

My first gut feeling is that your spider is leaking fuel in the intake. You should have replaced the whole spider instead of just replacing the pressure regulator being as the spider leaking fuel in the intake is a very common problem in the Jimmy’s. I bet you have at least 120 on the clock “ODO” and it billows black smoke when you first start it. I know that you do not want to hear this but you should be able to get your upper intake and spider addressed and fixed for about $1000.00 for parts and labor.
I hope this alleviates your problem.
Thanks for writing in,

– BT






GMC fuel response

DEAR BT:

About a month ago, A.D. of Houston was having a problem with a 1998 GMC.  It was hard to start, sluggish, missing, smelled of raw fuel (as opposed to cooked fuel?), and the check engine light was on.  Quite frankly, I think you sent him down the wrong path when you told him to check the ignition switch.   The first step should have been to scan the computer and find out what trouble codes were making the check engine light come on.  I have a feeling that would have shown a problem with the temperature sensor.  The temperature sensor uses a thermistor which has high resistance when cold and low resistance when hot.  High resistance tells the computer to put more fuel into the engine and can cause extreme flooding.  A poor connection or an open circuit will give high resistance.  Also, a bad sensor is a common problem with these vehicles.  The auto parts stores keep them in stock.  That should tell you something.

Don in Crosby, TX

A: DEAR DON:

If you are avid reader of my Q and A’s that are in the Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle in the Auto section you are aware that I do suggest to a lot of people to go get their vehicle hooked up to the all mighty computer in order to determine which codes that are popping on and pointing to certain problems that are currently plaguing their vehicle. I do however make it a policy of mine not to just tell everyone “go the the computer and thanks for writing in”. That would be a pretty boring Q and A column every week now wouldn’t it? After reading A.D.’s problem I came to the conclusion to tell him to check the ignition switch hence my years of prior experience with the ignition switches being a common problem that display the particular symptoms that he was explaining to me. It is sorta tricky for me sometimes to be 100% accurate diagnosing a problem from just someone explaining it to me in an email. Week in and week out I do my best to assist and be as accurate as I can be via cyberspace while not being able to be under everyone’s hood to give a hands on answer to everyone’s problem.
Thanks for writing in.

– BT






GM TSB's

DEAR BT:

Is there a web site I can find these TSB's and print those? This dealer is reluctant to do anything. They would rather play dumb. Does GM pay or is it solely the dealer’s responsibility for TSB's?

Doug

A: DEAR DOUG:

Mechanics typically get their listing of TSB’s through companies such as Mitchell or Snap-on as they pay monthly to have access to these. The dealership should without any doubt tell you what TSB’s are going on with your make and model and cover the work under factor warranty if your car is still under the warranty!
Let me know what they say,

– BT






2000 Mazda 626

DEAR BT:

I am an owner of a Mazda 626.  Year is 2000.  I am having a coolant problem.  The temperature gauge never gets hot.  It is the normal range.  After driving for about 15 - 20 minutes and stop, the coolant level rises in the reservoir.  It rises and comes out of the reservoir tube.  it spills out onto the ground.  It also has some white foam on top of the liquid.  Do you have any idea what could be going on.

June C. Elizondo

A: DEAR JUNE:

You need to have your car pressure tested to see if you have any leaks like an intake leak and determine if my thinking is correct by your ride having a blown head gasket hence the white cottage cheese foam you are laying your eyes upon.  You could also possibly be having a thermostat issue. My best friend once had a Mazda 626 that was doing exactly what you are describing by having a blown head gasket and for about $500.00 later her car was like new again. I hope I have been able to give you some clues to what is ailing you and your car.
Thanks for writing in,

– BT






2000 Ford Contour

DEAR BT:

I have read your Q&A in the Houston Chronicle and I am very intrigued with your answers.  I am not very mechanically inclined yet I know when there is something wrong with our vehicles. I have a 2000 Ford Contour that has already had the fuel line replaced twice and the fuel pump replaced once.  About two months ago, I was headed home from Sugarland on Highway 90 and I pulled over to put gas in the car at a Shell.  I filled up the tank and headed home on the Beltway.  Right as I was getting off the beltway, I noticed that the car started to drag as I was slowing down off the exit ramp.  I thought maybe that I accidentally moved the gear down but I hadn’t.  As I started to go from the stop light, I felt the engine revving but the car didn’t seem to want to go.  It moved very slowly so I thought it might be the transmission or simply the fuel pump again. As I got home, I put it in park and revved the engine.  It seemed fine then but then the engine light came on. I took it to a mechanic and was told that it might have been bad gas and that I needed to change the spark plugs.  My husband changed the plugs and then proceeded to detach the battery to reset the engine light.  When they reconnected the battery, the light turned off but after a test drive, it came back on.  Another mechanic told us it was the timing belt. It still ran for about another month tugging at times but it always turned on.  After going to the Auto parts to get a part for our other vehicle, it died on my husband.  It would not turn on anymore.  He towed it to a mechanic nearby and was told that it was not only the timing belt but it was also bent valves.  The cost for the repair would run us $1500.  I have a mechanic friend and he said that the timing was off but how could we tell if the valves were bent if the motor/engine, had not been opened.  He tried to crank the car but the engine would not turn over.  Could this be the problem and can I get it fixed for less since I need it fixed but I don’t have the funds? Thanks,

Pat

A: DEAR PAT:

Number one: The guy that said that you had gotten some bad gas needs to go back to school and I would have liked to have seen you keep your car at the mechanic that said it was your timing belt and to have let him fix it right then. The best way to tell if your timing belt is broken is to pull the top cover off to see if the belt is broken off and this is actually pretty simple to do on the Contour. The best way to tell if you have bent valves which is keeping your motor from turning over is to get ahold of the crank pulley to see if it will turn in one direction and not the other hence your belt being wadded up around the crank which is why it is not turning over. You will be able to tell the difference if you are hitting rubber verses metal when you are turning it. If you are hitting rubber it will feel a little cushy verses if you are hitting metal you will feel it being a little clankity and you will be able to actually hear it hit a valve, which means your valves are bent. In your case I know you must be analyzing that old saying about throwing good money at bad but not knowing your whole financial situation it might be the only option you have is to fix your Contour and get it fixed right. I wish I could wave a magic wand for you and fix this at no cost but you are definitely looking at about $500.00 for a whole timing belt kit if you did not bend any valves. I have seen a bunch of these motors “twin overhead cam engines” having the timing belt broke without bending any valves. I would suggest finding a good shop to do this repair and not trying to do it on your own. Thanks for the great question but sorry that you are having these problems. I have a great friend in Colorado that always reminds me when things seem gloomy that “this too shall pass” which it always does and things do get better.

– BT






2000 Mazda stereo removal

DEAR BT:

        Attempting to remove factory installed stereo from a 2000 mazda protégé.  Removed side panels with flathead screwdriver.  Inserted din tools as advised din tools applied to left side you can feel the spring tension when you push outward.  Right side you cannot.  Din tools will go in to far on that side also.  It is like it is not getting on the proper side of the clips.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.   Thank you so much,

 Pat

A: DEAR PAT:

You will need to take the din tool and slowly insert it in and move to the left then to the right until you can feel the spring you are trying to release. The screw has probably come hunkyjarred so be careful and slow with your process and you will find it…if all else fails use a blow torch! Thanks for writing in.

– BT






2001 Avalon sputtering

DEAR BT:

I have a 2001 avalon when I crank up after driving the car sputters out it has 129k on it do I need to change the fuel filter I have a new oil change new air filter or adjust the idle on it my rpm is between 0-1 but not on 1 it is half way what can I do   

jrutherford

A: DEAR JR:

Hello again,
Number 1: Your fuel filer should be replaced every 15 thousand miles in order to help out in keeping your fuel system and car healthy. If your check engine light is on I am guessing it is coming from your idle problem which makes me tend to think that your throttle body needs to be cleaned, mass air flow needs to be cleaned or you may have a vacuum leak. You need to give your car a gift of a complete tune up and this may tackle the symptoms of the spitting and sputtering you keep experiencing. Note... your car should idle between 500-600 RPM’s
Thanks for writing in and trusting me with your issues.

– BT






2005 Jeep rare issues

DEAR BT:

Help!  I purchased a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4 in early 2006.  I bought it as a certified Jeep pre-owned vehicle with the remaining factory warranty.  It had around 27,000 miles when I bought it.  I did lots of research before I bought the vehicle and felt confident buying used since it was from the dealership and certified.  I also checked the Carfax report and showed no reports of damage on the vehicle.  Here is the issue, the Jeep has had numerous problems.  I am not sure if it is because of the fact that it is the first year of this body style or because it was used. Here is what is going on:
The clock springs went out shortly after I brought the Jeep home.  They were replaced under waranty.  Then the starter went out, of course that was right after the waranty expired.  We took it to the Jeep dealership and had a new starter put in.  Then the water pump went out last month and had to be replaced.  Finally, the driver's side door has some issues. It sounds like the window is not rolled up and wind is seeping in.  Even though the window is all the way rolled up.  I took it to the dealership and they replaced the door seal and resealed the windshield just in case.  The problem still persists.  If you visually inspect the door it looks like it is a quarter of an inch lower than the back door.  My husband thinks this is the problem and it might be a wrecked vehicle.  My question to you is, do you think this door problem is fixable?  Should I take it to a body shop?  Also, is this an outrageous number of issues we have had or are we just getting the kinks out of the vehicle and now it will be good for years.  I really hope this is the case, I wanted a Jeep for years and was so excited about owning it.  My husband is ready to give the Jeep away. . . .what is your opinion on buying used?
PS, I am a HUGE fan.  I read you every single Sunday and love the column.  :)
Thanks so much! 

Keri

A: DEAR KERI:

Hi!
Okay, first of all I am a huge fan of buying used and not buying brand new in order to let someone else eat up that brand new vehicle depreciation. I am also probably the biggest fan of Jeeps and have always gotten excellent life span out of all of my Jeeps. The gap in the door that you are describing was caused more than likely from some sort of a fender bender to something a lot more extreme. When vehicles come off of the assembly line they come off of there without gaps or uneven seams, so yes... I would take it to a body shop and see what adjusting they can do in order to get that door/window issue corrected like it should be. I personally would just agree that you have had a little bad luck and that your Jeep may be good to go now for years, I would also recommend in investing in an extended warranty on your Jeep to cover it up to 100k on the odo with a small deductible. Jeeps are built to last and built to outlast some of us!
Thanks for being a supporter and fan!

– BT






91 Chevy van fuel issue

DEAR BT:

I have a 1991 Chevy Custom Van, 5.7 V8, 125000 miies.  It has started dying when the gas gauge drops below 1/2, usually at about 1/4. It starts right back up until I stop and it dies again. I know there can be a number of things (fuel filter, fuel pump, sending unit, etc.). My question is - how do I diagnose this?  I don't want to take it to my mechanic and have him start changing parts till he hits on something that corrects the problem.   Thanks. I enjoy reading your column in the chronicle and your web site.  

Charles Billingsley

A: DEAR CHARLES:

In order to determine if your van is losing fuel pressure you will need to put a fuel pressure gauge on your van by putting it in-place of your fuel filter and this is located under your driver’s seat. Putting on a fuel pressure gauge yourself can be a pretty huge chore to tackle so you may just want to put some trust into your local mechanic and have him diagnose and repair your sweet van.
From what you are describing to me it does not sound like a fuel pump so you may have a crack in the sending unit or a hole in the pickup part of your sending unit. If you are not losing fuel pressure then you do not even have a fuel issue and it could be a number of things at that point.
Thanks for writing in and the compliments on my writing and web site! Truly appreciate it!

– BT






95 Honda Civic cabin filter

DEAR BT:

I own a 1995 Honda Civic DX with 165,000 miles.  Does this vehicle have an AC Cabin filter??  If it does, where is it located and how hard is it to change??  
Keep up the great work!!  

Andy- Houston, Texas

A: DEAR ANDY:

Hi Andy from Houston Texas... one of my favorite places in the whole world!
You in fact do not have a AC Cabin Filter, if you did it would not be too hard to switch out and would only take you about 30 minutes to do and about 20 bucks out of your pocket. In the future remember to always buy a good quality one to ensure it will last. Remember that ole saying ...you get what you pay for, well when it comes down to cabin air filters that saying is gospel! Thanks for writing in and I hope this helps.

– BT






ES 350 oil change indicator

DEAR BT:

My Lexus ES 350 has an oil change indicator that comes on at 500 miles before the next oil change. It is a red triangle on the dash and is quite annoying. Is there some procedure to turn off this annoying light reminder. Thanks

Gary Mauro

A: DEAR GARY:

Hi there!
You should be able to find out the exact process by reading your owners manual or calling your local Lexus dealer and ask a service tech pretty please to offer up to you that priceless info. There may also be a button on the dash that will help you out with your angst. I had an old Chevy once that I could reset it by hitting the brake pedal 5 times…ahh the good ole days. I am sorry I could not give you exact instructions but I do not have a manual in front of me.

– BT






06 Chevy Impala vibrating

DEAR BT:

Recently in the Houston Chronicle you answered a question from Steve concerning his '07 Monte Carlo LT. I am having the same problems with my '06 Impala LS. The tires are Good Year 16" Integrity's on factory steel rims with bolt on covers. I've had the tires rotated, balanced and pressure checked as required and the alignment seems fine. The car and tires have 18,000 miles.   Do you know of any tech bulletins concerning this model? My dealer says they do not know of any.  
Suggestions please.  
Thank you very much,

Doug

A: DEAR DOUG:

As far as TSB’s on your ride there are over 22 regarding corroding, tire warranty and tire pressure. Your car is still under factory warranty so why is the dealer not waiting on you hand and foot to make sure this gets handled and makes you content and happy? Like I told Steve I would recommend asking your local Chevy dealership to replace your shock absorbers and struts to see if this fixes your vibration and re-balance your tires. Have the service manager take your car around the block and even on the freeway so he can duplicate and experience what you are living with day in and day out. It is their responsibility to make your car right, and they are more than aware of this issue that Chevy is having with the Monte Carlo’s and Impala’s I hope this helps out,

– BT






1994 Park Avenue tail light warning

DEAR BT:

I have a 1994 Park Avenue. Above the rear view mirror is a Lamp Monitor system and the "tail light" light warning is on. I inspected the rear tail lights, the brake lights, and turn signals. All the lights are working. One idea I had was to remove the bulb in the Lamp Monitor, but I thought that there may be a "real" problem and I should fix it. Do you have any ideas of what it could be. It's a great old car that's very comfy and gets great MPG (27-29 at 65mph) and carries 6 people with luggage. With only 80K miles. Keep writing your advice it's great.

B Tatum

A: DEAR B TATUM:

Hi there,
I would first of all check to see if your high mount brake light is out. Most of us tend to forget to check this exact one being as it is the one that tends to make that annoying little light on your dash illuminate with every bit of annoyance in this world. You should be able to master this task in about 5 minutes and only set you back about 5 dollars. Please let me know if this was your culprit. Thanks for writing in,

– BT






1998 Explorer intake gaskets

DEAR BT:

I have a 1998 Ford Explorer 2 WD with a 4.0 liter V-6 Engine, OHV, Fuel Injection plus auto-trans. The check engine light came on at 64,000 miles. The mechanic checked everything out and said the intake gaskets were leaking. I did not replace them as he didn’t seem too sure. At 84,000 miles, the check engine light came on and I could hear an air whistle. I took it to a Ford dealer and they said the two upper intake gaskets were leaking. The dealer did the repair job and it worked well except for some hesitation or bucking at stop and starts. It was also bucking and hesitating at 64,000 miles. The check engine light came on at 88,000 miles four months later. I took it in to another Ford dealer and they said the two upper intake gaskets were leaking again. They repaired it at no cost but now it hesitates at stop and starts and bucks. The engine light has just come on again four months later at 91,000. It is whistling air again and also accelerates faster. Can you help me understand the problem so that I can get the dealer to repair it permanently? I understand that there have been complaints about the problem previously but I didn’t get to read them. Are there any Ford repair bulletins on this? What is going to be the ultimate fix, other than get rid of the vehicle? Please publish your answer on your web site and would you kindly send me an E-mail?

Lois

A: DEAR LOIS:

What you have been forced to live with on a daily basis is a very common problem that Ford is very aware of. If you replace the intake this should save you the constant repair of the gaskets that without any doubt is plaguing you. The only TSB bulletin is regarding the gaskets leaking so if you find the right parts house that carries Dorman you should be able to get the intake for less then you probably spend on your cable bill every month. You will have a very hard time getting Ford to step up, take responsibility and assist in this repair so why not replace the intake then sell the vehicle and get a jeep! Sorry, I just had to throw that in there. I really believe that once you replace the intake you will be good to go for a while. There is a huge benefit to your bank account by having a vehicle that is paid for like I am sure your Explorer is! I hope this helps and thanks for the question.

– BT






2002 Explorer bad brakes

DEAR BT:

Barbara, we had our brakes repaired on our 2002 ford exployer , but the brakes scare us, sometimes they will not stop the car, the peddle goes to the floor, then sometimes they seem to be fine.

 

Hi there,
More than likely you had your brake pads changed but did not have them check the condition of your master cylinder. From what you are describing to me it sounds like your culprit is the master cylinder. Take a gander at the back of your master cylinder to see if it is oozing any fluid, if in fact it is then you have found your problem. I would suggest getting this looked at ASAP being as your braking system is in charge of the safety measure when it comes down to stopping your vehicle. Thanks for writing in,

– BT






Honda tune-up and cost

DEAR BT:

I am mechanically blonde, deaf and dumb ~~:o)
Barbara ~ what does a "tune up" entail? Should it cost $330. anywhere, or just at the dealership? I live in North Carolina and it's got about 67,000 miles on it.   Thanks for any info,

Cyndi Hill

A: DEAR CYNDI:

First of all I give you huge kudos for recognizing that a tune up is an essential part to keeping your cars health up to par! When you take your car in for a tune-up you can expect them to put in new spark plugs and spark plug wires, replace any worn out belts and or hoses, give it an oil change and new oil filter, switch out the filthy air filter for a new shiny one, adjust your valves and your timing if necessary, replace your fuel filter, add water to your battery if need be and clean your battery posts if corroded, check all your fluid levels and replenish them or flush and replace if necessary. Proper maintenance of your vehicle is a must to promote longevity and performance; our cars are typically the second largest thing that we invest in so you NEED to protect that investment! Have a tune-up performed on your car approximately every 2 years or every 30 thousand miles, whichever comes first. As far as cost goes…if you take your car to the dealer expect to pay anywhere from $250.00 to $400.00 but I recommend taking it to your trusted local mechanic because he will do just as good of a job and only charge you about $150.00. When my friends and I go out we call it getting Texas dolled up, so make sure to have your cars engine also Texas dolled up, or in your case North Carolina Southern Belle dolled up! Thanks for the blonde, brunette or auburn question.

– BT






Chevy Blazer poor gas milage

DEAR BT:

I have a 2000 Chevy Blazer, 2 door, six cylinder.  My gas mileage in town is 14 to 15 miles per gallon, highway 17.  My husband drives a 2000 Ford Explorer, 4 door, six cylinder.  He gets 17 miles per gallon in town and 20 highway.  This is driving me crazy, why does he get better gas mileage when his vehicles is bigger and heavier than mine.  I have tried gas additives, changing my driving habits, and talking to our mechanic, to no avail.  

Jo Ann

A: DEAR JO ANN:

I do feel your and your bank accounts pain on constantly being drained by poor gas mileage. It will be a day to remember when we can count on the gas mileage being accurate that is promised from the manufacturers. You can try gas saving tips such as: Remove any and all excessive weight out of your Chevy Discontinue excessive idling, such as sitting in traffic, sitting in your driveway as you impatiently await your kids to get their garb together and come jump in your vehicle Ride your car on the proper air pressure in your tires Get routine tune-ups Use the right grade of oil I hope by utilizing these tips you see an increase in gas mileage and more money in your back pocket to enjoy those blue light specials at Kmart. Thanks for writing in,

– BT






2 Ford questions

DEAR BT:

Barbara - First, 2000 windstar, dash lights; ABS light, brake light, check engine, etc. come on periodically.  the ABS light has been on for sometime now.  others go off but then come back on days later.  Now the drivers side window is starting to work only spordically.  Obviously an electrical problem but the dealer cannot seem to analyze properly or fix. 

#2, 2003 Tribute.  had brake pads changed at around 40k miles.  dealer changed the rotors cuz they saw a problem and it was warranty work.  Since then (several months now) I've had a whining sound at speed.  once I hit 40 mph it starts and gets progressively louder.  And my mileage is only about 17 - 18 mpg.  Dealer can't find anything wrong.  If the brakes were dragging wouldn't it pull to one side or the other?  hands off the wheel, it stays straight on the road.     
  What do you think of these two issues?

  thanks,

KM

A: DEAR KM:

Hi there,

Okay let’s start with your first question regarding your Ford Windstar. You need to wiggle your window switch in different directions to see if your window works after this. If it does this means you need a new switch, if this does not work you need hit on the inside of your door in order to see if this makes you window work. If the process of hitting on your door panel makes your window work you will need to invest in a new window motor/regulator.

Now on to the Tribute:
Yes, you are correct if your bakes were dragging you would feel your Tribute pull left or right and if your calipers were grabbing you would feel shaking in the front end when you apply brake pressure. You might want to check your tires to see if there is an issue with one or more of them that is creating the whining that you are experiencing.

Thanks for 2 questions in one email…that is a first and I like it!

– BT






1993 Lexus SC 400 door panel

DEAR BT:

hi barbara   I have 93 sc 400 with a jamed door I need to know how do I take the door panel off? So I can fix handle.

 

A: Hi there:

You first have to get the window regulator out in order to get the door panel off. Remove the inside of the door handle bezel using a tapered screw driver, carefully pry up in a forward fashion in the power window switch assembly to release the retaining clip. Pull the switch panel forward, unplug it and remove the switch. Remove 2 caps and 8 retaining screws and then you should be able to remove your almighty door trim panel.

Let me know if you were able to get this little door problem fixed and beware of not getting addicted to self car repair!

– BT






  

1995 Taurus temp sensor location

DEAR BT:

Can you help telling me how to locate the temp sensor in my 95 ford taurus? The needle runs hot after about 10 mins. I don't know if it's the sensor, thermostat or something else. There is no leak of any kind whatsover. Of course money is an issue which is why I need your help. I tried searching the web for pictorials but couln't find one.  

thanks,

 

nelson

A: DEAR NELSON:

In order to check the temperature sensor you will need to locate the thermostat housing under the hood and that is where it will be.  There are going to be 2 switches there, the single wire is for the gauge and the 2 wire is for the fan. The way to test the gauge is to unplug it and it should go all the way to cold and then when you touch the metal connector to the engine block the temperature gauge should go all the way to hot.

Thanks for writing in, I hope that I have helped out with keeping you and your Taurus cool during this hot Texas summer!  Let me know if I can be of any further assistance!

– BT






1998 Lincoln Mark VIII suspension

DEAR BT:

I have a 98 Mark VIII that has been a great car.  At 80K miles, the check air suspension signal comes on at highway speeds.  I can drive it all day around town and no signal.  I can stop turn it off and restart.  The car raises back up and the signal goes off.  Two mechanics say it is not the air bags.  They did not have software to communicate with the suspension.  Help!

 

A: Hi there:

I think the question should be: How many Lincolns that are around that do not have some sort of Suspension quirk? I am being a little sarcastic because it never has failed no matter how many Lincolns that I bought for my mom everyone of them ended up having some sorta suspension issue.
You need to take it your to the Lincoln dealer and specifically ask then to scan this air ride issue. It could be the sensors in the air bags, the vent valve or many other issues. So it is well worth paying for the scan to determine what the problem is to fix it asap in order to prevent any further damage. Thanks for the question.

– BT






1998 Sierra hard start

DEAR BT:

Help me please!!!

  I own a 1998 GMC Sierra Pickup with a Vortec V-8 engine.  The problem that I am having is that the engine is hard to start and when it does, there is the smell of raw fuel, the engine is sluggish and it misses and the check engine light is on.  I have had the spark plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor, oxygen sensors, fuel pump, fuel filter, muffler and catalytic converter changed.  But, the problem persists.  Please help.  

AD, Houston

A: DEAR AD:

I want you to try this method of madness:
Try to crank your vehicle for 2 seconds and let off key then repeat this process…if your truck starts faster with this method you have a bad ignition switch. This proves you are getting power everywhere else but to the coil, meaning you have fuel but no spark. Bottom line…replace your ignition switch in order to relive your angst! Thanks for the question.

– BT






2000 Dodge 1500 poor gas milage

DEAR BT:

  Hi, I have a 2000 Dodge 1500 pickup with a 5.9 engine, and it gets very poor gas mileage. I put new spark plugs & wires & air filter in it but still no change . The fuel filter is in the tank and it is costly to change .  Iam a old school mech. for 43 years and not use to computer controled and fuel injected engines . Do you have any suggestions? If you do please let me know .
Thanks, 

Ray Walker

A: DEAR RAY:

I would check to see if any of your fuel injectors are leaking and if so replace them and this will defiantly help your gas mileage other than that I really do not know what else to tell you other than you are not going to see any better gas mileage out of your 5.9 Dodge. One of my brothers has this exact truck and he constantly drains his bank account and will until he buys something with a smaller more fuel efficient engine. The only positive is that you are getting better gas mileage than you would if you had a Dodge V10…sorry, I just had to put that in here. I wish that I could be of more assistance in approving your poor gas mileage and keep a little more dough in your back pocket!

– BT






2007 Monte Carlo

DEAR BT:

Just purchased a 2007 Chevy Monte carlo LT. Problem is that driving it home at highway speeds , it felt as if I was driving over a washboard.  I thought that the the tires were over inflated, but they were not. The car transmits every bit of road uneveness/bumps back to the cabin.  Chevy said is was due to the 17 inch tires(goodyear LS-2).  I then test drove the 2008 Impala LT with the same tires and the ride was considerably smoother. My car has 2300 miles on it . Any Suggestions would be appreciated.

Steve

A: DEAR STEVE:

FYI, there are over 14 TSB’s under “wheels and tires” regarding your sweet 2007 Monte Carlo. You need to take your Monte Carlo in to your local Chevy dealer because they are more than aware of this issue you are having and demand satisfaction! Tell them to start by replacing the shock absorbers and struts to see if this fixes your vibration, re-balance your tires, and possibly try a set of 16’s instead of the 17’s on your car. Your car is under warranty so tell the service manager to drive it around the block in order to experience the chaos and you expect them to fix it and make it right! As a huge lifelong fan of Goodyear Tires I am not focusing on the tires raising all the heck that you are experiencing with the ride in your Monte Carlo.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Jag lifespan

DEAR BT:

howdy, 
I have a question  on the average life span of a well cared for 97 jag J6. how long should i keep this car??????

 

A: Hi there:

There is a butt for every seat when it comes to our choices in what we drive. Peace of mind is what we gather when we have a comfort level with our cars and you seem to have that with your Jag. I do drive newer cars but I also have older ones that I am not at the least bit hesitant taking on a long road trip or even trusting enough to put my mom into them on the road trips that she takes from time to time.

I always make the suggestion of retiring that ole piece of metal when more things are going wrong with it than right. If you have maintained your car by doing the small repairs to the larger ones that have been required and at some times necessary what is wrong with keeping it. To make the proper decision as to whether your car should be repaired or replaced you must weigh out several factors. First you should have a good idea what your car is worth. Secondly you need to understand what needs to be repaired on you car and what it will cost to complete the repair.

It may be a wiser financial choice to repair it even when you have had it in the repair shop recently for other repairs than to call bob’s tow truck service and haul it off to the car graveyard. Also, being as your Jag is over 4 years old more than likely it is paid for so you do not have to send in those stout monthly payments to a financial institution making them even richer than they already are. But then again if you choose to fix it make sure the repair is done right so you will be assured that your car will get you from point A to point B without any major catastrophes. Do not just have a mechanic put a band-aid on the repair in order to jick it up enough to last a short period of time. So, you ask yourself…what is wrong with fixing that ole piece of metal that you have a familiarity with and that love affair that the 2 of you have shared for years? Well, you remember the old saying “throwing good money after bad”, well this pertains to car repairs also, For instance, let’s say your glorious piece of metal has a shot tranny. Is the new transmission going to cost more than the value of your car? And does your mechanic foresee any additional major repairs in the near future? Once a car gets to the point where it is going to be needing several major repairs and all of the little components are going out on it also you might want to think about throwing in the towel and retiring the ole beast or donate it to a good cause.

I hope this helps and thanks for the question.

– BT






Landcruiser fuel issue

DEAR BT:

I was wondering if you could give some advice, I am having a problem with my toyota landcruisers fuel sysytem and what i mean by that, is that for some odd reason the EFI 15 amp fuse keeps on getting blown and as a result the truck cuts off and when it does and i try restart it wont start, it sounds like it wants to restart but at the same time it sounds like its chocked and i do not smell any gas. The only way it starts momentarily its when i replace the EFI 15 amp fuse but it blows within 3 to 5 minutes so its clear that i have a short somewhere??? i just dont know where its coming from some one said it may be the fuel pump..... i dont know please help!! Thanks! 

regards,  

Edgar 

A: DEAR EDGAR:

Hi, You need to grab a book associated with your 1995 Toyota Land cruiser that will contain a wiring diagram in order to help you locate the wire off of the fuse panel that is blown and find out what all this particular wire is feeding. It sounds like to me that it is the wire that is rubbing underneath your air breather and if it is you need to replace and or repair it. I hope I have been of the assistance you are in need of for your frustration. BT

– BT






5.0 Mustang

DEAR BT:

I hope this is the correct address to contact you regarding an auto question.  Well here goes.  I have recently been interested in the hardtop Mustang 5.0L cars that ended with the 1993 body style.  I was interested in a std shift, and the last yr's model (1993). Do you have any pros or cons on this auto and a viable way of searching for one (tried ebay motors from your suggestion on Maxim Sirius Radio but no luck).  Have you heard of Pro-Team in the mid west?  They have warehouses of collectables. Let me know when you get a chance. Thanks in advance.

Yours truly,

Peter Hogan

A: DEAR PETER:

Hello there!
Wow, It looks like you sent this to me about 2 weeks ago and I just received it via a fwd? Anyway… it is here, here I am, and here goes! You are totally talking my language with the 5.0. I have always said that it is one of the most exhilarating long lasting motors on the market, well of course behind my all time favorite which is the 4.0, straight-6 by Jeep. I just searched ebaymotors.com and came across a vast selection of your dream machine. The only con that I would have is obtaining one that has obviously not been kept up bumper to bumper, in and out. I just found a 1991 Nissan 300ZX on eBay Motors and I swear it has to be the most pristine in existence. One of the main reasons I decided to grab it was that it was a one owner car and was treated like a baby from day one. I occasionally will take on a project to restore a classic and sometimes those projects resemble the movie “The Money Pit with Tom Hanks”. Basically I am all about your interest in finding that 1993 5.0 Stang but just make sure that it is in good enough shape that you will not eventually start kicking it while throwing wrenches everywhere venting your frustration. Find one that you can spend more time enjoying it then working on it.

I have not heard of Pro-Team but I do know for a fact that you will be able to save more moolah if you get it from eBay Motors. JD Powers and Associates just released a recent survey that consumers feel that they save approximately $1800.00 when getting a car online, and I personally can vouch for that! I appreciate you writing in and good luck!

– BT






Jeep washer reservoir

DEAR BT:

My wife has a 2002 jeep grand cheerokee and recently the washer container started leaking ; can I replace it myself  and is it a big deal ?

Hi there! I do love Jeeps! The answer to your question is yes! The part should not set you back any more than about $75.00 and can be picked up at most Auto Parts Stores or you can sit in the comfort of your own home and grab it off of eBay Motors Parts and Accessories. To replace the part it should not take you anymore time than approximately 30 minutes to switch out the old with the new. You might need to think about setting some time aside pretty soon if you plan on being able to see out of that dirty windshield full of splattered on bugs! Thanks for the super question,

– BT






1987 Toyota

DEAR BT:

hi barb, if u could help me i-would be a friend for life.  i have a 1987 toyota 4wd 4cyl  fuel inj turbo  pick up and if u step on the gas pedal it dies right then and i have the mass air flow sensor unpluged and if u plug it in it dies right then as well, but it idles ok.   i tried a new fuel pump; it didnt help, and i cant figure it out.
thanks,

Jerry

A: DEAR JERRY:

Hi! Sounds like to me that the culprit is your mass air flow sensor. Toyota built these trucks to out last most of us humans but occasionally a part does go a-rye. Thanks for writing in with such a great question and I hope now I am a friend of yours for life.

