- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Mercury Sable wagon. The problem is, the horn and hazard lights will go off in the middle of the night. I took the car to the Ford dealer. They checked the car and said the GEM module was at fault and replaced it for $800. Two weeks later, the problem started again. I have spent over $1,000 so far and still have the same problem. Can you help? — James

Dear James: I have seen this before on a variety of vehicles. On Ford vehicles, the problem is usually a door or rear trunk door pin switch. I also looked on our Identifix Web site and found two other Sable wagons with the same fault and both had pin switch faults. I would go back to the dealer and ask them to reinstall your old GEM module and check the door pin switches for operation with the scan tool.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1995 Toyota Tercel with 113,000 miles, automatic, four-cylinder. The problem is, when trying to start the car in the morning, the engine acts like it is flooded. When finally started, it will only go about 15 mph for about four blocks. After that it runs and starts fine for the rest of the day. I have replaced all the tune-up parts. Can you help? — Frank

Dear Frank: You have forgotten one of the most important steps: check for any fault codes and for sensor values before the engine is started. An out-of-spec coolant sensor will cause this problem and not set a “check engine” light. An EGR valve that is not fully seated can also cause drivability issues, such as hesitation.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1996 Pontiac Grand Am V/6 with 150,000 miles. My only problem is taking the shifter out of the park position. I have to force and rock the car back and forth to get the shifter out of park. Do you have any suggestions? — HG

Dear HG: The first step is set the parking brake on, then turn the ignition key only one notch. This position should unlock the steering wheel and unlock the safety-shift interlock. If this works, then you know the fault is either in the interlock shift-safety assembly or there is no power going from the brake-light switch to the shift interlock.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1985 Buick Century with the four-cylinder engine and 206,500 miles. At 165,000 miles, the engine finally died from a blown piston. I replaced the engine with a used engine. I would like to get another 100,000 miles out of the car. Is there anything special I can do to help maintain the engine? — Bill

Dear Bill: Just keep the same service that you did with the previous engine. Fresh, clean oil is the key to any engine’s long-term survival.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Acura MDX with 75,000 miles. I have always had the car serviced at the dealer. I was told the timing belt needs to be replaced, and so does the water pump. What services need to be done at this mileage? I would also like to install a brighter headlight. What do you suggest? — Mark

Dear Mark: Check the owner’s manual for the needed service based on mileage on the vehicle. Timing-belt replacement varies from manufacturer and model. You can also have a local technician check the Identifix Web site for recommended needed services. As for brighter headlight bulbs, I use Sylvania Super Star bulbs with great success.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2001 Cadillac DeVille that when slowing down, the engine rpm seems to stay higher for a longer time. I also notice a slight engine ping when going up a slight grade. What’s going on? — John

Dear John: Lazy-idle air-control motors are a common fault combined with carbon buildup in the intake system. Small vacuum leaks will also cause this problem without setting a fault code. Engine ping on a Cadillac Northstar V-8 is caused by carbon buildup in the combustion chambers, engine temperature higher than normal, as well as using lower-than-recommended gasoline octane. Find a AAA-approved shop or one that has an ASE-certified master technician for complete diagnosis.

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail questions to [email protected] or address them to Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347.

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