Drive Belt Replacement Cost in Volvo S-70 Sedan PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 01 January 2012 10:09

Dear Barbara,

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

I drive a 1998 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

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 ‘Houston Chronicle’ Automotive Section... my favorite newspaper!

Rattling under the Dashboard PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 01 January 2012 09:57

Dear Barbara,

I have a 2008 Chevrolet Suburban 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?

Thank you,


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.

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.

AC On-Off Interval PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 01 January 2012 09:45

Dear Barbara,

First, let me say how much I enjoy your column.

There are those that are saying to turn your motor off at stop lights to conserve gasoline today. I realize that with the cost of gas, this maybe good advice. My question is this: if you turn your motor off and it's not off long enough for the AC system to equalize, couldn't this possibly damage your AC eventually?


Dear Omar,

First of all, I can literally say that the exorbitant gas prices have actually put a kink into my fun daily activities!

Any excessive idling over 30 seconds costs you more gas than it does to stop it and start it back up again; but keep in mind that you can quickly put excessive wear and tear on your starter by doing this. The pressure in your AC system equalizes very fast so turning off and on again does not hurt your AC, and your pressure switch is even protected so that it does not come back on until it is internally told to come back on.

I am a huge believer in what goes up must come down, so we all need is to just hang in there and wait this gas crippling crunch out.

Thanks for writing in and enjoying my column in the ‘Houston Chronicle’ because I truly enjoy everyone that writes in!

Choosing Adequate Maintenance Service PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 01 January 2012 09:52

Dear 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?


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, or 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 dream car of yours because you are having difficulty selling your current vehicle.

Sticker Price and Best Sell PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 20 December 2011 09:36

Dear Barbara,

I love reading your Questions and Answers in the ‘Houston Chronicle’. My son is looking to buy a new car. Can you explain the sticker price?



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 than 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.

Thanks for writing in,

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