- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Nissan Xterra with the 3.3-liter V-6 engine. I have considered changing the spark plugs. I looked under the hood and could not believe there is no room to get to the spark plugs. How do the technicians get to them? James

Dear James: Your Xterra is one of the easier vehicles for accessing and replacing the plugs. It takes time, patience - and the correct tools. You can go online to Alldata.com for the removal and replacement directions for the spark plugs. If you are uncomfortable with the replacement, you may want to take it to a professional. I recommend the factory spark plugs for the Xterra and in all Nissan vehicles.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1998 Dodge Intrepid. Occasionally, when parked in the hot sun many electrical functions do not work properly as I try to start the car. All the dash lights stay on, power windows, turn signal, and climate control won’t work initially, but then after awhile they will work again. Can you help? Joe

Dear Joe: It is an electrical connection malfunction. I researched on my Identifix records and found another Intrepid with the exact problem (hotline archive #325963). The connection was at the C5 junction 12 gauge red and 12 gauge black/orange connections at the junction block.

Dear Doctor: I bought a 2005 Chevrolet Impala from the dealership with only 9,000 miles on it. A small squeaking noise has developed when turning the steering wheel and the dealer said it could be the steering rack or steering column. The dealer did not give me a price yet. Do you consider this dangerous or unsafe? Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth: My suggestion is to take the car to an independent shop for a second opinion and repair estimate. A small sound coming from the steering wheel area can be a minor repair or a part replacement. A dried out rubber seal at the lower part of the steering shaft can also cause noise. A full inspection should pinpoint where the noise is coming from. As for whether it presents a safety hazard the answer would depend on the source of the noise.

Dear Doctor: Our 2008 Chrysler minivan has a distinct knocking noise that happens sporadically when the left side door opens, and now just recently it started happening with the right side sliding door. It’s driving us nutty. Can you advise? Bernie

Dear Bernie: There is a long track and some vans with electric sliders also have a cable. The technician will have to clean the track properly, lube the moving parts, and then look to see any worn or binding parts or linkage. The lower section of the body is where a lot of dirt and rock salt can collect.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Acura MDX with 61.000 miles. Are there any brighter headlights - for both high and low beam - that I can put in without doing any damage to the electrical system? Mark

Dear Mark: There are a few companies that sell legal bright white replacement headlights for low, high beam and fog lights. Make sure you do not put your fingers on the glass part of the bulb. The oil on you hands will shorten the bulb life. Another consideration is bulb life on the bright whiter bulbs. In some cases bulb life is about half of the factory bulbs.

Dear Doctor: I purchased a 2007 certified Chrysler Pacifica 4.0 with 9,600 miles. Current mileage is 19,000. At 13,000 miles it developed a banging sound and vibration that seems to be coming from the firewall console area. The dealer has replaced all engine mounts, right front strut and sway bar links. Have you heard of this problem? Mike

Dear Mike: On vehicles with your complaint, we usually put the car on a lift with the engine running and the noise or vibration present. The next step is to apply pressure with a large pry bar and move the engine slightly in different directions to see if the noise/vibration changes. If there were no difference then I would remove the fan belt - or belts if it has more than one. Restart the engine and see if there is any change. If there are no changes we listen for noise with either a chassis ear or a stethoscope. There could be an internal engine or transmission problem causing the problem

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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