– BT






2003 Sierra Beam shake

DEAR BT:

I have a 2002 GMC Sierra  1500 pickup with a Vortec 5300  V8 engine.  It is 2 wheel drive, 4 door vehicle. Currently it has 77,000 miles on it.  From the time that I purchased the vehicle, it had a slight bounce to the ride.  A new set of tires were installed within two months, and then one of those tires was replaced.  The selling dealer said there was nothing they could find wrong and that a pickup was a rougher riding vehicle. I began using an independent automotive shop.  We have put two sets of tires on the pickup, replaced the shocks, aligned the truck, balanced and rotated tires, and checked all of the front end, all to no avail.  The set of tires on the truck now have been on for a month and are a softer tire than the previous set, but the problem is worse. The bounce begins at about 42-45 mph. My wife has had back surgery and basically is no longer able to ride in the truck. I visited with a service manager at a GM dealer and as I was describing the problem he started telling me what the truck was doing and what I had tried. He said it was "beam shake" and not to put anymore money in trying to fix it.  It is only on trucks like mine and that GM was trying to resolve the problem that they suspect is due to motor mount supports but had not come up with a solution. I called customer servive in Detroit.  The representative was not aware of such a problem but called me back a few days later and confirmed  that there is a "beam shake" problem and that the engineers were trying to come up with a solution, but could give no timeframe as to solving the problem.
Have you heard of the problem or do have a remedy?
Thanks and I enjoy your column in the Chronicle.

Karl

A: DEAR Karl:

After reading just a couple of the first sentences to your question I was leaning towards motor mounts but as I read on I quickly said to myself…Ummm yeah, I have heard of this complaint a few times and you need to demand a repair and or a replacement of your Sierra. You paid for a truck that is supposed to drive, handle and ride in a certain manner and yours does not. I would send a certified letter to GM giving them a deadline and if this gets you nowhere you then need to hire an attorney to see what progress he or she can achieve. Do not roll over on this and forget about it. You are and have been inconvenienced now by the fact that your wife cannot even ride in the truck anymore.   You can also sick the Houston Better Business Bureau on GM to see where they can get!
Thanks for writing in and enjoying my Q and A in the Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle!

– BT






2003 Trailblazer gas tank

DEAR BT: Good morning.  I have a 2003 Trailblazer and this morning the as hand was reading under a 1/4 tank and the digital readout read 52 miles.  I stopped to fill up and the tank was full.  Can you tell me what is causing this problem.  My fear is that someone put water in my tank.  Any ideas will be helpful.  Thanks.

MN

A: DEAR MN:

Wow, does this sound very familiar. I have been in your shoes a couple of times in the past and I will point my finger in the direction of the sending unit that is located inside your gas/fuel tank. After digging through a ton of TSB’s “Technical Service Bulletins” my gut feeling has to be right. Be prepared if you are in need of a new sending unit your mechanic will also have to replace the fuel pump, all of this really should not set you back anymore than $700.00. Having water in your fuel tank would not give you the symptoms that you are experiencing.
Thanks for the question and I hope I have been able to help out!

– BT






     

85 Ford F150

DEAR BT:

I have a 1985 Ford F150 4X4 with a 300 6 cylinder engine. Last night after about 2 miles from home the engine just started to lose power until I got down into 1st gear to get it off the road. After a minute or so wondering what happened I opened the hood to look.The exhaust manifold was glowing a BRIGHT CHERRY RED!!The cooling system was fine.I thought maybe the catalytic converter was clogged so I cut the exaust between the catalytic converter and the down pipe/restarted the truck and it is still as if something is blocked in the exhaust and still no power on acceleration.What could be the problem??? PLEASE HELP!!! Thank you in advance.

Robert Minney 

A: DEAR ROBERT:

Hi Robert Sounds like to me that you and your sweet ride are experiencing a fuel issue by running out of fuel and running lean. You will need to check your fuel filter and fuel pump and you may have even fried and melted your catalytic converter. You may also have done some damage to your engine by getting your engine so hot and damaging your pistons. I would first start with a compression test and if you find that you have good compression then you may be able to get back up to par with a fuel filter and fuel pump replacement! I hope that I have been of some HELP!

– BT






Sad Infinity story

DEAR BT:

You might remember printing my message and your response a few weeks ago. It was about my stick Infiniti G20 with 151K miles. You agreed with me that it had a lot of miles left and I should keep it. Well, neither of us anticipated the driver who thought I was turning into the parking lot she was leaving. I was unable to avoid her. She got the ticket but I lost a car. You can imagine how heartbroken I was when her insurance company refused to consider repairing it. So, I now drive a 2007 Acura TSX - with automatic. It's a great car and hopefully someday soon I'll appreciate it. For now, my left foot and I miss the G20. Thanks for your quick, thought-out response to my first message

Terry Wizig

A: DEAR TERRY:

Hi there Terry! I opened up your email and immediately felt your pain. I am so sorry to hear this but you did good with your recent choice of your new 4 tire partner. The end of any love affair is always such a difficult thing to deal with and can usually take up to a year to get over. I wish I could say that I have not felt such pain but I have. Even though you feel and have to deal with the pain it is better to have loved and lost then not have had any at all! What did you do with the ole piece of metal and components? I once parked mine in the garage and didn’t part with it for about 2 years, it seemed to help being able to stare at it on occasion. I still resent my lead foot for causing that accident that forced me to retire my ole beauty. Email me when your new Acura needs help! Smiles BT

– BT






Mazda Protege advise

DEAR BT:

I am turning my beloved Mazda Protégé 5 over to my 21 year old daughter because I love her too. I have been to 2 local repair shops, Jiffy and STS.  One recommending fuel injector replacement, another a cleanout.  What is the life span on fuel injectors?  Also, why would I want an engine flush? 2003 with 60k

Julia Peterson

A: DEAR JULIA:

The life span on your fuel injectors in your Mazda Protégé typically will be around 80 to 100k. You should not be looking at a clean yet until around 20 to 40k more miles with no problem. And regarding the engine flush, you should be good to go until your car reaches 80k on the clock “odo”! Thanks for writing in. BT

– BT






Locating Buick door panel screws

DEAR BT:

How do u remove the passenger rear door panel on a 2000 Buick LaSabre,my neighboor couldnt locate any screws to remove it.

 

A: Well hello there!:

I totally understand how frustrating this can be. Sometimes while staring at certain things to do with your car it looks like it should be so easy to figure them out. In order for you to pop off the door panel you will need to insert a screw driver behind the door handle Bezel and gently remove the bezel. Then look down into the bezel opening in the door trim panel and if you see a spring clip you will need a special tool to release the fastener. If this is the case I would suggest taking it to your Buick dealer. However if you do not see the spring then there should be a screw behind the bezel and you will be able to get the door panel off after unscrewing the screw. Very important to make sure you carefully pop out the wood grain panel in order to keep it in one piece. Thanks for the great question!

– BT






Hyundai fuel issue

DEAR BT:

 First of all let me tell you I enjoy your information sharing. I have a 2001 Hyundai XG300 and what is occurring is that when we go to fuel it up, it acts as though it's full of gas. The pump clicks as it normally would when your tank is full. The problem is that it will take about .25 of a gallom at a time and then I hve to remove the nozzle from the tank and let it breath for about 2 seconds. As you can guess it takes 15-20 mintes to fill up the car. It's gotten to where the gas starts coming back out if I'm not careful and that creates a saftey / fire hazard if it spills. Can you give me an idea of what to do to resolve it. I've checked the tank neck openeing and it appears it has a box with some kind of valve in it and charcol filter as well. Very confused and concerned on how to resolve this issue.   Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.   

Rene Benavides

A: DEAR RENE:

Hi Rene The gas tank has to come out being as you probably have a stopped up vent. I would drive your Hyundai around until it is basically out of gas then drop the tank. It is a lot easier to do this task with little gas in the tank and a lot safer than if the tank has mass amounts of gas in it. The problem is going to be in the vent tube that lets the air out not the tube that lets the fuel into the tank. I would however suggest to you to take it into the dealer or a trusted mechanic because this is not the easiest task to perform in your driveway on a Saturday afternoon! Thanks for enjoying my column in The Sunday Edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section because I love writing it!

– BT






Buick power window follow up and response

DEAR BT:

In your column on July 1, a reader complained that the power window mechanisms fail far more frequently on LeSabres 2000 and later than on LeSabres from the 1990's. He said that the original equipment fails and the replacement equipment fails again in 2 to 4 years.   You said that the difficulty is a combination of steel cables and plastic. Did you mean that this difficulty is for 2000 and later LeSabres, or for power windows for cars in general?   I have a 2002 LeSabre that has had to have the mechanisms replaced on all four windows.  

Ron McCain

A: DEAR RON:

Hi Ron! Unfortunately it is petty much all power windows in general since 1998 and up. I guess it may just be a way for the Auto Manufacturers to make a little bit more dough! Thanks for writing in!

– BT






92 Lexus screeching

DEAR BT:

My daughter has a 1992 Lexus.  It is making a screeching sound upon acceleration and braking.  Help!!  

Debbie

A: DEAR DEBBIE:

I would first say that it sounds like it is your alternator belt but that would only be screeching while accelerating and not braking. I would have a mechanic check out your motor mounts. I hope this alleviates your screeching under your hood that is making your head screech!

– BT






Montero smoking

DEAR BT:

i have a 1999 mitsubishi montero sport xls with a 3.5 liter v6 engine the problem is  the engine smokes out the exhaust pipe (blue oil smoke) when you sit and idle like waiting in lne at burger king waiting to get your order this is the only time it smokes is when you let it sit and idle it dosen"t smoke when you crank it in the morning, or when your driving it down the road, it had 54,000 miles on it when i bought it the oil has been changed faithfully every 3,000 to 3500 miles i am an advid do it yourselfer type of guy the only thing major done to this vehicle was a timing belt and timing belt pulley's change i also  do some mechanic work just my own vehicles. The vehicle has 133,000 miles on it now ,the spark plugs or the spark plug wires,or the fuel filter has not been changed,no sensors of any kind has been changed,it uses about 1 quart of oil between changes. The timing belt change was done at a bout 90,000 miles but the smoking problem did not start then ,it occured at about 95 to 100,000 miles the vehicle does not run nor does it idle rough not even when the smoke starts coming out the tail pipe. After it starts smoking from letting it sit and idle when you start down the road the smoke clears up and it dosen't smoke any more till you let it sit and idle again. It normally has to sit and idle at least 5 minutes or so before it begins smoking and it will continue to smoke until you get back out on the road again,then it will clear up again. The pvc valves have not been changed but i checked them and they still rattle [does that mean they are still good.] If it were the valve stem seals it would smoke when cranked in the morning,dut it dosen't,so i've kind of ruled that out  is there any sensor that could be letting some oil slip past it when you let the vehicle sit and idle could there be a problem with an intake gasket letting oil come into the intake when idling . Any information,suggestions something i can do or try would be very appreciative. Hope i have given you enough information so you can troubleshoot this for me  

Tommy Sellers

A: DEAR TOMMY:

Hi Tommy When your Montero is idling while waiting for your favorite number 3 from that fast food joint the motor is running slower than if you were cruising at 80 on the freeway. When it runs slow like this it makes your valves wobble in the guide which in addition makes the seal oblong and not seal around your stem. This then causes oil to run down the valve stem into the cylinder. I could tell you some pretty good news by saying that you may just need a valve job but with as many miles as you have on your Montero you should be looking at investing in a whole spanking new motor. Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Mazda 626 coolant problem

DEAR BT:

My daughter's '96 Mazda 626 is still smelling funny (like burning  coolant) a week after I added almost 2 qts. of coolant/water(50/50).  It  has a little 1/4 in. Di. runoff tube/hose which vents off the  coolant resevoir cap. The tube is only about 6-8 in long and I found  it running straight down at the side of the engine block where if &  when it does vent it seems dangerously close to several belts & their  pulleys. There appeared to have some white-ish residue under the  tube. Is this the way it's supposed to be? I'm not much of a typical  car guy, (tho back in the 70s and early 80s I learned tune up basics  etc. & even how to do a good valve adjustment (because my brother-in- law was in town to teach me). I stopped learning & doing when  computers took over... So how about that little tube?

Jonathan in Chico

A: DEAR JONATHAN:

Hi Jonathan I would have your radiator cap pressure tested to make sure that it is not leaking and running out the overflow tube ”your 6 inch long tube” you will also need to have a block test done on engine being as it sounds like to me that you have a head gasket issue hence the whitish residue that you are describing which could also be described as a cottage cheese type substance. This happens when your car overheats and the fluid/coolant from your radiator/cooling system mixes with your oil. Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Buick ignition problem

DEAR BT:

    I don't know if this is where I am supposed to go to ask a question, however, I am sure you will forward this to the correct place for me.        My question is about my ignition key.  Everytime I turn the engine off in my 1999 Buick Regal LS  the key gets  stuck and will not come out of the ignition.  I have found that by putting the end of a pen into a hole under the ignition releases something inside the ignition and releases the key.  I do not wish to have to do this every time I turn the car off.  There has got to be something I am doing wrong that the ignition key will not come out of the ignition like normal.. The key has a chip on it, as most keys do today and I don't believe that is the problem.  Can you advise me and help me with this.  I have just purchased the car but am at my wits end with this problem.  I do hope you know how to solve this for me.  Thank you and I await your response and help.

 

A: Hi there:

Sounds like to me that you are in need of a new key cylinder. Key cylinders can go bad for many reasons and one of them being a ton of weight like extra keys on your key chain. I would first try and take your vin number or of course your car to your local Buick Dealer and get them to cut you a new key. I hope this helps out!

– BT






Grand Am bolt pattern

DEAR BT:

Hello I had a  set of rims and tires given to me off of a 2002 grand am gt and I would like to put them on my 1998 grand am gt the bolt pattern is a bit larger on the new ones though. Is their a way to modify my grand am so that I can put them on? Any help would be great if you could e-mail me back here thanks.

Mark

A: DEAR MARK:

Hi Mark. I am sure there is a conversion kit out there in order to make them fit. A tire and wheel shop will be more than happy to hook you up. Good luck! Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Jeep ABS light

DEAR BT:

I replaced my brake booster with a NAPA rebuilt part and did the fluid bleeding.  Could you please tell me why the ABS light comes on in my 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 when I make a right curve turn.  No problem on left curve turn.  Also, I feel the brake pedal jiggle when applying the brakes (medium hard) on a right turn but no jiggle when braking on left turn.  Thanks in advance

 

A: Hi there:

I love assisting with an issue to do with one of my favorite vehicles…Jeep! You need to first take it into the Jeep dealer or your trusted local mechanic in order to have it hooked up to see which codes are being displayed. I would really have to drive your Jeep in order to diagnose your brake pedal issue. You may be dealing with an unsafe issue here so the quicker that you can get it into your dealer the better! I would be intrigued to know what your Jeep dealer says your troubling/interesting problem is that is plaguing you and you Jeep! Thanks for writing in!

– BT






04 Suburban transmission

DEAR BT:

My 2004 Chevy Surburban (80K miles) will not go forward after in "D" gear.  I have to put it in 2nd gear; start slowly, then move it to "D" after getting up to 30 -40 miles per hour. There were NO warnings.  I had absolutely no problems/warnings before last Saturday. I went to the store; came back out, and put it in "D" and it would not move. I put it in 3rd, nothing. I put it in 2nd; it moved. Mechanic wants to rebuild transmission. I'm skeptical. What do you think??? Please help!

Dinah

A: DEAR DINAH:

I would first suggest if you have not already to check and make sure that you have transmission fluid in your tranny. If you have a leak and have lost it all then you will have a hard time shifting into the gears. From what you are describing to me it sounds like you will need to invest in a new or rebuilt transmission. You mention that you had absolutely no warning before all of this happened but your tranny may have been “slipping” and you just not know what to look for or not know the feeling of “slipping” when it was going on. And even if you would have had some warnings that you were familiar with or aware of, a transmission is not something that you can quickly fix once the gears start grinding up inside the casing. I would also suggest getting a second opinion by taking it directly to a shop that will do the work right there like a transmission shop. A lot of shops send work out to another shop then tack on extra money that you end up paying out of your pocket. I wish I had better news for you but I have personally been in your place so many times before by needing that good ole tranny to get me down the road.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Water in the gas tank

DEAR BT:

While filling up my truck with gas yesterday, I got a phone call and was distracted.  When the tank was full, I got my receipt, got into the truck and drove away.  About a half mile down the road, I looked out the side mirror and noticed the gas cap hanging on the plastic cord and the door cap to the gas entry wide open.  I am concerned as it was raining, only mildly.  It was more of a moderate shower.  I drive a 2007 Expedition with only 7,200 miles and I am concerned that there may ultimately be some damage because of the water that may (or may not) have gotten into the gas tank.  I pulled over and put the cap back on and closed the door.  By the time I closed everything up, it has already stopped raining. Should I be concerned?  Is there anything I should do now to see if there may be a problem later?  I feel awfully stupid, but that’s probably not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.  Thanks for your assistance.  I really enjoy your column and am certainly impressed with your knowledge!

Mike

A: DEAR MIKE:

It was obviously only a small amount of water that got into your gas tank. If by chance you are experiencing your Expedition spitting and sputtering I would suggest getting your mechanic to flush your tank or you could put a can of “dry gas” into your tank to let this product remove whatever water that did get into your tank. I would be more concerned if it were your Jack and Coke that got watered down by the rain getting into it. Do not let it worry you I sorta figure that we have all done something very similar if not worse!

Thanks for writing in and the support.

– BT






99 Regal climate control

DEAR BT:

I have a 1999 buick regal with dual climate control. The outside temperature reading shows a temp. which is sometimes 35 to 40 degrees lower than outside temp. . So like today it is 96 and the temperature reading is 50, . Can I reset this or purchase a part to fix this problem? All other items on the control work properly.        

Keith - Middlesex, NC

A: DEAR KEITH:

You need to get the ambient temperature sensor replaced because this can also affect the temperature inside your car. Really all you are looking at here is a bad sensor and actually the repair could possibly be done if you want to get your hands a little dirty on a Saturday afternoon. The part you will be looking to replace should not cost anymore than $40.00 and it is located right behind your grill piece mounted to your radiator air baffle. If you do decide to replace this on your own please make sure that you do it first thing in the morning or when you have allowed your car to totally cool off unless you want to have permanent burns on your hands reminding you of your talented skills that day when you replaced your ambient temp sensor!

This should get your temperature back to where it needs to be!
Thanks

– BT



THANK YOU SO MUCH . It works . I am not a mechanic as you know,You just don't know how much I have screwed around trying to find the problem whether it was tracing wires or searching the Internet, and people heard me hollering in tongues in the yard. Thank you for taking the time to help me. Keith Cone Middlesex NC-  




93 Infiniti interior

DEAR BT:

I just read your response to the reader that had the 1993 Infiniti G20 with 151,000 miles.  That caused me to think of my elderly mother's 1992 G20 with 40,000 miles (yes, indeed, she is a little old lady that drives very infrequently).  Her car is mechanically sound, however there is an issue with the interior.  The plastic (?) interior that covers the middle part of the dash and the gear shift compartment is deteriorating.  When leaning ones leg against the area (a normal resting place for the driver or passenger ) it leaves a sticky brown (the color of the plastic) residue on what ever touches it.  Her car is parked in an uncovered parking lot, so it is constantly subjected to the Texas heat in the summer. Short of selling the car, what do you suggest to address this problem?  

Thanks.

Greg Moore - Houston, TX

A: DEAR GREG:

Wow, a 1992 Infiniti model with only 40k on the clock! The undying Texas heat can beat through that windshield and of course melt anything in its site and do damage. It sounds like to me the part that you are in need of is the “Interior Dash Trim Kit” .You can go to eBay Motors Parts and Accessories and you will find that part in order to replace it on your own for about $40.00 or you can without an doubt take it into your dealer or local mechanic and he or she can order that part and do the dirty work for you by replacing it. In the future invest in a shade that can be placed on the underbelly part of your windshield in the interior of your car to prevent any further Texas melting of plastic/rubber components. I mean who wants to walk around town with brown sticky substance on their limbs?

Thanks for writing in.

– BT






03 Focus rims

DEAR BT:

I own a 2003 Ford Focus with after market rims. I am thinking about switching these wheels to the other Focus I own. Of course, when the wheels were first installed, they had to also place hubrings in order to make them fit. Can the rims be switched to the other car using the same hub rings, considering both cars have the same specifications, or should I get new hubrings? Thanks a  lot. Utahraptor.

Utahraptor

A: DEAR UTAHRAPTOR:

Yes you should be able to swap from one vehicle to another if it has the same application and bolt pattern with no problem whatsoever.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






89 Seville cooling fan

DEAR BT:

Cadillac 89 Seville what is the cause of heater cooling fans running constantly?   Thanks,  

Tom

A: DEAR TOM:

It sounds like to me the problem is basically that your relay on your fan motor is sticking. The ECM gives the relay the signal to turn the fan on if the relay is not sticking it will go off when you turn your key off. If your key is on and the fans are running it could be a coolant temperature sensor.
Thanks for the great question.

– BT






99 Ranger fuel economy

DEAR BT:

1999 ranger V6 auto new tune up plugs wires erg valve and erg position sensor now no check engine lite or any thing on computer check i only get 14 mpg what else could be wrong engine does not smoke any color runs good approx 70,000 miles on engine. thank you,

john

A: DEAR JOHN:

With a full tune up in order to achieve the best gas mileage possible you should start by installing a new air filter or in some cases filters; change the oil and oil filter, replace the fuel filter, check the timing, check the condition of the belts and hoses and replace if need be, check all fluids and replenish, adjust the valves if need be, check the condition of the distributor cap and rotor and replace if need be, with a manual transmission adjust the clutch, service your battery, and install new plugs and wires. In addition to all of these items you need to make sure that you have the proper air pressure in all 4 tires, take the excessive thousand lbs out of the bed of your truck that you tote around, make sure that you are using the right grade of oil and avoid any excessive idling while waiting in line at your favorite fast food drive through. The TSB pertaining to your Ford fuel economy simply states that after all of the customers that complained to Ford about not getting the suggested miles per gallon Ford does not guarantee the exact MPG that they state that your Ford Ranger should be getting. You are one of a ton of customers that are angry with the lack of gas mileage/poor gas mileage in their Ford Ranger. Sorry that I can not wave a magic wand in order to help you achieve that gas mileage that you really should be getting. I hope this helps out.

– BT






01 Avalon check engine light

DEAR BT:

MY wife's 2001 avalon has the check engine light stays on and the fuel cap is not loose, how can I check this myself?

A:

Hi,
The fuel cap does not necessarily have to be loose in order to make the check engine light go on. You can take it to your Avalon to your local Auto Zone and they will hook it up for you and diagnose it in order to get the code that is making your check engine light illuminate. This way you can get to the bottom of the problem and get it fixed so you can be problemless!

Thanks for writing in.

– BT






High Octane Advantage

DEAR BT:  

My wife wants use super grade gas because of high octane number.  But the car manual recommends regular unlead gas.   Otherthan cost much more, any disadvantage of using super grade?  engin timing off, any mechanical damages to the car?? any??   Are there any advantages of using super grades??  more better mileage?? longer life of engine??
Please help.  

Thanks,  

Choi

A: DEAR CHOI:

   I hope you will not get angry with me but I do agree with your wife and her way of thinking! By using a higher grade gasoline you will achieve better gas mileage, your engine will last longer and you will experience better performance while driving. Your car is typically the second largest thing that you will invest in and you want to protect that investment as much as you can. Imagine your car as you would your body, you want to get regular check ups and use the best quality products as possible.

Thanks for writing in.

– BT






02 Silverado overheating

DEAR BT:

You may remember the following I sent a while back. The estate finally settled, and I now own the Caddy. I will soon list it on EBay motors as you suggested. In the mean time, I am putting the word out locally. If, by rare chance, you (or anyone you know in the automotive circles) have an interest, please let me know! I really do want it to go to an owner that will appreciate this one-of-a-kind fine ride. I am asking $14,500. Thanks again for the earlier response, and keep up the good work.   Gene Harrington 

Gene Harrington

A: DEAR GENE:

Hi again,
Your best bet without a doubt in order to get a worldwide audience it to list it on eBay Motors. Make sure to take about 20 close-up photos and then spend approximately 10 minutes to get the listing up and going. If you need any assistance with listing it let me know, I would be more than happy to help out! I would also put an ad in my favorite newspaper The Houston Chronicle because you may find someone locally that would give their hind teeth to have this rare find of a car! Thanks for writing in again!

– BT






02 Silverado overheating

DEAR BT:

hi i have a 2002 chevrolet sliverado 4.8 liter it has a 3 inch lift on it and the bottom fan shroud is not on and it has a big slice on the top fan shrod cut out to fit for the air in take tube that is stock, the problem is when im sitting in traffic at a long light the truck will over heat with the a/c on. it does not overheat when it's off. i was told that the fan shroud should be put back on,and i was told this would not matter. i changed out the thermostat and had the cooling system flushed this did not help. what can cause this problem? thanks

William Jackson

A: DEAR WILLIAM:

The car manufacturers make their makes and models with certain specs of aerodynamics. When you jack your truck up with lifts and alter the design that first came off of the assembly line you will more than likely have issues like you are experiencing. The best advice I can give you is that you need to get the shroud back on and as quick as possible to keep your Silverado from overheating. It needs to be built up enough to the center of the radiator as much as you can, or build a tunnel like you would see in a Dodge truck/V6 To get a visual of how your shroud needs to be built take a gander at the Dodge V6, you might want to even think about buying a Dodge shroud for your truck. Thanks for the question!

– BT






Top Tier Gas

DEAR BT:

May I assume that top grade fuel from Chevron, Texaco, Shell, Mobil etc qualify as Top Tier gasolines?   Like your ideas about fuel although contrary to my 2007 Lincoln owners book..   

W E Murrell

A: DEAR W E:

When I mention Top Tier Gasoline I absolutely mean the Top Tier that is sold at all of your above mentioned Gas stations. Your owner’s manual probably does not mention Top Tier specifically but you can not go wrong by using it. Top Tier does not only keep that sludge/carbon deposits from building up in your fuel system but it can actually clean off those deposits that have been left on there by lower quality gasoline. Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Towing an 07 Tahoe

DEAR BT:

I want to tow my new 2007 4WD chev. tahoe behind a new diesel pusher motor home. No one has been able to tell me how to do this without recording miles on my Tahoe or how to correctly connect the brakes. One mechanic said I could pull a master electrical fuse out thus disabling the computer on the Tahoe. Another mechanic said to just turn the key to start and then off one knoch so the front wheels would turn. I am amazed that I cannot get what I think is a good answer. Can you help? Thanks

Clarence Lacy – Houston, Tx.

A: DEAR CLARENCE:

You should be able to locate a quick connect at your local motor home facility that you can put onto your drive shaft to disengage your drive shaft so to not show any mileage or hurt your tranny. You may need to have it installed on both drive shafts being as you drive a 4-by. Good luck towing!

– BT






98 Navigator Suspension

DEAR BT:

I am the original owner of a 1998 Navigator 4X4 with 124K miles and I have a suspension problem as the vehicle is not level.  The left side {both front and rear} is 1 1/2 inches higher than the right side. Do you have any suggestions as to the cause of this problem and a possible fix? Thanks, Don Clanton

Don CLanton

A: DEAR DON:

It sounds like to me that it is possibly your air bag sensor; you will need to take it to Lincoln and have them put it onto a scanner that Lincoln will only have to determine the exact lop sided issue that is plaguing you and your Navigator! Thanks for asking!

– BT






1991 Dodge Fuel Trouble

DEAR BT:

I have a 1991 Dodge 150 p/u 318 CI V8 Auto Transmission with throttle body fuel system.  It would die with less than a half tank of gas .  I would fill up it would run fine  until just less then a half tank.  It has been going on for about 6 months.  Finally it would not run at all. A mechanic checked it and said it was the fuel pump he changed it.  It ran good for 2 days but then it quit running again.  Another mechanic said it was the relay but he did not know which one .   
Any Ideas?

Thanks 

CWC - Dayton, Texas

A: DEAR CWC:

You possibly have a hole in your fuel sending unit that is sucking air. You need to drop the tank and go into the tank and find out where the hole is and repair it. While having your tank pulled I would suggest putting in another fuel pump being as you are going to need it. Your pump has probably been wearing out because of the hole that is plaguing your fuel tank. Refer to your owner’s manual to find the exact location of the fuse that is associated to your fuel pump relay. Thanks for writing in and I hope this helps out with your fuel frustration!

– BT






Purchasing on eBay

DEAR BT:

I enjoy your column and think the advice you give is great. I currently have a beat up old Jeep that I believe is well beyond any helpful tips to get it back on the road. Instead, I’m in the market for a good deal on a reliable used car. A friend of mine recommended eBay, but I’m still not sure if I feel safe making such a large purchase over the Internet. How can I be sure that I am safe with the transaction and don’t get stuck with a lemon? I’d appreciate any advice you can give.

Thanks,

Sandy from Galveston

A: DEAR SANDY:

You have totally written to the right person to ask this question. I just recently signed with eBay Motors as their National Spokesperson but can also say that I have been a devoted user of their site for right at 10 years now and a huge fan of the site. A lot of companies approach me to team up with them but I have to say that I am pretty picky on who I chose to work with, well…just about as picky as I am in my undying search for a boyfriend! Up to date over 2 million vehicles have been sold on eBay and actually a car is sold on eBay every minute of every day. The site is consistently ranked the #1 online marketplace for buying and selling cars by Nielson/Net ratings. What I tell my family, friends and readers like yourself is that I have always had great success with my eBay experiences and with the $20,000.00 vehicle Protection plan that eBay offers and how easy it is to order a third party vehicle inspection you can save thousands by buying on there and without a doubt be able to find that dream car that you have waited all of your life for. The possibility of you getting stuck with a lemon is a rare reality that could happen no matter where you get that car from. In the future if this does happen you will need to contact your local dealership to see what recalls are out there, what is still covered under the factory warranty and worst case scenario contact the manufacturer. Oh and eBay is also a great place to sell that ole Jeep if you decide to part ways with it! Thanks for writing in and I hope I have been able to calm your fears and I will warn you however…once you start using eBay you might become addicted to everything to do with eBay!

– BT






02 Avalance A/C

DEAR BT:

I purchased 02 Avalanche new off of the lot.  For the past 3 or 4 years have had the A/C worked on, they have replaced the compressor, accumulator (sp?), actuator door. Then actuator door was just replaced this past month, and the A/C is still running cold but then has a few minutes where it runs warm and humid  like the outside air.   The compressor was replaced by the dealer at least once, but before that it was replaced 3 times in one summer, by a local garage under an extended warranty.  It seems to always happen in the spring.  I use the recycled air 95% of the year. My wife is a native Houstonian and does not like to be HOT!!  I am about to call GM's costumer service.  Do you have any suggestions?  Also do you know of or heard of the Emergency brake needing replacement almost yearly.  It seems almost every time I go in for an inspection the E-brake does not hold and they replace the pads.  Is this another way to dig deeper into my pockets or a legitamite problem with this truck?

Thanks for your advise,  

Sincerly

Rich Wangerin, Cypress

A: DEAR RICH:

In order to keep your wife from getting overheated in the oh so hot Houston Texas weather, I would suggest replacing the compressor and plan on replacing it again in the future. I get so many complaints regarding this particular make and model and there is no permanent fix to your issue unfortunately. Or you could possible find and buy a rebuilt one to save money…if you do locate a rebuilt one stock up on several of them to get you through future Texas summers. Maybe all of you Avalanche owners need to petition GM to recall this and fix it right for once! 

As far as your emergency brake needing to be replaced yearly…who is yanking on your chain or brake in this instance! This is ridiculous; someone is adjusting it way too tight inside the drum, keep in mind that the shoes on the inside of it need to stay lose, you can adjust the tension by simply adjusting the cable.

– BT






82 Corvette door hinges

DEAR BT:

My wife recently purchased for my birthday an  82 Collector w/43k miles in storage for 18 years.This is my first Vette and I am hooked. I love this car and want do do some restoration keeping it all original. I am however going to drive and enjoy it.,verses looking at it in a climate controlled garage.I have a rear hatch problem though that seems to be all to common on 82’s. The problem involves weak hinges which bend over time due to pressure from the struts when closed. The end result is a hatch that won’t open properly and window leaks. The quick fix for this is to push ¼” plastic tubing in between the gap in the seal expanding the seal slightly to keep it watertight .This fix is not my preference at all. I would like to have the hinges rebuilt, or try to find new factory replacements if they even exist. Can you help me before I become UN-Hinged.!

Steve Whichello

A: DEAR STEVE:

First of all I have to say that you can find any part and accessory you could possibly dream-up or be searching for by digging around on the eBay Motors Parts and Accessories section.

When switching out these hinges it should basically just require a few screws, screwdriver and a little bit of that homegrown elbow grease. If you do not feel comfortable enough to replace these on your own take it to a shop that specializes in repairs such as this. Be expected to spend about as much money as you would on a couple tickets to hear your favorite band!

Thanks for writing in, I would love to see photos of your sweet machine and I hope that I was able to assist in your keeping yourself hinged!

– BT






96 Mazda 626 ac

DEAR BT:

I have a Mazda 626,1996. I am going to try and add some 134-a to the air conditioning system, the can say to connect to the lower port. Is this true and if so where is the lower port? I can't find any thing about the lower port in the car manual. Thank you.

