Talking Cars: Even a Benz has issues

Junior Damato

QUESTION: I own a 2011 E-350 MBZ. The car dealer tells me that gear hard shift adjusts by itself as more miles are driven. Is this true? I have taken the car back to the dealer three times with dealer driving at least 300 miles out of total 1,600 miles on the car. Has MBZ quality has gone to dogs?

ANSWER: The transmission is computer-controlled, and these cars do have a firm shift. There will be some minor, and I must say minor, shift changes over time as the transmission adapts to your driving style. I do not think that it will satisfy your concerns. Did you ask the dealer about a reprogramming possibility? As for the quality, all manufacturers are having issue with vehicles. To point out one would be wrong.

QUESTION: I have a Toyota Rav 4L AWD with 100k miles on it. I followed the manual recommendation and never changed the transmission fluid. The fluid is now a grayish-brown color. Should I change the fluid at this point? Mechanics have said if you change it now at this point you can experience transmission problems. Presently the car is shifting well and I have no problems with the auto transmission and it has always maintained the proper fluid level.

ANSWER: I would change the fluid, and this is done on most Toyotas by a simple drain plug on the transmission pan. When the plug is removed about 3.375 quarts will drain out. I would suggest you do a fluid drain once a month for the next three months. This will slowly change the fluid over time without any concern. Make sure you use only factory Toyota transmission fluid.

QUESTION: I have a 2005 Subaru WRX STI. I got it used in 2007 and the car was practically new with 36,000 miles. It has 82,000 miles on it now and for the past year or so, the steering tends to cut out on me often. I noticed it happens more on turns where I’m either accelerating or when there are bumps. I’ve had a few instances where I couldn’t turn and had to stop the car, back up and use both hands to turn the wheel. I’m thinking, would bad belts do this, or could it be something else like the steering box, and can this be tested?

ANSWER: There have been some problems with air entering the power steering system from a faulty inlet o-ring. This causes a loss in pressure because the pump has passed the air in the pressure line. Have the technician check the inlet o-ring for any wear.

QUESTION: I have a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix with a 3.8 and magnasteer. When pulling out of the driveway at slow speed the steering makes a buzzing sound while turning the wheel. This does not happen while driving at normal speed. I found a service bulletin #01-02-32-001 that states to lubricate or replace the intermediate shaft, could this be the problem.  The car currently has 55,000 miles on it and I have also flushed the power steering fluid with no change in the noise.

 ANSWER: The buzzing sound is usually from a faulty power steering pump or air in the system. The intermediate lower steering shaft has been a problem for GM vehicles since the 1990s on both cars and trucks. I have also seen small o-rings on power steering lines cause air to leak into the system and cause noise. A full check of the system is needed, and as a note I have also replaced a lot of power steering pumps on these vehicles.

Junior Damato writes weekly about cars. You can send questions to him care of the Old Colony Memorial, 182 Standish Ave., Plymouth, MA 02360.