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General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #4

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On: Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 1:54PM | By: Peter C Sessler

General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #4

Q: I have a '95 GMC that has what looks like water coming from the exhaust pipe when it is idling. I also took a look at the muffler and noticed two small holes - which I plugged. Is this water a problem?

A: The end result of the combustion process is water and carbon dioxide—plus a few other noxious chemicals. So when you see ‘water” coming from your tailpipe, it’s nothing to worry about. On the other hand, plugging up the holes in your muffler is a pretty bad idea. Those holes are there for the water to drain otherwise the muffler will end up rusting fairly quickly - especially if your truck is driven only on short trips.

Q: I recently bought a 1998 Lumina. At first, I didn’t notice that there were many small rust colored spots on the paint. I thought a quick wax job would get them off - yes, some did come off but a lot of them didn’t. What are those spots? By the way, my car is white.

A: The spots are more noticeable depending on the color. The spots are caused by rail dust. Tiny particles of iron are produced as a train’s wheels ride on the rails and these, unfortunately, settle on the car’s paint. If they aren’t removed quickly when the car is delivered to the dealer, it can be a real bear to remove them years later - if at all. The dust can permanently damage your car’s paint and you could also do as much or more damage trying to get the spots off.

Q: My Crown Victoria runs fine for about an hour then begins to stumble and shortly thereafter, just stops all together. If I wait about an hour, the engine starts, runs fine and then the same thing happens again. It will even do it after the car has been idling for an hour. I’ve replaced the ignition module, plugs, plug wires, gas filter, some of the electronic sensors but it still happens. What shall I do?

A: Sell the car and hope the next owner doesn’t drive it more than an hour at a time. Seriously, if an engine cranks, gets fuel and air, gets spark, it will run. If it doesn’t get one of those, it wont. Most of the parts you replaced may or may not be the cause of your problems. When something like this happens, have it checked out. An engine that won’t start is probably one of the easiest to diagnose. Just replacing parts is not the correct way to go.

Q: I notice that most car batteries today are supposed to be maintenance-free but do they need distilled water from time to time?

A: Although most car batteries today are supposed to be “Maintenance Free”, they really aren’t. Many of these batteries have covers that can be pried off and this is something you should do periodically. If the water level is low, use distilled water to fill them up.

Q: I’ve got a 2002 Camaro and I was told the rear brake calipers are stuck and that they have to be replaced - along with the rotors pads and hoses. This is not an inexpensive proposition. Is there any way I can free up the calipers myself?

A: Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence on Camaros. Unless you’ve got some experience in rebuilding calipers, you’re better off getting remanufactured calipers. The rotors and pads can also be reused, depending on their condition, but really, if everything is already apart, you’re better off replacing everything.

Q: I’ve got a 1999 Voyager with the 3.3L engine and the four-speed automatic. It does have high miles, and it runs well. The problem is with the transmission. From time to time, it slips into the “limp home” mode where it won’t get out of second gear. If I stop the engine and restart, it runs fine. The transmission fluid level and color is fine.

A: Your best bet is to have the transmission hooked up to a transmission diagnostic tester - typically found at a Chrysler dealer. It could be a bad input sensor or a speed sensor. Still, you can eliminate some possible causes yourself. If you look at the transmission, you’ll notice there are various sensors attached to it. Often the electrical connectors are the problem. Unplug each connector, clean the terminals and use electrical grease on them. That often solves the problem. The input sensor, by the way, is the one located by the transmission oil cooler hose connection points.

Q: My car vibrates pretty badly at 65 mph and then smoothes out. Is this an out-of-balance problem, brakes, alignment or…?

A: Balance problems are typically those that manifest themselves at a specific speed and that disappear at speeds below or above. In your case, it sounds like balancing the wheels will do the job.


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