Michael Woosley

A: DEAR MICHAEL:

You will have to hook to the low side/suction side. The best way to find the suction side is to follow the biggest hose off of the compressor around until you find the port and it will be that hose. Note: It will be the smaller port not the big port

I hope this helps in keeping you cool during this ole so hot summer!

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






98 Explorer starting problem

DEAR BT:

Firstly I enjoy reading your column.

In today's paper, you've included a question from an owner of a '98 Ford, with starting problems.  I thought I'd share my experience with you.

I have a '98 Explorer Limited, with 77K miles.  About 2 years it developed a VERY intermittent hard start problem.  It would fire about one time then only crank. The "Theft" light would flash after the no start.  I found that if I'd remove the key from the ignition switch, reinsert it and then restart - it started fine.  The car would do this only very rarely. I had it checked, but the service techs couldn't find anything particular.   The trouble codes weren't conclusive.

However, a couple of weeks ago, the problem came back and was not intermittent.  I was finally able to start the car and took it to a shop.  they found that the sensor, in the steering column that reads the chip in the key was defective.   The sensor was replaced, the keys reprogrammed and the problem solved.  I don't know of this is a problem with '98 models or just cars that are 9 years old.

Regards,

Mike Tarkington, www.steeringwheelsbymike.com

A: DEAR MIKE:

I first wanted to say I love your web site and the intricate detail you put into your work…wow!

Thanks for the response on the Explorer starting issue from last weeks column. I get these types of questions daily pertaining to Explorers around the country that seem to fall into the slump of not wanting to start. The sensor repair you describe seems to be a fix to the oh so common problem that plagues Explorer owners, thanks for the input!

Thanks for enjoying my weekly column in the Houston Chronicle Sunday Edition of the Auto Section!

Smiles

– BT






99 Grand am squeeling engine

DEAR BT:

We helped my daughter purchase a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am GT, 5 months ago. At the time of the purchase the only thing we could find wrong is a squealing noise in the engine, The car salesman told us it was just a belt, so before we bought it, they had their shop spray some stuff on it and away we went, the next day it started squealing again, we took it to local machanic who replaced the belt, it stopped for a few days, so they put on a pontiac belt, again it stopped for a few days, they have now replaced the pulley, and it still squeels! We are at a lost now what could be wrong. Do you have any ideas for us? Anything would be so helpful. My daughter is so proud of her new car, and it really does look nice, but she is embarresed driving it making the squeeling noise it does. Please let us know asap!

Thank you very much,

Maryanne Wilkerson - Cambridge, Idaho

A: DEAR MARYANNE:

I am gonna have to say that you need to make sure that everything is lined up because if your pulleys are out of align then your belt is going to start squealing. Take it to someone different then where you have taken it before and maybe you will get a longer lasting result. Tell them to check the alignment of the pulleys.

I hope this will help you to feel assured that the squealing is not your imagination or coming from a lose bolt in your head. Just trying to make you smile.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






2003 PT Cruiser AC

DEAR BT:

We just bought a 2003 PT Cruiser for our college student.  It seems like a great running car, but the AC won't cool when the car is idling (like at a stop light); otherwise it cools just fine.  What could it be?

Thanks in advance.

 

A: DEAR READER:

Hi there.

What you are describing to me seems like it is possible that your condenser fan is not operating as it should. Start your car, put the emergency brake on then prop open your hood properly to see if your condenser fan is blowing on the radiator when your ac is on. If you find that your fan is not blowing immediately turn off your AC and take it to a mechanic that knows AC and have them check it out because it could be a multitude of issues including fan motor, relay, fuse link, PCM or bad wiring.

Thanks for writing in regarding such a great vehicle…the PT Cruiser!

– BT






Accord ac problem

DEAR BT:

Im sending an email on a problem Im having with a 1995 Honda Accord we have had the car in the shop for air conditioning problems they have replaced the compressor twice and then the evaporator cleaned the condenser then it blew a line i guess going to the compressor they fixed that got it out of the shop last saturday air conditioner was blowing cold air just like it should get in today turn on the air barley blowing cold air again blowing warm air dont have any idea whats going on why it wont keep blowing cold air .Could they be missing something in there analysis sure would appreciate any help you could give ?

THANKS

 

A: DEAR READER:

Hi,

I would ask your mechanic to stop assuming your problem is just your compressor and start inspecting your whole cooling system. The hoses, lines, clamps, expansion valve…the whole kit and caboodle. It sounds like to me that you have a leak somewhere causing all of your Freon to run out. So instead of spending another $500.00 you may just be looking at a $20.00 fix. You might want to consider taking it to another shop that is more into digging into the problem not just jumping the gun to take all of the money out of your back pocket by replacing the compressor over and over.

I hope this helps!

– BT






Accord starting problem

DEAR BT:

I have a 1994 Honda Accord.  It has recently begun to not start when it has been driven any distance and stopped for a short period of time, even up to an hour.  After numerous tries it will usually restart.  It seems like it is not getting fuel.  The other day when it happened, I repeatedly and rapidly pumped the gas pedal while cranking the engine and it restarted.  This is not the normal starting procedure.  Any ideas? 

Thanks,

Ray Cook 

A: DEAR RAY:

Hi Ray

I would suggest getting a fuel pressure test performed on your Honda Accord because it sounds like to me that your culprit could be your fuel pump. Oh how many times have I had to replace a fuel pump and don’t they seem to go out at the most inconvenient times! Cross your fingers, maybe you will get lucky enough that it is just your fuel filter.

Thanks

– BT






Bonneville door locks

DEAR BT:

Good morning Barbara;

I have a ’94 Bonneville SSEi and I’m trying to fix the power door locks. It is not a mechanical problem, it’s electrical. I replaced the 20A fuse and a relay in the fuse/relay box behind the passenger side panel. The doors will now lock but will not unlock.

The keyless entry system diagram (GM typical) shows another 6-pin dual function “door lock relay assembly” but I’ve been unable to locate it in the vehicle (diagram is attached). I’ve looked under the driver seat, behind the driver door panel, under the driver side dash, the fuse/relay bank by the firewall, and the fuse panel under the driver side dash….all to no avail. The dealer has the part but was unable to provide a location. This is important since the unlock function also works the fuel door! Perhaps you can point me in the right direction in locating this relay.

Thank you,

Frank

A: DEAR FRANK:

Hi Frank.

Good morning, afternoon or evening to you!

Well the dealer is able to tell you where it is located they just choose not to for their own financial benefit. Your "door lock relay assembly" is located under the driver’s seat; you will have to do more than just take a glance or gander under the seat. It could be under the carpet, tied to a motor that moves the seat, tied to the bottom of the seat…wherever exactly it is located it is probably going to be enclosed in some type of plastic coating. They try to keep these components covered well enough to keep the moisture from getting to them. By some morphadite/fluke chance it may be located in your driver’s door. Good luck with this and tell your dealer not to be so secretive, you are a paying customer and deserve any and all assistance you can get!

I hope this helps with you get into your car without having to break a window!

– BT






Buick Regal climate indicator

DEAR BT:

I have a 1999 buick regal with dual climate control. The outside temperature reading shows a temp. which is sometimes 35 to 40 degrees lower than outside temp. . So like today it is 96 and the temperature reading is 50, . Can I reset this or purchase a part to fix this problem? All other items on the control work properly.        

Keith, Middlesex ,N.C.

A: DEAR KEITH:

Hi Keith,

You need to get the ambient temperature sensor replaced because this can also affect the temperature inside your car. Really all you are looking at here is a bad sensor and actually the repair could possibly be done if you want to get your hands a little dirty on a Saturday afternoon. The part you will be looking to replace should not cost anymore than $40.00 and it is located right behind your grill piece mounted to your radiator air baffle. If you do decide to replace this on your own please make sure that you do it first thing in the morning or when you have allowed your car to totally cool off unless you want to have permanent burns on your hands reminding you of your talented skills that day when you replaced your ambient temp sensor!

This should get your temperature back to where it needs to be!

Thanks

– BT






Camry turn signals

DEAR BT:

Greetings Barbara,

I have a 2004 Toyota Camry, the turn signals lights stop working.  All other lights works fine. I checked;

  • The fuses all are ok. I changed the one for turn signal, replaced with a new one.
  • the bulbs all are ok.
  • the front turn signal bulbs come on but do not blink.
  • the rear turn signal bulbs do not come on. I replaced with new ones but they do not come on.

Could you please tell me what is the problem?

Thank you.

Warren Wafeeg

A: DEAR WARREN:

Hi there Warren!

Okay now,

It may be something as simple as your relay flasher which is located on the left kick panel on the driver’s side floorboard but chances are it is not the relay.

I wish I could tell you that this was going to be a simple hour long chore for you to administer mechanical assistance to on a leisurely Saturday morning but from what you are describing it is obviously not.

FYI: Your Camry has a connector which connects the front and rear lights together. There is also a ground wire that is in the center of your trunk that may have lost its ground. I would suggest getting your car to your local Toyota Dealer on this one because I do not even know if I would have the patience to tackle this tedious task. Remember those ole Christmas light strands that would not work if just one bulb was out…well your irritating problem is more than likely very similar…rauughhh

Thanks for reading my Q and A in the Sunday Edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section

– BT






Ford F150 brake pad issue

DEAR BT:

Barbara,

I have a premature wear problem with the front brakes. 99Ford F150 4x4 5.4

Jan07: repaired front brakes.  New rotor on DS, turned rotor on PS, new disc pads(Oreilly Brake quest), gravity bled.

June 07: noticed grinding noise.  Repaired rears since the pads were getting thin, rotors good shape but decided to replace with new.

Grinding noise still present.  Inspected the front brakes and noticed that both sides were completely worn down equally to the rotor.  Replaced rotors both sides, new Wagner disc pads, new front brake hoses, gravity bled brakes.

Why are the front brakes prematurely wearing down to the rotors in 6 months?

James

A: DEAR JAMES:

I will have to say that it sounds like your problem is that your brake calipers are grabbing and wearing down the pads.

One of my brothers dealt with this annoying brake issue for years until he learned to drive with one foot not two. If you are one of those drivers that constantly has one foot on the brake and you think that pressing with a slight amount of pressure isn’t doing any damage well you might want to have an enlightening conversation with your brake pads, calipers and rotors because they will tell you differently. Even if you are not one of those two foot drivers I would still have your Ford Dealer check out your calipers.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Fuse location Sport trac

DEAR BT:

My friend in TX is needing to know where the fuse is located for the cruise control on her 2004 Explorer Sport Trac.  

All dealerships want an arm and leg to locate it for her. Once she knows it's where abouts she can buy the fuse and replace it. No book came with the truck and the dealerships say they don't have any books with diagrams in it to tell her.  

Any info will be greatly appreciated.  

Thank you.

Nancy Aguilar - Elkhart, IN

A: DEAR NANCY:

Hi Nancy,

Oh do I feel for your friend and how often this happens. I have to say that I admire her ump in adventure to want to locate and replace the fuse on her own. She better watch out because once she successfully replaces this first one she might get bitten by the bug of becoming a grease monkey and want to delve deeper into fixin those pesty repairs.

Tell her that she will be looking at 4 different fuses, 3 of them in the fuse panel at left side of dash and they are #14 #9 and #15.

More than likely the culprit will be the #14 fuse. The 4th possibility is the #43 “a 2 amp fuse” which is located under the hood at the left side of fender apron. However if her horn is not working her problem could be a clock spring.

Thanks for writing in

– BT






Lincon stalling problem

DEAR BT:

Dear Barbara:  

Love your Houston Chronicle column.  

I've been curious about something for years now even though it has been a long time since I owned that vehicle.  

I had a 1982 Lincoln Mark VI at a time my daughter lived in San Antonio and we traveled back and forth frequently. Somewhere on I-10 between Sealy and Columbus (50 to 60 miles west of Houston) my engine would just shut off. The first time it happened was on our first return trip and it really scared me. I managed to pull over to the side and, without getting out, didn't see any problem so I restarted the engine and continued home.  

Every time that car hit that spot, going either direction, that engine would shut off like a switch and I would put it in neutral, restart the engine and just keep on going. It was very strange and I kind of felt like a ghost after me.  

Several years after I replaced that vehicle I happened to be talking to someone that had a similar car and experience except his shut off on I-45 going north towards Dallas. Both of us, of course, thought we were the only ones at the time and imagining things.  

Don't know if you have an explanation for that problem or not.  

Sincerely,  

Bob Crellen

A: DEAR BOB:

Well first of all I would say these days a lot of the Manufacterors will put govenors on vehicles that will cut the engine if your lead foot gets up to a certain MPH. In your case have you ever heard of Casper the friendly ghost? Just joking.

Ummm, Thanks for enjoying my Houston Chronicle Column, I really enjoy writing it!

– BT






loving and keeping your car

DEAR BT:

Gotta start by saying I enjoy your column.

I have a 1993 Infiniti G20 with 151,000 miles in very good condition. My wife wants me to replace it, but I enjoy driving it. Yes, it does give problems occasionally, but my excellent mechanic resolves them without major expense. I should add that it's stick which my wife dislikes although she has no problem handling. Yes, I can afford to replace it but obviously I'm not anxious to. (I guess an Accord, TSX or Mazda 3 would be similar enough.) I go to Austin every 2-3 weeks to see grandkids and Susie worries about all those miles. Am I just being stubborn and asking for trouble?

Terry

A: DEAR TERRY:

151k is a lot of miles but it could possibly last another 151k depending on how well you keep it up. Peace of mind is what we gather when we have a comfort level with our cars and you seem to have that with your Infiniti G20. Obviously a new car will give you the peace of mind that your wife might be seeking out there but even new cars break down on occasion. I do drive newer cars but I also have older ones that I am not at the least bit hesitant taking on a long road trip or even trusting enough to put my mom into them on the road trips that she takes from time to time. I always make the suggestion of retiring that ole piece of metal when more things are going wrong with it than right. If you have maintained your car by doing the small repairs to the larger ones that have been required and at some times necessary what is wrong with keeping it. It is nice to not have to worry about those irritating car payments every month...right?

When you are in a marriage I do believe that if you do not see eye to eye with your spouse you would defiantly be considered stubborn! Thank goodness I have never had to deal with that, but I do have to say that having a spouse and being stubborn is something I look forward to one day.

Thanks for enjoying my column in the Sunday Edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section!

– BT






Low emission gasoline

DEAR BT:

Are there any gas stations in the Houston area that sell a lower-emission or cleaner gasoline, or would any of the Top Tier gasolines result in lower emissions?           

Thanks, 

Ed

A: DEAR ED:

My recommendation to you is definitely choosing to use a Top-Tier gasoline like Shell offers to the public. Not only will you notice you car running and riding smoother but you will protect the investment that you have made in your car. Engine sludge/carbon deposits will actually start gooping up your fuel injectors and system with as little as five hundred miles after purchasing that new dream car. Top-Tier gasoline is for sure a cleaner gasoline because of the amount of the additives that are added to it and it will not just prevent those carbon deposits from building up but it will actually clean off the carbon deposits that have built up by using a lesser quality gasoline. Our cars are typically the 2nd largest thing that us Texans and the rest of the world invest in so we need to take care of our cars just like we take care of our bodies or in some cases take care of them better than we take care of our bodies.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Seat belt issue

DEAR BT:

Terry,         

On my passenger front seat, my seatbelt receiver will not allow for me, to lock my seatbelt in properly, to were it secures me in. The same thing happens in the front middle seat belt receiver. The drivers side works just fine. This happened about a year ago, but I inserted the lock in the receiver rapidly several times, and it fixed itself, but it is happening again. Have you ever heard of this problem?

Thanks!

Gary B. - Houston, Tx.

A: DEAR GARY:

Hi Gary

I have heard of this problem and now it is time for me to tell you that you are messing with your own safety if you do not run down and get this seat belt problem fixed quickly. You seem to be a devoted seat belt user so realize that this is now a safety issue. You do not want to keep getting tickets for “not clicking” nor do you want to fly out of your window or windshield and end up on your least favorite freeway after a fender bender by not being strapped in properly!

Thanks for the question.

– BT






 

Subaru SVX battery

DEAR BT:

My wife has written you before and you were so correct on a problem we had with the car earlier. I now have another problem. The battery is being drained down and has to be jumped every time we drive the car. I have taken the alternator out and had it tested in the Autozone and by a repair shop. The battery is less than 1 month old and the cables are new. The only think I can think of is there is a bad wire from the alternator to the battery or the plug that goes into the alternator. The wires on this car are a little strange as branch from the alternator to the engine fuse box and into the quarterpanel of the car.  

Is there any way to check the wires without spending a fortune on repair bills?  

Thanks

Mason 

A: DEAR MASON:

Hello Mason and wife again.

Regarding your 1992 Subaru SVX battery issue, my first guess would be that it has nothing to do with the wires. I would highly recommend taking it to a mechanic that specializes in this model of Subaru for an electrical draw test to be completed on it. It could still be your alternator if you find that there is bad draw in it. AutoZone will check to see if it is charging but they do not check to see if it has an internal short.

Try this….next time you stop your car, disconnect your battery then reconnect it and if it starts right back up again then your battery is fine. Note: for safety you might want to use gloves when messing around your battery. You can perform this process by only unhooking the negative then rehooking up the negative cable.

Thanks for writing in again!

– BT






Tahoe dash noise

DEAR BT:

Barbara, I remember reading one of your articles about noise coming from below the dash of a Chevy Tahoe. This must have been about 6 months ago.

Lately, I bought a good used 2005 Tahoe, and it has developed a noise that sounds like it is coming from below the dash. The noise could be considered a clunking sound, and is more prevalent when driving on rough roads.

Could you let me know where I can find this article, or reprint it?

I've enjoyed reading your column and have found some time-saving gems in them.

Thanking you in advance,

Charles Johnson

A: DEAR CHARLES:

Hi Charles!

The following is the column that I wrote back in March 07 that you are asking for: “So your nerves are probably getting very close to your skin every time you hear this rattle. It sounds like to me that you’re looking at replacing the steering column because when the initial grease runs out it leaves a rattle which unfortunately leaves you holding the problem of replacing the steering column in order to fix this aggravation.

Unfortunately I am not very familiar with any shops in the Pearland area but I would recommend calling your local Better Business Bureau and finding out who they would suggest in that area with a good reputation. However, I would recommend getting this looked at and fixed at your local Chevy dealership, you might get lucky and the dealer may be able to just replace the grease in the splines. They have been able to change this in some cases so that the grease will not run out.

Do not feel like you and your suburban have been singled out because the problem you are experiencing is pretty common on a lot of General Motors trucks and SUV’s.

Thanks for writing in and good luck with getting that rattlesnake out of your dash.”

Charles, thanks for the support and I absolutely love the fact that I have been of some assistance to you now and in the past!

– BT






Topping off your tank

DEAR BT:

Why do all the self serve gasoline pumps have a notice "DO NOT TOP TANK" ?  When I am driving on a long trip I want to get as much as possible as I can in my tank to avoid stopping along the way without hoping there will be a gas station at the next town/city.

Thanks,

Elmore Haney

A: DEAR ELMORE:

Hi again Elmore.

You can not top off your fuel tank anymore unless you want to engage your check engine light and possibly wreak havoc on your evap system. Why do I say this: well…it puts fuel in places where fuel is not supposed to be when you overfill your tank and this is bad for major components. So next time you are filling-up your gas tank and as soon as it pops off the first time leave it be.

Thanks for writing in again!

– BT






   

Trailblazer remote programming

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,       

So I have spent the last few hows on the Internet and am looking for a way to program my keyless entry remote for my 2003 Chevrolet trailblazer and am coming up empty handed. Do you have any possible idea how to do it or where to get the instruction on how to do it?   

Thanks so much,                 

Sean Chase

A: DEAR SANDY:

Hi Sean.

Try this process.

Get into your car, shut all of the doors and insert the ignition key into the ignition lock cylinder and do not turn it at this time. Press and hold the door unlock switch while cycling the ignition on and off and on and off…”twice”…then release the unlock switch and the doors should lock and unlock to let you know that the program was successful. After this you will need to press and hold the lock and unlock button simultaneously “at the same time” for 15 seconds and again the doors should lock and unlock to confirm that this process was successful. You can repeat this for up to 4 times for each transmitter and you will need to program them all at the same time. After all of this you will need to turn your ignition key to the run position and this will get your vehicle out of the transmitter mode. Then grab your key and jump out of your car and see if this works. If it does grab a beer and celebrate!

Thanks for writing in with a super question!

– BT






eBay Motors

DEAR BT:

I enjoy your column and think the advice you give is great. I currently have a beat up old Jeep that I believe is well beyond any helpful tips to get it back on the road. Instead, I’m in the market for a good deal on a reliable used car. A friend of mine recommended eBay, but I’m still not sure if I feel safe making such a large purchase over the Internet. How can I be sure that I am safe with the transaction and don’t get stuck with a lemon?

I’d appreciate any advice you can give.

Thanks,

Sandy from Galveston

A: DEAR SANDY:

Hi there Sandy!

You have totally written to the right person to ask this question. I just recently signed with eBay Motors as their National Spokesperson but can also say that I have been a devoted user of their site for right at 10 years now and a huge fan of the site. A lot of companies approach me to team up with them but I have to say that I am pretty picky on who I chose to work with, well…just about as picky as I am in my undying search for a boyfriend!

Up to date over 2 million vehicles have been sold on eBay and actually a car is sold on eBay every minute of every day. The site is consistently ranked the #1 online marketplace for buying and selling cars by Nielson/Net ratings. What I tell my family, friends and readers like yourself is that I have always had great success with my eBay experiences and with the $20,000.00 vehicle Protection plan that eBay offers and how easy it is to order a third party vehicle inspection you can save thousands by buying on there and without a doubt be able to find that dream car that you have waited all of your life for.

The possibility of you getting stuck with a lemon is a rare reality that could happen no matter where you get that car from. In the future if this does happen you will need to contact your local dealership to see what recalls are out there, what is still covered under the factory warranty and worst case scenario contact the manufacturer.

Oh and eBay is also a great place to sell that ole Jeep if you decide to part ways with it!

Thanks for writing in and I hope I have been able to calm your fears and I will warn you however…once you start using eBay you might become addicted to everything to do with eBay!

– BT






Volvo ABS light

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara -

I have a 1998 Volvo S70 whose ABS light warning light is coming on intermittently. The guy at the Volvo place says that means the ABS module is failing and will need to be replaced, no emergency, but that I don't have the anti-lock brake function while the light is on.

The question is: Is there a cheaper option to fixing this than a new module, $640 installed, according to the mechanic? I am going to be selling this car in a month or two, when my new Mini Cooper gets off the boat, and I would really like a cheaper option --like one from a wrecking yard or an aftermarket module.

What do you think?

Thanks for your input!

Regards,

Diane Roberts

A: DEAR DIANE:

Hello Diane,

If I were in your shoes and awaiting your new baby mini arrival via stork to your household I would without a doubt go find the part at a junkyard and pay someone to install it. I have always had good success buying parts from a junkyard or a parts supply house that specializes in rebuilt parts. You will save a ton of dough going this route that is tried and proven.

Thanks and have fun with your Mini!

– BT






Refrigerant advice

DEAR BT:

Ma'am,

I am not familiar with AC components whatsoever.  I do however, have a 2003 Suburban which needs to have refrigerant added.  I'm concerned about the following questions:

  1. At factory settings, what type of refrigerant is in it Now?
  2.  
  3. What type of refill kit would be the best in your experienced opinion?
  4. Is there a web Site I could use for reference to ensure that I'm hooking up the can to the proper port?
  5.   

If you would please assist... I would greatly appreciate your knowledgable answer.   

Thank you,

Mike

A: DEAR MIKE:

Hi Mike!

My advice to you would be to take your 2003 Suburban to your local Chevy dealer and spend the money to have the work performed correctly.

A little bit too much or not enough 134-A coolant will result in your AC system not cooling correctly and can at worst case scenario damage your system by having too much head pressure, then you really will be crying after balancing your check book. Some of the complex mechanical systems these days are not as easy and basic to work on as they were in the good ole days.

Thanks for the super question!

– BT






Mazda brakes

DEAR BT:

Barbara,  

Here's the question.

Ever since I've owned the Mazda 3 with 4 wheel disc brakes (purchased new), the real wheels accumulate all the brake dust. The front wheels stay completely clean. This is the exact opposite of all other cars I've ever driven. The rear brakes also make a high pitched screech when backing up after being parked overnight. The dealer offers no explanation, just responds that the rear brakes are 'working properly'. Otherwise, the car handles fine.  

I alway thought the front brakes did the majority of the stopping, hence the heavier accumulation. Since my daughter now has the car at college, any diagnosis would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.  

Jeff

A: DEAR JEFF:

Hello Jeff,

Sounds like to me that the reason you are experiencing all of that ugly brake dust and being serenaded by the lovely squealing is because you have cheap brake pads on the rear of your Mazda. If you would like to become more of a happy camper I suggest switching the brake pads over to ceramic ones.

Thanks for writing!

– BT






Lexus tranny issue

DEAR BT:

How are you doing? I enjoy reading your column a lot J I have an 05 es 330. I am among countless number of buyers who experience tranni.problems on this particular engine. According to Lexus, if one can drive more aggressive then it would eliminate the problems. My car now has 50k and I hate it more and more everyday.

My question to you is is it possible to replace the ECU completely since it controls shifting? Or replace the whole stupid transmission? Please help

Thank you for your time

Martin Nguyen

A: DEAR MARTIN:

First of all…I am fine, how are you? I am glad that you enjoy my column because I enjoy writing it! A lot of these tranny problems are being caused by a ton of local driving in town, if you are going below 55 I would suggest keeping it in “drive” and out of “overdrive” and this can help your problem. It is possible to replace the ECU but this may not be the culprit to your shifting issue.

Take a gander at your tranny fluid to see if it smells burnt, cause the problem may be your tranny is simply overheating just like all Houstonians do this time of year.

If you replace the tranny you may still have problems with your ES in the future being as these models have known problems with the adaptive program.

It is unfortunate that Lexus has not issued a factory recall on this problem that is plaguing a bunch of Texans and of course the rest of the world.

If I were you I would sell it, swallow my loss and get into a different model before you sink any more money into this issue that will possibly continue to haunt you in the future no matter what route you take.

– BT






Explorer starting problem

DEAR BT:

Do you have any info on a starting problem with 1998 ford where the computer won't let the car start.  The theft light flashes when you try to start.  It takes some "tricks" and patience in order to get it to start.  I mentioned this to some service techs who just laughed and said the 2007 do not have this problem.  On line I have found similar situations with other ford products of newer years but no one seems to have an ans.

Any suggestions?

 

A: DEAR READER:

Hi there,

It sounds like to me that it is something within your theft deterrent system. I am not staring at your key ring but if you have the whole kitchen sink attached to the key ring it will mess with the computer chip in your key from too much weight being attached. If this is not the case you will need to take it to your favorite Ford Dealership and duplicate the problem in front of the service tech in order for them to fix the problem for you. I hope I have been of some assistance with the inconsistency with the starting of your Ford Explorer.

Thanks for the question!

– BT






Chevy astro moisture

DEAR BT:

Dear barbara,

I have a chevy astro 2002 with the same problems as this "I have recently purchased a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer with 54K miles. ..... wet/rainy days moisture gets underneath the cap and onto the distributor preventing" I googled this and I couldn't find your response. My astro has been doing this for awhile, once while it was still under warrenty. Its getting so bad that it will not start after a rain storm or really foggy conditions, but once it does after i've driven it awhile it seems fine. Please help!!!!

 

A: DEAR READER:

Hi there! I bet on the next rainy day if you were to pop off the distributor cap and thoroughly wipe off the underbelly of it with a dry rag then replace it your car will fire right up.

What happens when your distributor cap is cracked on wet/rainy or foggy days moisture gets underneath the cap and onto the distributor preventing your car from cranking over.

To locate the distributor cap refer to your owners manual and always remember that before working on your car to make sure the engine is turned off, the emergency brake is engaged and the hood is propped open properly for safety!

If you find that this is your problem you can actually become empowered by replacing the distributor cap yourself and it will only take you about thirty minutes and will also save you some dough.

Go down to your favorite auto parts store and get the right one to fit your make and model. You will want to make sure that you do not get the wires mixed up when installing the new cap. I would undo one old wire at a time and immediately install that wire to the correct spot on the new distributor cap until you have connected all of the wires using this same process. Thanks for reading, and let me know if this fixes your moisture cursed car.

One more thought…at the bottom of the distributor you have a screen with a hole in it and if that hole has become stopped up I would suggest popping that whole screen out of there.

Thanks and good luck,

– BT






Buick power windows

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,

My name is Ed and I live in Houston. I have been following your articles in the paper and I think you give great advice. My problem today is that my family has owned many Buick Lesabres. In the early 1990's models all the power windows work fine but the models since 2000 the window mechanics all break. Not only do they fail to work but the actual glass does not want to stay up in place. We did one or two dealership repairs and it costs around $400.00 per window to fix this!! Additionally, even the repaired windows continue to fail anywhere from 2-4 years down the road. I guess its the intense Texas summer heat that destroys these things but I dont have garage space for all these cars. We have 3 buicks now and then my hot rod cars. Do you have any suggestions on fixing these windows? Have you heard of this problem? It sounds like a major design defect. Like I said, we have had several of these cars and they all seem to break this way. Not only is it expensive and a non-permanent fix, but to me its a safety and security issue too. Anyone can walk up and slide the glass down with their hands and get inside. How hard is this to repair for someone like me with a medium amount of auto repair knowledge? I have seen the motor/regulators on EBay for $60.00-150.00 ? Also, are the parts site-specific, meaning, right-front, left-front, right-rear, left-rear are all different unique parts? I have seen them titled like that on ebay and was wondering.

Any help on this would be great !

Thanks Barbara,

Ed C. in Houston

A: DEAR ED:

Hi Ed (President of the Buick family fan club)

Yes when your window regulators go out it is extremely frustrating and can be scorching hot especially if your having an ac issue with your car on a hot Texas August afternoon…oh my!

This is however a very common failure when you run steel cable and plastic parts together…they just simply brake. You are spot-on with your thinking about buying these regulators on Ebay, this will save you the hassle of trying to locate them locally and save you a little moolah. If I were you I would not try to tackle this job on your own unless you have a big rivet gun and a ton of spare time and patience.

Taking your car to the dealer for certain repairs is of course the road to take but in this case the dealer will bankrupt you. If you spend a little time calling around you can without any doubt find a local repair shop that does not have a problem installing parts that you bring to them. I have a ton of buddies that own mom and pop shops that do jobs such as this.

Thanks for appreciating the advice I pass on to my readers in The Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section!

– BT






Battery voltage

DEAR BT:

Houston Chronicle May 27 talked about problems associated with changing battery.  What about these devices I see advertised that hold a 9-v battery and plug into the cigarette lighter to hold some voltage on the car electronics?

Or, could one connect a 2nd battery with jumper cables to the leads so it would maintain the voltage while the main battery was being changed out?  (At some risk of getting the hot and ground wires together!)

Irv Smith

A: DEAR IRV:

Hi Irv,

First of all I always suggest and remind my readers that while working on their car especially when working on something like the battery think “safety first:”

Make sure to have your car turned off, have the emergency brake engaged, make sure that your hood is propped up properly and use gloves and or goggles at your own discretion.

You have upwards of 2 to 3 minutes to switch out your battery before you lose the programming of the alarm remote that I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

The 9-V battery device that you are speaking of will save the memory on yours cars electronics but do not bet the ranch on it working every time. I have had good-luck and no-luck at using devices like these. You can also definitely use another battery to hook up to your leads but keep in mind that it can be a huge concoction to work around.

Thanks for the complex question!

– BT






2006 Cobalt rim issue

DEAR BT:

I enjoy your articles in the Houston Chronicle.  I have a 2006 Chevy Cobalt.  I ran over some road debris that bent my rims.  I replaced all four rims with new ones from American Racing.  After the tires had been mounted and balanced, I noticed that when I apply the brake I get a bad vibration thru the brake pedal and the steering wheel.  This does not happen every time I stop.  I took it back to the national tire store that I bought the rims from, they rechecked the balance and all the tires are ok.  They said they are unsure why I get this vibration.  The new rims are as close the factory rims as possible, offset, size, width.  They were torqued to the factory setting of 100 lbs.  They said they checked the rotors and that they are not warped.  What do you suggest the problem may be.  

Thank you for any help you may provide.  

Chumbuggy

A: DEAR CHUMBUGGY:

Hello Chumbuggy!

To me I have to say that it does not look like we are dealing with any issue regarding your spankin new rims. I would take your Chevy into a brake shop and have the rotors turned to see if this fixes your irritating vibe. You mention that it does not vibrate every time that you stop so my second toss at your problem would be the calipers. When driving at higher speeds then hitting your brakes you will typically feel your calipers grabbing which in turn will cause your front end to vibrate, and when driving at lower speeds after hitting your brakes you will not typically feel the calipers grabbing. BTW…Good call on the American Racing Rims, I roll my Jeep on these!

