DIY

Common Questions Asked by Motorists

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Q: Every once in a while I can hear a squeak or metal grinding noise coming out of the front wheels. It happens mostly at low speeds while turning. When I am going straight, I don’t hear anything. What can be the problem?

A: Sounds like a bad CV joint. To be sure, turn the steering wheel all the way to one side and then look at the inside walls of the front tires. Look for the rubber boot at the center of the wheel that is wrapped around the axle. That is the CV joint. If the rubber boot is torn, or If you see grease or oil streaks radiating out from the center on the inside wall of the tire, the joint is probably bad and will need to be replaced. On most cars, it is often more economical to replace the complete axle shaft on that side.

Q: When I’m driving at or around 65 mph, my steering wheel vibrates. When I let go of the steering at 35, the car drifts to the right. What’s wrong?

A: The vibration at 65 is most likely a wheel balance. As for the pulling, first make sure that your tires are good and inflated to the correct pressures. Most cars will drift to the right when you let go of the steering wheel when you are on the right lane of a two lane road. This is due to the road crown that allows water to drain off. To see if this is the problem, try driving on the left lane with the road crowning to the left. If it now pulls to the left, it is a normal condition.

Actual pulling is most often caused by bad or unequally inflated tires. If the tires are good, have the wheel alignment and the front end checked.

Q: My yellow check engine light comes on.


A: When the Check Engine Light comes on, it means that the computer has detected a fault in the engine control system and has stored a trouble code. Many times, the problem is emissions related and the car will feel fine. In some cases however, letting it go can lead to more costly problems down the road (not to mention the pollution you are sending out the tailpipe).

You should take the car to a mechanic who can scan the computer for trouble codes. These codes will allow him to run the appropriate tests in order to pinpoint what is causing your problem and tell you how bad it is.

Q: Will a bad Oxygen Sensor cause my spark plugs to become defective?

A: The answer is yes. The oxygen sensor is an emission control device that helps to regulate the fuel-air mixture by sniffing the exhaust to see if the engine is running too rich or too lean. It then sends a signal to the car’s computer to regulate the air/fuel mixture. If it is not working properly, the engine can run rich causing the spark plugs to foul.
A bad oxygen sensor can also cause excessive fuel consumption, high exhaust emissions and premature failure of the catalytic converter.

Q: When I put my car in reverse it will not move unless I press on the accelerator really hard, then it will go into gear, when I put it into drive, I have to do the same thing, is this the transmission or the timing belt?

A: Check your transmission fluid! From your description of the symptoms, it sounds like your fluid is low. I would not drive the car since it will cause further damage to the transmission. The trans fluid must be checked while the engine is warm and running. If you are not sure how to do it, have the car checked out by your mechanic. If the fluid is okay, than you will need some transmission work. If the fluid is low, it may be leaking out. Have it checked as soon as possible.

If the timing belt fails, the engine will not start at all. The only way to prevent a timing belt failure is to replace the belt according to the manufacturer’s service interval (typically every 60,000 miles)

Q: Arm chair mechanics are always telling me that my car, parked outside, and not being used, should be turned over from time to time. Should I really run the motor every day?

A: All cars have some drain on the battery, even when the engine is not running; the amount of this drain depends on the type of car and the accessories that the car has. But all cars should be able to sit idle for at least a week and most for two, before the battery would be rundown enough to affect starting the engine. Running the car for a few minutes can present problems of its own. When an engine is run, moisture develops in the system. When an engine is run at operating temperatures for at least 1/2 hour to an hour, this moisture evaporates, but when an engine is warmed up for only a few minutes, the moisture then condenses and forms water droplets, which is harmful to the oiling system of the car. So my recommendation is as follows: 1- have your arm chair mechanics stay in their chairs and away from your car. 2- take the car out at least once every two weeks for a good drive,preferably on the highway. If this is not possible, consider disconnecting the battery when the car is idle for more than two weeks. People who only do short trips and do develop a heavier than normal condensation situation should change the oil more often.

Q: Which is better for the vehicle when it is frigid outside? To warm up the vehicle first, or to start it and just drive off?

A: You can just drive off, as long as you do it gently. With today’s computerized, fuel injected automobiles it is no longer necessary to warm the vehicle up for any length of time. Startup the car, let the engine stabilize for about 30 seconds so that the oil can circulate,and drive off normally. Avoid hard acceleration until the vehicle has reached operating temperature, about 5 to 8 minutes. In real cold below zero weather, you would want to use a light grade (5w-30) oil so that circulation would be easier.

Q: I own a 1993 Chevrolet Corsica. Do I really have to tune it up every 15,000 miles as my mechanic recommends?

A: Your mechanic is probably still sending his kids to college. No, it is not necessary to tune your car every 15,000 miles. The word tune means to adjust, and since your car is a fuel injected computerized automobile that does not even have a distributor, there are no adjustments that can be made to that engine, hence no need for a tune-up. This is true for most cars manufactured in the 90’s. Just follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, which are found in the owner’s manual, as to filter and spark plug replacements. The important thing is frequent oil and oil filter replacement, about every 3,000 miles. The rest will probably go to 30,000 mile intervals.

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Author

Fred Bordoff

Automotive Expert

Fred Bordoff has been a specialist in automotive diagnostics and repairs for over 30 years. He is currently the owner and president of NYCAT, the New York Center for Automotive Technology, a state-of-the art facility specializing in automotive diagnostics and repair, located in Long Island City.

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