Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Saratogian

Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Saratogian

Q. I have a 1970 Ford Torino with a 351 Cleveland engine. The car only has 61,000 miles on it. I purchased the car last year and been to many shows and won several awards. The problem is the engine runs hot at about 210 degrees. I have upgraded the radiator, added an electric cooling fan, replaced the thermostat and bypass plate. All these recommended changes were supposed to keep the engine temperature at 180-200 degrees. The other issue is one side of the engine runs hotter than the other when measured with an infrared temperature gun. Do I need to rebuild the cylinder heads?

A. There may in fact be nothing wrong. With a standard radiator cap and a mix of 50 percent engine coolant and water the boiling point is up around 260 degrees, running at 210 degrees in traffic may be perfectly normal. As you point out the Cleveland engines have a water restrictor plate under the thermostat. I have seen some aftermarket restrictor plates that actually cause the engine to run a bit hotter. The engine running a bit hotter on one side is also normal, since you need to take into account, combustion and coolant circulating through the engines water jacket.

Q. I have a 2015 Honda Civic which I flush and change antifreeze every three years. I do notice when its really hot outside and use the air condition I notice a puddle of water underneath the car. is this normal on real hot days or a concern?

A. This is perfectly normal. When the air conditioner is on it is also taking humidity out of the air. The water is draining from the evaporator drain is part of the normal air conditioner operation.

Q. I am writing to inquire if you can provide any guidance on testing for vehicle air quality. Are you able to recommend any service providers that offer testing for mold or bacteria in an automobile?

A. Mold and mildew build up in a car can certainly be possible. Air conditioner evaporators can build up with mould. Cars that were flooded could have mold and mildew under the carpets. Bacteria is also possible although less likely. As an example, the Covid bacteria as contagious as it is dies off in a few days. You can buy mold test kits for your home with should work in your car. If you think you have a “sick” car I would also check for possible carbon monoxide entering the cabin. Again, a home CO tester will tell you if these is a carbon monoxide problem.

Q. My question is about brake pads and rotors. I have an upcoming brake service on my Hyundai Elantra that I will be doing myself. When I look at the website of a large reputable parts dealer, there is a pretty big price difference in the parts. What is the difference between pads and rotors that are listed in the same category?

A. I’m a fan of ceramic pads, quieter and less brake dust. When it comes to quality, I’m a bit old fashioned and like brand names I have used for years such as Bendix and Raybestos as these brands have never disappointed me. Cheaper pads may work okay, but they tend to be noisy and off brand brake rotors tend to more quickly go out of round and cause a vibration. When it comes to brakes, this isn’t the time to be cheap.

Q. My 2000 Chevy Silverado has started having problems with the heater fan when I turn on the air conditioner. The fan will shut off when I turn it on if the truck is cold but will immediately start again when turned back off and restarted. Then while the truck is running and beginning to warm up the fan will go off and then back on as the engine speed change almost as if it was affected by the vacuum pressure. Could this be a vacuum issue?

A. The fan is relatively simple, power and ground, control switch, fan resistor and the fan itself. If the fan stops, but then it will work on the high setting it is the fan resistor. The other issue could be a faulty ground for the fan motor or even at 22 years old a fan nearing the end of its useful life.

Q, My car battery dies every two days or so. The battery is less than a year old and if I don’t drive it every day it won’t start. There is also an alarm and the red lights in the car are on they are blinking even a red light is on in the passenger door blinks. But when I try to start it the lights come on then off. The headlights don’t work either. I turned it on again, nothing then the icon lights came on then off

A. Sounds like you have a few things going on at once. For the battery to go dead every two days there is a considerable parasitic drain. The alarm could be the issue and should also be checked. Running the car every day really doesn’t do much to keep the battery charged. Even though the battery is newer it should be fully charged and rechecked. This past year we also saw quite a bit of problems with rodents getting into engine compartments and damaging wiring. At this point I would get the car to a repair shop so they can test the electrical system and look for the parasitic drain.

Q. My 2006 Infiniti G35 has about 175,000 miles on it and the oil gets changed every 4000 miles. About seven years ago I switched to synthetic oil. This year I heard a tapping noise and to my surprise the engine was very low on oil. That happened again this month. The mechanic said the engine is likely worn out and at this point it would be best to check the oil every 500 miles and add as necessary. A friend suggested that Infiniti doesn’t recommend synthetic oil and that may be the problem.

A. The recommended oil is 5W-30 SL oil which is available in conventional, synthetic or semi-synthetic oil. Even full synthetic oil uses conventional oil as a stock base. The oil isn’t the problem, this engine is historically an oil burner. In fact, Infiniti issued technical service bulletins to perform oil consumption testing. Unfortunately, the repair is replacement of the engine and Nissan/Infiniti did not extend the warranty. Your mechanic is correct at this point check the oil often and add as necessary.

Q. I have a 2005 Chrysler Crossfire, in good condition. The engine is in great condition and the body is in pretty good condition. The problem I am having is I cannot align the rear tires. The rear tires sit on a slight angle, which ruins the expensive (especially now) tires that I keep buying for this car. I recently found out. there is minimal or no camber adjustment for the rear tires. I believe Mercedes made the engine and internal body workings on the Crossfire and Chrysler made the body style. I am told they do have kits out there for this particular problem but I am having difficulty believing that either Mercedes or Chrysler produced a car for the road with such a stupid problem like this. Do you know what the best course of action is regarding this or what I can do about this?

A. The issue is most likely caused by sagging springs. As the springs sag, the alignment angles change. Changing the springs may get the ride height restored and the alignment angles back into specification. As you pointed out the other method is to try a camber kit. Since the Chrysler Crossfire and Mercedes Benz SLK share everything but sheet metal and there are adjustable suspension kits to correct camber angle for the Mercedes SLK will work for the Crossfire. The factory control arms are replaced with arms that are adjustable. This should get the camber angle back to where it belongs.

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