Thanks for writing in and enjoying my Q and A in the Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section.

– BT






2000 venture beeping

DEAR BT: My 2000 venture, has a continual beeping in the rear area, I don't know what it is from or how to fix it?

 

A: DEAR READER:

Well I wish you would have given me more to go on here. I will have to assume that the last time you were parked in the parking lot at Minute Maid Park watching your favorite pitcher of the Houston Astros… Brandon Backe pitch a no-hitter someone must have slipped a portable alarm clock that beeps until you turn it off underneath the carpet in the back of your van.



– BT






Scams

DEAR BT: Since so many people read your column maybe you would like to warn them about all the recent postings I have seen on Chron.com selling used cars. You know when t sounds too good... 2004 with low miles $6000. They all respond back with same story.... I am out of the country ... had to leave in a hurry.... need to sell car... can have it delivered to you. I actually got the exact same email from two different people on two different cars. It seems chron.com is flooded with them. Oh well..

 

A: DEAR READER:

Hi there, The Houston Chronicle unfortunately is not the only source being flooded with those robbing scams that are all over our internet amongst a zillion other avenues these days.

Craigslist seems to be a favorite of the scam artists from countries like Nigeria and other high fraud areas. They are advertising cars, trucks, jet-skis...well heck anything with wheels and or an engine while in real life they do not even own what they are advertising for sale.

Or what about those emails we tend to get from time to time asking us to send money to some Nigerian official because they need help getting their millions out of some trust fund and that they will send us a million dollars back over our initial $10,000.00 investment!

We need to be warned and become aware to NOT send money in any form…bank wire, personal check, cashiers check and so on to anyone without having the merchandise that we are purchasing in our possession.

– BT






Switching to synthetic

DEAR BT: Would it be OK to switch to Mobil 1 synthetic oil Extended Performance to replace 10w 30 Pennzoil? My car, a 2002 Buick Lasabre has 52,000 miles on it.

Thanks

Gary Wixson

A: DEAR GARY:

The benefits of switching over to a synthetic are huge so it never hurts to switch over to one. The synthetic oil is better on your engine, keeps your engine cooler, gives you better gas mileage and protects the investment that you have in your car among a ton of other incentives. Mobil 1 is also a good choice.

Just do it!

Way to go Gary!

Thanks

– BT






Synthetic part 2

DEAR BT: Thanks for your reply. I have a question, would I do harm to my  2002  3.8 V6 Buick Lasabre using 10w30 extended performance Mobil 1 after using 10w30 Pennzoil for 52,400 miles. A Mobil Dealer said I shouldn't do it?

Thanks

Gary Wixson

A: DEAR GARY:

Being as you are switching over to the same grade and viscosity of oil I do not see a problem at all.

Thanks

– BT






250 powerstroke stalling

DEAR BT:

I have an F-250 (2001) with a power stroke diesel. I have experienced stalling when road is wet or raining. I also noticed that even in dry contitions it will rarely happen as well. It starts right up after a stall but this is not good since it relys on hydraulics for the brakes!!!

I also have experienced no responce from the accelerator on occasions, I will step on it a few times and it comes to life. Could there be moisture getting into the wiring harness next to the fire wall where it's connection to the computer?

Randy Sulz, Houston Tx

A: DEAR RANDY:

I think you may have a possible dual problem here that you are facing.

Number 1: The cam sensor.

Number 2: Accelerator pedal positioning sensor.

If you haven’t done so already, take it to your dealer to see what codes come up. The 2 possibilities I have listed are both common problems failures on the Power stroke!

Good luck with that sweet Power stroke, which is my favorite of all Diesels on the road…such a beast… (which I say in a good way) of a machine!

– BT


DEAR BT:

Absolutely spot on, this makes perfect sense since it's position right where moisture can get to it. I found a highbred model on http://www.blackclouddiesel.com if anyone of your readers are interested, seems like a persistent problem with the P~ Stroke 7.3L.

As for the pedal position sensor that one is a little less of a problem at the moment, I can fix that later and not worry about loosing hydraulic pressure cruising down the freeway with a 12K trailer taking advantage of me "brakeless".  

Love the truck and engine combination and looking at a new 08 but still waiting on the warriors to see how the dual turbo pans out, let me know any feedback if you have any.  

Great help... enjoy your Colum...

Randy

A: DEAR RANDY:

Randy,

I will pass this info on to my readers. If anyone out there would like to pass on an opinion of the 2008 it would be appreciated!

Thanks

– BT






1996 Buick Regal brakes

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,  I would like your advise for a good company to look at my brakes.  I had my brakes replaced last year around Nov. or Dec.  The mechanic told me that the rotor on the left passenger side could not be rotated again and that I should consider replacing it.  I had the brakes done but not the rotor.  Now my car is making a noise and my ABS light is coming on.  

I took my car to Brake Check but am wondering is I should try some other place.  Being a woman, most places think we know nothing therefore they can suggest replacing alot of parts that are still ok.  Sorry to go on but they also showed me the top of the shocks where oil was leaking out. Said I needed to replace them also.  

In need of your advice.

Thanks, 

Lorraine, 1996 Buick Regal

A: DEAR LORRAINE:

Hey there Lorraine

You are so right about being a woman and typically being taken for a ride when going to a mechanic; however it is amazing how many men get the wool pulled over their eyes when writing out that check to pay for their vehicle repairs at the local mechanic. If you can equip yourself with some priceless automotive knowledge giving you the power to diagnose your problem before you venture into the shop to get it repaired, you can reduce some of the “necessary repairs” that you will be told that need to be performed.

I also recommend when selecting a new repair shop to ask a family member or a friend who they have had good success with or call the local Better Business Bureau in your neck of the woods and ask them of a good shop with little to no complaints.

I would also recommend getting a second opinion of the suggested repairs after acquiring that good ole typical laundry list from the first repair shop you take your car to.

From the bad experience that you are currently living with surrounding your brake issue, at this point I would take your car straight to the Buick Dealer.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






1998 Mustang odometer

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara Terry   I have a 1998 ford mustang V6 3.8 the odometer and the trip odometer they both quit working at the same time dont know what is wrong all other gauges are working okay Im puzzled can you help me?

Thank you

BB

A: DEAR BB:

Hi there BB

Okie dokie here

If your check engine light is on take it to the dealer and have it scanned to see if the speed sensor code is popping up. If that code is not present then you will need to take it to a shop that is allowed to work on odometers. This may be a little difficult to find being as a lot of places are not allowed to work on these parts anymore. You may just be dealing with an electrical short or a bad speed buffer.

I hope that I have been able to help with your odo issue!

Thanks For the great question

– BT






Advice on taurus alarm

DEAR BT:

I read the letter in your column in today's Houston Chronicle from Tom about programming his keyless remote for his Ford Taurus.  It caught my eye because one of my keyless remotes failed this week, and I've had to replace it.  (The icons are nearly worn off the push buttons on the old remote - it's worn out from 5 years of use & abuse).  My alarm system can be armed & disarmed without the remote, using the keypad on the driver's door, so I was able to drive the vehicle without a functioning remote until I got the replacement.  Anyway, the owner's manual for my 2002 Expedition described the re-programming procedure, which worked fine after a couple of trials & errors.  One thing Tom should be aware of is that if he has more than one remote, or plans to acquire a second remote, they must all be reprogrammed during the same sequence.  I learned that the hard way; after I programmed the replacement remote, the remote on my wife's keychain didn't work.  I re-read the procedure in the manual and did it "by the book" the second time, now both remotes function perfectly.  If Tom could find his owner's manual for the Taurus or obtain a replacement, he might find a wealth of useful information in it.  Incidentally, I've had the battery disconnected on several occassions on my Expedition and it didn't affect any of the electrical/electronic functions on the vehicle.  Perhaps it's a later model that Tom's Taurus, and has some improvements over earlier models?  

I enjoy your column and read it every Sunday in the Chronicle.  Keep up the good work dispensing sound automotive advice.  

Don (from Alief)

A: DEAR DON:

Hey there Don!

I always appreciate my readers taking time out to respond to any of my Q and A’s in the Sunday Edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section. You have made a valid point here mentioning the fact that all of the keyless remotes having to be reprogrammed to function properly. I have always been on a mission to calm the fears of the average consumer when it comes to working on their vehicles and this task is a perfect example of how it is possible to work on our powered up mechanisms that get us from one point to the next or to that favorite baseball game that we have been eager to get to all season!

It is awesome to read all of the emails I get about how all of us Texans and of course the rest of the world feel empowered once successfully performing a repair on their vehicle and then look forward to attempt another repair task.

I had mentioned that I was going to take time out this past weekend to try Tom’s short-cut method on my mom’s car and of course it worked out just dandy.

Thanks for being an enthused reader!

– BT






Comfortable riding truck

DEAR BT:

I have a balance problem that makes driving a stiff riding pickup distracting.  

Which of the popular, large pickups (Tundra, F150, Silverado, Sierra, Titan, Ram1500, etc.) has the most comfortable ride in your opinion?  

Jim Shellabarger

A: DEAR DAN:

Hi Jim.

As I have always told my family, friends and eager consumers which I have crossed paths with that they should find the fit that best suits all of their needs not mine. I can tell you that my choice out of all of the options you have given me would be the Toyota Tundra for resale/value purposes, the Ford F150 for the durability and the Chevrolet Silverado for comfort. You should go test drive all of your final choices to find your most comfortable ride, write down the pros and cons then pull the trigger on your game winning decision. Remember in the old days when the majority of pick-up trucks tended to be total neanderthal rough when it came to the way they rode, these days most pick-up trucks ride as smooth as a luxury car with all of the luxury amenities included.

Good luck

– BT






Highlander cruise control problem

DEAR BT: I have a 2002 Toyota Highlander with less than 10K miles on the odometer. During three recent highway trips a malfunction with the cruise control has occurred.

Here is what happens. Setting the cruise speed is not a problem and the vehicle will maintain the set speed. However, 99% of the time after slowing the vehicle by applying the brakes or by stopping the vehicle, neither the resume speed or accelerate functions work. The only way to get back to the original cruise setting is to accelerate to the desired speed and push the cruise control button again. About 1% of the time, these functions might work once and then not again during subsequent braking or stops.

The car has been back to the Toyota dealership three times concerning the problem and each time the response has been "The technician couldn't duplicate the problem" or "No codes are stored in the computer" and "We've checked the vacuum and electrical connections and didn't find a problem". Each time after leaving the dealership, I tested the vehicle to see if the problem still existed and wasn't surprised to learn that it still did.

I might add that service at the dealership, Mike Calvert Toyota here in Houston, is outstanding but they can't seem to be able to identify and correct the problem.

Would appreciate any advice you may be able to offer that might lead to resolution of this problem.

Enjoy your column in the Houston Chronicle newspaper very much.

Thanks for your time.

Billy Pilgrim, Houston, Texas

A: DEAR BILLY:

Hi Billy

Wow!

I am guessing that the problem that seems to be haunting you is either that the cable may be out of alignment from the cruise control servo, your cable is not adjusting correctly from that servo to the throttle body, or you may have some sort-of vacuum leak.

Take your Toyota back to the dealer…yes back to the dealer, and ask them to ride while you drive. You are obviously going to need to duplicate this problem before they will attempt to attack it in order to fix it. I am sure these guys are not happy to see you pull up every time they turn around. I personally know this because I have been in your shoes before with a few annoying problems that would seem to mysteriously hide when I took my car into the dealership but I swear as soon as I was pulling off the lot the darn problem would happen not a block away! Duplicate it and they will fix it!

Thanks for enjoying my Houston Chronicle Q and A on Sundays in the Auto section.

– BT






Paint touch up info

DEAR BT: Hi--

In one of your columns, you talked about using a syringe to do paint touch-up.

What kind of syringe do you recommend and where can they be purchased?

Also where would you get the "rouge pen" by Black Magic?

Thanks,

Thad Woodruff

A: DEAR THAD:

Hi Thad.

The medical syringe that I recommend using can be purchased at your local drug store or medical supply house. You will want to use a fine needle. The Rouge pen by Black Magic can be purchased at multiple locations but I always order mine off of the Amazon.com web site. “Black Magic Express Scratch Treatment Pen”

I mean who wants to drive around in a car that looks like their cats had a wrestling match all over it.

Thanks for the great question and good luck with the syringe trick.

– BT






Rusty rims

DEAR BT: I've just bought a used car whose aluminum rims have some rusty areas (dark spots). I sprayed wd-40 on them, but it doesn't help much. Any suggestion?

Thanks.

tony

A: DEAR TONY:

Hey there Tony

Oh boy…This reminds me of my high school days while buying and fixing up cars to make extra beer money, oh, what I meant to say is extra money for school books! OOPS!

I have tried products old and new without any real satisfaction attempting to make the wheels look shiny and new. What I have been most pleased with is to either have a wheel place recoat them or just suck it up and buy new ones. If you choose to have them recoated it should set you back around $500.00.

You are going to overheat yourself with frustration attempting to apply all sorts of products while using massive amount of elbow grease, then discovering that there is no miracle cure for a quick fix regarding a damaged wheel.

Thanks!

– BT






SSR Overheating problem

DEAR BT: I have a 2004 SSR 5.3L with 31,000 miles and it over heats. I have changed the thermostat ( 180 ) and will be changing the fan this week because it stopped working. According to the fan club news, this is a problem with the SSR. Some folks have set the fan to come on at speeds under 35mph and off at 40 mph. Will this help and how do you do this? Any other ideas?

Thanks

 

A: DEAR READER:

Hi there

I personally have not heard any of my friends complaining about their SSR over heating. I did however do a little checking and digging for you into this and came across the TSB… (Technical Service Bulletin) pertaining to the cooling fan, cooling fan fuse and the positive battery cable.

You will need to take your SSR to the Chevy dealer for them to fix it now instead of having a huge repair bill on your hands in the near future!

As far as messing with your fan…I am not a huge fan (no pun intended) anymore of jicking-up a car by trying to put a temporary fix or a band-aid on it by adjusting the fan like you have referenced doing so. Get this fixed so you can continue turning heads while driving down the highway.

– BT






BBB Houston Appreciation

DEAR BT:

Barbara....your pest down here in Houston.

Another mention for us this Sunday....thanks, so much!  Do other BBB's ever tell you that?  Just seeing if they were raised in a barn!

Anyway...WE appreciate your plug!

And.....this Sunday you were up to over half a page...

One more comment....and, OK...I know you get the flirtly stuff all the time...but I thought you would appreciate this....

I was at a meeting with some DEALERS....Texas is considering a registration law for mechanics...it failed to get any steam for this session...hey, we can't even pay for schools...but it will come back in 2009. Anyway...one mechanic was railing about your coverage in the paper...."Like SHE really knows anything about cars..."  and before I could even say a word...a dealer calmly said..."You are full of it....have you seen her site?  She is calm, composed, knowledgable, has a sense of humor, and if women are really 51% of the population, who are they going to trust....YOU, or her?  She is the future of automotive mechanics....embrace it, dude!  Oh, and she looks nicer in the shop than you do!"

Anyway....I said nothing...but everybody there agreed with him!

Take care!

Dan Parsons

A: DEAR DAN:

Mr Parsons!

Hello again, we have to stop meeting like this!

I have to say I appreciate you as much as you and your BBB in Houston seem to appreciate me. I definitely have critics out there but also have a lot of supporters and fans. I simply just want to be able to assist people with their car problems and enjoy what I do.

Thanks for being a devoted reader of my Houston Chronicle Auto Column on Sundays!

Smiles

– BT






Camry issue

DEAR BT:

My name is Alan, and I have never missed a single issue of the Houston Chronicle featuring you ever since I'd found you (in the newspaper, of course!)

I recently bought a used 4-cyclinder 2001 Toyota Camry with 84,500 miles for my wife. It looked ok when I run the Autocheck and the flood database (nicb.org). Autocheck revealed that the first owner was a rental agency, followed by an auction, followed by a second owner in TN, get repossesed by the bank and back to aution again. I knew how to look out for flood damaged-cars, and I don't think my Camry was flooded. It just have tires that are from 4 different manufacturers with different wear levels, and a battery may be from Lexus rather than Toyota (a Panasonic battery indicated to be OEM for Toyota's Lexus division), and some chalked ID numbers on major engine parts. I think it may have to do with the fact that the car went to auctions, and having the major parts ID'ed facilitate recovery in cases parts got stolen. The dealer I bought it from was highly recommended by my coworker.

As a safty precaution, I took the car to O'reilly to check the battery. The clerk hooked up a simle hand-held device to the battery and later reported the battery was bad. He instructed me to start the engine to check on the charging system (while the device was still attached to the battery terminals) and declared that they charging system was good. He went inside and quoted me the price for a new battery. I went to Autozone to check for a second opinion. This time the technician uses a large machine rolled on 4 wheels. He actually explained how the machine worked and showed me the line that says "good battery" when the test is finished. (I noted that he used the 525 as CCA, and I was not able to follow what other tech at O'reilly did). He went on to say that since the battery is good, he does not need to check the charging system. He also recommended me to check the fluid inside battery and fill it to the line if needed.

When I was on my way home, the "check engine light" goes on. Upon consulting the owner's manual: I checked the gas cap: it was secured with a "click" as usual and the last time I filled it was almost 2 weeks ago. Fuel level was more than 1/2. All the fluids was filled to their proper levels. Air filter was fairly dirty (but no oil stain) and might need replacement soon.

Should I complained to O'reilly, and/or Autozone? I think that it is very likely that the electric current generated from the hand-held machine of O'reilly may have damaged the on-board computer(s) and electronic equipment. The car still drives ok.  Should I buy extended warranty to protect myself from paying dealership to diagnose these "check engine" light. I know for a fact that many Camry, and other modern cars these days have the "check engine" incident occurs quite frequently. If you were to buy one, which company to buy from? I don't want to buy a 3-year warranty/repairs only to find out in a year that it goes bankcrupt.

Sorry for the long email. To save space on column you can edit it anyway you want.

Alan in Houston.

A: DEAR ALAN:

Alan!

Wow, this 2001 Toyota Camry has really been around the block…literally! I would go back to O’reilly being as they will diagnose it for free and then go to your local Toyota Dealership or your local neighborhood mechanic that you have a comfort level with and give them the code or codes displaying pointing to the problem your car is experiencing and have the mechanic fix it.

The check engine light being on probably has nothing to do with what these 2 places did or did not do, and is more than likely something minor to fix.

Your Camry has a lot of years and life left to it so I would recommend purchasing an extended warranty for your 4 banger, being as you can never-ever be too safe or go wrong with extended warranties. I do highly recommend purchasing the extended warranty from your dealer because a lot of the after-market warranty companies are fly by night and frequently go out of business. If this happened to you, I would then be getting an email from you in the future asking my advice about what to do about the warranty you just bought and the company that you bought it from going out of business. I hope that I have been able to alleviate some of your stress and put a smile on your face!

Thanks for the great question, thanks for finding me and of course being a weekly reader!

– BT






Car purchase question

DEAR BT:

I am not sure if this is the correct forum to ask you a question but here goes anyway.My wife’s Toyota Avalon has 165,000 miles on it and we are looking to get a new car.  We are considering another Avalon or the Acura TL or Infinity G-35.  The Acura and Infinity both have an engine that requires premium fuel and I wonder if that power plant is worth the additional on-going expense of 20 cents per gallon for the higher rated fuel. Any thoughts?

I enjoy your column in the Houston Chronicle,

Bill

A: DEAR BILL:

Hi there Bill,

Your choice of the Toyota Avalon was a good one but I am sure you have already figured that out being as it has lasted well into 165,000 miles! First of all I would recommend if you have not done it yet is to go test drive both the Acura TL and the Infinity G-35. You must love the way everything feels once you are in that drivers seat, for instance the radio controls, power options etc etc…You obviously have had good luck with your Avalon so why not stick with a newer model Avalon instead of jumping the fence to a whole different stranger? I could give you my straight-up opinion but you have your own personal desires and requirements so go drive all of your finalists around the block and see which one fits your needs the best!

Okay now to your question on the pumping of the premium fuel?

I am a big fan of using Top Tier gasoline not only in vehicles that require premium but for all of my automobiles.

Ya know, by using a low grade fuel you are allowing that awful sludge “carbon deposits” to build up on your fuel injectors and your fuel system within the first 500 miles of driving that new car off of the lot. Your car is typically the 2nd largest thing that us Texans invest in and we want to protect that investment not only for resale purposes but also for performance.

So whatever car you decide on that fits your fancy and suits your butt once in the drivers seat I hope that you chose to use a Top Tier gasoline from here on out to prevent carbon deposits from building up on your fuel system and to keep that new shiny baby healthy and running smooth!

Thanks for writing in and enjoying my column in Sunday’s edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section.

– BT






Leaking Pontiac

DEAR BT:

Barbara...I have a 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix GT 4 door sedan that is getting a wet spot in the drivers foot well when it rains.I've checked the door and window seals and they appear intact.I've looked on the net for solutions but have not found any that were specific to my Pontiac.Is there anything you know of that could have created this problem.Please advise as the car is getting that mildew smell....

Thanks...

Rangerjoe

A: DEAR RANGERJOE:

Hi there Ranger Joe

I would first find a high pressure car wash that is local to you and grab some quarters. Spray water on and around the driver’s window and windshield to see if water is seeping in there. Then try doing the same process around the door and if you have a sunroof try the water method on that to see if the sunroof is leaking as a leaky sunroof is a common problem.

If after all of this you have not experienced the source of the leak then look on your floorboard for a plug that may have been knocked lose…this may be your culprit.

I hope you get this fixed quickly because I can smell your mildew aroma from here.

– BT






Montero engine light

DEAR BT:

hello Barbara Terry

I have a 2000 mitsu. montero xls the check engine light is on I have changed all 4 sensors and the catalytic converter and the light is still on  it will reset if the battery is disconnected I have spent money at the dealer and I am out of patience will mitsu. please e mail me back if you any suggestions

thank you

jrutherford

A: DEAR JRUTHERFORD:

Have you not had your local Mitsubishi dealership hook up your Montero to their computer to see what codes are being displayed? Your problem could be a number of culprits. An injector running rich, a vacuum leak, 02 sensor, etc etc……….I could go on for days spitting off the possible problems.

If you feel like you are not getting all of the assistance from your local dealer then get the codes that are being displayed and get back to me so maybe I can be Mighty Mouse and save the day for you.

Thanks for writing in and I hope I have been of some help.

– BT






Seat belt sound

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,  

I just purchased a 2002 F150 Lariat.  I'm a Builder in a gated community who spends the majority of my time inside the truck in the community.  I literally get in and out of the truck 100 times a day in the neighborhood.  Every time I don't the snap the seatbelt, that annoying ding goes off.  I'm afraid to keep the seat belt in the snapped position all the time because I'm afraid I'll forget to put on the belt when I leave the neighborhood.   Is there any other way to keep the sound from going off?  

Thanks,  

Bryan Musolf

A: DEAR BRYAN:

Hello Bryan.

Oh my gosh do I so know what you are experiencing! I personally do not have that annoying beep that seems to just get louder and more piercing every time it goes off in my Jeep, however it seems to be my luck that every time I travel and rent a car as soon as I get into it that beep welcomes me with a greeting that just wont quit! UGH!

Back in my brokering days my buddies and myself would get creative with the wire cutters but I do not suggest that now. Heads-up, if you try and pop the fuse out that controls the beeping sound you also disable the airbags which in turn will make the airbag light on the dash illuminate and put you and your family in jeopardy by disabling the airbag system. There is also a distribution center underneath your dash where the dinger/chime is located. If you are diligent enough to locate this all you will have to do is pull the dinger out of the distribution box.

I want to make it very clear that I do not suggest or endorse that you do anything to disable that dinging. I am just trying to answer your question to the best of my knowledge and ability. I just want to make it clear again that I do not encourage or recommend that you do anything to disable it.

Thanks for writing!

– BT






Taurus response

A: DEAR TOM:

Tom,

Wow, this is news to me and everyone on my team. I think I will try the following information out on my moms car this weekend.

Thanks for the heads-up on this and I will let you and all of my readers know how successful I was at performing your little recommend short cut!

Maybe we have a little financial relief in the future!

– BT


DEAR BT:

Actually, BT, that is not true. I discovered, in reviewing a Ford Taurus online forum, that you can do this yourself without having to go to Ford and incurring that expense. The process involves switching back and forth quickly between the Off and On (not Run) positions of the car about six to eight times until you hear the doorlocks click. At that time leave the key in the On position for a few seconds and it will sync up with the car's electronics. You can then operate the doors, alarm and trunk. It really works. In case anyone else has this problem you may want to pass this on. The procedure may work for other cars as well.  

Tom

A: DEAR TOM:

Hi there Tom,

Unfortunately Ford does have you by the ying yang. You will have to pay for an hour of labor every time your battery is disconnected because it deprograms the remote. I wish I could be of more help with some ole trick of the trade but in this case you will have to go to your local Ford dealer.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Turbo part 2

DEAR BT:

After the shop looked at the engine, they determined that I had a blown head gasket which in turn leaked oil/water into the crank and killed the bearings…this without total engine extraction.  They stated that the engine was at fault and I conclude that the turbo over boasted and caused it.  There solution is for me to pay for a  forged Chevy small block loaded with performance parts and a turbo cam for $4,200 installed (shop is offering me this and my mechanic thinks it’s the best option), my gear head friend says rebuild my aluminum LS1; new rings, head gasket and bearings; then there is the option of going through legal channels to compensate for the hardship of not having a car, hotel expense and flights plus possibly returning the car to me completed at no expense with the originally intended changes…what are your thoughts on that?

I don’t really want to be that guy that goes through legal channels but I don’t think I need to end up with this bill.  So far this has cost me circa 8k since I had to replace the clutch during installation.  I’m pretty pissed off at this point.

Claudio

A: DEAR CLAUDIO:

Hello again.

In my opinion it will be your word against theirs and will end up costing you even more money trying to prove your point and opinion. I personally think it will be hard for you to put the blame on the shop that did the work at this point and get anywhere with it.

You did not comment on whether the oil squirters were installed or not so I will guess that they were not. This would have kept your body temperature down and your pistons would have stayed cool enough in order to keep that head gasket from blowing. It is your choice if you want to call the Better Business Bureau in your neighborhood to see what their thoughts are and how you should proceed.

Unfortunately sometimes we are faced with throwing in the towel, cutting our loses and starting over.

I am sorry I can not be of any more help or come up with a possible positive ending scenario.

– BT






Ignition switch Honda

DEAR BT:

I have 98' honda accord with 4 cyl. The problem with my vehicle is it would stall out when I'm driving and come back on again.

Then sometimes it would beep like 4 times and then stall and come back on again. A couple of times it would stall completely and I would start it up again. Can you help solve the ghost in my machine?

td

A: DEAR TD:

The beeping sound that you are occasionally hearing means that it has lost contact with the run position. You will need to have an ignition switch installed, this work will need to be performed at the dealer because you are in need of the electrical part. If it were just the key part you would have been able to call a locksmith.

Thanks for writing in and I hope I have been able to solve that ghostly problem you have been experiencing!

– BT






Taurus keyless entry

DEAR BT:

Barbara, I just had to replace the battery in my Ford Taurus and now, for some reason, the keyless remote entry device does not work. I also changed the battery in the remote device but still no improvement. To your knowledge is there something in the Taurus that requires resetting to reactive the remote keyless entry? I hesitate to take the car to a Ford garage because they previously charged me $95 just for a second "normal" replacement key. Any help would be appreciated.

Tom

A: DEAR TOM:

Hi there Tom,

Unfortunately Ford does have you by the ying yang. You will have to pay for an hour of labor every time your battery is disconnected because it deprograms the remote. I wish I could be of more help with some ole trick of the trade but in this case you will have to go to your local Ford dealer.

Thanks for reading and writing in!

– BT






Turbo Charger Trans Am

DEAR BT:

I recently installed a turbo charger on my ’02 ws06 trans am.  Driving back from Dallas, going 140mph at 6000rpm with 8lbs of boost pulling 512lbs of torque  and 460 rwhp in fourth gear I either blew a piston or head gasket…now is this my fault or the air/fuel mixture tune from the installation guys?

Claudio from Houston

A: DEAR CLAUDIO:

It sounds like to me that when you put the turbo on your Trans-am you did not install oil squirters on the bottom of the pistons to keep them cool and you probably melted a hole in a piston. So, the people that installed the turbo may not have been aware that you did not have oil squirters previously installed.

Thanks for the calculus type question, and I have a question for you: While driving from Dallas to Houston going 140mph…how many tickets did you get?

– BT






2002 Mitsubishi Diamante

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,

I just found your column. Looks great!

Have a question. I own a 2002 Mitsubishi Diamante and the light on my dash showing I am in drive has gone out. Is that something I can buy to correct, small bulb, etc. Can I do myself if so?

Thank you so much.

Cynthia Carradine

A: DEAR CYNTHIA:

Hi Cynthia,

Yes, it is a small bulb and a fairly quick and easy repair however you will have to pull the dash out.

If you have the owners manual or lets say a Chilton repair manual referencing your make and model of your Mitsubishi to show you how to pull the dash out you can definitely do this repair on your own. After pulling the dash out use a flash light to locate the burned out bulb, unscrew it, pull it out then replace it.

Thanks for reading and writing in!

– BT






1981 VW Rabbit

DEAR BT:

Mom needs a reality check here as I am not mechanically inclined. My son was given 1981 Rabbitt which ran for a short while after getting here then became a lawn ornament. It was intended to be his project car. He has all the repair books on this diesel I can find around.It seems to be an electrical problem and not cured by new ignition switch or starter motor. Help,is this salvageable? He is intending to get to SanJac auto mechanic classes and is strong in computers...He looks so sad when he says its junk.  

Thank you.

Cheryl

A: DEAR CHERYL:

Sounds like to me that the culprit might be the starter relay. Tell your son to grab his socket wrench and try to turn the motor by hand, if the motor turns then start by replacing the starter relay. If he can not turn it, your problem is more than likely the motor itself. If it is the motor, you are going to be hard pressed on finding one to replace it.

Unfortunately, sometimes you are put in the situation of throwing in the towel and starting over.

I wish him luck with the classes…way to go!

– BT






91 rare Cadillac Brougham

DEAR BT:

Hello, Barbara. I am a loyal reader of your column in the Houston Chronicle. If I may, I would like to ask your advice regarding my mothers 91' Cadillac Brougham.  

Short story: Dad retired in 91', and used his savings to buy mom her dream car. Kept it garaged and covered. Literally used about once every two weeks. Used only Mobil 1 oil. Dad passed away in 99', and mom became quite ill in 2001. She stopped driving, but could not bring herself to part with the car. I became moms caretaker, and I also maintained the car for her, driving a 60 mile round trip once a month to keep things moving, charged and lubricated. This went on until two months ago, when mom passed away, too.      

The Caddy has only ~17 K miles, and the vast majority are highway miles. As far as I can tell, it hasn't a dent on it at all. This model is jet black, with a leather (?) top. Black leather upholstery and black carpeting. Power everything. This model is also big and "square", and looks like a presidential limo; I am not kidding. I know they really "don't make em' like this" anymore...  

So, what to do? My goals are to find someone who would really appreciate an auto with this much style, distinction, quality and incredibly low mileage, and, sell for near the what the true value is. I simply don't believe the value generated by the BlueBook website. Understandably, it probably can't make a very accurate determination of such a pristine auto's value. So, do you have any guidance you can share with me? Any guess on the appropriate value? Do you know of any website or resource (other than a routine classified ad) that I might use to help complete the above? Any clubs I might contact? Any publications? Anything?  

I sincerely thank you for any info you can impart. Keep up the good work.

Gene Harrington

A: DEAR GENE:

I would without a doubt take some killer photos of this car and list the car on eBay Motors. You will have lookers from all around the world being as the site is global. I have a saying within the car industry…"there is an butt for every seat" and if you have it on eBay Motors you will find that exact person that will want this particular car so you can get the right money out of this beauty that

you obviously have an emotional attachment to and desire for it to go to the right person and good home! Who knows you may have a bidding war going on with this rare Caddy with such low miles, I have seen cars like this break the bank!

Good luck and thanks for being a loyal reader of my Column in the Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle Auto Section

– BT






99 Olds Aurora

DEAR BT:

I drive a 99 Olds Aurora.

When I had my oil done at the dealership where purchased, they told me I needed new brakes. Problem 1: they didn't fill the oil back up during the change. Problem 2: they had told me I needed brakes a year ago, and didn't.  When I discovered they failed to fill my oil, we negotiated they would do my brakes complimentary.

A week after having my car back from the brake work, they began squeaking. I thought it was because they were new.  It continued and grew into squeeling.  At my next oil change, 3 months later, they told me my brakes on the front were only about half, and the rear was dangerously in need of replacement.  INTERESTING!

