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General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #3

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On: Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 4:54PM | By: Peter C Sessler

General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #3

Q: Why do my brakes pulsate when I step on the brakes?
A: This is pretty common these days. The reason is that the brake rotors are warped. The real cause for this occurrence, in my opinion, is that the car manufacturers are making rotors that are too thin. Thin rotors don't hold up. That doesn't mean that the brakes aren't safe; it simply means that you'll have to replace them. The usual remedy is to cut the rotors so that the braking surfaces are once again straight; however, that won't last. A few panic stops and they'll warp once again.

Q: I've noticed that the transmission in my 1998 Grand Caravan seems to stay in gear and won't shift. This doesn't happen all the time, but it is happening more and more. If I turn the car off and restart the engine, the transmission then shifts fine. What gives?
A: Your car probably has the A-604 electronic four-speed automatic transmission. When the computer in your car detects a problem in the transmission, it goes into a "fail-safe" or "limp-home" mode and the transmission stays in second gear. Turning the car on and off resets the electronics and, if the transmission isn't completely gone yet, it will function normally. This, unfortunately, won't last, and you'll need to replace or rebuild the transmission.

An interesting side note to this is that Chrysler didn't build the transmissions; they were subcontracted to a company called New Process. If Chrysler got a bad transmission, they simply sent it back to New Process which then exchanged it for a new one. The problem became so severe that New Process went bankrupt and Chrysler ended up buying the company.

Q: When I turn my car on, it runs fine. After it warms up and I give it gas or I'm trying to pass someone, the engine shuts off. When I let off on the gas it turns on again. What is causing this?
A: If it's not a fuel or electronic problem—which only a service station can determine (unless you have a code reader and other diagnostic equipment)—I'd say your car is suffering from "neglectitis." When was the last time you changed the spark plugs and ignition wires? Wires that are in poor condition and worn-out plugs won't fire the fuel mixture as engine speed increases.

Q: My car has a problem that my local mechanic can't seem to diagnose. The car runs fine and, all of a sudden, it will shut off. It will crank over but it won't turn on again until 10 or 15 minutes have gone by. It seems that my car is jinxed!
A: Electrical problems are the most difficult to diagnose as today's cars rely on several computers to run the engine. The computers get their information from various sensors which tell the computers what the engine is doing. The problem is finding out which sensor or computer has gone bad. So if your local mechanic doesn't have the right equipment, your only choice to go to someone who does. It is too expensive to have someone just replace parts and hope for the best. I've found that many times such problems are caused by a simple, inexpensive part—the hard part is finding which one.

Q: I've had my car aligned, yet my car still pulls to the right. I've brought it back to the tire shop and they swear that the alignment is fine. What gives?
A: Assuming that the alignment was done correctly, your tire pressure is set to the manufacturer's specs, and there aren't any bent suspension components, I'd say you have a bad tire (or two). Even if the tires look fine, they can be damaged internally, especially if you've hit some big potholes. This seems to be more common with cheap tires. Replace the tires and I think you'll find that you've cured your alignment problem.


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