- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

Dear Auto Doctor: I own a 1997 Jeep Cherokee. The air-conditioning condenser is leaking and needs to be replaced. I got an estimate of $1,000. Is there any other option besides replacement? - Joe

Dear Joe: Depending on how bad the leak is, you could ask the technician to install a container of Stop Leak in the air conditioning system and recharge the system at the same time. You can probably get through the summer with the recharged system. If the charge does not last, then a new condenser is needed. I would get another estimate if the condenser replacement is needed. Remember, the defroster also turns on the air conditioning compressor to dehumidify the interior during spring and fall to keep the windows from fogging up, as well as keeping the humidity level down for the passengers.

Dear Doctor: I have a 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera that began showing problems with the tachometer. Finally, it failed, so I removed it and was able to measure rpm at the tach connection with test equipment. I sent the VDO Tach to a repair facility, where a technician replaced a faulty chip. The technician said he has seen a lot of failed tachs on older Porsches because of high voltage caused by failing voltage regulators (voltage as high as 22 volts). I have monitored the charging voltage while increasing rpm and found it to be very steady at 14 volts, which is within specs for this alternator-regulator. Do you recommend removing the alternator and replacing the regulator without observing any indication of high voltage in the charging system? - Jim

Dear Jim: As long as the alternator is charging at factory specs, I would not remove it. As far a VDO gauge failure, it is not uncommon on older gauges to fail. Remember, the technology of years ago is outdated, and the gauges also are old.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with 54,000 miles. The owner’s manual suggests the timing belt replacement at 60,000 miles. The dealer said I can go to 80,000 miles. Another mechanic said wait until next year. What is the real answer to the timing-belt replacement and how expensive is the cost? - James

Dear James: You did not mention what kind of engine you have in the Town & Country. Secondly, does this engine even have a timing belt? If it is a Chrysler 3.3L V-6, then it does not have a timing belt. The average labor time for a timing-belt replacement is four to six hours. Timing-belt costs average $40 to $90. I recommend you follow the owner’s manual for replacement.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu with the four-cylinder engine. Recently, as I try to start the engine when hot it will not start up. There are no codes in the computer. The mechanic suggested the module on top of the engine be replaced. We did and still have the same condition. What should I do? - Helen

Dear Helen: At the time of the no-start condition, a qualified technician will hook up a scan tool and check the computer input information from various sensors, including fuel pressure. A common fault on this engine is the crankshaft position sensor. Before any more parts are installed, have the mechanic check to see what is not working at the exact time of the no-start condition.

Dear Doctor: I purchased a used 2004 Ford Ranger pickup with the 3.0L V-6 with five-speed manual transmission and 51,000 miles. The truck is in great shape with no leaks. I immediately changed the oil and all filters, including fuel filter. The dealer changed the rear differential and transmission lubricants. One week later, I noticed a small leak coming from under the truck. The leak appears to be dirty, thick oil and seems to be coming from the area of the rear seal. Is the leak the result of the recent change in transmission lube or does the rear seal just start leaking for no apparent reason? - Dan

Dear Dan: Clean fresh oil will not cause a leak; however, clean oil will leak in some cases more than dirty old oil. The clean oil flows easier out of any poor-seal areas. To pinpoint a leak, we use dye and a black light. If it is a small rear main seal leak, I would not spend any money on repairs until the leak gets worse. Even with the low mileage on the truck, you can try high-mileage oil on the next oil change. The high-mileage oil may slow the leak down considerably.

• Junior Damato is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail questions to [email protected] or address questions to Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347. Listen to Junior Damato online at www.1460wxbr.com Saturdays from 7 to 10 a.m. EDT.

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