I took my '99 Olds Aurora for a 2nd opinion to a brake specialist.  They showed me that they had put the cheapest little square looking blocks of metallic pads on the front, didn't touch the rotors and had done nothing to the back during my "complimentary" brake job.  The brake specialist told me that my Aurora should always have the longer ceramic plates, they need to be replaced and now the rotors need "finishing".  I just don't know who to believe anymore.

Please help! I feel my car has been done a HUGE MIS-service!

Thanks!

Crikett Linscott, Omaha

A: DEAR CRIKETT:

Number one it sounds like you were literally taken for a ride.

I would personally think something was very wrong if I took my car into a place of business for an oil change and they tell me that they forgot to put oil back into it, but “Hey…how about some free brakes”? I wish you would have insisted on just getting your money back for the work that they did not do and demand for them to do it anyway and refused to ever go back there. So they put brake pads on, not even the right ones and then they neglect to turn your rotors. That is like using mouthwash but not brushing your teeth!

Car dealerships typically do not make any money on new cars that they sell they make it on the used cars they sell and the service department.

You need to send them a letter stating you want a correct brake job completed with the proper parts and turning of the rotors and that you want a lifetime of free oil changes for your car that they have played with. If they do not respond I would hire an attorney to take action, call the Better Business Bureau and call the local TV station to do a wrongful action story on the dealership.

Your cars brake system helps ensure the safety of you and your family and not a system to play around with!

Thanks for writing in, good luck.

– BT






1986 Caprice gas smell

DEAR BT:

I have a 1986 Chevrolet Caprice.  The spark plugs were replaced and the carburetor was overhauled.  Right after this was done, I started getting  gasoline smell inside the car's cab.  The carburetor was reworked; but I still get the gasoline smell. Not very strong; but the smell is still there.  What makes it even more weird is that the gasoline smell occurs only when making a left turn and not every time.   No, I am not losing my mind.  Even the mechanic has experienced the same thing I have; but unfortunately, as hard as he tries, he has not come up with a solution to this problem.   

Also the "check engine light" keeps coming on after the cars warms up.  Once again the mechanic has replaced various parts, extra dry vacuum hoses, etc; but the light still keeps coming on.  

The car has less than 50,000 miles on it and otherwise is in very good condition.  Any ideas on these two baffling problems?  

Anxiously waiting for your reply, 

Alex Saldivar  

A: DEAR ALEX:

I am going to guess that the gas smell is coming from a busted charcoal canister and this may be triggering that check engine light that keeps popping on. When you turn your car a certain way the check valves are moving to release gas vapors from the canister which in-turn is creating that gas smell that you keep experiencing, I mean who wants to be gas intoxicated while driving to work and back, especially if you are making more left turns than right ones! Or deal with the smell of gas as you pull through your favorite hamburger joint to buy and devour your favorite number 5 combo then as you are pulling out of the parking lot you must make a left turn to exit inviting those lovely gas fumes to join you for lunch and then lose your appetite! Rauughhhh!

The check engine light may be caused by your busted charcoal canister but if it is not you will need to take the time and spend the money in order to find out exactly why the check engine light is coming on, so you can address that potential problem also. Your mechanic should be able to hook your car up to see what codes are coming on in relation to your car.

I hope that my taking a shot at this helps you out with your anxiety of that annoying gas smell!

– BT






2007 Toyota Highlander

DEAR BT:

I am a avid follower of your column and enjoy the information and advice that you provide to your readers.

I recently purchased a 2007 Toyota Highlander with a V6 engine and 5-speed ECT-i automatic transmission and have a concern over the rate at which the vehicle slows down after removing your foot from the gas pedal.  The vehicle will very slowly reduce speed until the engine is running at approximately 1100 rpm and the speed is slightly over 25 mph.

At this point, the vehicle acts as if the cruise control is engaged and you can continue traveling down the road without any input from the gas pedal.  To slow the vehicle further requires excessive braking or by putting the transmission into neutral.  My inquiry to my local Toyota dealership yielded information that this behavior was "normal" for this transmission and the set-up yields better performance and improved fuel economy (something to do with the torque converter remaining engaged for a longer period of time).  My opinion is that a safety concern exists because of the tendency to continue driving at speeds higher than anticipated when you expect the vehicle to drop to an idle speed of approximately 800 rpm. 

Also, I am anticipating several brake jobs in my future since this appears to be the only means to slow the vehicle. Is this a Toyota design flaw or is it something that is working as intended?

Thanks is advance for your information!!!

Jerry Korhonen

A: DEAR JERRY:

Your Toyota Highlander is under factory warranty so I would insist that your local Toyota Dealership correct this problem. I totally agree with you regarding how unsafe it is and will definitely be costing you tons of money in the future equivalent to what you should be spending on pine-coladas while vacationing! I have had a similar problem in the past, would take it to the dealership; they would drive it around the block and tell me that nothing was wrong with it being as they could not get the problem to rear its ugly head while in their possession. They kept telling me that they would have to duplicate the problem in order to be able to repair it, so I left it with them and insisted that one of their service techs drive it to and from work knowing that the problem would rear its ugly head eventually and sure-enough about 3 days after they had it they were able to get the problem to duplicate the ugly symptom. So, take it to your local Toyota Dealership, ask for a loaner car and wait for them to realize you are not imagining the dangerous and costly problem that truly does exist. If they are not of any assistance call Toyota Corporate!

Thanks for being an avid reader and writing in!

– BT






Subaru parts

DEAR BT:

I am looking for front fender skirts on my Subaru, for both sides.   They are badly rusted, but the engine is in great condition, so I am wanting to try to make it look a bit better.  Can you help me?

 

A: DEAR ANONYMOUS:

I have been a devoted user for years now and constantly steer friends, family, readers and consumers to ebaymotors.com. You will definitely find everything you need under the Parts and Accessory section on their web site.

Good luck!

– BT






Doggie steps

DEAR BT:

I just moved to the Houston area this past month as started reading your weekly column in the paper and remember you from seeing you on TV in Seattle. What a small world it is! I have a dog that is getting older in years and was wondering your opinion on those “doggie steps” that you see advertised?

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Jane, Fabulous Galleria area, Houston TX

A: DEAR JANE:

Hi there Jane!

Well, I actually have a doggie that is getting up there in years himself…The Mighty Rockefeller! I did ironically order some doggie steps for him about 6 months ago and when I received them I realized that the steps seem to be made for a smaller dog. I assume there are companies out there that sell larger ones but what I have been doing because Rocky goes everywhere with me is to give him a boost and encourage him to get up on the floor board first them he hops up onto the seat. When it is time to de-Jeep the ride I simply hold his body and help him hop out of the Jeep, which also helps in my bicep and tricep muscle building being as “Rocky” weighs close to 100 lbs!

So no matter what size doggie you have or how young or old your furry creature may be, I would strongly recommend using these steps or give total help assisting in the hopping in and out of our vehicles to make it easier on the joints, we do want their joints to last as long as possible right?

Thanks for reading my weekly Q and A in the Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle!

– BT






Door popping noise

DEAR BT:

Hi Babs, I hope it is okay to call you that, or would Barbie doll work better? First of all I would like to say you are hot! Secondly I was wondering how to fix it so that my drivers door on my Ford Explorer stops making this annoying popping sound every time I open it and shut it?

I hope you take the time to answer my question.

Dan, Padre Island

A: DEAR DAN:

Thanks for the “Hot” compliment…it has been a hot spring season so far hasn’t it?…smiles!

Okay, to fix that annoying popping sound that you are describing you are either going to need to coat your door hinges with a good ole coating of grease or install new hinge pins and new bushings. Not knowing what year and how much wear and tear you have engaged upon your Explorer, if I were a betting person I would say you are in need of new hinges and bushings.

You can find these parts at your local Auto Parts store or I personally would buy them on Ebay.

If you do not feel confident that you are able to diagnose this problem and fix it on your own then take it to your local shop. Be expected to spend about as much money as you would on a Saturday night out on the town and then you can enjoy the quiet smooth sound that your door will be giving you from here on out!

Thanks for reading and you can just call me BT.

– BT






Fabric cleaner and protector

DEAR BT:

I just purchased a new car and my 7 year old spilled Kool-Aid all over the carpet in the rear of the car. In your opinion what is the best product to get the stain out of the carpet without bleaching the dye out of the color and of course to remove the cherry color from my light gray carpet?

Jimmy

A: DEAR JIMMY:

Hi there Jimmy! O Upholstery Cleaner

I use Oxy Power Out Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner by Turtle Wax. It is specially formulated in cleaning difficult spills when it comes to automobile carpeting.

It also comes with a bristle overcap to help scrub out the stain and can be known to deodorize that stain if it is a stinky one! Keep in mind that you will need to also use plenty of what you were born with…elbow grease!

Okay once you have removed that nightmare of a stain out of your carpet you need to think about protecting your carpet for possible future disasters with Kool-Aid or other foreign liquids! I highly recommend using a carpet and upholstery protector. The best I have ever found on the market is the Fabric Protector put out by Guardian. Their website is www.metroguardian.net tell them BT sent ya!

It is extremely easy to apply and you will only be required to apply it once because it becomes permanently affixed to the carpet and or upholstery and does not require re-spraying every 6 months as other brand name fabric protectors do, for instance Scotch guard. I have used it a ton of times over the years so it definitely tried and proven around the Terry household! An 8 ounce bottle will cost you about $12.00 and is enough to treat any size car from small to a full size SUV.

Good luck in getting that Kool-Aid spill out and take an extra 10 minutes out of your weekend to apply the Fabric Protector. Ya know, our vehicles are typically the 2nd largest thing that we invest in and we should protect our investments, not only for future resale value but just to have peace of mind that the piece of shiny metal we are driving around in does not carry a pungent punch everywhere we go!



– BT






Power window

DEAR BT:

When I try to roll down the passenger window on my Toyota Camry it whines and has now completely stopped working, is this a quick fix?

Thanks

James Symtico

A: DEAR JAMES:

In the old days you did not have to worry about this problem occurring you just simply had the only option available and that was to roll the window down manually.

Power windows these days are controlled by three main parts and more than likely your problem has to do with one or more of these 3: The window motor, the window regulator, and the control switch.

When you move the switch one way or the other an electrical current is sent to the window motor that will force the window to go up or down depending on the direction of the switch and by the sounds of it your window is nonresponsive!

I would suggest that you take your Camry and its power window problem to the pros to fix or you may blow a fuse of frustration yourself after taking the door apart and possibly getting confused with the fix itself or trying to put all of the intricate parts back together exactly as they were before you stared tinkering with it.

Thanks for writing in and good luck!

– BT






1972 350SLC

DEAR BT:

I purchased a 1972 350slc from its original owner, who moved from Munich to Houston. It is completely metric, as far as gauges and fluid amounts, and everything is in German. I am torn between restoration and just getting her running. Currently, money is tight and I am just trying to get her to run for weekends and trips to the store. I am having problems finding parts, and when I do find them they are so costly that you would think they were gold plated. Where can I find good parts at a decent price?

Sincerely,

A Man in Love With an Old German Girl;

Anthony Quinn

A: DEAR ANTHONY:

I do have to agree with you about just fixing that ole German beauty enough to be able to cruise her down the freeway to run errands or to watch how many people turn their heads as you drive by in order to oh and awe over her. Later you can worry about converting her over to our language regarding the gauges etc etc.

I have not only been a huge user of eBay Motors.com but have and will continue to steer people to that awesome site. You will more than likely find everything you need under the Parts and Accessories section from people all around the world on a global level. I hope you find the parts you are looking for and keep me updated on your quest and mission!

Thanks for the great question!

– BT






AC in classic car

DEAR BT:

I’m thinking of buying a project car –vintage 1970 -1975 Corvette or mustang  I’d like it to be a daily driver—primarily to the Park and Ride.  However, every car I’ve test driven in Houston runs HOT inside the cabin.

In addition to ramping up the A/C , What insulation product is available to make the ride more comfortable? Or am I being unrealistic?

 Scott

A: DEAR SCOTT:

You are for sure not being unrealistic. In order to make that project car more comfortable there is a place called Vintage Air, their web site is vintageair.com with dealers all throughout the Us and of course Texas! You are looking at an expensive chore to accomplish but well worth the money.

Note: Project cars are a blast to take seriously or to just tinker with as a full or part-time hobby. Anytime you get into a project car get ready to spend a pocket full of money to get it drivable, prettied up and on the road. I have been involved in a ton of classic car projects some ended up smelling like a rose while others ended up like that 80’s move “The Money Pit”. Of course my bank account was always drained and somehow ended up on empty after participating in any type of classic car restoration.

Thanks for writing in and good luck staying cool!

– BT






Blown head gasket coolant leak

DEAR BT:

Hello, Ms. Terry, I discovered you in my local paper the Houston Chronicle in Houston.  I think you are very pretty.  Anyway, my problem is: I own a 1993 Toyota Corolla, 1.6 liter 4 cylinder, 2wd automatic.  Recently the acceleration on the car has deterioated dramatically over the last year.  And most importantly in that last 2 weeks, a noticeable rattle has developed.  At idle, no rattle.

However, under acceleration and especially when entering the freeway, a horrific rattle.  What can I do to eliminate this problem?  There is no smoke in the tailpipe, oil pressure is good.  I change the oil regularly.  Also, I notice that the auxiliary reservoir for the coolant is empty.  Is that simply a leak and is this related to that rattle??

Mike

A: DEAR MIKE:

I would recommend taking your car into the shop to have them run a block test on it to see if you have a blown head gasket.

If you do have a blown head gasket, and if your car is slowly using additional coolant you will probably never see any smoke coming out of the exhaust/tailpipe. You know that typical white smoke we tend to see blowing out of the exhaust of the car sitting in front of us at the stop light shortly before the whole things blows and locks up. The rattle sound that you are hearing is probably the result of the water going into the blown head gasket. Your reservoir can potentially have a leak but more than likely your car is using that additional coolant because of that head gasket being blown which is resulting in your reservoir ending up empty.

If the shop finds that you do have a blown head gasket you will more than likely be finding yourself unfortunately having to spend the money to buy a new or rebuilt motor per your choice.

Good luck and thanks for the compliment!

– BT






Crank kit

DEAR BT:

I have noticed lately and have been living with this annoying rattle when my car gets up to 2300 RPM’s. Can you tell me what this could be and is it fixable?

Thanks

Dave

Ps. I am a huge fan of yours and was wondering if you are single?

A: DEAR DAVE:

Well Dave,

I would first take it in to your local shop and have them do an oil pressure test on it to see if it is low. If it is low they will want to pull the oil pan and check the rod, main bearings and possibly see if you are in need of a crank kit.

Thanks for reading my Q and A in the Sunday edition of The Houston Chronicle, and being such a super fan. To answer your question if I have been roped in and caught by Mr. Right…No, not yet!

– BT






Brake problems

DEAR BT:

Hi, Barbara,

I was wondering why the front end of my car shakes when I apply my brakes? My wife and I love reading your column every Sunday

Thanks for your time and help.

Bill Hamm

A: DEAR BILL:

It could be one of several problems. Your rotors may need to be turned, your Calipers might be grabbing or your brake pads might be ancient and need to be replaced. I would strongly suggest having a mechanic look at your brakes, determine the exact problem and fix them as soon as possible.

Most brake problems can not only be dangerous but very costly if you let them ride for too long before addressing them and getting them fixed.

Thanks for writing in and let me know if I can be of any further assistance!

– BT






Bright lights fix

DEAR BT:

My bright lights are not working on my car, is this something serious or an easy fix? Thanks for taking time out to help me with this, and every bit of advice you offer to all of us novice car enthusiasts.

Samantha B.

A: DEAR SAMANTHA:

Hi there Samantha B.

You are looking at a few possible fixes in order to get these bright lights fixed so you can clearly see your way home on a dark night. First of all I would check to see if it is possibly just the bulb or a fuse. If your problem still exists you will need to venture into the high beam relay switch on your steering column, or if you are driving around in an ancient car, you will have to check into the switch on the floorboard, you know the one down on the floor by your left foot. Hopefully not your left “lead” foot!

I hope this fixes your problem, thanks for writing in!

– BT






Bubble on a tire

DEAR BT:

Hi there BT!

I noticed the other day that I had a bubble like thing on one of my tires, what is this, how did it happen and is it dangerous?

Thanks

Mike W., Spring TX

A: DEAR MIKE:

Hi there Mike.

Okay, the store where you purchased your tires should without an argument take the defective tire back and replace it at no charge considering that it is still within the mileage limits of the warranty on the tire. The bubble is a weakness in the tire usually caused by an error in manufacturing or as a result of unusual contact (e.g. a curb that you might have struck while coming home from your favorite country and western dance hall on a weekend night). I have personally experienced this particular scenario once or twice. Oops!

As far as it being dangerous, picture this… you are on the highway doing 80 mph and the tire blows out because of the weak spot which has now formed the bubble in question. The chances of you losing control over your vehicle and seriously putting yourself or another driver on the road into danger are as high as gasoline prices right now. This could be a life threatening situation, so I strongly suggest replacing the defective tire ASAP.

Thanks for writing in and reading my Q and A in the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle!

– BT






Lexus tranny response

DEAR BT:

In responce to "BILL'S question as to trans problems on Lexus ES350,yes there are problems with adaptive program! I got a 350 when they just came out,started to have problems @ 2000 miles!Dealer could not repair,had to replace trans!New trans started same tendency (rev 'tween 2-3 shift}.I traded for '07 GS 350{great car!}.I think there are{were?}problens with camrys as well! 

Sincerly,

Roland A.

A: DEAR ROLAND:

Since I responded to Bills question a few weeks ago I have had 2 different people ask me about any possible Lexus transmission issue in the ES 350 being as they were experiencing some problems. If enough consumers write to Lexus they will more than likely recall this particular problem.

Thanks for writing in!

PS…Nice choice on the Lexus GS 350.

– BT






Jeep 4 wheel drive tranny

DEAR BT:

I religiously read your column on Sundays and it is one of my favorite things to look forward after my long work week. I am shopping for a Jeep Grand Cherokee right now. Which four-wheel drive transmission would you rather have the Quadra-trac or the Select-trac?

Fred, Galveston

A: DEAR FRED:

Well you are definitely asking the right person regarding your purchase of a Jeep, oh how I love my Jeeps! I have always preferred the Jeep’s Quadra-Trac transmission for my own personal taste and requirements The Quadra-Trac tranny in the Jeep is four wheel drive all the time with an option of going into 4-low when you need to in order to pull your friend out of the mud after muddin for the afternoon. The Quadra-Trac however will not get you as good of gas mileage as the Selec-Trac will. The Select-Trac has the option of two wheel high, four wheel high and four wheel low. I have owned both types and they both handle very well in challenging conditions. When it comes down to it, weigh out all of your likings and dislikings and make your choice.

I have always said that there is a bottom for every seat.

Thanks for being a devoted reader of my Q and A in the Sunday edition of The Houston chronicle!

Smiles

– BT






Cigarette lighter fuse

DEAR BT:

Since last week I have not been able to charge my cell phone in my car because my cigarette lighter stopped working. Help, what I do!

Melissa, Hot Houston.

A: DEAR MELISSA:

I understand how frustrating this can be and have been left high and dry with no power for my cell phone right in the middle of an important phone call with a prospective boyfriend. I mean what is a single girl to do when she is in the middle of making plans for a hot date and her cell phone dies right in the middle of deciding whether dinner is to be Tex-mex or a good ole chicken fried steak?

Your problem can be one or more culprits. I would first of all try checking and replacing the fuse wired to that particular part of your car. You can refer to the owner’s manual to find the location of your fuses if you are not familiar with the location of your fuses and fuse box. Secondly, it may be the housing behind your outlet; if so have your local mechanic look at it. This whole job should not be very costly so do not let someone overcharge you by billing you the equivalent amount of your house payment.

Thanks for writing in and I hope this fixes your problem.

– BT






89 Firebird part 2

DEAR BT:

Thanks BT for the fast reply.  

could you also tell me what type of oil goes into this transmission. I read that they can be very specific. also i have this problem with the window weather strips. my car has t-tops. and when it rains hard it leaks water inside and also my doors are sagging too, so i am not sure whether changing the strips would do the trick. i found out there is a 1-2 mm gap between the window and the strips at some section along the weather strips. I have read some earlier articles of yours where u gave nice little tricks to solve some of the costly and time consuming problems, like advice on paint chips and some others.  

I really appreciate all ur help and advice that u provide to ur readers  

keep up the good work!!  

with regards

suraj

A: DEAR SURAJ:

We have to stop meeting like this!

You will need to use Dextron 3 for your 4 speed automatic transmission. I also believe if you change the weather stripping it will solve your problem of that pounding southern Houston rain from seeping through your t-tops like a never ending sieve. Make sure to get the correct weather stripping for your make and model. What I would recommend doing is to buy the widest stripping you can find and custom cut your own to fit and make sure to buy a good quality waterproof adhesive when applying the weather stripping!

You will also need to replace the hinge pins and get new bushings to fix your sagging doors. You will need to use a jack to hold the door up and remember to do one pin at a time; you can pick all of these supplies up at your local parts store.

Thanks for writing in again and good luck restoring that 89 Firebird of yours.

– BT






1999 Olds Aurora

DEAR BT:

Thanks for taking my question. I have a friend that is retired and she just purchased a used 1999 Aurora that is in great shape. But now that the car is home it is hard to start in the mornings. It turns over strong but it just won't start. After attempting to start it over and over it finally slowly catches and start. When you get it started in the morning it will do good all day even if you let it sit for a while. The car has all the bells and whistles that could come in it and it is a beautiful car with this one problem. Can you help us figure it out? Thanks again for your time.....

David S.

A: DEAR DAVID:

The problem that you are describing to me simply sounds like it is the fuel pump, at night when your car sits idle all of the fuel drains out. In order to re-prime the system on a cold start-up "first thing in the morning" you need to cycle the ignition on and off. Turn your ignition on to the start position not the run position, just far enough to get your dash lights on then wait 2 seconds then turn it off, and repeat this process about 4 times then try and start your car. If at this point your car starts right up your fuel pump is your culprit, so I would suggest installing a new fuel pump. It could possibly just be a fuel pump relay switch which limits the amount of voltage to the pump.

Thanks for writing in and reading my weekly Q and A in the Sunday edition of my favorite newspaper…The Houston Chronicle!

– BT






89 Trans am tranny problem

DEAR BT:

I have been a regular follower of your simple but effective insights/suggestion for queries from readers facing car problems. i hope u can help me out with my tranny problem.

I have a 89 pontiac firebird trans am V8 305 TPI with 4-speed automatic transmission with 159000 miles on it. i started having this problem last year. everything shifts ok when it is cold like during the first 30 mins of driving, but as soon as i go through a lot of traffic lights, the problem arrives.

when i come to as top at a light, it wont downshift quickly ( seems like there is a lag, also seems like a long jerk shifting from a higher gear to a lower gear long after i came to a stop) and when its time to accelerate it seems rather sluggish and wont upshift properly ( feels like it would go to the 2nd then 3rd and then again slips to 2nd but upshifts smoothly afterwards), cruising along the highways shows no problem, except for when i come to a stop sign. also sometimes when i go around a corner(or coming to a stop sign) i can almost hear some clanking noise ( like the the sound coming from the engine when fuels empties out,) it seems like engine does not relay enough power to the transmission ( i have change the fuel filter too and changed the transmission oil too with penzoil dextron III ATF ), none of the problems shows up when i am driving cold.

i had it checked at cottsman's, then said nothing wrong with it (i told them all the things it is doing) , it problem didnt showed when they drove , maybe it was still cold.

i showed it to a local mechanic, he said it may be a problem with the timing chain says may be there is a slack in it ( i doubt it because then it showed happen alll the time)

i showed it to another guy and he said may be it is problem with solenoid valve.... something to do with engaging/disengaging of the clutch plate that transmits power to the transmission.

what do think of this? i would want to spend wisely knowing sure of what the problem is?. you see i am international student from India who is in love with american muscle cars , and i could resist the temptation of buying this car for 1000 $. since then i had to almost spend close to around 5000 $ within the past 2 years changing the worn out rear end, lifters , water pump, on board computer heater coil , radiator 2 times , cleaning up the engine. i also had it paint red , fitted a 2 dual tip exhaust flowmaster 80 muffler and wings , it looks very good.

but still it is highly unreliable, i am afraid to take it from beaumont to houston ( bcos of fear of being heated up in the houston traffic , it did that to me during hurricane rita.. had to leave the car and go). my friends say that i have married a white elephant . but still i love my car and would want to keep it running as long as i can afford it.

i would really appreciate ur advice, bcos i like how u analyze the car problem and would want to follow ur suggestion.

thanking you in anticipation.

Suraj K. Shetty
Lamar University
Beaumont , Texas

A: DEAR SURAJ:

Wow, you are quite the car enthusiast aren't you?

Okay, let's talk about my opinion regarding this 89 Trans-am that sounds like it will turn heads on the freeway!

I would have the tranny totally rebuilt or replaced. You mention that the transmission acts up after you have driven the car for a while which totally points a finger to the clutches inside your transmission casing. I would also suggest doing your homework and finding a REAL transmission shop to take your car to in order to have this transmission work done on it, a shop that specializes in this type of work.

They can run a pressure test on it to see what is really going on inside the casing. Once this pressure test is done…you will know everything there is to know about it.

It seems to me that you have developed a true passion for this car; well actually you have made a super choice in choosing a significant other. This car has the potential of being a prize possession of yours for a lifetime and the amount of money you have already invested you have come to far to turn back now or cut corners on having it fixed. Take good care of this white elephant of yours and acquire the best help possible for its well being!

Thanks for reading and writing in!

– BT






Instrumentation lights

DEAR BT:

Barbara....I have an 97 F-150 ford pickup.

Only half of the speedometer instrumentation lights work the left side.

Also, my fan, a/c cluster light is out.

Is there any quick fix to this...bulbs, fuses etc...

Thanks

Jamie

A: DEAR JAMIE

What you are describing to me sounds like it is both the fuses and the bulbs that are being your culprits. I would first check your fuses then check your bulbs. The problem with your fan sounds like it is definitely a fuse causing your frustration. I will also bring to your attention if by chance all of these problems you are experiencing happened all at once, you will need to take it to your local dealership for them to look at your Ford F-150. It could possibly be something more serious for instance an electrical short or some moisture possibly got into an electrical connector.

I hope this works for you!

– BT






Jenson Healey

DEAR BT:

I have been patiently restoring a 1974 JH. I am not an expert on cars so working on a 907 Lotus motor requires some knowledge I do not have. Whenever possible I use the Jensen Healey Preservation Society resources to research and do the work myself but even with them I sometimes need someone else to do the work. While initially it was fun contacting shops and asking them to repeat themselves when they said they did not have the expertise to work on a 33 year old car it did not help me much. Where can I find someone to help finish this project so I can get it out on the road. After all prime convertible diving time is fast upon us.

David J Horchak

A: DEAR DAVID:

Prime convertible driving time is so limited in Houston Texas so we better hurry and get this beast up and running and cruising down the freeway as fast as possible!

I can think of a couple awesome web sites that may have the "hard to find" parts for this classic that you are restoring. Check out:

  • Car-parts.com
  • Ebaymotors.co

As far as the help in restoring it, I would like to ask you to send me some photos of it. I would consider featuring you and your car on the first season of my reality show about cars that we are in pre-production on as we speak. I would love to hear the story about how you found this car and what repairs you have done to it up till now.

Thanks!

– BT






Volvo belt problems

DEAR BT:

I read H.A.s questions and comments on Volvo timing belt replacement with great interest. I am one of the (now ex-)owners who experienced the premature and costly failure of the timing belt TENSIONER, not the belt itself. This was on my S-80, T6 engine, and of course happened on the freeway at 60 mph. The result was a totally ruined engine which I found was cheaper ($4500) to replace than to repair due to the cost of the valves and the 26 flat rate hours labor I was quoted to R&R the head on this car, not to mention any unseen additional problems which may have occured. I have been told the five and six cylinder Volvo engines all use a similiar or same design for the tensioner. Mine was dry and had dirty, rusty surfaces where the bearings ran. I got no help or interest from Volvo Customer Service, and since this occurence I have spoken with two other six cylinder Volvo owners who have had similiar experiences. I am wondering if there are enough of us out there who have had the premature failure of the timing belt and/or tensioner to force Volvo into a recall or a class action lawsuit to correct this problem. Your acvice is right-on, as were H.A.s observations, but please pass the word along to inspect the belt and the tensioner before the recommended replacement period, and always replace both parts at the same time, and this can happen to makes other than Volvo that use this design. If it does fail, I recomment getting a Saturn Aura as I did. It's the same size as the S-80 and has the advantage of being reliable and equal in most respects to the S-80 for a lot less money. This is said by a person who has owned and driven Volvos for forty-five years, but never again.

Ande C., Houston, Texas

A: DEAR A. D.C.:

I do understand how frustrating these premature mechanical failures can be and the costly disasters that they create. The manufacturers seem to be so competitive with each other you think that they would bend over backwards more than they do to make customers happy. The internet is more than loaded up with forums and blogs from seemingly angry customers so maybe these internet writings will finally get some attention from the manufacturers. I do agree that there should be more factory recalls to fix these problems that seem to linger and never go away like a bad hair day.

I also agree with your new selection in vehicles regarding the Saturn Aura, but who’s to say that you are not going to buy one in the future and then be disappointed with it because of some unexpected premature mechanical problem. You obviously were pretty happy with the Volvo brand if you owned and drove them for 45 years.

I am a huge Jeep nut, but I have definitely owned a few in the past that were not as up to par as they should have been, but I still buy and drive Jeeps making them my first vehicle of choice!

Occasionally we do come across lemons or duds in products that we buy and not just in vehicles but think of how many weed eaters, coffee makers and vacuum cleaners that we have bought that do not perform as well as others that we have purchased in the past. Wouldn’t be great if it were a problem free world.

Thanks for writing in and I will pass your advice along regarding the timing belt tensioner in addition to the belt itself.

– BT






Dangers at the gas pump

DEAR BT:

I have been really enjoying your column in Sundays Houston Chronicle and I just wanted to say…way to go girl! I was also wondering if all of the dangers while pumping gas are myth or truth?

Cindy, Spring Texas

A: DEAR CINDY:

Believe it or not pumping gas is not the safest daily routine out there. Being a woman trying to multitask while pumping gas, I usually get back in my car, adjust the radio to my favorite song, place a call, and of course check to see if I am in need of another application of what most of us women love and desire...more lipstick. Getting in and out of your car while pumping gas creates the danger of static electricity. If you absolutely have to get back in your car while the gas is still pumping, make sure that when you get back out, shut the door and touch the metal on the door before you grasp the gasoline nozzle.

This process will discharge whatever static electricity that may be lingering around your body. On the other hand, we should simply be more like the men in our lives and stick with the procedure until your fuel tank on your vehicle is full.

There should be clear warnings about static electricity posted at your local gas station stating the risks involved while pumping the fuel that gets us down the road. The Petroleum Equipment Institute is campaigning to make us more aware of the dangers associated with static electricity at gas pumps.

I will also warn you to never use your cell phone while pumping gas and of course never light-up one your favorite cig or cigars, but I will assume we have all figured that one out by now!

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Electrical short problem

DEAR BT:

I have owned an automotive center for the last fourteen years. One of my customers had his vehicle detailed at my facility a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and is now claiming that we are responsible for his car's electrical problems. The detailer was having trouble with the power seat when he was vacuuming the car, long before he began detailing the interior. The dealership is telling the customer that we caused the problem (driver seat not working, window not working, and antilock brakes not working). The service department mechanic said that when the carpet was shampooed "we created an open circuit " The grounds were cleaned and the problem was resolved. We have detailed thousands of cars over the last fourteen years and have never caused any type of electrical problem. The seat was not working when the car came in. How can the dealership be sure that we caused the problem? Now the customer thinks I am a lair. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this matter.  

Thank You,

Lisa Kelly

A: DEAR LISA:

Wow!

First of all the Jeep is still under factory warranty if the miles are still within the warranty limits, so what is the customers beef with you other than thinking that your shop did something wrong. At this point it is one opinion against the next on how the electrical problem happened. You have obviously had a good reputation and standing with your local area to have stayed in business for 14 years so even if you can not convince this one person that you did not do anything to harm his Jeep then it is his loss by not letting your shop detail his vehicle any longer. He needs to understand that not all cars are made error proof. I am also put out by this dealership putting the blame on your business when they do not have iron clad proof of it.

I remember a long time ago when I was first in business for myself I had an angry customer over a certain situation and a dear friend of mine told me to chill out and not let it bother me so much because no matter how hard you try you can not make everyone happy. Not every customer is going to be pleased 100 % with your service that you provide no matter how much you go above and beyond and bend over backwards to please them. After that advice I would not take things to heart as much and would let them roll off my back. You need to forget about this guy or you will give yourself an ulcer. I also assume you have a good standing with the Better Business Bureau and he needs to understand that you have a very reputable operation if you have been in business this long without complaints.

