Talking Cars: No A/C a hot problem
Question: I am looking to buy a 1985 Buick Riveria with the 307 V/8. Where would be a good place to look?
Answer: There are many auto publications to look in, such as your local weekly auto books and Hemmings Motor News. Make sure you have a qualified auto technician check the car out before you purchase it.
Question: I read an article that said unless you own a high performance car, using premium gas is a waste of money. My sister owns a Cadillac, and the dealer says she must use premium gasoline.
Answer: Some vehicles, including some older Cadillacs and imports, do require premium gasoline. Premium gasoline does burn hotter, cleaner and has a higher knock rating than regular gasoline. One common problem on the Cadillac Northstar 32 valve V/8 is carbon buildup on the piston rings causing oil usage. With the high price of gasoline, a lot of owners are trying to save money wherever possible. Switching to regular lower octane gasoline on a vehicle that requires premium gasoline can cause a long-range expense. If you look at the price between regular and premium, the difference is less than it was before the high spike in gas prices this year. I would not switch to the regular grade where the manufacturer recommends premium.
Question: I own a 1989 Lincoln Continental. The brake system has been acting up. I have had to lightly tap the electric motor to get it to run. If I brake hard, it seems like there is no power assist. I have replaced the electric motor and modules from a salvage yard, bled the system and still have the same problem. Do you have any ideas?
Answer: First, before any parts are replaced, you must follow a troubleshooting guide and pinpoint test the system. There are common problems, such as the relay, pressure switch and a loss of nitrogen charge in the accumulator. The relay can fail and not send the full 12 volts to the motor, or there could be poor ground connections. A look on our Identifix Web site confirms the symptom. You can subscribe to Alldata.com for a full step-by-step troubleshooting procedure.
Question: I own a 2005 Cadillac Deville and the A/C heater blower motor failed. I purchased the motor from the Cadillac dealer at a cost of $400. I felt the part should not have failed so soon. I wrote to Cadillac customer service and they declined to reimburse me for the cost of the part. Do you have any idea on how I can pursue this matter?
Answer: Living in Arizona where the climate is hot, the A/C is on often. There is also a lot of heat buildup under the hood. This contributes to the failure of the blower motor. Your blower motor has internal circuitry that controls blower speed as well. Your car is more than 3 years old and the blower motor is not part of the drive train. With customer satisfaction a big factor for manufacturers, I would have liked to see Cadillac reimburse you for the factory part.
Question: I own a 2007 Dodge Magnum. I want to rotate the tires and the owner manual says to move the front tires to the rear and criss-cross the rear to the front. The tire shop says crisscrossing the rear tires to the front can damage the steel belt in the tires. What do you recommend?
Answer: You can ask four shops on this question and get four different answers. On vehicles that have the same size tires and non-direction tires, the criss-cross recommendation is the way to go. I have never heard of damaging steel belts from tire rotation changing the direction the tire rotates. You can also alter tire pressure a few pounds at oil change intervals. Altering the air pressure gives a different tire print to the ground.
Question: I own a 2003 Honda CRV with 60,000 miles. At my last service they said the front struts are leaking and need to be replaced. The cost of replacement is $833. I did some price checking and the dealer cost was higher than the smaller shops. I looked under the car and did not see any leaks, and there are no leaks on the garage floor. The car rides fine and the tires are wearing fine. Do I really need to replace the front struts? Why are they so expensive? What would be a common complaint with worn struts?
Answer: Worn front struts will cause bouncing, possible banging over bumps, poor handing, and uneven tire wear. To replace a worn strut the entire strut has to be removed from the car and placed in a strut machine. The coil spring has to be compressed to remove the old strut and replace it with a new strut. There are also upper strut mounts that wear and sway bar links bushings that also wear and cause front end noise over bumps. These should be checked first. The strut is a big shock absorber and gas charged. A very small amount of leakage over time in not unusual and should not present any safety condition.
Question: I own a 1995 Mercedes 500SL with only 48,000 miles; I purchased it in 2005 with 39,000 miles. I only drive the car in the summertime. The engine developed a tapping noise. I took the car to the dealer and they said the problem was the hydraulic lifters they replaced. A year later, the same noise came back. I went back to the same dealer and they replaced the lifters again at no charge. The tapping noise returned again. This time the dealer said the noise is deeper in the engine -- not the valve lifters. The second problem is, if I start the car, drive a short distance, shut the car off, and come back in a few minutes, the engine cranks over and will not start. If I let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, it will start poor, and I have to keep moving the gas pedal up and down to keep it running. I have been told to replace the plugs and wires. Can you help?
Answer: If the sound is deep in the engine, the engine will have to come apart and be checked for worn parts. We use a stethoscope to locate engine noise before any teardown. The hard start and running poor condition is a fuel delivery problem not ignition related.
Question: I own a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox 3.4 liter V/6 5 speed automatic all-wheel drive. Twice the transmission would not shift into fifth gear on the road. The next day it would shift fine. The dealer has not been able to find any problems. What are your thoughts?
Answer: The transmission is electronically controlled and requires a variety of sensors that measure load temperature, throttle position and speed for proper shifting. A fault can sometimes be stored in the computer memory as a pending code and not set on the check engine or service soon light. When the problem happens again, if possible, bring the car to the shop while the transmission is acting up. If you cannot get to the shop, pull the car over, shut the engine off, wait a couple of minutes and restart the engine and drive away and see if the transmission shifts properly. Check with the dealer if there are any reprogramming updates available.
Question: I own a 1998 Pontiac Trans Am with the WS6 option package with 91,000 very easy miles, no abuse. Every six months I also have the gear oil changed with the correct GM synthetic gear oil. The rear end has been rebuilt seven times by two different dealers under the factory warranty and my extended warranty. If I had to pay for the repairs, it would have been very expensive. I could understand the failures if I was burning rubber or banging gears. What are your thoughts?
Answer: The rear differential in your Firebird and Z28 Camaros has been around for many years and also used in the S-10 blazer. I have changed many ring and pinion gear sets for performance upgrades, not for wear. The most common complaint is gear noise. Because of the way the gear teeth are cut, if the gear set is not set up to perfection there will be gear whine. Once the rear end gears are set and the car is driven, if there is any noise, the gear set needs to be readjusted immediately. As little as five miles on a noisy new rear gear set is enough to ruin the gear set. I have no history on any problems other than this. As for changing the gear oil every six months, that is not necessary. The rear end housing assembly could be out of line causing the internal failure. To check this, the rear end has to be taken apart and alignment tools used to check for straightness.
Question: I am interested in buying a new 2008 Volvo V70 and would like to know if you have driven one and if so what is your opinion on the car?
Answer: I spent a week in a 2008 V70 front drive 3.2 6 cylinder 235 hp and the six speed automatic transmission. Today’s Volvos are not like the boxy, slow and boring Volvos of years gone by. In fact, this V70 looks very up-to-date and larger than it is. It has all the options including dual heat and a/c steering hub controls. EPA is 16 city 24 highway. My average combined was 22 mpg. I was surprised that the passenger seat had manual adjustment unlike the driver seat with memory and eight way electric adjustment. Base price is $32,465. Our test car was $34,410 with the option packages. The ride was firm and no suspension noises over bumps. Volvo has paid close attention to clear vision from all angles looking out. Paint fit and finish were very good. The six cylinder combined with the six speed automatic provide ample power.
Junior Damato writes weekly about cars. You can send questions to him care of the Old Colony Memorial, 182 Standish Ave., Plymouth, MA 02360. He can be heard live on WXBR radio 1460, 7-10 a.m. Saturday mornings.