MOTOR MATTERS ASK THE AUTO DOCTOR BY JUNIOR DAMATO
Dear Doctor: I own a new 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-350 with just 1,600 miles on it. The dealer tells me that the gear’s hard shifts will adjust as more miles are driven. Is this true? Albert
Dear Albert: The transmission is computer-controlled and these vehicles do have firm shift points. It’s the nature of this car. There will be some minor — and I emphasize minor — shift changes over time as the transmission adapts to your driving style. However, I do not think this will satisfy your concerns. I would go back to the dealer and inquire about a reprogramming possibility.
Dear Doctor: I recently purchased a used 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible with the 4-cylinder turbo engine with an automatic transmission. I’m concerned about a pronounced hum or whine that seems to be coming from the drivetrain. It is more noticeable when accelerating or going upgrade. I know someone with a 2006 PT Cruiser and a 2005 PT Cruiser turbo just like mine and neither has a hum or whine. I believe I have a problem and want the dealer to fix it under the warranty that I purchased. Any advice? Gerald
Dear Gerald: These front-wheel-drive Chrysler vehicles do have a history of head gasket and transmission problems. Indeed, a good extended warranty program is wise for you to have and utilize (do not buy a warranty through the mail or online). I recommend that you have the car checked by a transmission specialty shop, as well. There could be a service charge to check the car at both dealer and independent shops, but is worth every penny.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2002 Subaru Legacy GT four-cylinder with 170,000 miles. The original timing belt was replaced at 105,000 miles (100,000 mile manufacturer recommendation). The shop advises that I replace the timing belt again between 165,000 and 170,000 miles. Why isn’t the second belt recommended to be changed at 200,000 miles? Keith
Dear Keith: The best way to answer your question is to advise you that when it comes to engine timing belts I always tell my customers to follow the carmaker’s recommendations on timing belt replacement. I also insist on the use of the factory brand timing belt. The factory timing belts have marks on them to aid in lining up the pulleys.
Dear Doctor: I have a Toyota RAV4 AWD with 100,000 miles.
I followed the owner’s 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 I change it now I may experience transmission problems. Presently the vehicle is shifting well and I have no problems with the automatic, which has always maintained the proper fluid level. Chris
Dear Chris: I would recommend changing the fluid. This is done on most Toyota vehicle with a simple drain plug in the transmission pan. When the plug is removed about 3.4 quarts will drain out. I suggest you continue to 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.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2008 Ford Edge with only 29,000 miles. A few weeks ago I noticed a transmission fluid leak on my driveway. I also had a problem with driver window not functioning properly. I took the car to ford service and needed to replace transmission cooler assemble, passenger side axial seal, window regulator and motor at an out of pocket expense of over $900. Why am I seeing so many issues with a low mileage car? Tom
Dear Tom: Your vehicle is more than three years old and does have very low mileage on it. Sometimes vehicles that aren’t run regularly and are parked outside in the elements will deteriorate at a much faster rate. On average the Edge has a good track record.
Dear Doctor: I am interested in the Nissan Leaf electric car. Have you driven the car? Melvin
Dear Melvin: I had the opportunity to drive the Nissan Leaf electric-only zero emissions car over the weekend. It has ample power and would make a great around-town vehicle for 30 miles or less. There is a “mileage meter” instead of a “gas gauge” and it reads miles left until out-of-power. I plugged the Leaf charger into the 110-volt house outlet. While driving the Leaf car I found myself constantly looking at the mileage meter, and I did watch the meter go down quicker that the actual miles driven. The type of driving, weather conditions, traffic, ambient temperatures, as well as passenger load affect the actual available miles per charge. As for the hours needed to charge the Leaf from a 110-volt house outlet expect 20 hours to go from low to full charge. There is a 220-volt adapter that will get you charged in 8 hours or an optional fast charge system ($700) that can get you to 80 percent in 30 minutes. — Junior Damato, Motor Matters
Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician.
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Copyright, AutoWriters Associates, Inc., 2011