I hope I have been able to help out.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Volvo belt

DEAR BT:

I'm a 77-year old fossil who enjoys reading your column in the Houston Chronicle.  

My wife (name: Barbara; and I tell everyone: don't even think "Babs") and I drive a '98 Volvo S-70 Sedan which has served us well and is coming up to the 60K mark. At the time of the 1998 purchase, we did opt for the "light turbo" feature , which has proven handy in a couple of "passing another car quickly" situations. We have no burning desire to buy another car and I should emphasize we also use this vehicle to make an annual 3200 mile round-trip trek to visit our daughter and grandsons in Minnesota each summer. I don't wish to be "penny wise and pound foolish" but I'd sure appreciate your slant on Volvo's "programmed" replacement of the drive belt at the 60,000 mile mark. I completely understand how failure of this belt (and the inherent valve timing) could/would cause the engine to self-destruct if the belt (and/or its components) became "unglued."   

I've been told by the Volvo service folks that either the belt itself could fail or one of the "routing" pulleys/bearings could fail with the same inevitable result; the engine would self-destruct. This seems to me to be almost a built-in "time bomb" (i.e. inherent design flaw?) or a clever income-generating gimmick. There's also an inference that the pulleys/bearings might be more prone to failure than the belt, itself. I'm not sure exactly what to believe.  

Do you have any "words of wisdom" concerning this upcoming significant and costly (around $800 Volvo tells me) "preventive maintenance" item?  Yes, I realize this is not a "normal" fan belt, but the $800 price tag seems a bit much; even for a Volvo. Of course the 'easiest' (safest?) thing to do would be to not "question the system", pay the $800 and be glad I avoided the possible engine self-destruction.  

So, that's about it. Any experience or suggestions you might have concerning this $800 "replace the fan belt at 60K" issue would be appreciated.  

H.A. Olson

A: DEAR H. A.:

I love your comment when you say that the Turbo has proven handy in “passing another car quickly” You lead-foot person you!

My words of wisdom would be to tell you to take the replacement of this belt, which is actually more than just a fan belt…very seriously. This belt is designed to keep your engine “in time” and you might want to double check because some of these “belts” are designed to be replaced between 70 to 90 on the mileage clock instead of 60k. It is unfortunate that these cars are designed to have parts that only last a certain period of time in order for the manufacturers to make money on the parts, but that is life and we have to deal with it. In order to prevent that time bomb from going off and stranding you on the highway between Houston and Minnesota get the job done which should really only cost you around $600.00 to do instead of the $800.00 that you have been quoted.

Thanks for reading my weekly column in the Sunday Edition of the Houston Chronicle Automotive Section...my favorite newspaper!

– BT






Backfire problem

DEAR BT:

hi Barbara it is finally good to meet a kindred spirit. My name is Sharon and i am from Trinidad in the Caribbean and this is my problem..... i recently changed my oil etc. ( i have a 1984 Mazda 626) but it wasn't until i changed the spark plugs that i started getting a backfiring problem. Thing is as i changed one plug i replaced the plug wires immediately in order not to mix them up, but i am still getting a problem, i need a couple hints on a solution.

P.S. Make them eat there heart out you look damn good for someone in this business for  20 years, let them know that its no longer a man's world

Sharon, Trinidad

A: DEAR Sharon:

A few possibilities here. Your backfiring problem could be caused by an exhaust leak. If you cave cold air getting into your exhaust this can defiantly be causing a backfire. If you are experiencing a “miss” I would recommend that you have a compression test performed on your car to see if you have a bad cylinder. Also, have you double and triple checked that you have all of the plug wires on snug and totally tight?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, I really appreciate that. I do also have to say that I admire you by doing the work on your car yourself. You go girl, let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

– BT






Oil change issue

DEAR BT:

It is wonderful to be able to get a woman's point of view on a car repair issue since I am convinced that my husband has been hoodwinked into believing that what has happened with our car was our fault!  

We were on our way to Richmond, Va from Roanoke, Va last week when he decided to get the oil checked prior to us leaving because the oil light had been coming on and off, never staying on, just blinking the night before.  He put oil in it and apparently put too much oil.  He had the oil checked and found out that it was a quart and a half over.  He told Jiffy Lube to give us a complete oil change in which they were to check all fluid levels and install a  new filter and pump as well.  This was done and we went on to Richmond.  We got there no problem...no display lights coming on at all..car drove great we both thought.  On the way back, we got about 50 miles from Roanoke, when the oil light came on and the car started sputtering...we pulled over just in time, because the car shut off!  A we checked the oil and there was very little in there.  A passerby stopped and looked underneath the car and saw oil dripping from underneath the car.  He also checked the oil and agreed with us that there was no oil in the car or very little oil.  We were towed back and Jiffy Lube agreed to pay for the towing and take a look at the car the next morning.  We kept the keys with us and upon arriving the next morning and giving the manager the keys, he checked the oil and magically..there was oil in it..lots of oil!!! How could this happen?  Upon Jiffy Lube's examination, they said our head was cracked due to the antifreeze mixing with the oil.  Now, our car never ran hot, the temperature gauge never registered that it was overheating at all.  The only indicator light that ever came one was the oil light. Jiffy Lube convinced my husband that this problem had nothing to due with their oil change, it was our fault due to low coolant.  I feel this is unfair since they were to top off all fluids and if the antifreeze was low..why didn't they fill it..we had a container of antifreeze in the trunk as well!! Barbara, can you please explain this to me..it will cost a lot of money to get this repaired...our car is beautiful...and this seems unfair to me.  Something just doesn't sound right.  It was driving fine prior to the oil change except for the oil light coming on and we thought we did the right thing by getting the oil changed.   

Please help!

Jackie Bass

A: DEAR JACKIE:

This exact problem happened to one of my friends years ago. The oil change place jacked up the job and his car by stripping the screw on the oil pan which resulted in all of the oil draining out and cracking a head/locking up the engine. Apparently a lot of consumers are heated up to the point of spending time on the internet creating forums and bogs regarding this exact issue. Your temperature gauge should have registered that the engine was getting hot and I wish you would have pulled over to check the oil as soon as the oil light came on.

One place to start would be to contact someone at the Jiffy Lube corporate office and explain to them what happened, who knows maybe they will try and help you. If you feel in your heart that they did not perform the job that you paid them to do then possibly hire an attorney to write a letter to them and definitely write a letter to your local Better Business Bureau. The Bureau has been known to get results!

If you requested Jiffy Lube and especially if you paid them to make sure that all of the fluids were topped off including the coolant/antifreeze and they are admitting now that your problem was from having low coolant then also pursue that avenue. I hope that you will get some assistance and relief by pursuing these actions.

Thanks for writing in and of course good luck.

– BT






Motorcycle tires

DEAR BT:

I recently purchased new tires for my motorcycle.  After I drove my motorcycle home, I looked at the tires and saw that the tire markings ( red dots ) of the tires did not match up with the valve stems.  The rear tire was about 45 degrees from the stem and the front was about 120 degrees from the valve stem.  I have purchased car tires before, and the tire markings are always matched up to the valve stem.  I took my bike to three other motorcycle dealers and asked them if the tire markings should be matched up with the valve stem.  They all said that they should.  I took my motorcycle to the dealer that performed the work and asked them about the tire markings.  He said,"We don't pay any attention to the markings, they have so little affect on the balance, it means nothing."  The bike is fine, and the tires do not vibrate at all at any speed.  My question is, should the tires be aligned with the valve stem?  What is the purpose of the dots?  

Also, I have chrome spoke wheels.  When the bike was new, the tires on it were balanced with spoke weights.  ( Weights attached to the spokes of the wheel.)  With the new tires, the dealer used stick weights.  Both a Harley Davidson dealer and a Yamaha dealer stated that the spoke weights should have been used.  The Yamaha dealer said that it is possible for the stick weights to come lose.  What is the story with stick weights vs. spoke? What is the correct answer? 

WCM

A: DEAR WCM:

The red dot is supposed to be lined up with the valve stem… that is the purpose for the red dot and yes, the tires need to be aligned with the valve stem. The guy that said that he does not pay attention to the markings on the tires is incorrect with his thinking, maybe he isn’t a serial biker like some of us.

I personally have never and will never use stick weights on my bikes. Stick weights can and will fly off the wheels, they will even come off when washing your sweet bike on that weekend afternoon.

Keep biking and using spoke weights!

– BT






Low fuel pressure

DEAR BT:

hey barb i have a 96 chevy p/u w/4.3 engine the problem is that the code came up multi miss fire and low pressure regulator so i changed plugs wires cap roter and still runs rough the engine light goes on and off is there a web site that i can go to so i can find the reg?

Thanks,

Robert 

A: DEAR ROBERT:

The regulators going out on the 4.3 liters is definitely a common problem. I would recommend not just replacing the regulator but replacing the whole spider injector...the whole set-up… the whole kit and caboodle!  This repair will set your bank account back a little being as it is a high dollar fix, but afterwards it will save you from getting gas into your oil and of course ruining your motor. I would recommend trying to find an aftermarket one to save you a little dough, take a gander at “Parts.com”

Thanks for reading!

– BT






Lexus ES350 transmission

DEAR BT:

Do you know if the 2007 ES-350 is having transmission problems? Thanks for you help.  

Sincerely,

Bill J.

A: DEAR BILL:

I have not personally heard of any tranny problems with the 2007 Lexus ES 350. I have also asked around to many sources and they have not heard of any problems either. If you are experiencing any mechanical problems, immediately take it into your dealership for them to look at it and perform any repairs that are covered under the factory warranty. If for some reason after the repair you are still experiencing problems insist that you want them to buy it back and give you another vehicle.

Thanks for reading

– BT






Better gas mileage with the tailgate down or not

DEAR BT:

Barbara,

I just bought a new truck, the first for me.  Will I get better fuel economy with the tailgate down?

Thank you,

Matt

A: DEAR MATT:

Hi there Matt!

I love questions like these!

Okay, cars today are designed and engineered in such an aerodynamic fashion that if you mess with this technology by opting to put the tailgate down this will throw the engineering out the window resulting in less gas mileage.

I can remember as a kid thinking that I would get better gas mileage by putting the tailgate down thinking that there would be less wind resistance, not true.

Keep the tailgate up for better fuel economy.

Congrats on your new truck!

– BT






Upper intake Plenium problem

DEAR BT:

Hey Barbara, some time back you were kind enough to help me with an oil change question and now I have another one I hope you can help with.  2001 Ford F150 4.2 v6 59,000 miles.  The weather here in Texas has been quite cold the last couple of days so I let my truck warm up for a few minutes in the mornings.  This AM I came onto my office ( 9 miles) and out of the blue the check engine soon light came on.  Took it to my local shop, and they advised this is a well known problem.  It seems that the cold weather causes the intake manifold gasket to shrink thus the check engine light.  It also seems that there is a kit just for this problem, total parts and labor around $450.00.  They tried to reset the light but it just came back on again.  I trust your judgment so does this make sense and if so have you heard of this problem before.

Regards,

Don in Texas

A: DEAR DON:

Hello again Don!

Okay, Ford did have issues with their 4.0 liter V6 pertaining to the upper intake/plenium. This particular problem on the 4.2 liter V6 problem is not so common. Unfortunately you will have to get this addressed to correct the problem and keep that annoying check engine light off. I suppose your truck is running real rough too probably like a train on a track that is being shook up by an earthquake! The repair should cost more like $275.00 to $325.00, so shop around and get a better price.

Thanks

– BT


RESPONSE:

Once again thanks for your help, and yes it is running somewhat rough at idle only.  I checked the ford website and they showed problems with the 4.2 V8 but they showed nothing for the v6 problems. Well at least I know my repair shop wasn't pulling my leg on this.  Thanks so much once again you haved saved my bacon.

Regards,

– Don






Thanks from the BBB

DEAR BT:

Well, belated thanks!!

You were kind enough to refer a writer to the BBB in a recent column in the Houston Chronicle. They run your column weekly on Sundays.  You are building quite a following here.....the advice is wonderful....you handle the readers will great tact and humor...and you clearly know your stuff.  I am a brand new Cadillac DTS owner (please tell me you like that car...or I will be jinxed!!)  It is my 5th Caddy...and as a new owner, I now turn to your column each week.  

Should admit one thing...some callers to the BBB here were hoping you were LOCAL. so that they could meet you!  And I am sure THAT comes up all the time!

Anyway....great job and thanks for thinking of us....if we can ever be of service...please touch base...

Dan Parsons
President
Better Business Bureau

A: DEAR DAN:

Even though I do not live in Houston, being a native Texan I do still try to get back to my home state as often as possible. I have always referred family, friends and readers to the BBB for point of reference to check out the reputation of a business. Thanks for being there to assist us wary consumers.

Oh, and as far as your choice of cars, the Cadillac DTS is an excellent choice, one of my moms favorites.

Thanks for reading and keep up the devoted work that you do!

– BT






Suburban steering column

DEAR BT:

I have a 2002 Chevrolet Suburban LS that makes this rattling noise under the dashboard when I turn or go over bumps.  It feels as if the steering wheel is rattling and wants to detach.  The car has been balanced and it continues.  I think it began 1-2 years ago after having something done to the traction control system.  Any ideas?  Or, any places in Pearland with a honest reputation?
Thank you,

Barry Smith

A: DEAR BARRY:

So your nerves are probably getting very close to your skin every time you hear this rattle.

It sounds like to me that you’re looking at replacing the steering column because when the initial grease runs out it leaves a rattle which unfortunately leaves you holding the problem of replacing the steering column in order to fix this aggravation.

Unfortunately I am not very familiar with any shops in the Pearland area but I would recommend calling your local Better Business Bureau and finding out who they would suggest in that area with a good reputation. However, I would recommend getting this looked at and fixed at your local Chevy dealership, you might get lucky and the dealer may be able to just replace the grease in the splines. They have been able to change this in some cases so that the grease will not run out. Do not feel like you and your suburban have been singled out, the problem you are experiencing is pretty common on a lot of General Motors trucks and SUV’s.

Thanks for writing in and good luck with getting that rattlesnake out of your dash.

– BT






Problem starting Ford T

DEAR BT:

BT, Hope you can give me some help w/ a problem I'm having with my 1996 Taurus. It has the 3.0 V6 engine. When starting the car you have to crank it for 10 sec. or more, and often you have to make multiple attempts before the thing starts. It starts faster once it warms up, but still won't start as fast as it should. Once it is running though, there's no problem. It idles fine and there is no miss when accelerating or cruising. It's just getting it started that's the problem. I've replaced the spark plugs and wires and the air and fuel filters without any luck. You can hear the elec. fuel pump running, and the fact that it runs fine once it starts, leads me to believe that it's getting fuel. I've been working on my cars for years, but this has got me stumped.
Thanks

Lou in Houston, Texas

A: DEAR LOU:

My first advice is to check out your battery especially since you state that the car starts and runs fine once it warms up. I know it is pretty basic and straight to the point but I would check your battery condition and the connection of the cables to the posts and clean any existing corrosion off if there is any. Another possibility could be your fuel pump, and oh how frustrating this can be! At night when your car sits idle all of the fuel drains out. In order to re-prime the system on a cold start-up ”first thing in the morning” you need to cycle the ignition on and off. Turn your ignition on to the start position not the run position, just far enough to get your dash lights on then wait 2 seconds then turn it off, and repeat this process about 4 times then try and start your car. If at this point your car starts right up your fuel pump is your culprit, so I would suggest installing a new fuel pump.

Good luck Lou!

– BT






Saturn question

DEAR BT:

I own a chocolate black 2003 Saturn L200 sport sedan with manual transmission--my race car--and I wonder, as I'm from Michigan (I was born in Dearborn, HQ of Ford), what do people in Houston think of Saturn(s)?

In the town adjoining the town where I'm from, GM builds the Saturn Outlook.  What do you think?

I've always been fascinated with NASA and its relationship to Houston.  And, I'd like my daughter to have more exposure up here in Michigan to some of the benefits of the Space Program.

Mark Knox

A: DEAR MARX KNOX:

Well I can not speak for all of the people in the wonderful town of Houston Texas, but I can say that I thought GM did a super job by creating the Saturn. Remember the creative marketing campaign via Television Commercials and Print-ads when the Saturn’s first came out? Very clever!

Saturn’s have always carried a good track record and now that they are offering the 5 year/100,000 mile factory Powertrain Warranty and OnStar being standard how can you beat that.

I would highly recommend their brand to any of my friends and family so you are good to go with that L200 race car that you are cruising around in every day. If you haven’t taken the time to test drive the brilliant Outlook I would defiantly race over to your closest Saturn dealership this weekend and find a seat that fits you best!

I also have to say that us Texans are huge fans of your Michigan based Ford trucks, cars and SUV’s.

Thanks for reading the Houston Chronicle all the way from Michigan; I hope you can find the time to tour NASA with your daughter!

– BT






Response to leaky valve

DEAR BT:

You were kind enough to respond to an e/m I sent you Oct 15/2006 regarding white smoke coming out of my exhaust system first thing in the morning when I start up the car. With the cooler weather I have not been using my air conditioner, and I've noticed that the white smoke does not come out in the morning.

Please advice as to my next step
Thanks

Douglas

A: DEAR DOUGLAS:

Your air conditioner should not have anything to do with your engine and or exhaust. I will still suggest if your problem is a leaky valve seal or a head gasket issue to address it before it gets any worse.

I wish I were there to personally take a look at it.

Thanks for writing in again and keep me updated on your Camry problem and if you have any other issues in the future.

– BT






Outside temperature

DEAR BT:

I enjoy your column and always find something beneficial and interesting, especially since my only and most talented activity in a car is turning on the ignition! 

Here is my question. I just purchased a new Ford Expedition, Limited 4x4. I love the truck and hope to put many interesting miles on it as my wife and I really enjoy driving around the country. I thought, however, that the Limited edition would have a feature indicating the “outside air temperature”. The manual shows that some models of the Expedition have that feature, but as I am getting familiar with the truck, I can’t find it. There are three scenarios in the manual and it seems I got the one without that feature. 

Is there some after market device that I can get that would provide me that feature? I had it in the previous car and got used to it. 
Thanks for your help and keep up the good work. 

Mike and Lorena

A: DEAR MIKE AND LORENA:

Oh how I have been spoiled by driving and loving my Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. They all come equipped with this feature and it is so nice having it especially when the weather is touch and go around freezing temperatures to be able to keep an eye on the temperature outside to know whether it has dropped to freezing especially if you are driving in wet weather and to know if it is freezing on the roads, black ice can be very tricky and dangerous. One of my brothers just recently bought this temperature gauge and loves how easy it was to install and how it did not break his bank account! http://www.autosportcatalog.com/index.cfm?fa=p&pid=3544&cid=64 You are so correct regarding the fact of having something in the past and getting used to it and how we miss it in the future if we do not have it. I have just spent a couple months in a small one bedroom cabin on a lake in South Carolina and this cabin did not have a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher or washer/dryer, however it did have running water and a killer shower so I should not be complaining, right?

Thanks for reading and keep it up!

– BT






Lexus power mirror

DEAR BT:

I've been reading your column in the Sunday Chronicle for quite awhile and enjoy the questions and all your answers.   

Now, I seem to have a small problem in my "old" 1995 Lexus SC400 coupe.   The motor driven rear view mirrors on each side will not respond to the button/right-left switch on the driver's armrest.  There are two different fuses that have control over this switch.  One inside the driver's side kick panel, a 15 amp that also controls the SRS airbag system and one in a box in the engine compartment, a 10 amp that controls the mirrors, as well as many inside lights and a lot of other things.  The airbag light clicks on and off,  and seems to be OK when the engine starts up, as well as most all the other items working through the second fuse seem to doing OK.  So, don't think a fuse is causing the problem?  I would think it would be a relay or something that has shorted out.  Just wanted your thoughts, when you have the time to send them.
Thank you.

Jack Oliphint

A: DEAR JACK:

I think what you have here is a switch problem. Your mirrors run off of the radio “2” fuse which is a 7.5 amp fuse which is hot in the run or accessory position so make sure your key is on to test this.

You will need to go into your switch to see if you have power going in. Activate your switch to see if power is coming out anywhere within the switch, if you do not have any power coming out then it is your switch. If you do have power coming out then it will be your motor that is behind the mirror.

Keep up reading my columns in the Sunday Houston Chronicle!

Thanks for writing in, and I love your model Lexus…very sweet!

– BT






Key problem with Olds Regency

DEAR BT:

I have a 1993 olds 98 regency, and in a matter of two weeks the key stopped working in the ignition. The display keeps saying to "please clean key and try again in three minutes" but cleaning it does nothing. I took the key to the dealer and they said the key is fine and got a new key at the same time and neither work. Any ideas on how to fix this?

The key turns but it just won’t start. The dealer read the chip in it and said it was fine but we still just can’t get it to do anything.

Kate in Seattle, WA

A: DEAR KATE:

The first thing I would suggest is to get your dealer to check the key cylinder. There are 2 wires coming from the cylinder and if one of them is broke the key cylinder can not read your key.

Happy motoring and thanks for writing in!

– BT






Ford camber issue

DEAR BT:

I took my 2003 Ford Focus to a company that "knows tires" to correct the alignment. After the service was performed, I noticed on the printout that the left, rear camber was still out of range (-2.4 degrees, as compared to a specified range of -2.3 to 0.3 degrees). The obvious consequence, an oddly worn tire,  is starting to happen. I have taken the car back to them to check and correct this and they have told me that the camber in this car is "not adjustable." Curiously, in previous alignments it was possible to adjust it (to a reported angle of -1.8 degrees). Does it make sense to say that the rear left camber cannot be adjusted? They say that only the car manufacturer can do it.
Thanks in advance for your expert advice. :D

Alejandro García Rodríguez

A: DEAR ALEJANDRO:

Whether you are going to sell your car on your own or trade it in at your local dealership there are some things you will want to do in order for you to get the most money out of it.

Someone is blowing a little smoke in your direction because it is possible to set the camber on this. Because it is adjustable you will need to elongate the adjustment holes in order to get the camber specs. Also on the alignment a lot of times the camber will be off so that the car will drive straight and not eat your tires up like a hungry cowboy that just came in from a long ride. I would take your car to your local Ford Dealership and have them check this out.

Thanks for writing in.

– BT






F150 engine problem

DEAR BT:

I read your column in today's paper (Feb. 4) regarding the question from Don about the check engine light coming on. I too have been having a similar problem. I have a 1997 F-150 with 89500 miles on it and in March of 2006 I had to have the engine rebuilt. I have had my check engine light come on several times since then and my truck feels real rough in the mornings when starting out and sometimes at highway speeds. The auto shop I took it to last said it was misfiring in cylinder 4 and also there was carbon build-up around that cylinder. I can feel my truck jolt forward a bit at highway speeds on occasion. Is there any legitimacy in that or could that be a more serious problem? The engine light has not been back on yet, however, I can definitely tell something is not right with the engine. I am open to any and all suggestions.
Thank you very much.

Corey from Texas 

A: DEAR COREY:

Wow, I am receiving so many emails lately regarding F150’s. What you are describing to me sounds like carbon build-up even though in reality it has been a short period of time since you have had your engine rebuilt, leaving you probably scratching your head.

The fact of the matter is that an engine can accumulate carbon deposits, dirt, debris and other contaminants within as little as 500 miles of a new engine.

I would suggest having a Motor Vac performed on it and see if this takes care of the problem. Having the Motor Vac done should fix what you are describing to me if it is carbon build-up.

Motor Vac is a multi- step procedure that requires about an hour to complete. It is performed only by a trained mechanic using a specially instrumented 3 1/2 foot tall 12-volt powered machine on casters.

It will restore performance, smoothness and restore efficiency. Think of it as a tooth cleaning, it’s the kind of thing that should be done every year or so. Again, our vehicles are like our bodies by requiring regular check-ups and maintenance.

The price can range anywhere from $50 to $150 of course depending on who and where you have this service performed. Fords have always been a huge part of my family’s day to day duties and yes, I am very partial to them.

Ford Tough!

– BT






Engine noise

DEAR BT:    

I have recently purchased a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer with 54K miles.  There was a tick in the engine when I test drove it, used dealer said they would take care of it.  When I picked up the vehicle a week later, they said it was a loose manifold bolt, all fixed.  Sound still slightly there.   

I had the vehicle for a few days, told dealer noise was there still and louder, brought it in, after they had it for a week, the diagnosis went from bad lifter, to upper engine knock to, their final diagnosis was carbon buildup.  They said noise was "1/2" gone.  They suggested I add high octane gas for next couple fill ups, add an oil additive. 

I feel I'm getting screwed around.  Yes, I'm a chick.  Any thoughts?  I appreciate it

Linda, Upstate NY

A: DEAR LINDA:

Oh boy…where do I start! If the used car dealer gave you a warranty on the Trailblazer what are the limits of the warranty and if so do you have it in writing?

Funny how they are trying to blame a potential major problem on bad gas, hummm… I wish I had a piece of chocolate for every time I have heard of this happening, well if I did I would have had an overload of chocolate by now. A ticking noise can be anything from a lifter, to an exhaust leak like a manifold exhaust leak.

Carbon build-up can definitely cause issues with an engine but not typically creating a loud knock resembling an ex-boyfriend pounding on your door after breaking his heart by dumping him.

You need to take this Trailblazer to another mechanic, if possible a Chevy dealership and get a diagnosis. You then need to take it to the place where you purchased it and ask them to address and fix the problem then give you a warranty on the repair. If they will not make it right for you then spend $150.00 to hire an attorney to write a letter to this used car dealer because sometimes this will get their attention and also report them to the Better Business Bureau so their future customers may be deterred from buying used cars from them.

It is a shame in instances like this one that the auto manufacturers have just started offering more favorable warranties on their vehicles. So many people like yourself have been screwed around from used car purchases in the past!

Good luck with this one and let me know how it all turns out!

– BT






Dodge caravan belt

DEAR BT:

I have a 1990 Dodge Caravan with approx. 195,000 miles.  For quite a while I have had a problem with the belt.  It comes off if I hit water on the road and splashs up onto the pully.  I have had the timing cover seal replaced as well as the tensioner and it still has this problem.  I have heard that this is not uncommon with an old Caravan.  Any ideas on how to remedy this? 
Thanks in advance,

Kent

A: DEAR KENT:

Your frustration levels must be at an all time high, every time this belt comes off you must feel your temperature rise to the heat levels of a hot Houston August day. I will give you several possible solutions to fix your problem but I bet it will be my last suggestion that will fix your belt issue so you will not have this reoccurring problem every time you head out to your favorite sporting event on a rainy Texas day.

  1. Check the belt alignment 
  2. Make sure the belt is the correct size
  3. Belt needs to be routed correctly, check idler pulley and bearing 
  4. The tensioner should be tight
  5. You might want to try a smaller belt
  6. The drain pipes from the top of the vehicle keep the water off of the belt.

    If the water runs off of the windshield and the little piece of drain pipe is no longer attached then the water will hit the windshield and drain down onto the belt making the belt sling off of the pulley as soon as the water hits it. As damp as it has been this is probably your problem.

You should also check with your local auto parts store to see if they sell a shield kit that will prevent the belt from being thrown off after water hits the pulley.

Thanks for writing in!

– BT






Cadillac AC issue

DEAR BT:

I enjoy your column in the Houston chronicle and thought that I might be able to get some information from you. I have an old 1992 Cadi that has been part of our family since it was new and it has sentimental value to us.  Anyway, I am semi retired and like to do my own repairs.  The Cadi has me stumped though. 

In cold weather, the AC works great. However, when it is warm, the climate control unit is dead (No AC or any climate controls) and just the fan blows.  It is something to do with the BCM I think.  I believe it is just the instrument display, not the computer itself, since the seats, power windows, radio etc all work fine when the display is out.

Is there any way to test just the display, as I can't use the onboard computer when the display is out?  When the display is lit, the onboard computer does not pick up any errors. 

How do you remove this instrument display unit from the dash?  I can't find any removal instructions anywhere.  Neither O'Rielly's or AutoZone have any info.

If it is the display, are there any after market suppliers or do I have to by it from the dealer?

Hope you can help.
Many thanks.

Dave

A: DEAR DAVE:

The control unit can be the 1st of 2 possible culprits. The control unit bolts under the hood onto the air box, the wind from the blower motor keeps this cool. Typically if this part goes out the fan will not work but you are stating that your fan always works so I am leaning towards it being the 2nd of the 2 possible culprits which is the control head, especially since you say you can not get any data. If the display goes blank one of these 2 parts are bad if not both, these control the AC.

Let me stress to you how important it will be to find this part at a junkyard in order to keep from going bankrupt, these parts in order to keep you cool on a hot Houston Texas day tend to be very pricey!

If your model is a Deville, disconnect the battery ground, then remove the center trim plate from the instrument panel, remove the 2 screws from control panel to instrument panel and pull control panel out.

Good luck and stay cool!

– BT






Battery question

DEAR BT:

I am writing to say thanks for the great Q&A in the chronicle.  I enjoy reading it each week and I am amazed at all that you seem to be doing.  How do you have time for it all?  Do you have a personal life?  Are you married or do you have a boyfriend?
Thank you for your time. I do have a car question.  What is the average lifespan of a car battery?  Do you wait until the battery goes dead or do you replace it around the time a battery reaches it's average lifespan?  
Thanks,

Texas Pete

A: DEAR PETE:

Thanks for reading my Q and A every week in the Houston Chronicle Sunday edition, I am flattered!

My schedule tends to be so hectic that I have not been able to round-up and rope-in a husband or boyfriend yet but I am definitely looking, just haven’t found Mr. Right.

My personal life consists of sneaking away to one of my favorite fishing spots, hanging out with my favorite guy “my yellow Labrador Retriever…Rocky” and I really do enjoy my work so I find satisfaction out of all of my projects and deals. Now to your battery question: I personally have always waited until the point of getting stranded with a dead battery that absolutely does not have enough spark, power and energy to fry a fly if it had to before I venture to the auto parts store and buy a new one. Geez, you think I would learn but I guess you can not teach an ole country girl new tricks, right? Here’s a funny story for ya, when I was in high school I would drive down the same gravel road to get to school every day and one day I noticed a new family that had moved into the house on the corner.

Shortly after that I noticed this hunk of a guy driving a short bed Chevy that he had more than likely invested so much on after-market goodies for his truck that it probably pushed him to the point of bankruptcy. I spent about a week pondering in my head how in the heck will I ever be able to meet this guy?

One day I came up with the idea to start my moms Caddy Seville, pop the hood, take the negative battery cable off of its battery post, shut the hood, drive over by this hotties house, turn the car off a couple yards past his driveway on the road and knew that doing this process the Caddy would not crank over.

I waited until I saw his truck in the driveway one hot Texas summer afternoon and did exactly all of the above. I then approached his front door and rang the door bell with a desperate look on my face and asked his dad “Can you please help me, my car has died and it will not start! Duh!

As his dad is putting his shoes on to go outside to help this damsel in distress the hottie quickly steps in and tells his dad that he will handle it. Hummm!

We venture out to the car, pop the hood and he is the hero by finding that the negative cable had popped off. Living on a bumpy gravel road this tends to happen from time to time so I was actually able to pull the wool over his eyes until we started dating and he quickly figured out that I knew more about cars then most.

For you single women out there this is a super way to meet that hottie of a guy that you have been admiring from a distance. I would recommend getting your battery replaced before it leaves you stranded; also remember to check the condition of the battery.

If the battery requires water, check that about every 3 months and replenish if needed and also keep those battery posts clear and clean of corrosion for longer battery life. Note: if your car seems to be cranking over with out as much spunk as you are used to, it may be a sign that your battery is dying its slow death and time to replace it, the typical lifespan of a battery is 2 to 3 years.

Good luck!

– BT






ABS sensors

DEAR BT:

I have a 99 F150 ford pickup and after putting some bigger tires on the ABS light came on.  I have heard that most of the time this is a sensor gone bad. Can you give me any insight? Also, can you tell me where all of the sensors are located on this vehicle. The truck at 47,000 miles on when this happened. Thanks for any help or recommendations that you can give. The ford dealer I took it to could not give me any codes, just said it must be the ECU unit without any backup. I don’t want to spend all of that money if it is just a sensor.
Thanks,

Buster Schilling

A: DEAR BUSTER:

If the tires that you installed on your F150 are the same size in both front and rear the light should not come on.

If you have different size tires you will never get the light to go off because the wheels will be going 2 different speeds. Oh and by the way, if the ABS light is on there is definitely a code so I do not know why they are yanking your chain regarding “no code”

The light could mean that the ABS Unit is Bad, one of the sensors are bad, there is trash in one or more of the valves in the ABS system, or the sensors could just be dirty. Your brake system will continue to work, however you just won't have the "Antilock" function which allows you to stop without locking up the wheels and allows you to keep tight control of your vehicle on those rainy Houston days driving on highway 10.

Your rear sensors are located on top of the rear axle and the front sensors are in the wheel hubs, it seems to me that it is just a sensor.

Safe braking!

