- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

Dear Doctor: My 1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II 4.0 V-8 has 235,000 miles. The dealer replaced a defective gasket when putting in a new water pump. Since then, I have had white smoke coming from the exhaust frequently and I have to add antifreeze often. I’ve been told I have a blown head gasket. Are there any good head gasket sealants? I’ve seen quite a few on the Internet: Steel Seal, Bars, Liquid Glass, Mendtite, K & W Block, and ThermaGasket. — Sam

Dear Sam: I have yet to find any product that will fix head gasket failure. White smoke emitting from the tailpipe is the coolant burning off. Keep adding a 50/50 mixture of coolant as needed, until the head gasket or cylinder head failure gets worse.

Dear Doctor: My low-mileage 2003 Cadillac DeVille, with only 11,000 miles, had the ABS, brake, and traction control lights come on. My mechanic called GM and they suggested replacing both crankshaft position sensors. The lights stayed out for two weeks and now they are back on. What do you suggest? — Mike

Dear Mike: I would first ask the mechanic if he is familiar with and understands the computer system. Second, has anyone checked the computer for fault codes? Your mechanic should also call Identifix for help in the diagnostic process. The crankshaft sensors are a common fault in the Northstar engine and it’s a good idea to replace the sensors if there is ever a fault code issued on them.

Dear Doctor: There is a small transmission leak where the axle goes into the transmission in my 1997 Chrysler minivan. Should I add Stop Leak to repair the leak, fix it or just leave it as is? — Derek

Dear Derek: Do not add Stop Leak to the transmission. The axle seal or worn-out bushing behind the seal should be repaired. The leak will only get worse in time.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Buick LeSabre with 60,000 miles. The “service stability system” illuminated on the dash. There is also a clunk sound from the steering on turns. The dealer said the stability light fault is a steering sensor with a $400 repair cost. The clunk is an upper strut mount — about $500 to fix. These are not safety-related problems. Is it worth the money to fix them? — Lawrence

Dear Lawrence: I would get a second opinion and another estimate. Lower control arm bushings and the lower intermittent steering shaft are more common than upper strut mount bushing and bearing failures. Compared with a major repair or vehicle replacement, the cost is inexpensive. Your 2002 Buick is a very low mileage car. The decision to make the repairs is up to you. I would have the car repaired if you plan on keeping it.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2000 Acura RL with only 36,800 miles. The dealer service department suggested I replace the timing belt because of the age of the car. They said if it breaks it could do great harm to the engine. They said the cost of the timing belt is about $1,000. What are your thoughts? — Myrna

Dear Myrna: There is no question on replacement at this time. Even though you have low mileage, the timing belt made of rubber does dry out like an elastic band. On some engines, if the timing belt breaks, it can cause extensive internal engine damage. I would get another price on replacement and would use only the factory Acura timing belt.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1998 Ford Expedition 5.4-liter V-8. While driving I heard a noise that sounded like a bad muffler. I went to the shop and they said a spark plug had popped out. The cost to repair was $200. They had to install a heli coil into the cylinder head to tread the spark plug back into the cylinder head. I spoke with a lot of other Ford owners and they have had similar problems. What causes this problem? — Chris

Dear Chris: We have done a lot of these repairs. The spark plug threads actually blow out of the aluminum cylinder head. This is such a common problem that there are a few companies that sell special drill and tap kits with the heli coils included. Without it, the cylinder head would have to be removed at a cost of more than $1,000.

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail questions to info@motormatters.biz or address them to Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347.

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