- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

Dear Doctor: I own a few pre-1970 cars and have heard many stories about these older car engines having camshaft failure from the use of the wrong engine oil. Can you recommend the correct oil? - Thomas

Dear Thomas: The engines of yesteryear with flat lifter camshafts need oil with a unique chemical makeup that includes a zinc additive. Today’s engines use a roller-style camshaft design and do not require the same zinc additive. You can buy the correct oil at a good speed shop. Joe Gibbs brand is one I am familiar with, along with Comp Cams zinc oil additive.

Dear Doctor: I am very concerned about my 2006 Honda Pilot 3.5-liter V-6 with only 38,000 miles. When should the pollen filter and the rear-differential fluid be replaced? The original Bridgestone tires are 95 percent worn and the rear brakes need replacement. Is this normal? Is there a better tire that will give me better mileage? I am also on my third brake-light replacement at a cost of $3 for the bulb and $20 for labor. - John

Dear John: Pollen filters should be checked yearly and depending on where you live and drive, replacement could be every year or every two years. As for the rear-differential fluid, the fluid changes depend on time and mileage, or if the owner is complaining about a funny feeling when turning hard at very slow speeds. I personally suggest the rear-differential fluid be changed once a year. This is the average time and mileage for rear brake and rotor replacement and is not unusual. Tire wear is normal for an all-wheel-drive vehicle. I suggest a highway tread design brand of your choice. Rear brake-light bulb failure is happening in all vehicles, in my opinion because of the poor-quality bulbs found on today’s market.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1984 Buick Park Avenue that has been sitting in my driveway for a long time. The last time I started the engine, the exhaust blew a lot of white smoke. What could be the problem? - TJ

Dear TJ: I would you like to open the hood and check the coolant before the engine is started. Leave the radiator cap off and start the engine. If as soon as the engine is started the radiator blows out coolant, this could be the sign of an internal cylinder head or head gasket failure. Next, replace the radiator cap and start the engine, letting it run for 10 minutes to see if the white smoke diminishes. The smoke could be from moisture sitting in the exhaust system.

Dear Doctor: I own a 1992 Dodge Spirit with 96,000 miles. When the car started to run poorly, I replaced the oxygen sensor and the engine ran well again. A year later, the engine started to idle rough. Do you have any suggestions? - Paul

Dear Paul: I would suggest a full engine-performance test followed by a check of computer faults. A rough idle can be caused from a vacuum leak or faulty EGR valve. Other causes, which could be expensive to repair, are internal engine parts failure, such as a worn valve. You need to take the car to a qualified technician.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid with 48,000 miles. Over the last six months, I had to replace the battery (not the hybrid battery). If I do not drive the car for two to three days then the new battery runs down, and I have to recharge it. I went back to the auto store where I purchased the battery, and they tested it and said it was good. What is draining the battery? - Dan

Dear Dan: I recommend you get a second opinion on the status of the battery. If the battery has removable caps, then the use of a hydrometer will be the best test. The next test would be a load test, followed with a non-load test. If the battery does check out good, and it has the correct cold cranking amps, then something in the vehicle is draining the car battery. We call this “parasitic drain.” The allowable amount is no more than 50 miliamps.

I also looked on both the Alldata and Identifix Web sites for any history, and there are no patterns of this problem. The technician will have to hook up a digital amp meter in series and actually check parasitic drain. It can be anything from a glovebox light staying on, sticking relay or just about anything electrical that retains power with the ignition key off.

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


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