– BT






Prepping your car to sell it

DEAR BT:

Hi there Barbara Terry. I read your Q and A in the Houston Chronicle from time to time and was wondering if you would have any advice for me so I can get the most out of the car that I am trying to sell.
Thank you for your time.

Dale, Austin TX

A: DEAR DALE:

Whether you are going to sell your car on your own or trade it in at your local dealership there are some things you will want to do in order for you to get the most money out of it.

Starting with the exterior you will want to:

  • Make sure that your tires are in good shape and balanced and make sure to check all 4 of them.
  • Fill in any and all small scratches on the car and touch up any bumper scrapes that you may have with touch-up paint.
  • Give your car a good detail in and out and make sure to use a glossy wax.
  • Shine your hubcaps or wheels.
  • Use a good high gloss tire dressing on your tires.
  • Clean your windows in and out.
  • Check all of your fluids to make sure that they are at a proper level.

The interior will need this:

  • Vacuum it out well.
  • Shampoo the carpets if necessary.
  • Clean all of the surfaces with an all purpose cleaner.
  • Apply a good non-greasy dressing to the dash and other vinyl surfaces.
  • Apply a non-greasy leather conditioner if you have a leather interior including seats.

You may want to invest in a tune-up and an oil change and address any mechanical repairs if your car is in need. I have always had a saying when it pertains to selling a car…by spending $50.00 will get you $500.00 more.

Good luck!

– BT






Checking your oil

DEAR BT:

Hi babs, I have written you before and I have another question for you. Can you take me through the steps in order to check my oil?
Thanks,

Bradley, Dallas TX

A: DEAR BRADLEY:

Checking your oil is as easy as boiling water for your favorite Irish coffee that you make. It takes less than 5 minutes so here ya go.

Have your cars engine turned off at least 2 hours before hand in order to prevent from getting burned then properly prop open your hood for safety.

Locate your oil dipstick, on some cars it will have a yellow colored handle with a little picture of an oil can on it that resembles the oil can that the tin man used to carry with him in the “Wizard of Oz “

Pull the dipstick out then wipe it off with a clean rag, an old t-shirt works well.

Stick the dipstick back in all the way.

Pull the dipstick back out and look to see where the level comes up to on the end of the dipstick. You will be looking for cross hatches that resemble a railroad track. The oil level will need to come up to the top part of the cross hatch or line.

If you are low on oil, determine what grade of oil you need, you can do this by referring to your owners manual or looking to see what the mechanic put in your car the last time you had your oil changed. You can also call your local dealer or manufacturer and they will tell you what grade of oil you should use in your car.

I would recommend adding a half of a quart at a time and rechecking until you have reached the proper level.

Remember to have your oil changed every 3000 miles to insure proper maintenance of your car; you may also want to consider switching the grade of oil as your cars gets older with increased miles on it.

Thanks for asking.

– BT






Installing a battery

DEAR BT:

Hi BT,

I want to be able to put a new battery in my truck without having to ask my boyfriend to help me. Can you tell me how to do this?
Thanks,

Vicky, The Houston Galleria

A: DEAR VICKY:

Of course I will help you with the installation of your new battery so you do not have to depend on your boyfriend and this way you will feel a little more empowered around him while impressing him!

Once you or your qualified mechanic has determined that you are in need of a new battery you will need to find out what exact type you will need.

There are many different brands available to the consumer on the market so if you prefer to do research than that is fine. Then decide on the one that you feel comfortable with that will fit your make, model and year of your vehicle.

Used batteries or some people refer to them as refurbished batteries are something to consider. I have purchased several of these in the past and I was completely satisfied with them, so I definitely would recommend purchasing one especially if you buy it from a store that offers you a warranty on the battery

Put on some safety goggles and plastic/rubber gloves in order to protect your eyes and your latest manicure. Make sure that your cars engine is turned off, the emergency brake is engaged and your hoods prop rod and or hood hydraulics are properly propped up for safety.

You will first need to unhook the negative battery cable “the black one with the negative symbol on it” then unhook the red/positive cable and make sure that they do not touch each other.

Remove the brace or clamp that is holding your battery in place and if you notice any dirt and debris in the bottom of the tray that holds your battery wash it out and let it dry before installing your new battery.

Now let’s install the new battery, put it in its place attach the cables one at a time, always remembering that red is for positive and black is for negative then tighten them down, and secure the entire battery by reapplying the battery bracket that braces it into its place in the tray.

Throw the gloves that you used away then take the old battery to the store where you purchased your new one in order to get your battery core charge back.

Now it is time to woo and wow him with your new knowledge of installing a battery!

– BT






Keep my car or junk it

DEAR BT:

Hey BT,

How do I know whether to repair or scrap my jacked-up car?
Thanks for your entertaining columns!

Tony, Galveston Texas

A: DEAR TONY:

Hi Tony. Good question.

To make the proper decision as to whether your car should be repaired or replaced you must weigh out several factors. First you should have a good idea what your car is worth. Secondly you need to understand what needs to be repaired on you car and what it will cost to complete the repair.

It may be a wiser financial choice to repair it even when you have had it in the repair shop recently for other repairs than to call bob's tow truck service and haul it off to the car graveyard. Also, if your car is over 4 years old more than likely it is paid for so you do not have to send in those stout monthly payments to a financial institution making them even richer than they already are.

But then again if you choose to fix it make sure the repair is done right so you will be assured that your car will get you from point A to point B without any major catastrophes. Do not just have a mechanic put a band-aid on the repair in order to jick it up enough to last a short period of time. So, you ask yourself…what is wrong with fixing that ole piece of metal that you have a familiarity with and that love affair that the 2 of you have shared for years?

Well, you remember the old saying "throwing good money after bad", well this pertains to car repairs also, For instance, let's say your glorious piece of metal has a shot tranny. Is the new transmission going to cost more than the value of your car? And does your mechanic foresee any additional major repairs in the near future? Once a car gets to the point where it is going to be needing several major repairs and all of the little components are going out on it also you might want to think about throwing in the towel and retiring the ole beast or donate it to a good cause. Cars and boyfriends are not intended to last a lifetime, so weigh out all of your options and do not look back!

– BT






2002 chevy tranny

DEAR BT: I am writing you today, because I have really gone through some hell lately with my vehicle. (Pardon my language) I have a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer. Last year we had the transmission rebuilt because of a broken reverse sungear. This is a very known issue. If you just look up that on the web, you see so many others have had the exact same issue with the same year and vehicle. Supposedly by 2003 GM is aware of this and made a better product for the newer years. In the mean time, the same part for the newer year models will not fit in the 2002. The same part that keeps breaking for everyone else for the 2002 models have to repair it with the same part that is faulty.

Well, I wasn't aware of all that last year. Last year, 2005; we haven't had the vehicle very long and we bought it used in a new-car lot. It’s a nice car lot with a good reputation here in Houston. Well, the vehicle was not under warranty but it had decent miles for the year and a nice entertainment package for the kids and we actually got a fair deal. (not good, but fair; due to our credit at the time). Anyway, we called the dealership, of course no warranty. We called around and tried to pay as little out of pocket as possible -- being that we were paying for the whole repair out of pocket. We just thought it was a run of bad luck. So, we got the vehicle repaired.

This year, the same thing happened again. The exact same issue! The reverse sun gear. Our warranty had just gone out from the last repair last year. It was a 12 month or 12,000 mile warranty. So, right before the holidays here we go again. This time, we did our research on the web, and found this known issue with others in our same situation. Some of them called GM and got the repairs reimbursed to them. I called GM. They threw me in circles for two months. "This is not a recall," they said. And, being that the vehicle was purchased used with no warranty that they cannot do anything about it, I told them that we are going to repair and get rid of the vehicle, and since they have such a great warranty on the 2007 vehicles, would they be of some assistance with the purchase of a new vehicle. (They sometimes offer a discount of a new vehicle if purchasing a GM).

They said that they couldn't even offer that. That they have no hand in this matter and that the year and miles on the vehicle requires maintenance at times, and they are not in any fault of a matter as this. So, naturally, I was upset. I knew that I should have done something more when it happened the first time, when the miles were not as high. But, I didn't think that this was an issue, being that every dealer I called when getting pricing stated that this was not a recall, but a very known issue and, of course, they would repair it. So, now that I am in the same boat as last year, and this is an ongoing issue. I need some advice. Of course, we are getting rid of the vehicle. We had the transmission rebuilt twice in two years!

Why has GM not called this as a recall? Every dealership you call knows about this issue, they say, "Oh yea, you have a 2002, right?" It is soooo disturbing; I just know something has to be done about this. Please help with some kind of advice.

Thanks; Desperate in Houston – Ruth Hernandez

A: DEAR RUTH: I appreciate you writing. I understand and can share in your frustration. Even through GM now offers a more desirable factory warranty on their vehicles, in 2002 they did not. I have advised consumers in the past to write letters and demand that their lemon be replaced and/or fixed and reimbursed for repairs that are obviously from a faulty part by the manufacturer. This has been successful for some and not for others. I think it comes down to how much time you want to invest in writing letters and filling out complaint forms to see what results you will be able to get.

It is very unfortunate and I personally have experienced a few nightmares in my past per faulty parts and a car that was given to me from one of my brothers that was for sure a lemon, or as I called it a “money-pit.”

It sounds like to me that GM should have issued a recall pertaining to this issue, but do not ever expect this to happen. You might want to get an attorney to write a letter and see if that gets GM’s attention. What has also amazed me with situations like this, is that you think the manufacturers would be bending over backwards to please us consumers in any and every way possible to keep us as future customers, and you know word of mouth can be beneficial or very damaging.

It sounds like to me that you have made up your mind to sell the Blazer so is it really worth spending a lot of time to try to get an impossible situation rectified? Keep me updated if you are able to get someone’s attention at GM by receiving a positive response.

– BT






Engine VS Motor

DEAR BT: Read your article in today's Houston Chronicle and need to bring something to your attention; a mistake many many people make. Your answer to Mike was -- I love anything with a motor and a tranny. An automobile does not have a motor, it has a gasoline/diesel engine. I know, we use motor cycle, motor home/coach, or just go motoring. Oh yes, there have been cars built with motors way back when and they are now being looked at again. Back in the 1940's when I started to drive I visited the local mechanic and asked him to look at my motor. Before he even moved to open the hood, he corrected me on the spot. He said you have a gasoline engine in your car, you home has fan with an electric motor. I have never for gotten the dressing down I received and to this day I still correct people. The word motor has been so generally used over the years that people don't realize they are not identifying what propels their car/vehicle. I understand this question has been studied/discussed by engineers and others and they decided to just let it ride. But what is correct is correct. Just thought I'd pass this on.

– James, Houston

A: DEAR JAMES: I do appreciate you taking the time to read my Q and A’s in the Sunday’s Auto section of the Houston Chronicle. I was performing spell check on your input and noticed several typographical errors that I did not correct. My point is, I would not typically say anything to someone that makes writing errors, but you have taken the time to correct me on referring to a motor when you say it should be called an engine. I have and will always continue to work on motors, drive motors and write columns about motors.

Thanks again for reading.

BT





Keeping that engine clean

DEAR BT: I purchase gas at the local Wal-Mart store, which has an automatic voice option to add injector additive if your automobile has over 50,000 miles. We have a 1998 Ford Windstar with about 52,000 miles driven. Is this worth the cost or would adding a can of injector cleaner in the tank before refill give the same results? To date we have not noticed any difference in engine performance.

Thanks for your answer.

Carol and Elmo Haney, Ohio

A: DEAR CAROL AND ELMO: What we are all trying to do is to keep our engine as healthy as possible to assure performance and longevity. Think of your engine and its components of the fuel system as your heart and arteries surrounding your heart. You want to keep those arteries clean and clear of plaque build-up or clogs, so using the cleanest possible gasoline is crucial to prevent carbon deposits from building up in your fuel system.

A statistic that has always amazed me is that 70 percent of Americans think that all gasolines are basically the same when in reality they are not the same.

The government "EPA'' sets out the minimum required amounts of cleaning agents and additives that gas stations are to use in their gasoline and only 60 percent of them are at or near the minimum.

I have been a huge fan of the Top Tier Gasolines that are available at major brand gas stations. For instance – "Shell," since they introduced them. To explain "Top Tier,'' four of the Top Auto Manufacturers – Honda, GMC, Toyota and BMW – set out standards for the gasoline that should be ran through their cars. Some Top Tier gasoline can even remove the carbon deposit build-up that has been left there by lesser quality gasoline.

So to answer your question, I would either suggest using a Top Tier gas or definitely use an additive/injector cleaner every time you get your oil changed.

Happy and safe driving. Thanks for reading

– BT





Devoted reader

DEAR BT: As a man who loves driving but has never really cared all that much about the actual under-the-hood mechanics of cars, my wife must wonder why I have taken such a sudden and devout interest in reading the automotive section of the Houston Chronicle.

Flipping through it recently, your column there stopped me dead in my tracks, and I am now a devoted reader and admirer. I might even learn something – who knew I was over-inflating my Jeep's tires all these years?

Wishing my mechanic looked more like you,

Anonymous, Sugar Land

A: DEAR ANONYMOUS: I wanted to say thanks for the compliments and being a devout reader of the Houston Chronicle Auto Section.

Let me know if you or your wife have any automotive questions in the future.

BT





Car won't start in the rain

DEAR BT: Barbara, I read your column form time to time and have learned quite a bit about my old cars. I was wondering if you can help me out with one of my cars that seems to be cursed when it rains. It will not start until it stops raining?

Thanks for your input.

Tom, Lynnwood

A: DEAR TOM: Well, first of all I do not think your car is cursed to only run during hot-dry Texas days. I will narrow down the potential problems to the most probable one which in my opinion it sounds like to me that you have a cracked distributor cap. I bet on the next rainy day if you were to pop off the distributor cap and thoroughly wipe off the underbelly of it with a dry rag then replace it your car will fire right up. What happens when your distributor cap is cracked on wet/rainy days moisture gets underneath the cap and onto the distributor preventing your car from cranking over.

To locate the distributor cap refer to your owners manual and always remember that before working on your car to make sure the engine is turned off, the emergency brake is engaged and the hood is propped open properly for safety! If you find that this is your problem you can actually become empowered by replacing the distributor cap yourself and it will only take you about thirty minutes and will also save you some dough.

Go down to your favorite auto parts store and get the right one to fit your make and model. You will want to make sure that you do not get the wires mixed up when installing the new cap. I would undo one old wire at a time and immediately install that wire to the correct spot on the new distributor cap until you have connected all of the wires using this same process.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if this fixes your moisture cursed car.


BT





Prepping your car for winter

DEAR BT: Babs, is there anything I need to do to my car to prepare it for winter time?

 

Neal, Fargo ND

A: DEAR NEAL:

Brrhhhhh, yes it gets cold in the winter and we as humans prepare ourselves, our house and of course wear a different wardrobe i.e., sweaters and flannel. Your car needs adjustments also so I recommend a few things to prepare your car for winter time.

Have your radiator flushed and make sure the antifreeze/water mix is 50%-50%.

Check the condition of your tires and your spare tire. If you live in a snowy or icy climate, invest in a good set of snow tires. If you have a rear wheel drive car, seriously consider 4 snow tires.

Have a tune up performed on your car and make sure to have the air filter, belts and hoses checked, and have plenty of windshield wiper fluid in your wiper reservoir.

Make sure you have an ice scraper/snow brush. Put a blanket and gloves in your trunk for emergency situations.

Apply a rust preventive coating to your cars undercarriage if you live in a snowy area where salt will be used to clear the freeways of snow and ice or if you even plan on taking a road trip to an area that uses salt. Rust is an aggravating nuisance when it comes to the life of your cars exterior and once it attaches itself it is nearly impossible to stop its aggressive growth. I think the most important thing to remember in winter weather driving is to always be aware of the other drivers and cars on the road. If you are always aware of your surroundings and possibly a car that has lost control and is heading in your direction you can avoid a possible accident!

Stay warm!


BT





Saving money at the gas pump

DEAR BT: BT, with gas prices being so high how do I save money at the gas pump?

 

Steve, Dallas Texas

A: DEAR STEVE:

Ahhh, I love sharing valuable fuel saving tips! A super website to find 12 ways to stretch your fuel tips is www.shell.com/us. There you can learn so much about fuel stretching and the benefits of using a top tier gasoline.  I am going to summarize 4 of my favorite out of the 12 today.

  1.   First of all, always have the proper air pressure in all four of your tires. While checking the pressure, look at the condition of the tires as well to make certain they are in good shape. If you see steel belt coming out of the side wall or the tread is too thin, you are ready for a replacement. Also check the condition of that spare tire. You do not want to get out on the road, have a flat tire and determine your spare is also flat!

  2.   Have your car tuned-up on a regular basis. Your car needs to be in super mechanical condition in order for you to achieve the gas mileage that the manufacturer's tests predicted after its design.

  3.   Switch out your air filter approximately every 15 thousand miles. This will allow you to achieve up to 15% better gas mileage.  Once you learn how to switch it out for the first time it is like riding a bike you will never forget how to repeat the process. It only takes about 5 minutes to do!

  4.   Remove the excessive weight out of or off of the top of your vehicle, for instance, all of the potting soil you bought last spring that has been sitting in your trunk in order to plant those begonias that you never got around to planting or the bowling balls or golf clubs from last weeks game. Again, you want to keep your car as close as practical to its original condition when it rolled off of the manufacturer's assembly line. 


Thanks for reading,

BT





Servicing your car

DEAR BT: Hi Barbara, Is it important to take my car to a high end dealership when performing simple maintenance procedures or can a Jiffy Lube or business like it adequately provide these routine services (e.g. oil change, filter replacement, etc.)?

 

Keith, Miami FL

A: DEAR KEITH:

Good question...I have been asked this question so many times.  First of all, the chain stores that do tune-ups and oil changes are just fine for your car's maintenance; however, if you have a luxury vehicle such as a BMW, Mercedes of Jaguar that require your car to be serviced at recommended mileage intervals, you may wish to remain with your dealership.

The dealer will stamp your service book when these service appointments are performed on your car and I would recommend taking your car to the dealer especially if it is still under factory or extended warranty.  The reason I say this is to maximize the resale value of your vehicle. When you decide to sell that car and the buyer wants to make sure all of the mileage based recommended service procedures have been performed, they will want to take a look at the books and records that belong to your car.

If each required mileage based service is properly documented by the stamp in the service book by the dealer, then you will have greater likelihood of convincing the potential buyer that your car is worth the extra money you are asking.  The last thing you want to happen is the postponement of being able to buy that candy apple red lambo you have you eyes set upon because you are having difficulty selling your current vehicle.


BT





Looking for paintwork

DEAR BT:

Hi there Ms. Terry,

I am shopping for a used car and was wondering how to look for prior body damage and or paintwork.

Thanks

Greg, Montlake

A: DEAR GREG:

When shopping for a car there are a few things to look for in order to determine previous paintwork.

First of all, the body shop will typically tape off the panels before painting on them, so open the door jam and run your finger along it, if there is a ridge, “we call it a tape line in the industry” this means the panel was painted on, repeat this process for all of the panels including the front fenders, underneath the hood and also the deck lid.

You can also tell if the front fenders have been removed or replaced if the paint on the screws underneath the hood on the top of the fenders seems to be chipped off or if the screws have not been aligned properly or if the gaps between the hood and fenders seem to be lopsided…

Another way you can tell is if there is overspray...meaning that the body shop got a little paint onto the rubber moldings

Also, most import cars have VIN plates on all panels of the vehicle, if you see a panel that does not have the VIN plate this could mean that the whole panel was replaced with an after-market one.

I have owned a ton of cars in the past with previous paintwork and of course participated in several accidents that caused me to get part of the car repaired and painted. Just because a car has had paintwork I would not be leery of it and also you may be able to get a better deal when purchasing it.



BT





Negative battery post

DEAR BT:

Why the black clamp should not hook on to the negative post of the dead car? (but rather clamp it on to a solid shiny, nonpainted metal part of the engine on the dead car.) 

My husband try’s to answer my question but, sorry but I know that he does not know.

Thanks,

Soo, Phoenix

A: DEAR SOO:

I am so happy that someone has asked me this! I have successfully been jumpstarting cars, trucks, tractors and everything that I could get my hands on all of my life using the negative post on the dead battery as the ground to clamp onto and I have never experienced a single problem using this method.

But………..if you go by the text-book method you will need to use a ground like I described in my previous Q and A in order to prevent a battery explosion or excessive sparking.

I know that there are a lot of readers out there that have used the negative post on the dead battery as the ground and been successful doing this without incident. In the past I would advise this method but after getting textbook corrected a zillion times I now refer to using the shiny metal bolt for the ground.

I grew up on a ranch in Texas where things are very different with this lifestyle compared to different parts of the country I have recently lived in with all of the politically correct people as they call themselves. Us country folk do have certain ways that we do things in life and we typically have the belief that “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”.

I recently had a person from Long Island tell me that after observing the way I do things in life and the way they do things in life the 2 of us would still end up at the same point. Basically what I am saying is that 2 people can take a different process or path but still end up at the same finishing spot.

Thanks for this awesome question and always think “safety first” when working on your car!




BT





Oil-pan leak

DEAR BT:

Barbara,

My oil pan is leaking, how did this happen? Did the mechanic that changed my oil the last time do something wrong?

Thanks

Willy, Florida

A: DEAR WILLY:

There are several causes for the ole oil pan to start leaking. The most common are the pan gasket, drain plug or a simple crack in the pan caused by age or rust. Be sure to locate the exact cause of the leak before replacing the oil pan or oil pan gasket. Check the pan bolts and tighten if they are loose. You might want to then clean all of the oil from the bottom of the engine and see if tightening the bolts stopped the leak. On a clean engine the leaks shows up close to the leaky areas.

When replacing the pan gaskets if need be, always remember to use a thread lock on the hold-down bolts. This will prevent the bolt from backing out when the gasket compresses.

Good luck!


BT





Ignition tumblers

DEAR BT:

Good morning BT.

In the past few weeks when I put my key into the ignition of my Chevy Astro van I notice that it will not turn on immediately, but after I play with it a tad bit then I can crank it. Can you tell me if you have ever heard of something like this?

Thanks,

Desperate Scott in Houston

A: DEAR SCOTT:

From what you are describing it sounds like to me the problem is coming from the inside of your ignition, possibly the tumblers and eventually you will not be able to play with it until you can crank it, it will inevitably just lock up. So yes, this is familiar to me as I have personally experienced this and dealt with it before. After taking my first car that this happened to by my local dealer and waiting a few days for the repair to be complete and spending about $400.00 to get it repaired I became a bit wiser the next time around by calling the local locksmith to fix the ignition and this time I was only set back about $100.00.

I have also tried a few tricks of the trade like spraying a little WD-40 or a little graphite into the ignition to loosen whatever dirt and debris that has accumulated in there or gently tap on the end of your key once you place it inside the ignition with a hammer or rubber mallet until you can move the key to start your engine.

I personally have used a zillion little tricks of trade like these and have recommended quick methods of temporary fixes as these to family and friends without a negative incident but keep in mind it is like putting a band-aid on something for a short time. Quick fixes like this do work but are not a permanent fix and you will continue to experience problems in the future so if you do not address this before it gets any worse you will be stuck in the parking lot at Starbucks after filling up on your favorite caffeinated beverage looking for the nearest locksmith or tow truck to stop by.

I will also suggest that if you are sporting around in a high dollar ride or even one that is very dear to you like an ole classic to call your cars manufacturer first and ask their opinion on what exact method of repair to take. The benefit by having your dealer fix the problem is that good ole warranty they will give to you incase you ever experience this particular problem again.

There is something to say about having a comfort level/good feeling in your belly with the decisions we make! Thanks for writing in, I hope I was able to help with your desperation.




BT





Jump starting your battery

DEAR BT:

Barbara

I am so excited to see a female that is more knowledge about cars than my husband!

Can I ask you to take me through the steps on jump-starting my car so I can surprise my husband with my new found knowledge?

Thanks

Nicole Jenkins, Colorado

A: DEAR NICOLE:

Of course you need to be able to show him up once in a while especially with automotive knowledge!

If you are not lucky enough to have a jump-box, you will need to borrow a friend’s or your husbands car in order to jump start your weak or dead battery.

When jump-starting your car make sure both cars hoods are properly propped open, engage the emergency brake of both cars for safety, position the cars close enough that the batteries are close to each other and turn the engine off of the good battery car. When using jumper-cables always remember black is for negative and red is for positive. Hook up the red clamp onto the positive battery post on the dead battery then hook up the other red cable clamp onto the good positive battery post. You will then need to hook the black clamp onto the negative battery post of the good battery and then take the other black clamp and clamp it on to a solid shiny, non-painted metal part of the engine on the dead car. Usually a large shiny nut on the engine block will do.

Start the good car's engine and let the engine run a minute or two before attempting to start the dead battery. If the dead battery does not start right away let the cars sit for a few more minutes. Also check to see if you have connected the cables up properly to the battery posts. A good sign that you have connected them correctly will be that your dome light pops on. When trying to start your dead battery if it sounds like it is cranking a little but just will not turn over give it a few more minutes and rev the engine of the good battery car.

When removing the jumper cables you basically do this reversing the steps you initially took to hook the cables up and be careful not to touch the clamps to each other, you do not want to recreate the fourth of July in your driveway! I typically will take one clamp off and clamp it on the cable to assure that the clamps do not touch each other.

Note: I would recommend even after you have gotten your car started to keep the battery connection on for a few more minutes to assure enough voltage to keep your car running until you can get it to the repair shop to determine the exact problem. Keep in mind that you may need to buy a new battery especially if your battery has more corrosion and acid coming out of it then Mount St. Helens. My favorite batteries on the market are Die Hard by Sears!

And if you get your hands dirty and or greasy, well that is okay, because guys like that!




BT





Lincoln access code

DEAR BT:

Hey BT, I forgot the access code/number to unlock the door on my Lincoln, what do I do now?

Thanks for your help

Mike, Greenwich CT

A: DEAR MIKE:

First of all if you are trying to steal a Lincoln, I won’t be able to help you. Otherwise, look in your owner’s manual packet, there might be an insert in there with the access code. If you do not have this information available go to your local Lincoln dealer in person.  They will ask you provide acceptable forms of photo identification including your name, address, date of birth etc. They will also need your VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number), the make, year and model of your car, and proof of ownership, including your title certificate and/or registration.  Worst case scenario, you may have to take your Lincoln into the dealership and have them reset the code.  You should not be charged for this service; however, depending on the policy of the dealership you may be assessed a service fee.  Some makes and models put the access code in the trunk, so look in there to possibly find it.

In the meantime you can use your car keys to access your car.

Thanks,


BT





Emergency kit for your car

DEAR BT:

I have always wondered what items I should have in my car to be prepared if I break down.

Thanks for your input,

Mack, Tulsa OK

A: DEAR MACK:

It is extremely important to have certain essential items in your car incase of a breakdown or accident.  These emergency kits can be purchased at auto supply stores or you can create your own custom kit designed pursuant to your priorities.  First of all acquire a container… I prefer a fishing tackle box, because it has little compartments and shelves. Well, in my car I have 2 tackle boxes, one with fishing tackle since fishing is my favorite past-time and the other tackle box with all my road side essential items that I may need in case of a breakdown or accident.  These are the items that I carry with me and you may wish to supplement these items in accordance with your own special needs or preferences. If so, that is great!  

  • Band-Aids
  • Disposable camera
  • Water
  • Blanket
  • Protein or breakfast bars
  • Aspirin
  • Pen and paper
  • Scissors
  • Towel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Road flares
  • All purpose tool

All fluids including a quart of oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid, clutch fluid (for a standard transmission), 1 can of Fix-A-Flat, and some antifreeze.

It is also important to have a set of jumper cables in your car at all times.

You never know when your battery is going to let you down or when you come across a driver that needs to have assistance to start his or her vehicle. It is always better to be over prepared than under prepared! 

Safe Driving,



BT





Filling in small scratches

DEAR BT:

Hey there Babs,

I have to say I checked out your website, you are really easy on the eyes! I have never had any luck with those bottles of touch-up paint that you buy at the auto parts store, the brushes are so big and impossible to work with, do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks for the informative columns in the Chronicle, keep up the good work!

Ricky, Nevada

A: DEAR RICKY:

You are correct, before I started with the process I am fixin to tell you about I would want to either jump off a cliff or push my car off of one after botching up what I was trying to simply fix. Most people who fill in a scratch will refer to the old bottle of paint and the huge brush applicator that is attached to those little annoying bottles that you can find at most auto supply stores.

After years in the car industry learning the little tricks of the trade this is probably one of my favorites. You will need to buy a brand new medical syringe with a small needle, “you can get one of these at a medical supply house”. In order to get the correct match to your cars paint contact an Auto-body shop, give them the make, model, and year of your vehicle or simply take it to them so they can look at it and give you the correct match to your cars color. Some Auto-body shops will sell you a small amount of paint or go ahead and buy the little bottle with the huge brush in it at your auto parts store, just use the syringe instead of the brush.

The benefit of this procedure is that you will be filling in the scratch not painting over it and also getting paint on the area around the scratch that is perfectly fine.

Fill the syringe with the paint, then carefully insert the needles tip into the far end of the scratch, release enough paint in order to fill in the scratch completely, make sure you do not over- fill in the scratch because then you will have paint running onto the perfectly fine areas of your car.

You will need to let this dry completely before washing your car.

I hope this helps out and prevents any further stress caused by impossible to use touch-up paints with huge brushes! Side note: always properly dispose of the syringe after you use it to insure the safest possible working environment.

Thanks for being a devout reader!


BT





Head gasket issue

DEAR BT: My 2002 Toyota Camry LE emits white smoke from the exhaust system at the rear of the car when starting up the engine in the morning. What causes this?  

Douglas, Shreveport LA

A: DEAR DOUGLAS: I can remember a road trip in high school that a few of my friends and I took from Springtown to Galveston in a mid 80’s Mazda with more miles and wrinkles than an elephant.  Just a little outside of Houston our trip was cut short because of a locked up engine.  My best friend Shannon had let her car overheat prior to our trip by not replacing a leaky radiator hose that was overworked from a long hot Texas summer.  When her car overheated she cracked one of her head gaskets causing some water/antifreeze to get into her engine, when this happens the water is mixed with the gas and your engine tries to burn the water with the gasoline, which causes white smoke to blow from your tailpipe like an old steam train.

This problem needs to be addressed immediately!  If you spend the money to repair the cracked head gasket, then you will more than likely not have to replace the whole engine.  There is another way to determine if you have a cracked head gasket. Unscrew your oil cap and look under it. If you see a white chunky substance resembling cottage cheese, this will alert you that you have water in your engine mixing with the oil. “Us Texans” always need to make sure that our cooling system is working efficiently because the intense Texas heat puts unusually high demands on this component of the engine.

Smiles


BT





Checking tire air pressure

DEAR BT:

Hey Babs,

How do I check the air in my tires?

Thanks,

Tim, Denver CO 

A: DEAR TIM:

Today there are so many gadgets available to check the air in your tires. I prefer to use to the ol’ $2.00 special that can be picked up at most convenience stores. 

To determine the proper air pressure that needs to be in your tires, you will need to refer to the sidewall of the tire or the manufacturer of the tire, also… most tire stores can offer you assistance to determine the proper and correct tire air pressure.    The procedure is fairly simple. Place the tire gauge onto the tire stem and press down and hold it firmly until you have reading. Read the gauge and determine how much air is needed, if any. If you are in need of air…add air then recheck until you are at the proper air pressure required in your tires. Repeat this process for each tire.  

It is best to check the air in your tires when the tires are cold like first thing in the morning before you venture out to work or possibly to Reliant Stadium to cheer on your home town Houston Texans! 

While checking the air in your tires make sure to check all four tires in use and check the condition of your spare tire.  You do not want to get out on a road trip and determine that you have a flat spare.  This means you will definitely incur an unnecessary road side repair expense. 

To get the most life out of your tires and the smoothest ride possible, have your tires rotated and high-speed balanced every 5000 miles. Remember that most tires have a life of anywhere from 40 to 60 thousand miles so replace the tires on a timely basis to insure a safe ride for you, your family and other drivers on the road. 

Drive safe,


BT





Cleaning your battery posts

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,

I love reading your columns and look forward to learning something new about my car every week. I also love looking at all of your photos you have on your web site, you are the sexiest grease monkey I have ever laid my eyes upon! How can I clean my battery posts?

 

Craig, Santa Monica CA

A: DEAR CRAIG:

I love performing this chore, and it will only take you about 5 minutes to do after unhooking your battery cables from your battery posts, I would recommend wearing a pair of gloves to protect your hands from any battery corrosion or acid.

Okay, there are 2 traditional methods and one little trick of the trade that I will share with you.

  1. You can use the good ole handy silver tool with the wire bristles inside of it; you will just simply slip the wire tool down onto the battery post and twist it around several times until the corrosion is off. 
  2. You can buy a can of anti-corrosion spray and spray directly onto the corroded post and let it sit there for about 30 seconds then wash away the excess with some warm water. 
  3. One of my brothers showed this little trick to me when I was a little girl. Take a can of cola and pour some of it onto the corroded post and the carbonated cola will start bubbling up as it eats away the corrosion. You will want to let it sit on there for about 30 seconds then wash it away with warm water!  I have always been enamored with the household tricks that you can use to do repairs or maintenance.

By keeping your battery posts clean and clear of corrosion you will increase the longevity of your battery, I mean who wants to have a dead battery when they are trying to be the first to their favorite department store clearance sale?

Thanks for reading!


BT





Cracked distributor cap

DEAR BT:

Barbara,

I read your column form time to time and have learned quite a bit about my old cars. I was wondering if you can help me out with one of my cars that seems to be cursed when it rains. It will not start until it stops raining?

Thanks for your input.

Tom, Kentucky

A: DEAR TOM:

Well, first of all I do not think your car is cursed to only run during hot-dry Texas days. I will narrow down the potential problems to the most probable one which in my opinion it sounds like to me that you have a cracked distributor cap. I bet on the next rainy day if you were to pop off the distributor cap and thoroughly wipe off the underbelly of it with a dry rag then replace it your car will fire right up.

What happens when your distributor cap is cracked on wet/rainy days moisture gets underneath the cap and onto the distributor preventing your car from cranking over.

To locate the distributor cap refer to your owners manual and always remember that before working on your car to make sure the engine is turned off, the emergency brake is engaged and the hood is propped open properly for safety! If you find that this is your problem you can actually become empowered by replacing the distributor cap yourself and it will only take you about thirty minutes and will also save you some dough.

Go down to your favorite auto parts store and get the right one to fit your make and model. You will want to make sure that you do not get the wires mixed up when installing the new cap. I would undo one old wire at a time and immediately install that wire to the correct spot on the new distributor cap until you have connected all of the wires using this same process. Thanks for reading, and let me know if this fixes your moisture cursed car.

Thanks,


BT





Air-bag light

DEAR BT:

Have you ever had someone with a Toyota Tacoma have their Airbag Light come on and won't go off? I'd rather not take it in and pay $98.50 just to hook it up to the diagnostic machine if I don't have to. It's a 2003 with 13,700 miles.  I'm the original owner and haven't had any problems thus far and of course the warranty is up. I await your response.  

Thank You,

Carol Kennedy, LI

A: DEAR CAROL:

I remember this happened to me with a loaner car that my favorite Fort Worth Texas Nissan dealership provided for me when I was getting my tranny replaced on one of my Nissan 300zx’s. This was back when airbags were fairly new to us crazy drivers and after having a nightmare one night that the airbag deployed giving me 2 black-eyes I decided to immediately take the loaner car in to have it looked at. It was a wise decision on my part because it was definitely the airbag itself and not something minor with the fuse box or a sensor switch. 

My brothers and I at some point when we were younger on the ranch would occasionally make a habit out of pulling a fuse or cutting a wire to get a annoying light that was illuminated on the dash to go out, but I highly do not live by that practice today and suggest that you take your truck into the dealership to get the problem diagnosed. 

Whether it be the airbag itself, a fuse or a sensor it needs to be addressed.  The dealership also needs to make sure to give you a warranty which will guarantee whatever work they do to get your problem fixed, this way if the annoying light pops back on in the near future they shouldn’t charge you to fix the problem again.

It is unfortunate that your factory warranty has already expired taking in consideration all of the auto manufacturers that are hopping on board offering the 100k warranties maybe Toyota will follow that practice soon. If it is a faulty airbag and not something simple the last thing you want is for that airbag to deploy while on a shopping spree.

Thanks for reading and good luck with that!


BT





Brake pads

DEAR BT:

Hi Ms. Terry

How do I know when my brake pads are wearing down...what are the signs to look for?

Thanks for the help

Martha, St. Louis

A: DEAR MARTHA:

Wow, I remember the first time that I wore my brake pads down so far that every time I hit the brakes it sounded like 2 freight trains colliding with one another, which in turn caused my bank account to take a hit because I had to buy new rotors. Rotors are designed to be durable enough in order to be turned a couple times but after that especially if you have worn deep grooves into them you will have to get them replaced. My advice to you is at the slightest sound of any type of grinding you need to have your brakes pads inspected and not just your pads but have the whole braking mechanism checked out to make sure your components are working together as they should. In some cases all you will need to do is to have your brakes cleaned because the squeaking you are hearing is nothing more than brake dust that has grabbed onto your braking system. There are multiple components that make up your braking system from calipers, brake fluid to pads that are not intended to last a lifetime so I would recommend having a check-up on your brakes approximately once a year. If your brakes are not in proper working order how do you expect to be able to stop your car in order to flirt with that cute cop standing on the street corner?

Good luck,


BT





Car starter

DEAR BT:   

I have a 2000 Tundra and a 98 Land cruiser. I have had similar problems with their cd players and starters and was wondering if this was a coincidence or a manufacturers’ problem. As each vehicle approached 55,000 miles the radio/6 CD players began to have problems with the automatic CD changer and would no longer play CDs. This happened with both vehicles about a year apart. The local dealership told us that they had never heard of this happening and would repair the problem for $1200.

We had a similar situation with the starters. About a year apart at about the same mileage (75,000) the starters quit engaging when the key was turned. You would get a clicking noise. This only cost $550 each to fix. I would be interested in knowing if anyone else has had these problems. My name is Tom Arnold and I can be reached at

Thank you

Tom Arnold, Wyoming

A: DEAR TOM:

Addressing your CD player issue, I have not come across a large number of people complaining about a CD player problem in a Toyota. If it would have been my problem, I would have installed a good after-market CD player for instance a Sony that would have cost about $300.00 to purchase and a couple hours to install. I guess I have been lucky when it comes to stereos. Okay now let’s talk starters! Ohhh, good ole starters! I love starters! Starters are my favorite!

As you may be able to tell I have a little bit of pent up frustration regarding starters and have every since I was a teenager and owned one of my first pick-up trucks, a 1986 Chevy 350, automatic, reg cab, long bed, half ton, 2 wheel drive. Oh my gosh, I could never get the teeth on the flywheel lined up correctly with the teeth on the starter! I spent more time underneath that truck banging on the starter with a hammer than I did driving it down the road…what is wrong with that picture? And now looking back on my banging with a hammer I have to laugh because if it were just the starter going bad my banging would have worked but when you through a flywheel issue into the mix the banging on the starter theory really doesn’t work, but ironically it did work at times.

I think the truck was constantly playing tricks on me or it was haunted, because it would start right up after I got filthy from crawling underneath it banging on the starter, kicked the tires a couple of times, occasionally slap part of its metal exterior and bang on the steering wheel out of frustration, all of these actions causing me to get soaking wet with sweat on a stifling hot Texas day …then it would start right up! Rauughhhh

Starters just like a lot of other components are not intended to last a lifetime and yes the obvious symptom would be when you turn the ignition you hear a series of “click click click”. The starting system converts electrical energy to mechanical energy then uses that energy to crank the engine, in simpler terms… when you turn the key, the battery gives a little energy to the relay/solenoid then the starter motor and then you have the juice necessary in order for your engine to start. I have saved money in the past when I had to replace my starter by replacing it with a rebuilt one instead of buying a new one. I would however suggest when buying a rebuilt one to ask for a warranty to insure a guarantee on the part.

Back to your Toyota CD player issue, if any of the readers out there have experienced problems with theirs, drop me an email. Thanks


BT





1982 corvette brakes

DEAR BT:

Barbara, I have been reading your weekly column for sometime now and I’m hoping you can shed some light on my problem. I have had my ’82 Corvette For well over ten years now and as long as I can remember I have had problems with the brakes. The brake pedal has always had too much “Play” And will engage until the pedal is about one inch from the floor board. I have had several people look at the system and they all wind saying the Same thing eventually “That’s the best you’re going to get out of the brakes”. Recently, with the annual inspection due my brother and his neighbor, Which happen to know a lot more about cars than I ever will, decided to tackle the “Problem” again. They have replaced the master cylinder, power Booster, filter and bled the brake lines for air pockets. The “Problem” remains the same. Now before I replace the calipers and the brakes pads, again, I would like your opinion as to what else we can try to get better engagement of the pedal. Oh and we have checked for leaks too, there are none.

Help!!!!!!!!!  

Thanks,

Mike R., Houston, Texas

A: DEAR MIKE:

My initial response before reading your whole question would have been to advise you to get the brake lines bled or check out the master cylinders. I have lived and experienced the same nightmare on a 1976 Corvette I owned back in the good ole days. I even took it to a so called brake specialist and the guy could never get it right! I am wondering if you are leaving it sit for long periods of time without driving it…are you? Corvette disc brakes from the years of 1965 to 1982 are notorious for leaking when left sitting.

If I were there I would: open up the bleeder’s one at a time to see where the air is coming from if in-fact there is air in the lines. I would also like to recommend that you switch over to a silicone brake fluid to see if this helps out with your issue. You may also want to try speed bleeders or installing stainless steel calipers which can be very pricey but may fix your problem. Also, have you tried performing the process of “gravity bleeding” by jacking up the rear end of your car high enough in order to tilt the master cylinder down in the front to avoid trapping air in the front of the cylinder? I hope that I have been able to help calm your escalated level of frustration with your brake problem.

Safe braking!


BT





4 wheel verses all wheel drive

DEAR BT:

Hi BT

Is there a difference between 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive?

Thanks,

George, Seattle Washington

A: DEAR GEORGE:

Good question.! OK. The term “4 wheel drive” usually refers to a system that powers all 4 wheels of your vehicle 100% of the time on an equal and proportionate power basis (e.g. 25% each) given a stable traction environment. Most 4 wheel drive vehicles provide a high and low 4 wheel drive option. The “Low 4WD” option will give much greater torque to get you through those more challenging low speed and usually off road situations where the additional power and grip are needed to assist you with your feelings and urges to demonstrate some of your built up testosterone to your peers or for most off-roading or muddin! The High setting is more appropriate for driving at higher speeds on payment allowing your lead foot to exceed the speed limit racing to your favorite honky-tonk, car race or family reunion. The primary difference between 4-wheel drive and all wheel drive is that there is no high or low option. The automatic all wheel drive terminology refers to a system that is really a two wheel drive system until the system senses that you need all wheel drive (i.e. detects that your 2 wheel drive axle is losing traction) and then it kicks in to all wheel drive to help you regain traction.

Thanks for reading


BT





Your cars resale value

DEAR BT:

Hi there BT,

Will I hurt the resale value of my car by adding customized stereo/speakers that are not factory?

Thanks

Ralph, NY, NY

A: DEAR RALPH:

In general, when you make any after market change to your vehicle you will be simultaneously modifying the potential buyers of your car. This can be positive or negative. There obviously is a range of modifications from minor to major that can be done to a vehicle.  A paint job, if you go out and paint your car in some custom manner or funky hot pink color with wild green racing stripes you will limit the amount of potential buyers drastically and probably reduce its value.  I mean who wants to own a hot pink car or a car that looks like a snake skin?  But, if all you do is change out the factory stereo system to an upgraded multi-disk CD player and equalizer, then I think you will be fine but keep in mind that there is a person out there that will not want anything that has altered the way the car ran off of the assembly line.   

I would also strongly suggest when creating the classified ad that you will put into the Houston Chronicle Auto section in order to sell your car, talk about how you have increased the value of the car by investing money in upgrades and make sure to inform the potential buyer that the upgrades were performed by a reputable vendor.  It is also extremely important to maintain the proper service of your car on a regular basis to assure longevity and prevent it from lets-say backfiring when that potential buyer comes to take it for a test drive!  Also invest a little time to detail your car; I used to have a saying in the car business spend $50.00 to get $500.00 more for that car. Back to your original question, as long as your speakers produce a high quality sound and do not negatively impact other features of the vehicle, you will be fine. On the other hand, if there is no longer enough room in the trunk left for a flashlight, you may have a problem.

Thanks for reading,


BT





When shopping for a used car

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,

I think we went to High School together; did you graduate from Springtown High? And if this is you, I have to say that you haven’t changed abit except for getting more beautiful! Wow! I do have a car question, I am shopping for a good used car so can you tell me what to look for?

 

Darren H., Washington

A: DEAR DARREN:

Ironically I did graduate from Springtown High and if you’re the Darren I am thinking of we graduated the same year. If my memory serves me correct you are also the Darren that poured Tide soap into my family’s hot tub and flooded the whole block with suds and bubbles!

Anyway regarding your question here are a few things to look out for.

When shopping for a used car, narrow down your search by deciding on the exact make and model you are looking for and the budget you are allowing yourself to purchase that car. There are also some key elements you will want to check out before spending most of your life’s savings on that shiny piece of metal that may end up being an ole heap!

I always check it our mechanically first, for safety make sure that the engine has been turned off and the emergency brake is engaged. When propping open the hood make sure that either the hood hydraulics are in good operational order or that the prop rod is positioned correctly, now you are ready to check out the fluids and the condition of the visible belts and hoses.

When checking the oil make sure it has a honey brown color, if the oil is dark and goopy the previous owner probably did not have regular oil changes performed so a potential engine issue may exist so be aware.

When checking the transmission fluid the fluid should have a rich red color to its tone and should never feel gritty or grimy or like it has metal flakes in it, if it does, it may mean that the gears inside the transmission are grinding up, so be aware.

The brake fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid and coolant should be at proper levels. Note: to locate the fluid dipsticks and location of the reservoirs refer to the cars owners manual. Something that I always do is to unscrew the oil cap and look on the underbelly of it. If you notice any type of white substance on it resembling cottage cheese this means that the car more than likely has a cracked head gasket. You will want to run away from this as fast as if you were fishing on the banks of your favorite lake and you notice a rattler coming towards you with a look in its eyes like it hasn’t eaten in a year or so.

The belts and hoses should never look cracked or expanded like they are going to explode or break.

When checking the tires make sure that all 4 are in good condition and check the spare tire also. You will also want to check out all of the interior components by checking out all of the power options, mirrors, blinkers, headlights, taillights, brake lights, air conditioner, heater and of course the stereo.

Test drive the car to see if it fits your liking, and if you want your mechanic to check it out just ask for permission from the seller, they should not have a problem with you taking it to your favorite mechanic!

Buying a used car can be tricky, but then again keep in mind that it is a used car not a new one, so expect that there will be repairs needed, just keep some money aside for that.

Hey, thanks for reading and email me anytime so we can catch up and swap all of those crazy high school stories for a good laugh!


BT





What to do after an accident

DEAR BT:

I love reading your columns in the Houston Chronicle, can you please give me some basic advice for me to print out and put in my glove-box in case I get into an car accident.

Thanks

Linda, New York

A: DEAR LINDA:

Every day thousands of us Americans are involved in an automobile accident. I want to talk about the few steps that need to be taken right after an accident. First of all remember to remain calm and always have an emergency road kit in your car at all times.

Number one; make sure all drivers and passengers are safe, if not… call 911 before doing anything else.

If the cars are still operational make sure to get them off of the road or freeway, then you will need to place road flares around the scene to insure the safety of all parties involved and the drivers of the cars that will be approaching the accident scene. Note: There were over 3000 deaths on the road last year caused by cars broken down on the side of the road.

Make sure you exchange all information, name, address, phone numbers, insurance information, and if there were witnesses also get their information

Take photos of the accident to document all damage of your vehicle and the other vehicles involved, so keep a disposable camera in your car at all times.

If the law enforcement in your area no longer takes accidents reports unless there is an injury, make sure you file with your local DMV an accident report

Having an auto accident can be extremely stressful and costly; chances are you will be involved in one or more at some point. Keep safety a priority and always drive safe!

Buckle up!


BT





What happens during a tune

DEAR BT:

BT: What happens during a tune-up and is it worth it?

 

Jamie, Los Angeles, CA

A: DEAR JAMIE:

I always equate a tune-up on your car to having a health check-up on your body. It is amazing to me how many of us want the appearance of our bodies to look great just like we want the exterior of our car to look bright and shiny but we tend to forget the most important part and that is our interior/our innards. Without a good operational interior our cars and bodies would not last very long before petering out!

When you take your car in for a tune-up you can expect them to put in new spark plugs and spark plug wires, replace any worn out belts and or hoses, give it an oil change and new oil filter, switch out the filthy air filter for a new shiny one, adjust your valves and your timing if necessary, replace your fuel filter, add water to your battery if need be and clean your battery posts if corroded, check all your fluid levels and replenish them or flush and replace if necessary.

So, to answer your question about the process of a tune-up being worth it or not and a smart decision…your darn right it is!

Proper maintenance of your vehicle is a must to promote longevity and performance; our cars are typically the second largest thing that we invest in so you NEED to protect that investment! Have a tune-up performed on your car approximately every 2 years or every 30 thousand miles, whichever comes first. When my friends and I go out we call it getting Texas /dolled up, so make sure to have your cars engine also Texas dolled up!

Drive safe!


BT





valve seals

DEAR BT:

Dear Ms. Terry: 

Read your reply to the owner of the 2002 Toyota Camry LE Emitting White smoke from the exhaust when starting up in the morning. (Houston Chronicle October 15, 2006).  

I have seen a car with a blown head gasket that blows steam as you described. But, this owner describes a condition when the car is first started up. I have a for E-150 Club Wagon with a 4.6L V8 and it also blows smoke when I start it in the morning. However, the smoke is short lived - just a big puff when it starts. A friend of mine (Not a mechanic) suggested that the cause was a leaking valve guide that allowed oil to leak into one of the cylinders when the engine cools off during the night. When the engine is started in the morning - Poof a big puff of smoke  

At first I thought it was condensation but it has persisted and worsened over time and the puff is looking more blue than white.  Any ideas??     

Thanks,

John, Missouri City, TX

A: DEAR JOHN:

Alrighty then, we are obviously not dealing with a major issue like a cracked head gasket, what we are dealing with are leaky valve seals around your valves.

What you are actually seeing is a light blue smoke that may actually look like it is white in color that carries a very pungent fragrance if your nose happened to be by the tailpipe when first starting up your engine in the morning. Your oil is leaking past the valve stem seal and down along the valve guides back down into the cylinders. When you start your car up in the morning or after it has set idle a while the oil that has leaked down into the cylinders is burning off and that is why after you have driven your car a short distance it clears up and stops smoking.

The repair should cost you anywhere from $200.00 to $700.00 to get this particular problem fixed depending on who you use to do the repair. I would recommend getting it fixed before it gets worse which it will in time and then end up costing you a lot more. Another note: the leaky valve seals are more than likely causing you to burn about a ¼ to a ½ quart of oil between oil changes if you haven’t already noticed or been told that by the person that performs your oil changes.

Thanks for reading!


BT





Towing your car

DEAR BT:

Greetings,

Barbara, I have a 1999 Kia sportage, rear wheel drive.

I would like to tow it (143-miles) using U-haul dolly. Can I tow it with the rear wheels off the ground or do I need to remove the drive shaft and tow from the front?

Thanks

Warren, Albany NY

A: DEAR WARREN:

As you may know, certain Auto Transport trailers like the ones that Uhaul and Penske offers keeps all of the wheels of the towed vehicle off the ground and is probably the easiest option and worth the additional expense to avoid having to have auxiliary lights on your hood, steering clamps and driving at low speeds. To answer your question, I recommend reading your owner’s manual and consulting your dealer and/or the towing equipment rental company regarding your specific vehicle. Towing from the front and disconnecting the drive shaft if you do not wish to rent the Auto Transport is likely another safe option. Towing with the rear wheels off the ground and with front wheels on the ground will require a steering clamp to avoid jack-knifing, auxiliary lights and driving at lower speeds to be safe. U-Haul has an excellent check list in its user instructions for the U-Haul Dolly provided at their website to make your towing experience safe. Please read it and follow the instructions. It covers the proper hitch, lighting, coupler, safety chains, mirrors, etc.

Good luck Warren.


BT





Synthetic oil

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara, writing to you from Houston Texas.  I look forward to your article in the Houston Chronicle every Sunday but I do have a question I hope you can help me with.  I am an Oil Change Nut and every vehicle I own gets the oil changed every 3,000 miles without fail.  I just recently picked up a 2001 Ford F150 with the 4.2 liter V-6.  The truck currently has 59,000 miles.  In my 350 Z, I run Mobile 1 which I think is a blend.  I have heard that if you run a blend or a Syn oil in vehicles that have higher mileage, you run the risk of getting oil leaks.  The truck doesn't have any oil leaks currently and I would like to keep it that way.  Any thoughts which oil would be best.

Thanks

Don in Houston

A: DEAR DON:

First of all I am flattered that you look forward to my Q and A article in the Houston Chronicles Auto section every Sunday…thanks for reading!

Being an oil change nut is a good thang not only for your vehicles but for your bank account, and I am impressed that you are religious about it.

Mobil 1 is an excellent choice for a synthetic oil to run in your sports car, jalopy and that F150 you just acquired. I can however only speak for the knowledge I have pertaining to synthetic oils and of course my own personal experience. I have been asked this same question many times and I personally have had no leaking after switching over to a synthetic in any of the vehicles that I have chosen to switch over.

I have also been told that there is no factual basis to the myth of synthetic oil causing an oil leak, and you can switch to a good synthetic oil at any age or mileage as long as your engine is in a good mechanical state. I recommend an initial short (2,000 to 3,000 miles) oil change, both oil and filter to help allow the synthetic oil to clean some of the engine deposits that have built-up over the years.  Following this initial short oil change, I always continue with my normal oil change intervals.

I hope my opinion and advice gives you that comfort level you are looking for in order to switch over, I would also give Ford a shout and ask their opinion!

Smiles


BT





Switching one car for another

DEAR BT:

As part of a N.Y's resolution to reduce debt I am considering selling my pristine 'low mileage '05 Toyota Highlander Ltd which I owe about 1/2 book on in favor of a well maintained '99 or '00 RX300 with low mileage (practically an even swap by cost).  We do not drive a great deal and value and upgrade wise I view this as a positive.  I pretty well understand the octane and maintenance differences.  Does this sound like a fair/smart assessment?  

 

Scott, Queens

A: DEAR SCOTT:

I have a favorite saying I tell family and friends...“there is a butt for every seat”, so I highly suggest for you and everyone else to test drive a vehicle extensively to make sure that it feels right before buying it.

For instance I prefer a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited to other SUV’s on the market just because the way the fit feels to me when sitting in the seat. Mechanically I also have to give a thumbs-up to Jeep and their products!

Both your Toyota Highlander and the Lexus RX300 are awesome vehicles; they are both also in the same family of cars! If you are obviously not putting a ton of miles on your vehicles that you drive then sure, trade it for a comparable vehicle that will be lighter on your bank account. Both of the vehicles in question come equipped with leather, alloy wheels, CD, roof etc etc, so you are getting all of the high-line luxury amenities, and mechanically you are good to go with both of them.

When buying a vehicle that is slightly used you will always be in a better situation. I am sure you have heard that when buying and new car and after driving it off the lot it depreciates several grand…this is so true!

So buying a car slightly used that has been taken good care of mechanically and of course cosmetically the first owner ate that new car depreciation so you do not have to. Also, try to buy something still under factory warranty, if you are able to acquire the vehicle with some of the factory warranty still valid on it, you will be able to save on the extended warranty if you wish to purchase that. If I were you, I would have the RX300 checked out or check it out yourself then do the switch that you are asking me about, if I did not agree with this move I would not hesitate to let you know all of my thoughts regarding this decision.

Buckle up!


BT





Subaru SVX

DEAR BT:

Help! My mechanic is stumped & I'm getting really frustrated. We recently purchased a 1992 Subaru SVX for my son's first car.  It's been in the shop ever since! We've had just about everything replaced (sensors, battery & cables, air/fuel filters & lines, alternator, spark plugs...etc.) We have no owners manual. The car keeps stalling. It will even kick off sometimes on the freeway and then kick back on as it's coasting to a stop. If you wait a few minutes, it will restart, but idle real rough.  My husband just noticed the fans behind the radiator are not rotating...could THIS be the problem??  Any ideas? Thanks so much for your help!!-

 

Cassie, Philadelphia

A: DEAR CASSIE:

First of all I have to say I am shocked with your bad luck pertaining to the Subaru SVX. I have been around these sleek machines on and off for years and have always bragged about them to acquaintances because of their reliability, and from time to time made the statement of how Subaru should bring them back to life.

What sucks about makes and models that are no longer around is it seems to be a real chore finding someone that knows how to work on them and it will typically be a challenge to find parts.

The repairs that you have described to me seem more like someone doing regular maintenance on your car and not trying to address the issue at hand. You obviously have spent a lot of money on the car and at this point a lot of money on repairs so let’s cut to the chase.

It sounds like your idle air control valve may be malfunctioning; you will also want to check for vacuum leaks. The problem may also be generating from your fuel system, so I would have your fuel pump checked out. Fuel pumps as they are going bad can cause these types of symptoms and create a lot of heated frustration.

If your mechanic is not an expert with Subaru’s I would take it to one that is, a mechanic that could possibly take the mystery out of whatever seems to be haunting you and your car. If possible find a mechanic that has worked on SVX’s in the past. If you plan on keeping the SVX, go onto a site like Ebay for instance and see if you can pick up an ole owners manual for it.

This might be helpful in the future, until then happy motoring!


BT





Sticker price

DEAR BT:

Hi Barbara,

You have made my Sunday mornings the favorite part of my week. I love reading your Questions and Answers in the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle.

My son is looking to buy a new car, can you explain the sticker price.

Thanks,

Paula M., Pasadena

A: DEAR PAULA:

Ahhh, the good ole sticker price. I will try my best to give you the best advice but will anyone ever be clear of the million dollar question regarding the “Sticker Price”! When understanding the sticker price, the manufactures always have a base price then they add to that price with the options and add-ons. Keep in mind that some manufacturers have options and add-ons that they already include in the base price, so I suggest doing due diligence in researching the exact make and model that you want, test drive them all to see what fit is best for your budget and your personal liking. The warranty is also important to keep you from going broke on car repairs in the future so keep that in mind when making your final decision.

When you are buying those additional options on your car, the extended warranty, undercarriage protection, paint protection and all of the other add-ons that are offered in the F and I department, “that is the finance department”, it might be best for you to go ahead and add them into the total financed price of the vehicle instead of weeks later taking large lumps of money out of your pocket to add options that did not come with your car.

Negotiating…I remember when I purchased my first new car; I shopped around, went from dealership to dealership and then went home to think about it. Starting that evening the dealerships started calling me offering me incentives and a better price on the car, so I then figured out a way to get the best price and that was to play one dealership against the next. For most of us our cars are the 2nd largest thing that we invest in other then our homes, so do not just take in consideration how beautiful that car is on the outside think about what longevity the car will have or will not have. Do research pertaining to the make and model of the particular car you are drooling over to make sure it has a good track record. There is a limit to how much a dealer can come off of the sticker price so ask to see the invoice of the car and if you feel good about the final price make the purchase.


BT





response on paint touch-up

DEAR BT:

Ms Terry, offer following on your recent article -  

1) Your paint touch-up recommendation ... EXCELLENT.  Syringe gives much better control of paint flow.  Suggest rouge 'pen' [best one made by BLACK MAGIC] to gently polish paint touch-up when fully dried.  If clear coat over color coat, rouge 'pen' does very good job to restore clear coat gloss.  

Cheers,

Joe Foster, Houston

A: DEAR JOE:

It is nice to see that someone out there has used the syringe method and agrees with my article on filling in paint scratches with a syringe instead of the “dreadful brush in the bottle of paint” technique!

Thanks for reading!


BT





Hi Bob- response to tires

DEAR BT:

Hello Barbara. I read and enjoy your column in the Houston Chronicle.

I'm commenting on your answer to the question of checking tires on a Jeep Wrangler.

The proper tire inflation pressure cannot be found on the sidewall of the tire. The sidewall info is for Maximum Inflation only, not proper inflation for any specific vehicle. Inflating tires to the maximum pressure could be dangerous and cause an accident. Proper tire inflation pressure should be listed in the owners manual/booklet or on a decal visible on the door frame when you open the car doors. Some cars have this decal inside the glove box.

 

Bob Crow, Arkansas

A: DEAR BOB:

I do agree with you about the maximum air pressure being found on the sidewall of the tire but I also refer people to call their local tire store and give them the size of the tire to be informed on their recommended tire air pressure. Growing up in Texas my brothers and I were always changing the make and size of our tires on our street cars and race cars. At that point whatever is listed in the owner’s manual and or door plate on the driver’s side of the vehicle is no longer valid. People commonly change the size of their tires to different ones than the ones that were on the car when it rolled off of the assembly line. Or if you buy a used car and the previous owner had changed the size of the tires on the car before you bought it, they again would need to refer to the info on the sidewall and call their local tire store for the recommended air pressure.

Thanks for reading!


BT





Getting a tire patched

DEAR BT:

Dear BT,

I recently had a tire in my car patched after having discovered a nail on it. The service included balancing the wheel. Is it normal that after the tire was patched it started making a slight noise?

Thank you.

Alex. Houston, TX

A: DEAR ALEX:

If you are experiencing noise and not shaking or shimmering then I assume you are okay. Patching a tire, or plugging it does modify the exact structure of the original formula that makes up your tires.

You might take it back to the shop that repaired your tire and have them look at it to make sure that the job was done right, I am sure they will do this at no charge. When you put a band-aid on something like patching or plugging tires, chances are it will never be 100% right again. The noise is not something I would be alarmed about especially if it is a slight humming sound I would however suggest if at some point it sounds like a freight train as you increase your speed to find a sale on tires and start fresh!

I will also suggest having it looked at to make sure that the noise is coming from your tire and not let’s say from your brakes, diff, or possibly coming from under your hood. Also keep in mind, if you have a road-hazard warranty on your tires to possibly ask for a new one instead of having them just fix it.

Thanks for reading!


BT





first car

DEAR BT:

Hey Barbara! What was the first car you bought?

 

Kathleen, Seattle

A: DEAR KATHLEEN:

My first car that I paid for out of my pocket was a 1986 Nissan 300ZX, but that definitely was not the first motor with wheels that I drove!  You could say it was a 2 ton hay truck when I was about 8 years old.  My brothers needed someone to drive the hay truck through the field as they threw hay bales up on top of it.  So they positioned me on top of several very thick yellow pages and put some pillows behind my back and explained to me how to drive a 4 on the floor!  And yes, occasionally I would hear "Barbie" which would tell me that I ran over another hay bale.  Since then I have driven it all I suppose, I used to love driving my brothers pick-up trucks around small town Texas while in High School trying to pick up boys on a Friday night as we circled through the Dairy Queen parking lot, how many people out there can relate to that statement?  My favorite to this day would have to be a black on black Porsche 911 Turbo wide body! Thanks




BT





Chrome trim

DEAR BT:

Dear BT,  

I purchased a 2007 Toyota Avalon in late Dec 06 here in Ft. Bend County, Tex. I wanted the car with Chrome Fender Trim and left the car with the dealer to order and install these items. As of this date the dealer cannot locate any(so they tell me) and I am still waiting for my Car.      

Do you have a source for this? Or better yet, some shop in Houston that can make this trim?   Thank You... keep up the great column.

Robert, Sugar Land, TX

A: DEAR ROBERT:

eBay Motors/ parts and accessories is an excellent source for a huge assortment of after-market parts. You will want to do a search for Toyota Avalon chrome trim; even if you do not see any exact trim for your make and model being sold on their site, still do a search for Toyota chrome trim and you will find that there are a lot of companies and individuals out there that sell chrome trim.

Contact them directly and I bet you will be able to find some trim exactly like you need using this method, and most people will overnight it so you could possibly have it by tomorrow. As far as installing it, you should be able to ask your local dealer or a body shop to do this. Ya know, all the dealer is going to do is buy this chrome from somewhere and someone else so why not cut out the middle man.

Hey, thanks for the compliment and for writing in!


BT





BT's favorite car

DEAR BT:

Barbara, I have been reading and enjoying your columns in the Sunday Houston Chronicle for a couple months now, my buddies and I were wondering what your favorite car is?

 

Mike, Chevy Dealership, Houston, Texas

A: DEAR MIKE:

I love anything with a motor and a tranny! Actually I have always had a passion for a black on black Porsche 911/993/996 wide body. I have never been a big fan of convertibles but love a simple hole in the roof “a sunroof”. Let’s get real, when in Texas can you do your hair and make-up and drive with the top down and after a 20 minute ride look like a fresh Texas rose…never!

I have also been a huge Z car enthusiast and owner since right out of high school. My favorite Z body style was the Nissan 300ZX model that Nissan manufactured from 1990 to 1996. After Nissan took a 6 year Hiatus from their Z model and introduced the new body style in 2003 of the 350ZX, I wanted to puke! They had always made such a statement on the road but the new and current model looks very similar to the Lexus coupe, the Infinity coupe and the Audi TT, what were they thinking? I know that there are a ton of Z fans out there that will agree with my thoughts of the current body style; we should picket Nissan to come back out with a Z model that has sex appeal and makes a fashion statement like no other car on the road!


BT


 

 
 

 

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